October 09, 2008

The Prophecy Of Ayn Rand From The Gods Of Rudyard Kipling

By Julian Dunraven, J.D., M.P.A.

Honorable friends,

My ballot arrived in the mail today and I greeted it as I would a poisonous viper. As I considered which candidates would be least ill-equipped to deal with the situation we are beset with today, my mind continually turns toward a strange encounter I had this morning at the courthouse. Passing through the lobby, I paused to eavesdrop on a political debate between a few young people regarding the relative merits of McCain and Obama. I am always interested to learn how others view the political landscape, but was disappointed upon hearing only echoes of the populist nonsense the campaigns have been spewing about how their own brands of massive government intervention will save the economy—and all of us — from disaster. After a moment, though, my attention was drawn to an elderly lady sitting alone on a bench; she seemed to be silently crying.

Though this is not an entirely unusual event at a courthouse, it concerned me enough that I approached her to inquire whether she was well. She turned her careworn face to me and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief before managing an embarrassed smile. She explained that she had also been listening to the youthful debate and had become distraught by what she had heard. It seems that she was born in Germany and is old enough to remember Hitler’s rise as the nation descended into fascism. People spoke in just the same way, she informed me. Times were hard enough that when the government promised it could fix everything if it just had a few less restrictions and a little more control, the people believed them because they wanted to. She said never thought she would see America making those same mistakes: trusting government to solve all our problems and giving it unfettered access to our economy and our liberty to do it. She told me she knows where that road leads and despairing at the idea of getting any closer ever again.

I never did hear why this lady was at the courthouse, but I thought about what she said for quite a while afterward. Lately, as the Fed spins out of control and Congress and the President lurch from one irrational move to another, many of us have been warning about the failed economic controls attempted in the Great Depression and in communist and socialist economies which just serve to cripple markets and make bad situations worse. What we have not focused on, though, and what she is right to point out, is that massive government control of our economy has consequences that reach much further than just economics. Do any of you recall what Ayn Rand said of the doom of rotted civilizations in Atlas Shrugged?
Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’ (New York: Signet, 1985. 383-384).
As I listen to the hum of the Fed printing presses, and watch as our government nationalizes our financial system and squanders the wealth of our nation on bailouts that should never have happened, I cannot help but think Ayn Rand may be correct.

The candidates this year all have a decidedly poor understanding of money and economics, and we have heard them make many promises of even more massive government intervention into the economy sweetened with populist rhetoric. Though John McCain, and Republicans in general, are less likely to balloon our government into the fascist, socialist nightmare Rand foretells, they have done little to earn anything close to our full confidence. We should all be putting a great deal of pressure on our Republican candidates in these last few days of the election to commit to solidly free market principles, and the reduction of government spending and power, or risk losing our votes. There has never been a better time to force a promise out of desperate politicians.

Should we fail to educate our politicians, unfortunately they will not be the only ones to suffer for their ignorance. Rudyard Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings are even now descending in wrath to forcibly remind us of the economic realities we have tried so hard to deny for so long. Martin Hutchinson has a few good suggestions for appeasing these particular gods, all of which the candidates should probably study if they want to get us back on track to healthy free markets.

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