Ayn Rand Followers Don’t Even Know What “Going Galt” Actually Means!

March 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Posted in American politics | 32 Comments

As hilzoy notes over at Obsidian Wings, right wingers who are currently claiming they are “going Galt” in reference to John Galt of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, don’t even understand what it means to “go Galt.” It isn’t a matter of lowering one’s efforts to ensure not getting taxed more. It isn’t laying off your employees either as a commenter suggested in a previous post of mine. Hilzoy:

That’s not what Rand meant by Going Galt at all. In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt decides to withdraw his creative and productive efforts from society. He is going on strike, and he convinces other creative, productive people to follow him.

THAT’S going Galt. You up and leave. You go on strike. You do it to spite those who are, in your opinion, enslaving you and raping your talents. For those on the right to “go Galt,” they would have to step away from their creative work and not let the world around them benefit from that creative work. This is why I really do look forward to the day when conservatives actually DO go Galt. Please, all you Rand followers out there. Please Go Galt! Do us the favor. Go find Gault’s Gulch in Colorado and just stay there, shut your mouths and do your creative work just between yourselves and spare the rest of the world your “creativity.” Hilzoy:

John Galt did not need to go on the air to make his point. He made his case in private, to creative and productive people like himself. They went on strike, and as a result the world was plunged into crisis.

That’s not a minor point. It’s essential to Rand’s entire view. Here’s why Galt says that he decided to withdraw:

“Then I saw what was wrong with the world, I saw what destroyed men and nations, and where the battle for life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality — and that my sanction was its only power. I saw that evil was impotent-that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real — and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it. Just as the parasites around me were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to enforce, just as they were counting on my self-immolation to provide them with the means of their plan — so throughout the world and throughout men’s history, in every version and form, from the extortions of loafing relatives to the atrocities of collective countries, it is the good, the able, the men of reason, who act as their own destroyers, who transfuse to evil the blood of their virtue and let evil transmit to them the poison of destruction, thus gaining for evil the power of survival, and for their own values — the impotence of death. I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win — and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was ‘No.'”

By withdrawing, Galt was, essentially, testing this view. If he was right to think that an inverted morality could triumph only with his sanction, and that the parasites around him were helplessly dependent on his mind, and could survive only with the aid of his self-immolation, then once he and others like him withdrew, that fact would become clear. If not, not.

Hilzoy notes why, most likely, right wingers won’t actually go Galt, no matter how they try to convince others to do so:

As I said above, the three most obvious answers are: (1) they do not believe that anything they do is in fact creative or productive, or (2) they are urging other people to do something they don’t have the guts to do themselves, like scam artists who convince people to invest their money in schemes they themselves steer clear of, or (3) they have not bothered to think about what they are saying, even to the limited extent required to see that there’s a conflict between their words and their actions.

I lean on number two. They are not principled, or they would actually have the courage to follow Galt to his cave no matter how foolish they may look to the rest of the world. Ironically that’s one of the characteristics of Rand’s protagonists. They don’t flinch when the rest of the world mocks them. They stand on their principles regardless the price. Are today’s Rand followers truly willing to do the same as their supposed heroes? Will they stand on their principles regardless the price? Will they withdraw their creative work from the benefit of the world no matter the cost? Of course not!

See, Rand supporters are far more realistic than Rand’s ideology was or is. They understand that a scenario like the one played out in Atlas Shrugged is completely unrealistic. They know that it is impossible to withdraw the creative talents of this world all at the same time to inflict the proper pain on the rest of the world to beg them to come out of retirement. There are simply too many people, too many talents who don’t believe in Rand’s ideology who will very simply take the place of those who went on strike. Rand’s followers know this, which is why they will never actually withdraw their talents from productivity. Furthermore, this is a matter of propaganda (ironic for anti-Soviet Rand followers). These guys pushing for “going Galt” will never actually withdraw themselves because of another reason. They want to CONTROL the information; they wish to remain the speakers, the Voice of the Right. If they withdrew, that would simply leave an opening for some other fanatical group to become the influencing voice among the rabid followers. They wish to take a stand on a principle which will actually require them to silence their mouths if they really actually followed the principle as proscribed. This they cannot do.

hence why they are easily mocked, easily ridiculed, easily called stupid.


