Obama Shrugged

I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, this week.  So, forgive me if I want to blather on about politics for a bit.  If you’ve never read this book, I’m not exactly sure I can recommend it to you.  It’s not something everyone would enjoy.  The story is great, in my opinion, and very compelling, but it is also full of a heap of philosophical ranting that is a bit repetetive and kind of drags on.  For example, there’s one famously long speech made by one of the characters that is somewhere around 60 pages long, depending on which printing you read.  There are good ideas being shared, but I thought they could have been shared just as effectively in half the volume.  Maybe that’s just my short attention span.  In any case, I loved the book and it’s given me a lot to think about, especially with President Obama’s recent inauguration.

The basic philosophy relayed by Atlas Shrugged is that free capitalism rocks, self-interest is good, that government needs to get out of the way and let the people with vision and skill go about building the world in a market system where they are free to exchange their ideas and labor for whatever they are worth to others, that undeserved charity is bad because it breeds laziness and incompetence and that for people to be happy they need to have a purpose and work towards fulfilling or extending that purpose.  The story behind all this philosophy is about an America where the smartest and hardest working people decide to go on strike because the government is stealing all their money and doling it out to others based on their need.  With the strikers no longer offering their ideas and work to the country, the whole economy and infrastructure collapse into ruin.  I probably left out some important stuff, but that’s the short, short version.

As I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged, I’ve also been reading a lot and talking a lot about our new President, Obama.  I didn’t vote for Obama, and he definitely doesn’t seem to subscribe to any kind of free capitalist thinking, as espoused in Rand’s book, but I am excited in a lot of ways for his administration.  I’m not looking forward to all the ‘bailouts’ that are coming.  I don’t believe they will help the economy.  At best they will prolong the agony and at worst they will deepen it.  I’m not looking forward to all the new government involvement in business.  For every regulation they pass and enforce, they increase the size and cost of government and while they may stop one Enron or Madoff scandal from happening, they will prevent 10 successful businesses from ever getting off the ground, while they drain more and more resources away from actual production of useful goods and services and throw it down the greedy maw of bureaucracy.  I’m not looking forward to more social programs that encourage people to rely on the government rather than themselves.

However, that all being said, here’s why I’m excited for the new administration.  Hopefully, we finally have a leader that is able to lead.  We may not be headed in exactly the direction I would like to go, but at least we will be headed somewhere, rather than just sitting in the middle of our big pile of garbage and blaming each other for who littered the most.  I’m looking forward to getting out of Iraq, stopping illegal torture and rendition and trying to regain some of our credibility with the rest of the world.  I’m looking forward to restoring the rule of law, realizing that you can’t suspend the law in the name of security, because the law is our security.  I’m looking forward to a President that embraces new technology and knows that the internet is not just ‘a series of tubes.’  Perhaps most of all, I’m looking forward to a world where the man with the most ability to unleash nuclear war, is also able to pronounce it correctly.

6 Responses

  1. So, tell me how you REALLY feel. 🙂

  2. Howdy Mike.

    Hooray for the correct pronunciation of Nuclear. Now I just have to get people to start to say “aluminium” with that last i in there.

    I thought this was the funniest part of the post:

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    That said, I like your ideals. I would like to see a smaller government too, I just don’t think people can be relied on yet. Maybe if they were given the opportunity… I dunno. The government (cops, welfare, regulatory agencies etc,) exists in proportion to the needs of the people. If people committed less crime, we would need less police. If people were more honest in their dealings, we would need less regulation. If people were more charitable, we would need less welfare. But the weak need to be protected and the widows and orphans need to eat. If no one will do it out of the kindness of the heart, and as long as people try to do the wrong thing by their neighbor, we will need government. The worse people are, the bigger the government needs to be to protect us. I guess my question is, shouldn’t we be careful about minimizing the power of government before the people are ready to do more good and take better care of each other?

    It could be my bias as a social worker, but I believe people take for granted the protection and quality of life that larger government has brought to disabled people, minorities, the elderly, the widowed, the orphaned, and the children of poverty. I mean, once upon a time 10 year old kids would work 15 hour days in dangerous factories. Why? Because they were cheap labor, and good for the bottom line. It was the government that had to step in and protect these children. Who’s to say that corporations and businesses are any less brutal and bottom-line oriented now?

    Vis-a-vie welfare and handouts, I know it can also be argued that poor people have the opportunity to provide for themselves and even succeed, but that argument is usually made by privileged, white people with college educations who already have good jobs and often don’t realize the level of privilege they have (everyone is biased towards consideration of their hardship, and rarely recognizes their privilege). I know I’ve had it better than most people, and in a lot of ways I’m lucky to be where I am. One may say its because I work hard and am determined, but privilege is a developer of hard work and determination, lack of privilege is a developmental stumbling block that can cripple motivation.

    Fundamentally, I think it’s just wrong not to offer the disadvantaged man or woman a helping hand, and if there aren’t enough people to do it of their own volition, I believe government should step in and help out. I’d rather see the hungry child fed by an unwilling taxpayer than to see that child go hungry. Paris Hilton’s taxes have probably done a lot more good than Paris Hilton would have.

    I guess this is more related to other posts I’ve read of yours and previous conversations we’ve had. I just had some free time and so I’m rambling. I’ll try and visit your blog more often to help you become more popular than your wife (if only in site visit stats). My wife has me beat hands down. I gave up trying a long time ago.

    Sorry for the super long comment. I just looked back on it. Maybe you should know that I work a lot of slow graveyard shifts.

  3. I know that this is a rude question – but would you have been more or less excited if Ron Paul had been elected president?

  4. Ron Paul Rules!!!

  5. ok, i told your wife my loyalties were with you for saving my life several times, dont tell her i told you though. k?
    love ya

  6. Jyl, thanks for your loyalty

    hpx83, yes I would have been stoked if Paul had been elected. That would have been real change!

    thanks for the extensive reply. I’m honered. I see your point of view, I just don’t agree that the government should force anyone to do anything. It should only ensure people’s freedoms. I think the widows and orphans should be cared for, too, but not at the point of a gun, and not if they have the ability to take care of themselves. Anyway, thanks for the balance.

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