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“The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.”     Milton Friedman

March 13, 2009

Is the White House “Going Galt” on Us?

by Stephen Gordon

randselfishIn a 2001 article entitled “The Virtue of Greed,” noted economist Walter Williams wrote: “YOU CAN CALL IT GREED, selfishness or enlightened self-interest, but the bottom line is that it’s these human motivations that get wonderful things done. Unfortunately, many people are naive enough to believe that it’s compassion, concern and ‘feeling another’s pain’ that’s the superior human motivation. As such, we fall easy prey to charlatans, quacks and hustlers.”

In what may become a new executive branch strategery to sell America on President Obama’s economic plan, White House National Economic Council Chair Lawrence Summers did what Glenn Reynolds and Ilya Somin are describing as channeling the fictional Oscar-winning Wall Street character Gordon Gekko (YouTube of speech below).  To be fair, Obama started it by calling on people to act in their own self-interest by making a few stock investments: “What you’re now seeing is, profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long term perspective on it.”

However, Obama’s motivation of selling his economic plan was revealed (emphasis added) in his very next sentence: “I think that consumer confidence — as they see the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act taking root, businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring, we are going to start creating jobs again.”

Here’s how Politico describes the Summers quote:

“In the past few years, we’ve seen too much greed and too little fear; too much spending and not enough saving; too much borrowing and not enough worrying,” Summers said Friday in a speech to the Brookings Institution. “Today, however, our problem is exactly the opposite.”

In remarks to a private dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Summers was even blunter, according to an attendee: “Before, we had too much greed and too little fear. Now, we have too much fear and too little greed.”

“While greed is no virtue, entrepreneurship and the search for opportunity is what we need today,” Summers concluded. “We need a program that breaks these vicious cycles. We need to instill the trust that allows opportunity to overcome fear and enables families and businesses to again imagine a brighter future. And we need to create this confidence without allowing it to lead to unstable complacency.”

At times, Summers sounds like he could be quoting from Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness. In reality, he’s promoting a program which has already caused Rand to rise from her grave.

Ordinarily, making Rand required reading around the White House would be considered a good thing.  However, such reading could turn into what Wikipedia describes as:

The political manipulation of language, by obfuscation, e.g. WAR IS PEACE. Using language to obfuscate meaning or to reduce and eliminate ideas and their meanings that are deemed dangerous to its authority.

and

The encouragement of “doublethink,” whereby the population must learn to embrace inconsistent concepts without dissent, e.g. giving up liberty for freedom. Similar terms used, are “doublespeak“, and “newspeak

America is still falling prey to the “charlatans, quacks and hustlers” Williams described.  Instead of using altruistic devices, the bad guys now seem to be toying with the use of Orwellian tactics.


Related reading:

Michelle Malkin’s take on what she’s describing as Obama’s 180 on fiscal policy messaging.

DailyKos: “Atlas Didn’t Shrug – John Galt 2009 is Staying

QandO: “Hayek, Greenspan And The Designs Of Men

Capitalism Magazine on the left’s reaction to the “Going Galt” theme

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15 Comments

  1. “Going Galt,” as in, withdrawing, not contributing, refusing to create so that your creations cannot be stolen from you? I wish they would! But, being gov’t, the Can’t.

    However, “Going Galt,” as in doing what the gov’t did in Atlas Shrugged? Yeah, I can see that happening.

    Not under Bush, he didn’t “care about us” enough, though he certianly laid the groundwork. Obama, however does “feel our pain” enough to take actions “for the greater good.”

    Comment by Merf — March 13, 2009 @ 3:09 pm
  2. Merf,

    My fear is that the Democrats are going to try to sound sympathetic towards believers in small government while doing the precise opposite.

    They’ll be using yet another foundation well laid by the Bush administration.

    Comment by Stephen Gordon — March 13, 2009 @ 3:36 pm
  3. I wish I could disagree with you, Stephen.

    Comment by Merf — March 13, 2009 @ 5:09 pm
  4. [...] IS THE WHITE HOUSE Going Galt On Us? [...]

    Pingback by Instapundit » Blog Archive » IS THE WHITE HOUSE Going Galt On Us?… — March 13, 2009 @ 8:00 pm
  5. The quotes from wiki are actually a reference to the book 1984 not from Altas Shrugged. Orwell’s 1984 and those quotes presented still have a lot to say about the current administration.

    For example, Obama passed a law less than a week ago “for the good of science and politics” to lit the ban on government money being used for stem cell research. However with the signing of the budget bill he has reversed that law because the budget bill included a stipulation that no government money will be used for those purposes.