  1. I was just thinking about this. Really, there’s little difference between a John Galt and a Jimmy Hoffa. Both use strikes (the withdrawal of their talent and work from the field) to get others who spitefully use them to meet their (Galt’s and Hoffa’s) demands. Funny, isn’t it. Ayn Rand vilifies the ability of the common worker to strike but thinks it is perfectly okay for the “talented” of the world to do the same.

    Seriously, why are there so many Mormons enamored with this dumb philosophy…

  2. Ayn Rand did not disagree with the workers’ right to strike. She disagreed that they should have the right to use violence to prevent others from working, or to employ the coercive power of the state to prevent management from hiring other workers.

    And Ayn Rand followers do know what it means to “go Galt.” It’s the conservatives who are clueless. Ayn Rand was not a conservative, and conservatives have never been adherents of her philosophy. They occasionally try to ride her coattails in defending the free market, but they don’t really believe in it. For the past eight years “compassionate conservatives” have been spending the taxpayers’ money like drunken sailors on shore leave, and now all of a sudden they’ve rediscovered their small government principles. They’ll harangue the public about it for the next for years, but when they get in power again it will be the same.

    But they will get in power again. Obama is making sure of that.

  3. Erskine,

    What makes you think Obama is “making sure of that?” His poll numbers are currently in the 60s while Republican numbers are down in the 20s currently. Most Americans polled agree with Obama’s economic policies. What is Obama doing that makes you think he’s going against what the public wants?

    See Republicans (like Bill Kristol) know that Democratic policies and principles are generally popular with the public. This is why it is the stated plan of the Republican party to oppose these policies. Not because of some high minded principled stand, but because they don’t want the public to reward the Democratic party with long term rule for the Democratic party giving the public policies the public likes. So I fail to see what Obama is doing that would somehow bring this really unhinged Republican party back into power.

  4. Have you looked at the stock market lately? It’s not a tracking poll. That’s retirement plans of people all over the country going down the drain. Not rich people, but ordinary people who vote.

    Obama’s plan to expand the government is going to prevent the market from recovering. After four years of economic recession, the Republicans will be able to pass themselves off as free market advocates again. They will use the economy to get back into power. It took twelve years after Jimmy Carter for Democrats to win the presidency again. I suspect it will be even longer after Obama, unless he changes direction soon.

  5. The stock market? Erskine, most Americans believe the economy (and their life savings) tanked BECAUSE OF Republican policies. They don’t blame Obama for that loss. Most Americans realize that we’re on the way down now and they don’t expect Obama to raise the economy right away. The stock market tanking right now is NOT because of Obama’s policies. They are, rather, a realization that banks had been criminally irresponsible these past several years and maybe it isn’t that good to invest in them or other companies for a while. That has nothing to do with Obama.

    Obama’s plan to expand the government is going to prevent the market from recovering.

    How exactly? How does adding more workers prevent the market from recovering?

    They will use the economy to get back into power.

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    It took twelve years after Jimmy Carter for Democrats to win the presidency again. I suspect it will be even longer after Obama, unless he changes direction soon.

    Actually, if we are to make comparisons, the comparison you should make is to Hoover and Roosevelt. Republicans had so thoroughly discredited themselves under Hoover that they did not come back to power in Congress for several decades. Eisenhower won the presidency in 52, but ran quite an extensive federal government that included 90% tax on the ultra rich, and the building of massive infrastructure around the nation (like our freeways). Look, from Hoover to Nixon, Eisenhower is your only Republican president. That’s from 1932 to 1968, 34 years.

    Secondly, you assume that most Americans are against Obama’s policies, but you can’t offer any actual evidence of that. Most Americans right now SUPPORT Obama and his economic policies.

  6. I don’t assume that Obama’s policies are unpopular, I assert that they will not work. In four years, when things are even worse than they are now, then his policies will be unpopular.

