Atlas Shrugged Part II: Atlas Mugged

I first arrived at this title upon seeing Atlas Shrugged Part II in the theater.  I was reeling from the disappointment with several minor points in the film (the corny opening scene, the overuse of under budgeted and unnecessary graphics, the watering-down of the author's hardcore message and particularly, the not-so-handsome depiction of John Galt, the supposed ideal man).  I was prepared to rip the film apart.   I was so disappointed because the book had such a transformative effect on me.  How could they do this to Ayn Rand's fictional masterpiece that explains the moral underpinning of free markets, free minds and free money?!  It was epic, iconic and eerily predictive of so many subsequent conditions of government overreach.  But that's enough bickering; it gets us nowhere.  Besides, I'm sure someone, somewhere who claims to know far more about movies than I do has done plenty of the bickering for me.  I bet there are even people out there who don't like Ayn Rand and saw the film.  I'm sure they'll have a hay day tearing it down.
 
Instead I will focus on the aspect of the film that came across most clearly and was the most accurate representation of the novel's theme:  actions of the state represent force enacted against the citizenry.  This is clearly demonstrated in the government's aggression against Hank Rearden, in my mind the undisputed hero of Part II.  Mr. Rearden committed a crime against the state by selling Rearden Metal to his friend, the coal magnate Ken Danagger, in a quantity contrary to the newly minted "Fair Share Law" which limited the sale of "strategic" goods and included a laundry list of other elixirs sure to save the world economy.  He was hauled before the court to answer for his crimes.  Then he performed what is in my opinion the most courageous act in the entire story.  He stood before the gang of black-robed thieves and told them that he did not recognize their authority to take his metal.  They appealed to the "common good" and to the needs of his fellow men.  They placed themselves in the position as the savior of mankind, and they demanded that he be reasonable and submit to their authority.  But, Hank recognized their obfuscation.  He called them on their bluff and made their threats explicit to all who could hear, "If you think you have the right to use force against me, bring guns." 

Anyone who wishes to hide their aggression behind the veil of love for fellow men requires your consent.  Don't give it. 

The mind is the instrument that holds the world aloft.  Atlas Shrugged is a tale of the mind, weary from being beaten and robbed, going on strike. 

Atlas was mugged, so...




... Atlas Shrugged. 


What is My Vote Worth?

It has become in vogue within libertarian/anarcho-capitalist circles to proclaim that one's vote does not matter or is of no value because of the historical improbability of any individual vote determining the outcome.  However, when determining whether or not to vote and for whom, one needs to evaluate this position a little bit more deeply.  The prospective voter must consider, "What is my vote worth?" 

The value of one's vote is subjective, so the answer to this question depends on the reference frame one takes in evaluating it.  From the perspective of the outcome of local, state and federal government election results, your vote is statistically meaningless in all but very rare (usually local) circumstances.  So the point is well taken that if your only goal is effecting the make up of government, you are money and time ahead to stay home on election day.  However, when viewed from the perspective of the individual, the value of a vote takes on an entirely new dimension much greater than the spitting-in-the-ocean effect on the election outcome.  To me, voting is an opportunity to express my opinion - usually dissatisfaction with the dominant parties and the political system in general.  This election I will be casting my vote for Gary Johnson because he represents a radical improvement over past administrations and the republican and democratic nominees.  I know little of local politics, so I may just write in obscenities.  I like Ben Dover's position on the tough issues.  This may be blasphemy for the statist, but it makes the trip worthwhile for me.

Related Post:  The Not So Fundamental Right to Vote     

Wonks and Derivative Issues

Jeffrey Tucker, in an article published at mises.org, introduced a dichotomous classification of political philosophies.  He divided those who are politically active into two camps: geeks and wonks.
...Political wonks are fascinated by process. They love the game. They get as much satisfaction from observing as changing. They want to be players above all else. Ideals bore them. History is mere data. Intellectuals seem irrelevant. What matters to the wonk are the hard realities of the ongoing political struggle. They defer to title and rank. They thrive on meetings, small victories, administrative details, and gossip about these matters. Knowing who is who and what is what is the very pith of life.

