When I was around 11 years old, my father turned me on to Ayn Rand. Apparently, he thought it was important. You can imagine what sort of kid I was to start reading that fare willingly, then head off to the library for more at that age.
For many weeks, there's been a buzz around the release of the film adaptation of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." While the viewer feedback (as opposed to critical reviews) was generally good, what's germane to our situation is the thesis. There are aspects of Rand's philosophy (called Objectivism) with which I roundly disagree; still, I believe that she definitely did "get it." Having escaped Russian communism, she knew that the eternal social struggle is not between the capitalist and the worker, but between those who contribute to the advancement of society (capitalists and workers) and those who don't.
Throughout history, kings, oligarchs and, now, communists have set themselves above the contributors through might or guile and simply … suck. They suck subsistence for themselves, creativity from the creative and all positive energy from the collective. In the end, nothing remains, but it's only the short-term existence of these vampires that matters.
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In "Atlas Shrugged," the nation confronts an economic crisis similar to that which we now face. The government intercedes with all manner of remedial measures, none of which are prudent or effective, and all of which fly in the face of individual liberty. The contributors determine that if the majority of people are going to buy into the government's enslavement paradigm, then they aren't going to contribute any more. In the book, the impact on the nation and its economy is devastating.
While the establishment press continues to paint a picture of a valiant president courageously negotiating us through hazardous waters, there is increasing frustration on the part of those who overwhelmingly voted for change in November 2010. They provided a mandate for Republican lawmakers to go to war against the socialist juggernaut currently represented by the Obama administration. It has since become apparent that few of those lawmakers are interested in doing so.
Then, there's the possibility that President Obama might actually be re-elected in 2012. As a Leninist ruler, Obama may not care about governance, but there are millions of Americans who don't even understand what governance is. If they did, there would be protesters filling the streets of every major U.S. city, 24 hours a day.
If enough Americans are sufficiently deluded to bring this about, we will be looking at an exponential increase in socialistic policies and programs. Forget Americans' eroded cultural sensibilities, our economic disintegration, foreign wars and national security; most of us will be looking for alternatives to consigning ourselves to abject slavery. Those of us who do understand governance are doing what we can to inform our neighbors that socialism is a retrograde paradigm (from self-governing republic back to being ruled), but one would be stupid not to consider all possible scenarios.
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Individuals who used to be called "survival nuts" years ago now appear to be simply prudent. People are storing food and buying gold. Some with the resources are divesting of dollars and banking offshore. While most of these folks are fervently patriotic, many have decided that a certain priority must be placed on self-preservation, that attempts to preserve America as we know it might fail.
Is such withdrawal (as considered by the capitalists in "Atlas Shrugged" and Americans today) immoral? When American automakers refused to listen to engineers' input on trends in auto making in the 1960s, they went to Japan and lent their skills to that nation's emerging auto industry. Was that immoral? The uber-patriot might think so, but in the end, this taught the U.S. auto industry a lesson it desperately needed to learn.
Getting back to Ayn Rand: Of what value is blind patriotism in the face of an emerging government and a society that is becoming inherently evil? This is the question she and many of her countrymen had to ask themselves. In the end, they left.
I believe that this sort of "quitting," if you will, is not immoral, whether one elects to become an expatriate, or to go "off the grid." In the case of Ayn Rand, her experience and creativity was invaluable to those in the West. For all we know, those of us who stay and fight may only be serving to provide cover for those who eventually escape. Perhaps someday, they or their descendants will seed some other budding society with the principles of liberty that we abandoned.