    They won’t work because they are based on the assumption that consumption drives production. That is a reversal of cause and effect. Production must preceed consumption. By trying to inflate our way out of this crisis, Obama and his team are going to prolong it.

    I think Hoover and Roosevelt is an excellent comparison. Just as Roosevelt’s policies were an extension and expansion of Hoover’s, Obama is pursuing the same course that Bush charted, only more so. What happened then is going to happen again. A Fed-created boom and bust is going to be turned into a prolonged recession due to the panicked interventions of congress and the president.

    What won’t happen again, though, is that the president won’t be able to maintain his popularity through the crisis. Since the Depression, we have bounced back quickly from a number of recessions. We have seen stock market dives that did not turn into decade-long crises. In four years, people will have turned on Obama the same way they turned on Jimmy Carter.

    Why is that a problem? It’s a problem because the more incompetent the Democrats are, the more opportunity that creates for the religious right. Imagine an election that faces off Nancy Pelosi vs. Pat Robertson, and you’ll know what keeps me up at night. I don’t want Obama to fail, but I know his Keynesian policies will.

  7. Daniel,

    I am curious, have you read “Atlas Shrugged?”

    And Erskine, I agree with about 99% of what you said in your comments above. It sounds like you have read the book, and I also agree completely with you on the very likely failure of the Keynesian attempts being made now (which have not worked so far in history). Yes, Obama is popular now, and may remain popular for a while; he is a very likeable person. But his economic policies will not succeed; they aren’t his anyway, and didn’t succeed when tried during the first years of the 1929 depression. People will grow weary of their continuing dwindling retirement accounts, and the general state of the economy, which will get worse unless they change back to proven free-market policies. Good comments.

  8. ConservativePup,

    I am curious, have you read “Atlas Shrugged?”

    If you read my debate with Erskine, no, I did not read Atlas Shrugged. Erskine kindly left me hanging on the question of how exactly the striking Galt and his bunch fed themselves. Mayhap you would be so kind as to answer that question. 🙂

    didn’t succeed when tried during the first years of the 1929 depression.

    Um, a Republican was in charge in 1929. He was also in charge in 1930. He was also in charge in 1931. He was also in charge in 1932. He lost his power in 1933. That would be FOUR YEARS before someone actually attempted to do something about the Great Depression that had begun FOUR YEARS earlier. Nice try, trying to blame it on Keynesian economics, but they weren’t even begun until 1933 (at which point, of course, they began to right the fallen ship).

    proven free-market policies.

    Uh, when? When were free market policies ever proven? The 1900s? The 1700s? The 1500s? Uh…

  9. I should add, I find it freaking ironic that Rand would muse over how the elite of the world have the right to go on strike…

  10. wow, is Atlas Shrugged really this bad!?!?

  11. Pup: The debate to which Daniel refers is in this thread:


    As you can see, Daniel hasn’t read Atlas Shrugged. He is simply arguing against his cartoonish notion of what the book is about.

  12. My cartoonish notion? I’ve read enough to judge Rand’s book the ultimate cartoon.

    And sorry, I didn’t realize this was the other post

  13. Thanks Erskine, and I agree with you.

    Daniel, I highly recommend that you read the book. It is very well-written, fascinating, and while very long, it is one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. Describing what happens as the rich “going on strike” is inaccurate and inadequate. It is much more than that.

    I must say that I am always surprised when someone claims authority on a book that they haven’t actually read. Other people’s opinions and summations are never enough for me.

  14. As for the Keynesian policies in 1929, I could very well be wrong on this, I am neither a history expert nor an economic expert, but I believe that Hoover instituted policies that Roosevelt continued until 1938, when he began to realize that he did need private enterprise after all.

    As I said, I might be wrong on this, but I am trying to remember what I read from “The Forgotten Man,” another great book.

  15. ConservativePup,

    The more I read about the book (including excerpts from the book itself), the more I think it is one of the most ridiculous books ever written.

    Listen, if I cannot get past the premise of it, there’s no chance in hell I will be able to see anything of worth in the rest of the book. The premise is utterly ridiculous.

    Secondly, can you just indulge me please. How did Galt and his bunch feed themselves in their cave?

