Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Real-World Version of Atlas Shrugged

John Stossel's show tomorrow on Fox Business News will discuss how modern events are eerily similar to what happened in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Writing about the show in his column, Stossel asks which political figure from today would be akin to the evil Wesley Mouch in the book. That's a challenging question. During the Clinton years, Ira Magaziner or Robert Reich would have been obvious choices. But who is the statist Rasputin of the modern era? You can vote at this link. Geithner, Frank, and Obama currently lead the voting:

Even though Rand published "Atlas" in 1957, her descriptions of intrusive and bloated government read like today's news. The "Preservation of Livelihood Law" and "Equalization of Opportunity Law" could be Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's work. The novel's chief villain is Wesley Mouch, a bureaucrat who cripples the economy with endless regulations. This sounds familiar. Reason magazine reports that "as he looks around Washington these days," Rep. Paul Ryan "can't help but think he's seeing a lot of Wesley Mouch". Me, too. I also saw a lot of him under George W. Bush. So I'm conducting this unscientific poll: Who is our Wesley Mouch? Hank Paulson? Tim Geithner? Barney Frank? You can vote here. Personally, I think Chris Dodd's ridiculous financial proposals ought to win him the honor. But he isn't among the choices on Fox's list. As I write this, Geithner, President Obama and Barney Frank lead the voting. ...Rand brings out ferocious hatred in some people. ...Had today's bureaucrats been in charge decades ago, they would have banned things like aspirin, cars and airplanes. Sadly, they are in charge now. That makes the "Atlas" message important today. Although Rand idolizes businessman in the abstract, "Atlas Shrugged" makes clear that she (like Adam Smith) understood that they are not natural friends of free markets. They are often first in line for privileges bestowed by the state. That's called "crony capitalism," and that's what Orren Boyle practices in "Atlas."

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