In Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” the hero John Galt stopped the motor of the world by encouraging the men of the mind to go on strike. Innovators in business, science and the arts — one by one, he persuaded them to exit the world and create their own civilization in a hidden place. They withdrew their virtue and competence from the leftist, socialist, sacrifice-obsessed world who condemned and hampered them. It took years.
As the world deteriorated due to the withdrawal of talent, everyone thought it was a BAD thing. They couldn’t understand what had happened, and they generally blamed the wrong causes — “the government has got to DO SOMETHING about all this”, they screamed. The more the government intervened, the worse things got. But the point is: They all agreed it was a BAD thing.
Contrast that with what actually happened in 2020, for real. The world elites uttered one word: “Virus”. With grossly insufficient facts or reason to back them up, they ordered the entire world inside. Everyone complied. Immediately.
The magnificent world economy, centered in America … simply stopped. Two months later, everyone is still complying. Many are complying resentfully, and a minority protest; but the totalitarian regime people consented to remains in place and (I suspect) widely supported.
In most places, no end to the shutdown is in sight. A few places are turning a few of the lights back on, but they concede if there’s so much as a sneeze (or even the perception of a sneeze), the lights go back out. They have set their own trap for the fall, if not sooner. The media stands poised to say, “I told you so”, with or without facts.
Ask yourself which tale is more bizarre: Ayn Rand’s fictional dystopian novel written back in the 1950s; or what is actually going on right now.
There is no John Galt shutting down the motor of the world. The world has done this to itself. The elites and tyrants could not have done it without the consent of the people — in America, as well as the whole civilized Western world.
Rand warned us that the decline of reason/common sense and the triumph of socialistic altruism would bring us down, in the end. Unless we radically reversed course. Boy, was she right.
The victims of John Galt’s morally justified strike hated the results of the strike. They thought it was a BAD thing. The perpetrators and supporters of today’s world shutdown call it morally courageous and the essence of virtue. Let’s be honest: Even President Trump bought into it, albeit reluctantly. Giving up civilization for the sake of a tiny minority of sick people, most of whom won’t die? Why, that’s the ultimate sacrifice. How glorious! At least, if you think sacrifice is a good thing.
In her book, Rand condemned the idea that sacrifice is a virtue. That’s one reason why she was so controversial, and elites/intellectuals and other tyrants attacked her with a vitriolic hatred even most conservatives don’t normally endure. She warned such a toxic notion could lead the world to the events of Atlas Shrugged — or worse. What we have seen in the last two months is worse. If she were alive (she died in 1982), I believe she might agree.
We have shut down the motor of the world. We have triggered a great depression the likes of which the world has never seen, the full implications of which we can’t yet grasp. Who would have thought? In Rand’s novel, it took Galt years to shut down the world. He only wanted to do it to show people that they need reason, virtue, freedom and capitalism for everything to work. He didn’t do it to destroy life, but to preserve it.
Our real world’s inhabitants are, by and large, just as ignorant as the people who inhabited Rand’s fictitious world. But the amazing thing is: We did it for a virus. A virus that will only affect about 1 percent of us, and that will only kill a tiny fraction of those of us who get it. That’s ALL it took to shut down the motor of the world … in a matter of hours.
Ayn Rand herself could never have come up with such a plot. Nor could have Orwell, nor any other imaginative writer.
Hitler and Stalin killed millions. They were homicidal maniacs. They killed for the “glory” of sacrifice.
But the world depression caused by shutting down the economy may kill billions, not millions. The collapse of our economy in 2020 is like a fall from the top of the World Trade Center, rather than a fall from a twenty-floor building. It’s less a homicide than a suicide. Or, because millions of us do oppose and resent it, a murder-suicide: the greatest murder-suicide in all of recorded history.
Nothing short of a total uprising and revolution can save us now. The revolution has to be for individual rights, for rationality, and for freedom. It has to be on a Randian level, because — if it isn’t — we’re truly over.
In order for this to happen, people first have to come out from under their beds and face the sunlight. Will they? The outcome could be the stuff of a gigantic Rand novel. And we’re living it now.—Michael J. Hurd