John Galt is the mysterious hero lurking in the background in Ayn Rand’s infamous novel, Atlas Shrugged. He is the industrialist who went into hiding and led a strike of producers fed up with the physical and moral encroachment from a government of moral supremacists who rationalized theft with childish notions of fairness but no conception of the actual production of wealth. That synopsis should also explain why Atlas Shrugged, first published in 1957, is having a very strong resurgence in popularity.
I meet with two different groups of independent business owners focused in the southeast and their perception of current business conditions is almost unanimous. They are angry. They face conflicting and unclear regulations, and a near certainty of increasing taxes . They are impatient. Many are not profitable and are unable and unwilling to tolerate customers who cannot pay, employees who do not think, banks without judgment, and a government that despises their efforts to create wealth and jobs.
Unlike John Galt, they have not abandoned their factories and homes and headed to Colorado, but they have reduced expenses, laid off workers, and rejected growth because of the added risk. They have conserved cash because banks are not willing to lend and government is too willing to take.
Elected official have won their positions from the popular vote, but they have neglected the other votes.
We vote with our wallets. We do not want to buy what they want to sell. We will not invest if taxes on investment returns are too high. We will not start and expand businesses if you tax and regulate them into money losers.
We vote with our feet. We leave high tax states and moves to low tax states. Company close plants in unreceptive countries and move to receptive countries. We exit highly regulated industries and move capital into businesses with more certainty and flexibility.
But we also vote with our hearts. With government pay double that of the private sector, with a torrent of legislation killing small businesses, with crony capitalism replacing main street capitalism, and with an endless and clear stream of propaganda from the bully pulpit, the message is clear- the private sector is for suckers. Starting businesses, creating new products, jobs, and funding schools, hospitals and the arts are all good things and our government is making it increasingly harder to accomplish. This is why corporations are sitting on top of trillions of dollars in cash. Because of the insanity currently posing as legislation and policy, their hearts are not in it.
They have ‘gone Galt’. They have dropped out of the producer ranks, not totally like Ayn Rand’s hero, but in parts. They work less, retire early, and conserve resources because they do not trust their government.
I found John Galt in the mirror and I found John Galts sharing their fears and frustrations around the tables at meeting rooms and restaurants. They are dropping out in whatever little ways they can.
I’ll bet you found him too.