    Obama is constantly contradicting himself and expecting us to accept it. For example, he campaigned that he would ban ALL earmarks. Recently he said that some earmakrs are good and usefull and that he has ALWAYS supported their use.

    Essentially. . . . our President is a practicing liar.

    Comment by John — March 13, 2009 @ 8:27 pm
  6. John,

    Thanks for noting my intention of tying the current Randian theme to George Orwell. The way I figger it (Obama insiders don’t confer with me), the White House is up to one of two things:

    1) They were caught off guard with respect to the recent “Going Galt” theme and are currently a bit rattled by folks who are using consistent, logical arguments against them.

    2) This is a trial balloon for a more nefarious plan to seize control of the Randian-type arguments.

    Either way, the small-government side is served, in my opinion, by bringing these coincidences to the light of day.

    Comment by Stephen Gordon — March 13, 2009 @ 8:43 pm
  7. Another example….sin taxes on tobacco are going up, which should stop more consumption of tobacco.

    However, the 10 million more children that will be placed on government healthcare because of the recent expansion of the SCHIP Bill (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) are supposed to be covered by this new tobacco tax. EXCUSE ME…it is estimated that millions of new smokers are needed to be encouraged to consume tobacco now to pay for that SCHIP program. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose if more and more people will use National Health Care as adults to support the children’s program?

    Then we need to tax McDonald’s consumption to pay for the smokers, and encourage more people to eat at McDonalds. But then who is going to pay for the ‘fat’ diseases like cardiac arrest and diabetes? Now where do we go and who do we tax to pay for the ‘fat’ consumers?

    There is that vicious circle again! Are you sure “Animal Farm” isn’t mixed up in this too?

    Comment by O Kaye — March 13, 2009 @ 8:50 pm
  8. Re: “Are you sure ‘Animal Farm’ isn’t mixed up in this too?”

    I’ll give it a shot. Here’s a straight up quote:

    “The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master.”

    Or here’s one I’ve modified:

    “All banks are equal but some financial institutions are simply are more equal than others.”

    The latter needs to be requoted often, as it’s simply too big to fail.

    Comment by Stephen Gordon — March 13, 2009 @ 9:00 pm
  9. Well, things will be better with Obama in charge, but nothing’s going to change right away.

    And, Biden is the perfect pick because Obama has the inspiration and Biden has the experience. And then Biden opened his mouth . . . . but the MSM didn’t pay attention. After the election, we learned that Biden would hold a “traditional” position as VP — a placeholder and not much more.

    If we don’t pass this Stimulus bill, the sky will fall, but it will take at least two years for the bill to work.

    Obama knows how to balance the budget, but he won’t be able to do that for at least the next three years.

    Which ones did I miss?

    Comment by Merf — March 13, 2009 @ 9:14 pm
  10. All statists are rattled by consistent, logical arguments. The logic of their own arguments actually leads to the exact opposite outcome of that which they desire.

    Comment by Peg C. — March 14, 2009 @ 2:01 am
  11. “Going Galt” would be canceling income tax and laying off federal employees. Quite definitely “going Orwell.”

    Comment by Jason — March 14, 2009 @ 2:32 am
  12. For many characters in Atlas Shrugged, “going Galt” meant spending a month every summer in Galt’s Gulch as a kind of intellectual vacation. It’s still possible to do just that.

    Here’s the best way to “Go Galt”:

    http://business.clemson.edu/BBTCENTER/cci/2009con/2009con.html

    Comment by Peter — March 14, 2009 @ 2:41 am
  13. IS THE WHITE HOUSE Going Galt On Us?

    Actually they’re “going Wesley Mouch.”

    Or “going Thompson?”
    Beats “going Ferris”–at least for now.

    Comment by C. Moss — March 14, 2009 @ 6:31 am
  14. It would be nice if they did Go Galt on us. It would be nice if they decided that us little pipsqueaks were complaining too much and that we didn’t Deserve their help or their spending, and just crossed their arms, pouted, and refused to act. That would be wonderful.

    That would let the market correct itself. Bloated, inefficient auto companies would fail, bloated, inefficient banks would fail, idiotic mortgage brokers would go under, and that would just leave space for those the companies who have a brain and actually understand what a cost benefit analysis is, and how it applies to business.

    Comment by Merf — March 14, 2009 @ 9:23 am
  15. [...] that it keeps drilling into our heads almost daily: that some Americans have made too much money.  Official contradictions may have worked in Orwell’s Oceania, but there is no Ministry of Truth around here, no Room 101, as much as the MSM would like our [...]

    Pingback by The Incompetent Branch « The Rhetorican — March 14, 2009 @ 11:42 am

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