“Who is John Galt?” The famous opening line of Ayn Rand’s masturbatory hymn to entitled capitalist “heroes.” Since the second move in the “Atlas Shrugged” series is set for an October release, I think it necessary to dive into exactly who John Galt is and how he differs from the real world we inhabit.
The main character, Dagny Taggart, spends the majority of “Atlas Shrugged” looking for this Galt cunt and the corporate strikers he recruits, and names a train line in his honor. Eventually she finds the would-be Prometheus in hiding; and, no surprise, he withdrew his genius in protest against social welfare. He quit because of the taxes and the leeches. Like South Park’s Eric Cartman, Galt essentially said, “Screw you guys… I’m going home.”
Conservatives who hold Rand and Galt in reverence often talk about the entitlement of the lower classes—but what of the Galt’s entitlement? How is that this whining, entitled douchebag captures the Rand-lover imagination? It’s as big a fuckin’ mystery as Galt’s identity.
Brief digression: Rand loved to describe her idealized capitalist hero as a modern Prometheus. You know, the Greek titan who stole fire and gifted it to humanity, then found himself bound to a rock to have his liver plucked out daily by an eagle. It’s rather odd that Rand should find her capitalist hero analogue in the mythical Prometheus. It’s far more accurate to say that her heros and, indeed, the current form of capitalist gods in general, were much more like Zeus, who had originally withdrew fire from humanity. Prometheus thus becomes something more like the open-source movement or hackers, who recognize that humanity benefits from readily available technology instead of ideas and inventions hidden within a phalanx of patents, trade secrets, greed, fear and lawsuits.
If fire were to be “discovered” now, one of Rand’s heroes would patent, market and sell it as his own creation. “Mine, mine, mine! Wah! You can’t steal fire unless you pay me residuals. Wah! Where’s the government to make sure the plebes aren’t stealing fire from me! Wah, wah, waaaaah!” Lawsuit.
Imagine for a moment if Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—three titans of technology—had become so obsessed with the problems of taxation and social welfare “mooches” and “leeches” that they simply quit. There would be no MacBook, no Windows, no Facebook, no Xbox, no iPhone, no Arab Spring (or a smaller version anyway), no iPad, and no public companies from which high-flying investors might milk obscene profits. Steve Jobs did spend decades suing Microsoft and Google, trying to litigate them out of copying his patents—but he didn’t just take his ball and go home. And Gates, in spite of Microsoft’s considerable tax payments (we can argue about the US’s corporate rate, of course), as well as his personal tax rates, is working tirelessly to give his money away. Gates has also called for higher taxes.
And who could argue that Jobs and Gates are not the ideal Randian heros? Along with Apple, Gates’s Microsoft brought the gift of personal computing to the masses. The benefits have far outweighed the drawbacks. We have a more open society because of personal computers and the Internet (more on the internet’s creators vs the Randian hero archetype below).
Jobs may have been a tyrant and ruthless businessman, but he was also a visionary—a visionary who did not spirit away his inventions or hide his genius because he disliked how his money was redistributed into social programs. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has claimed over and over again that he is not interested in money. Facebook’s less-than-stellar performance on Wall Street indicates that he is far more interested in invention than either corporate revenues or taxes. He’s too busy evolving social media technology to stomp his feet at the moochers and leeches and withdraw to his home like John Galt and Eric Cartman.
The creators of the Internet, which involved many people over many decades, culminating with Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web—which allowed you, dear reader, to sit on your duff and read this article—didn’t care much about money either. Berners-Lee didn’t become a billionaire because of his creation, but the birth of the internet was one of history’s great Prometheus moments.
But here’s the beauty of the human mind and the mathematical constants of the universe: somebody else would have! Humans can and often do create and innovate things independently and sometimes simultaneously. Gottfried Leibniz and Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus independent one another. Almost every culture on Earth independently invented its own quantities for symbols. The Hindu-Arabic numerals won out eventually because they made calculation easier and more elegant, leading to an explosion in scientific discovery that is still ongoing.
If Galt were real and he had created the Internet, he never would have given it away for free, first of all; and, if he’d sensed that his creation would bump him up into a new tax bracket and help fund social welfare programs, he would have stomped off into a mountain lair and pouted.
Witness Galt’s arrogance in Rand’s 70-page objectivist propaganda address, in which he plays the victim card:
“All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.”
Fuck John Galt and fuck all those jackasses who idolize him. This country and world are filled with captains of industry and technology who go on creating.
And though Rand’s book is more of a thought experiment than anything, her biggest lie—which goes unmentioned in “Atlas Shrugged’s” pages—is that there are always upstart dreamers ready to take the place of the old guard or the Galts of this world, whether they be small business owners or corporate titans. Randians, particularly those in the GOP, idolize Galt because like the fictional character, they are obsessed with the idea that they are victims and that their achievements have not been properly recognized. (Incidentally, psychopaths are also often upset with the masses for not recognizing their genius or achievements.)
If “Atlas Shrugged” had been real, Americans would have laughed at the jackass and his minions and seized the opening.