The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the principle that man must be free to think and act for himself. When man lives under too many regulations and excessive legislation, he is limited in his abilities and thus loses freedom and liberty.
I recently read Ayn Rand's classic novel entitled Atlas Shrugged for the first time. Published in 1957, it continues to generate inspiration and controversy. The theme of the book is the importance of individual achievement in society, and the goal of the book is to "demonstrate what can happen when individual achievement is undervalued, suppressed, and demonized." It "celebrates limited government, free markets, and individual liberty." The plot has all the necessary ingredients for a good reading experience, including drama, friendship, intrigue, mystery, romance, and science fiction.
The heroine, Dagny Taggart, is the owner and operator of an intercontinental railroad. She is intelligent, courageous, and beautiful, and she lives life on her own terms and according to her own principles and values. Henry Rearden, a steel magnate, is an industrialist who works to improve the quality of everyone's lives, and he works according to his own principles and values. He dares to declare, "My goal is to make money," and he says it with pride. The villains are evil as they subvert and undercut talent and achievement in their efforts to bring the populace under their control.
I was pleased to learn that a new film entitled Atlas Shrugged, Part I will be released on April 15, 2011. According to Matt Kibbe from FreedomWorks, "The film is set in a not-so-distant future in which government has taken control of the means of production, bureaucrats have imposed harmful regulations on business, and turmoil in the Middle East has sent oil prices skyrocketing. Sound familiar?" The movie is opening in 300 theaters nationwide and will be sent to others on demand.
I found the book interesting and enjoyable to read, and I was continually pulled back to the story. On a deeper level, I found the book really intriguing because it seems to be describing the day in which we live. Although the story is set in the near future, it seems to be built upon things of the past. For example, the major source of transportation seems to be railroads although air travel is available and people own private airplanes. Another example is the use of telephone booths and typewriters rather than the cell phones and computers of our day. It does, however, depict accurately a government that is out of control, one that attempts to control all people, regulate all industries, and nationalize everything. There is apparently a one-world order similar to that which progressives of our day are moving us toward. The book clearly illustrates how progressive ideas and progressive principles steadily erode the liberties of the people.
Under the oppressive governmental control, people are told to stop thinking and are urged to simply obey orders and let the government take care of all their needs. This sounds so much like our country today! Through the controls of taxes and regulations, the government takes from the producers and gives to the non-producers.
I found the following statement - made by the evil Dr. Floyd Ferris, a government leader - to be very interesting. It explains clearly why our current government has to take so many pages to make a law - such as Obamacare. "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed? … We want them broken…. We're after power and we mean it…. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt." (436)
A certain group of producers, movers and shakers understands what the government is doing. They do not agree with the government slogan: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." They do not agree with the programs of the government that take from those who work and give it to those who do not work. They also recognize that the "takers" or "looters" do not appreciate the efforts of the "producers."
The people in the book considered "money to be the root of all evil," and one of the characters, Francisco d'Anconia, explained: "Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them…. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil? (410)
"…Money is made - before it can be looted or mooched - made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced. (411)
"… But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality - the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.
"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values…. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent….
"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth - the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him…. (412)
"Let me give you a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.
"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil….
"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it….
"… But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law - men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims - then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them…..
"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed…. (413)
"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money - and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-contrast, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being - the self-made man - the American industrialist.
"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose… the fact that they were the people who created the phrase `to make money.' … Americans were the first to understand the essence of human morality. (414)
"… Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns - or dollars. Take your choice - there is no other - and your time is running out." (415)
The "producers" are denounced for their virtues, hated for their achievements, scorned for their "qualities of character," selfish for "acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life," arrogant for having an "independent mind," cruel for integrity, anti-social for "vision," ruthless for "strength and self-discipline," greedy for "power to create wealth." They are also considered to be "parasites, robbers, exploiters, and vulgar materialists."
Industrialists are hated because they produce industry - so they stop producing. Employers are hated because they are the bosses - so they stop having employees. Businessmen are considered evil - so they stop running businesses.
John Galt is the first man to go on strike against the government, and he threatens to stop the "motor" that runs the government. He gradually convinces other men and women of principle to join him in the strike, and they simply disappear from society. Among those who join John Galt are the following: a famous actress, an important banker, a judge, a brain surgeon, an oil tycoon, a coal producer, a copper producer, a steel producer, and eventually a railroad owner.
When the "producers" no longer produce, the country starts to fall apart - no food is being delivered to the stores and buildings, machines, telephone lines, and railroads began to fall apart. Eventually the lights go out in the nation. After the nation was completely destroyed by the progressives, then the self-exiled producers began to rebuild America as it once was, only better.
Atlas Shrugged confirmed in my mind the importance of stopping the progressive agenda now - before the nation is completely destroyed. I recommend this book to everyone who has any desire at all to understand how progressive principles or the rule of man will destroy America or any other nation. I also recommend that you make every effort to see the movie.