Atlas Shrugged…and the rest ignore everything

There’s a hypocritical dichotomy that exists between Job Creator and Government and between worker and Job Creator.

Job Creators push against Government rule of regulation and taxation of their wealth and their means of production. They speak of freedom of choice, freedom from governmental oppression. They use terms like Job Creator, which comes with a certain unquestionable insinuation. Much like the U.S. Declaration of Independence which stated that “…all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator”. It is no coincidence that the U.S. Constitution reads more like a financial document than one that provides rights and freedoms to those men; that’s why we have the Bill of Rights (the non-economic part of the Constitution). It is no coincidence that the “Creator” passage in the Constitution is followed by a phrase taken directly from Locke (though “Property” was changed to “Happiness”. And I believe the two remain one in the same in this document). This is especially true when one considers that the only people with power, or seemingly with the inalienable right to that Happiness is the Job Creator.

When Government impedes Job Creators, it is considered draconian and enslavement and bad for the economy. Job Creators should be allowed to do as they choose, and as they need to, in order to remain the selfish actor that in turn helps others through that selfishness (this selfishness is Rand’s word, not mine). This where Atlas Shrugged comes into play.

Juxtapose this with a worker’s right to freedom of choice and freedom from oppression. Workers have a right to choose which company they work for, but not whether or not they work or whether or not they get paid the wage they get paid.

The Pullman Strike of 1893 began when workers were forced into reduced wages, they were stuck in their rented factory home, and rents remained steady. Workers were given choice in neither wage nor job. That is, unless you count the impracticality of moving during that time period when they were already in poverty. And when workers refused to stop the strike, the Army was requested by the company and people were forcibly removed.

Air traffic controllers held a strike in 1981 over better wages and more favorable work schedules. President Reagan ordered them back to work. When they refused, courts began jailing union leaders for not forcing the workers back to work. Though the law had not been enforced to that point, the President gave the government workers an ultimatum, get back to work, or you’re out of a job. That was their only choice. In the words of Eddie Izzard, “Cake or Death.” That’s death.

More recently, and slightly different, but nonetheless in the same vein, the Occupy Movement was crushed with tear gas and police intervention. Public places were “occupied” by protesters. Because protesters were cutting into profits of surrounding businesses, many cities brought in riot police. Peaceable protesters were attacked in Oakland, Boston, Albuquerque, and nearly every other city in the U.S. Each time violence broke out, the police sneaked in under darkness (nearly every riot geared law enforcement response happened between the hours of 11pm and 5am).

When workers protest and walk off the job, they have been fired or forced back to work. Of course this hasn’t happened in some time. But the truth is, National Guard and police have been used by corporations in the U.S. to force the will of those who run and profit from operations of corporations. In each case, law enforcement action on the part of corporations has hidden behind otherwise unused blue laws and stretching of laws to fit the reported crime.

One prominent theme in Ayn Rand’s novel is that the government cannot/should not force company owners to sell, buy, use, or in any way restrict or manipulate that owners wants and wishes. I use the phrase “wants and wishes” because Rand’s understanding of the Invisible Hand is that selfishness (or the respect for the self to make the right choice and to know better than anyone else what your own best interest is and be allowed to act accordingly) is the best lubricant to an economic system. This is, at least in part, true.

Economies cannot prosper without entrepreneurship. However, two problems arise.

First, is one alluded to above. Rules apply only as needed and only to meet the needs of those with property. Freedoms expressed are only available to those with the power and financial backing to afford it. A Hobbesian system, if you will.

Second is negative externalities. For example: If a car manufacturer decides to continue to produce a vehicle after it knows it is making vehicles with faulty parts that could lead to accidents and death. The company executives have decided the economic benefit of selling thousands of cars outweighs the potential lawsuit that may or may not even ever come. The consumer is given no choice.

Workers in the poorest neighborhoods can “choose” from any number of poorly paying jobs in their neighborhood. But the wages remain the same, working conditions remain the same, and if they choose to strike (outside the law of course), they are forced back to work, fired, or jailed. Of course that poor family could spend thousands of dollars and time they don’t have between their two jobs to look for a new home in a new town and then move there.

Rand’s theory does consider these pieces. Rand’s selfish principle says, if I pollute while making a product, consumers will simply buy elsewhere and workers will simply find jobs elsewhere. But when the pollution is hidden for years, consumers cannot make informed decisions. Rand does not account for the crooked practices of the almighty Job Creator.

Notice also, Rand’s entrepreneurs strike, they go into hiding, they refuse to produce when they know it will cost the economy millions, cost jobs, and cost LIVES. But, in the end, entrepreneurs can come back and do as they please. Why? Because the world can’t live without them. Unfortunately, you can whip a poor worker or slave into working or dying. Entrepreneurs simply take their money and hide in bunkers till they get what they want…everything. 

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