Described below is the fate of Eddie Willers, long-time faithful assistant to Dagny Taggart:
“He stepped to the front of the engine and looked at the letters TT. Then he collapsed across the rail and lay sobbing at the foot of the engine, with a beam of motionless headlight above him going off into a limitless night.” — Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
I enjoyed both Dagny’s character and the novel Atlas Shrugged, but ultimately I found the world created within its pages short-sighted. Where was the sense of family, community, religion, or fundamental belief in the good of man?
Relying on the type of narrative in Atlas Shrugged typifies the disconnect the GOP often has with the electorate. The left objects to Atlas Shrugged mostly because it reveals the progressive mentality quite well. At times, especially recently, it’s felt more like their cookbook, reminiscent of the ending of Rod Serling’s “To Serve Man.”
Though perhaps folks on the right side of the ideological spectrum should find the ruthless abandonment of fellow citizens by Rand’s protagonists instructive and sense how that might be “off putting” to some folks.
Despite recognizing the harm of the “47%” comment, too often some on the right default to the lazy setting and insist that there are just too many takers and that votes are purely transactional. If you believe that’s the case, I kindly ask you to take a seat, because then, frankly, the republic is already lost. For those of us still clinging to the idea that people are basically good and typically want to work and provide for themselves, we have some elections to win.
This isn’t a call to dismiss principles, but a reminder that ideas alone are not enough to win.
Political success requires winning over new folks and consolidating a majority around a common set of issues. This may be hard to do if we insist on framing folks as easily bought off, lazy, and motivated by free stuff when we have never set foot in their communities. Should it really be shocking that folks don’t vote Republican if they never even met one?
The GOP clings to the mistaken belief that it could have won the last — or win the next — election through the force of ideological superiority. Ayn Rand makes the same mistake in her understanding of the world in Shrugged.
I posit that what the GOP needs to sell are not superhuman entrepreneurs, but happiness.
Coincidentally, happiness is often found in the attainment of goals, hard work, marriage, and the ability to have choices. Pursuit of policy that enables Americans to have a crack at these opportunities again would certainly be a welcome path forward.
Hard work isn’t only being an entrepreneur or an innovator — it’s also the simple joy of doing a job well. There are plenty of less-than-glorious jobs in the United States. For many folks, happiness is being able to punch a clock, do well while they are at work, and come home to their family. All of these are worthy pursuits, and the wonders of capitalism made this variety of choices possible in the United States.
The entrepreneur and the UPS truck driver have no more or less worth in a human sense. Both will be rewarded differently salary-wise, but the problem with Atlas Shrugged is that there is a difference besides the salary between the two.
One deserves to live in Galt’s Gulch and one does not. One is derided for signing the back of his check and not the front. One, despite hard work and loyalty, is rewarded by being left in the middle of the desert on a broken train during the night. Perhaps many voters, when they noted the GOP didn’t care about them, felt like they might end up stranded like Eddie.
Right now, government is actively pursuing policies that reduce the ability to obtain a job or have choices in one’s life, thus decreasing the ability to obtain the sense of satisfaction one gets from hard work.
Big government, as it makes choices for you, will naturally limit innovation and creative destruction in favor of preservation of current antiquated institutions. Big government is vested solely in maintenance and not the improvement of the human condition. They’ll monitor our phone calls and promise safety, while the pernicious feeling that the only privacy left is within one’s own thoughts stifles Americans. This is no path to happiness in the human sense.
The Obama administration, as it pursues its version of “security,” has reduced American happiness. It’s the pervasive feel of this administration: tolerance of incompetence at the highest levels, the use of force from the IRS to attack our own citizens, and limiting choice as the mindless march of Obamacare implementation continues. All of this is narrated by a leader who notes the importance of “balance” above all other things while proudly promoting malice and division among Americans.
If you’ve ever worked in an organization that tolerates dysfunctional leadership, it’s not a great leap to imagine the misery it is to work in federal government in its current bloated state.
Where Ayn Rand is right is that the world naturally has leaders and followers, but where she is wrong is that both work together in a complementary fashion. To assume that there is one group of citizens fit to run the world is the definition of a fatal conceit. While the ivory tower academia of the Obama Administration is quite intolerable, the big business version of the GOP that thinks we should trust government is only a mildly better version of the same conceit. There are no other people better at running our lives or divining our purpose than ourselves.
The party that seeks to enable the American people again and clear the path of destructive regulation and stifling policy is the one that will demonstrate faith in the American people to solve all things.
We all indeed have a moral responsibility to stand up and fight, and not abandon our fellow citizens while we duck from the world in a gulch in Colorado.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke