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"It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master." - Ayn Rand
In the classic Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged, the productive members of society simply stop producing. The captains of industry and intellectual elite, led by Rand's protagonist John Galt, go on strike in protest against a society that penalizes them with overly burdensome bureaucratic regulations, confiscatory profit taking policies, and socialistic idealism that penalizes and devalues the productive members. As a result of the strike, the world begins to disintegrate. By withdrawing their talents, Galt and company succeed in "stopping the motor of the world," and the non-contributing bureaucrats are exposed for the ineffectual buffoons that they really are.
The moral of the story is that society benefits when people are free to pursue their own self-interest (laissez faire capitalism), and society suffers when they cannot (fascism, communism, socialism).
With the election of President Barack Obama amid an economic crisis, the pendulum is swinging away from laissez faire capitalism and toward more government control in the form of drastically higher government spending, higher taxes, and increased regulation. The American public, frightened down to it's shoetops, appears to be going along, with trepidation. The public hopes Obama's methods will work, even as they fear they will not.
The political left will tell you laissez faire capitalism should be dead and buried. They will point to the excesses of Wall Street and corporate America to make the point. As Arianna Huffington wrote in December, 2008:
"...while laissez-faire capitalism has been a monumental failure in practice, and soundly defeated at the polls, the ideology is still alive and kicking...It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is. If not, the Dr. Frankensteins of the right will surely try to revive the monster and send it marauding through our economy once again."
What Huffington leaves out is - we don't have laissez faire capitalism in America. If we ever did, it was dead and buried long ago. We have tons of regulations over almost everything, and the financial industry is heavily regulated. What Huffington also omits is that government abetted the current housing crisis. Government created the housing bubble by legislating subprime loans into existence, bundling and securitizing mortgage loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, allowing investment banks to sell mortgage loans, pushing for more loans to unqualified persons, etc. There was nothing laissez faire about it. It was orchestrated (legislated into existence), and Wall Street went wild with the hand they were given to play. You may soon be seeing the same Wall Street gambling taking place with carbon credits, only this time, it will be our energy prices that are driven higher and higher by the speculators.
I don't know of anyone on either side of the political aisle who favors NO government regulation over industry. That's not the argument. What some are against is the unnecessary government regulation to manipulate industry for purely political purposes, which distorts the free market. That's what happened with housing. That is also what happened with health care (half of which is controlled by government), so wouldn't you know, we have a looming health care crisis. Surprise, surprise.
Atlas won't shrug in the face of burdensome government regulations and legislation. Atlas will adapt. The housing market adapted to the stupid regulations government put in place in the late 90's. The health care market adapted to the stupid regulations government has put in place for the last four decades.
Atlas won't shrug...will he ? I sure hope he doesn't. If he does, then that leaves government as the lone Atlas, and the thought of that should make us all quake in our boots, because the dumb brute force of government is a very poor substitute for the economics of the free market. I thought we learned this lesson during the 20th century, but suddenly, the statists are ba-ack, and the era of big government is NOT over. Suddenly, big government is on steroids. As President Obama said, "we are fundamentally on the verge of transforming America."
Transforming America ? Into what ?
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