January 26, 2015 by Liberty
First things first: Please forgive me for the title. I wrote it originally as a working title because it made me smile. I didn’t have the heart to kill it later on.
The first time I read an Ayn Rand novel was an odd time in my life. I was still a run-of-the-mill libertarian at the time. I ended up sitting and reading her novel for days straight. (I was self-employed. By self-employed, I mean I was making virtually no money but I had enough reserves not to give a hoot.)
Atlas Shrugged was an amazing novel. I instantly fell in love with her world. (Other than praying someone would jab a knife through John Galt’s larynx because, seriously, by the time I got to the end of that speech I needed to shave again.) It took months of clanking the wrenches around in my skull to even get a thorough grip around the story. That actually left me as really a big fan.
As usual, now that I’ve announced my fanboy cred, I’m going to go on with my semi-bashing. It’s actually not going to be bashing. Ayn Rand has made it very clear that Atlas Shrugged is a romantic story. It’s not meant to mirror reality perfectly. Here is just one way I’ve noticed it isn’t mirroring so clearly.
In Atlas Shrugged, the heroes are larger than life businessmen and women. They fight to keep their businesses afloat but eventually they just have to say, f*** it (or shrug to follow the metaphor.) This consistent stream of business men and women screwing the businesses they worked so hard to build started to cause major problems around the world. Suddenly, more and more business people were realizing their attempts were futile. Finally, the world virtually just shut down.
Now, let’s look at what’s happening in America today.
The American Inexperience
Perhaps you can list the businesses that shut down voluntarily because of government interference. I certainly can’t. Sure, plenty of businesses have been forced out of business by government. Sure, I’d bet there are some businesses that meet the Atlas Shrugged criteria but they sure aren’t making much of a scene about it. (Not that they’d have to. My point is that there isn’t much of a case to be made for the Randian shutdown scenario based on the evidence available.)
I feel like it’s more interesting to look at where evidence is stacking up in America when it comes to the good ol’ f*** it shrug.
Nearly 40% of American’s do not want a job. They have left the labor force completely. Now, that could make a whole lot of sense if we were living in a booming economy that was showing great returns on investments made in the past. That doesn’t quite make sense when the economy is still blowing bubbles from the bottom of the Hudson.
Don’t think it’s that bad? More people are opting out of employment than in the past 30 years. The motivation for this workforce is gone.
47% of unemployed have given up on finding a job.
Are all these unemployed giving up because the productive rich class has already sailed away into the sunset? Possibly but maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re the ones shrugging. That’s the case I’d make.
The Productive Class
Here is a bit of a tangent but I swear I’ll bring it back home to the point.
There is virtually nothing that could stop me from writing this article. Since I’ve opened donations for this site, I’ve received minuscule donations compared to the amount of time I invest in writing, editing, and updating this blog. My hourly wage would be illegal in every country in the world. (That being said, I really appreciate those donations. Thank you to everyone that is supporting this site.)
My point is, I’m earning virtually nothing from my writing but I do it anyway. Why do I work on this without a profit? Because there is nothing I would rather do than spread the idea’s of liberty. I feel like it’s the greatest cause in the world. I’m productive because it brings me joy.
The most productive people in the world don’t do what they do for the money or the appreciation. Anyone that’s started a business knows that money and appreciation can take years to gain. You have to show up day after day because you’re trying to build something bigger. It can’t just be for the money (or you might as well have just gotten a job where the money is a guarantee.) When the money comes, the motivation doesn’t suddenly change to money.
They do what they do because it makes them feel fulfilled. It doesn’t matter how many stupid legal regulations you put in front of these people, they’re going to keep paying people to deal with them, while they continue to do what they do. They’ll only stop when they have absolutely no other choice.
The Unproductive Class
Poor people are the objectivists in this story. By objectivists, I definitely don’t mean objectivists in a well-versed sense but solely in the mainstream cliché.
I can remember talking to a former co-worker while I was working in fast food. He left the fast food job for a couple months but then came back. He had a good job training to be a plumber. I asked why he came back. He told me, “I couldn’t get food stamps if I kept that job. I make more working here for fewer hours with food stamps than I do at that job working 50 hours a week.” (The exact numbers are hazy but the general story is true.)
Don’t think for a second that a good portion of poor people are incapable of making intelligent calculations. Many studies have shown people can make more off welfare than minimum wage (CATO Work Vs. Welfare.) Considering you don’t need to work any hours a week for that income, that’s a pretty obvious advantage.
When you look at the opportunities available for unemployed people today, the shrug looks absolutely inevitable. While I may work to do the things I love, the vast majority of the population works solely to produce an income for themselves. When that income is better provided by a lack of productivity, they will oblige.
Maybe I’m being naïve but Atlas won’t even need to shrug for this whole world to come tumbling down. That’s just my wild opinion though.
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