Friday, November 07, 2008

Who is John Galt?

In Ayn Rand's dystopia Atlas Shrugged, mainstream culture is gradually taken over by collectivism piece by piece. In response, John Galt and the productive members of society sequester themselves in Galt's Gulch and allow the rest of the world to rot according to its own devices.

This scenario has been suggested (in a couple of variations) in the context of our most recent election. Ie, if my guy doesn't win, I'll just check out and leave the rest of you to figure it out for yourself, and you'll be sorry then. One version of this has to do with Hollywood types who are distraught that the United States is more Republican than they'd like. Somehow they never pull it off. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Sean Penn would have to forgo $10M per picture, whereas those of us in our log cabins would somehow have to make do without Mystic River.

On a slightly more serious note, I think it's much more plausible to consider families like Palins as the John Galt of our time. We might be able to go without Sarbanes-Oxley compliance specialists and auto sales managers for a while, but if people quit having children, fixing transmissions, and plowing snow, we'd be in big trouble in a hurry. But at least as important as what people do for a living is what they do for free. And it's married people with children who populate things like the PTA, the Junior League, and supervise the Boy Scouts. Of course, people like the Palins aren't going to hide from society in a hissy fit. But they do need a fair bit of cultural latitude or their time, money, and inclination to carry the world on their shoulders withers away. As things stand now, people need at least as much space to be normal as they do to be eccentric.

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