Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged threw me into a thoughtful analysis of how much influence government has on entrepreneurs. I haven’t read the book, but I had the opportunity to see one of the movies when invited by a couple of movie reviewers to watch it with them (read my first two reflections on Part 1 and Part 2). These deep thoughts beg an example, and a good example happened earlier this school year.
Choosing between private and public
I had a family nearly join our debate club this year. The mom and two boys were very interested in the program. They fully recognized the superior skills my club and curriculum would teach them (I don’t have time to persuade you of this in this blog post, but click the link to find out more: it is hands down the best thing in the world to get your kids involved in).
They decided not to take the opportunity. Why not? Because they were charter school students, and all their time was devoted to the academics of their charter school. But it was more than just time: if they dropped classes to part-time status in order to do speech and debate, they would lose a significant amount of funding for their schooling.
Let me make this extremely clear:
An American family dropped what they knew was the best academic activity available – worth so much more than what the government option offered – because of the financial and time-consuming pressure from the government option.
Do you see how the government becomes a competitor? Arguably, the government is a manipulator, much like a monopoly that uses its unchallenged dominance to make sure its interests are protected. Most think government exists to maintain roads and bridges alone, but today it exists – for a large part – to nationalize industries.
Industries like education. Atlas Shrugged was written as a futuristic idea of how America could evolve. Folks, we’re living it today.
What would you tell Atlas?
In Atlas Shrugged, one of the tycoons gave up fighting the government. He even blew up his own mining operation, let his stock value plummet, and allowed the government take over the entire industry. Like the other creatives who were vanishing, he was burned out and mentally exhausted. He asked his tycoon friend, “If you saw Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, exhausted with the weight of it all, what would you tell him to do?”
“I don’t know. What would you tell him?”
“I’d tell him to shrug.”
In other words, give in. Let the world suffer the consequences of its desire to take from the industrious, live off the producers, and nationalize the private sector. Such a world is extremely frustrating to the creative and productive. The scary realization when watching the movie: that world is upon us now.
This movie is the second of a 3-part trilogy. I bet the third part of the movie will show the world falling. We’ll see. Such a conclusion validates that which most entrepreneurs know: the government temps us to surrender our creativity and shrug the world from our shoulders. This, I believe, is unfortunate.
Question: What would you tell Atlas?