There are political wonks and policy wonks. They exist on all levels of society. They appear to be running things, because their aim is to control the levers of power in just the right and strategic way, which means in a way that benefits the other wonks of their tribe. Geographically, life begins and ends in the beltway. They thrive on keeping information private and cartelizing their class. Their newspaper is the Washington Post, which they consider to be the insider report.

In contrast to this are the policy geeks. They are no less fascinated by detail but are drawn to ideals. Observation alone bores them. They are drawn to the prospect of change. They don't want to be players as such; they question the very rules of the game and want to change them. They are happy to make a difference in the ideological infrastructure, whether big or small. They tend to work alone and totally disregard caste distinctions. They are interested not in the surface area but what's underneath, not the veneer but the wood. In software terms, they are forever looking forward to the next build. They are risk takers, so they prefer to debug after the system is live....
I rather enjoyed Mr. Tucker's article and, of course, find myself firmly in the camp of political geek.  I despise the wonk outlook, which is probably why I struggle to watch television during election season.  They are consumed with what I consider derivative issues - ones that are related to secondary matters not fundamental principles.  The wonks are chattering:

  • Who prepped Obama for the first debate (if anyone)?  Maybe his poor showing was due to the altitude.  
  • How is the race shaping up in the battleground states?
  • How was Obama's performance in the second debate?  Let's fact check the tid bits - and oh - here are the top 10 sound bites
  • How about a comparison of the candidate's pensions and some sexual innuendo? 
  • For the love of God, can someone please tell me where Obama is going to hold his election night rally?!

The most egregious manifestation of the wonk obsession with derived issues is the person who votes dependent on whether or not a candidate is "electable" (most often in reference to a third party candidate like Gary Johnson or a primary election long-shot like Ron Paul).  How circular is that?  Prepare to have your mind blown: perhaps these candidates would be more electable if more people voted their principles and fewer watched the polls. 

It's not just that I want to hear a higher percentage of principled debate (Is it right to tax the rich more than the poor? When and how should we deploy armies overseas? What is the government's role in child rearing? etc.).  I want to her only these things.  Tell us the principles of the candidates, what there goals are in office, how they view the role of the state, then let's skip to celebrity DUIs and let the chads fall where they may. 




The Not So Fundamental Right to Vote

It's time to elect the "leader of the free world" again.  How wonderfully contradictory by the way.  Everywhere you look there are proclamations that you need to get out there, exercise your fundamental right and vote.  After all, I learned in High School government class that if you don't vote you can't complain about the political system.  We cheer when nations around the world hold their first elections - finally liberty and justice for all!  We've rallied to war under the battle cry of "making the world safe for democracy."  People just have to be able to vote.  Anything less would be uncivilized.  Our own nation's past with respect to the right to vote is anything but perfect.  At one point only property owning white males could vote, but over time we have seen the light and opened it up every adult.  Occasionally, there will be an uproar over attempts to restrict voting only to those with identification, and it makes for exciting news stories.

Now I take no umbrage with everyone having the privilege to vote, but I can no longer stomach the cognitive dissonance required to embrace voting as the be-all and end-all of human rights.  For instance, while we have been arguing over which individuals should have the opportunity to have zero influence over the make up of government by voting, we have had military conscription.  Now to be fair we don't currently have the draft, but there are politicians who salivate at reinstating it in one form or another.

What good is the right to choose your masters without the right to your own life?



Ben Swann - Reality Check: Is This The End of the Petro-dollar?

It's refreshing to see someone in the media discussing real issues like the petro-dollar.  Hats off to Ben Swann and bonus points for not mentioning Big Bird.  I am far from an expert in the history and economics of the petro-dollar concept, so please provide any viewpoints in the comments section.


Daron Roberts - From Harvard Law to Mountaineer Football Coach


I am a sucker for any passionate story about a young man or woman flouting conventional wisdom and following their dreams.  I am also a sucker for all things Mountaineer football.  So you can imagine my delight in hearing this story.  To make a long story short, a young man with a J.D. from Harvard and aspirations to become a Senator, a Supreme Court Justice or the Governor of Texas, left this all behind to become an assistant football coach at the collegiate level.  So hats off to you Daron Roberts.  Thanks for leaving us alone and doing something productive.






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