    As for Keynesian policies, no, Hoover did not introduce anything of the sort. Hoover did not introduce any stimulus bill or project. That would be Roosevelt in 1933, a full FOUR YEARS after the economy had already collapsed. People these days get a bit confused at the timeline, but we shouldn’t. It’s not that hard. In October 1929, that’s when the collapse began. But its low point was four years later. Amazingly with a Democratic president and Democratic Congress churning out debt-backed projects to get people working, the economy began to pick up…funny how that works…

  16. Yes, your cartoonish notion. You’ve read enough of what? Not the book itself, as you’ve admitted. Which other books by Rand have you read?

    The first step to refuting a philosopher is to understand him. You think you can skip that step and jump straight to the refutation. You are relying on second hand accounts by people who are hostile to the philosophy, and you have no way to judge whether what they are saying is accurate or not. Anything that one of her supporters has to say on the subject bounces off of you like bullets off of Superman. You know that there is something in Rand’s philosophy that contradicts your own, so you are looking for some easy way to dismiss her without having to grapple with her words yourself. That is not an honest way to argue, Daniel.

  17. Excellent, Erskine.

  18. Let me quote from Wikipedia on Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression:

    Hoover’s stance on the economy was based largely on volunteerism. From before his entry to the presidency, he was a proponent of the concept that public-private cooperation was the way to achieve high long-term growth. Hoover feared that too much intervention or coercion by the government would destroy individuality and self-reliance, which he considered to be important American values. Those ideals, as well as the economy, were put to the test with the onset of The Great Depression. At the outset of the Depression, Hoover claims in his memoirs that he rejected Treasury Secretary Mellon’s suggested “leave-it-alone” approach.[25] Critics, such as liberal economist Paul Krugman,[26][27] on the other hand, accuse Hoover of sharing Mellon’s laissez-faire viewpoint. It is often inaccurately stated that Herbert Hoover did nothing while the world economy eroded. President Hoover made attempts to stop “the downward spiral” of the Great Depression.[28] His policies, however, had little or no effect. As the economy quickly deteriorated in the early years of the Great Depression, Hoover declined to pursue legislative relief, believing that it would make people dependent on the federal government. Instead, he organized a number of voluntary measures with businesses, encouraged state and local government responses, and accelerated federal building projects. Only toward the end of his term did he support a series of legislative solutions.

    Nothing at all Keynesian

  19. Erskine,

    You know that there is something in Rand’s philosophy that contradicts your own, so you are looking for some easy way to dismiss her without having to grapple with her words yourself.

    DUDE! I attempted to read The Fountainhead and found it ridiculous. The premise of Atlas Shrugged is ridiculous. There’s no way that if I cannot make it through Fountainhead without a desire to strangle Howard Roark, I would ever make it through the pages of Atlas Shrugged.

    Anyways, I thought you were done with my blog. I guess not. So I shall taunt you again with the question that I have. How did Galt feed himself in his cave?

  20. Furthermore, Erskine,

    You are relying on second hand accounts by people who are hostile to the philosophy, and you have no way to judge whether what they are saying is accurate or not.

    I’ve attempted over and over again to ask questions of a follower (you), who refuses to answer my questions. Clearly, there is something to hide.

    How did John Galt feed himself in his cave?

  21. As I said, I could be wrong.

    I don’t use Wikipedia very much, as I can’t tell who wrote the information. I also highly recommend Amity Shlaes’ book “The Forgotten Man,” her book about the Great Depression.

  22. Your repeated question of how John Galt fed himself reminds me of the book itself. You want something, yet you want someone else to give it to you.

    Bright, innovative people with a good work ethic will always be able to feed themselves.

  23. Yes ConservativePup, I want to rape you of the knowledge you have. Give it to me or else! Sheesh, silly.

    Your choice to answer or not. I really could care less. The fact that you don’t proves that there’s nothing to the book worth anything but shit.

  24. And on that, we’re done.

  25. Every time you ask the question you show your ignorance of the book. Why would I want to help you out of that?

    And what good does it do for me to try to explain anything about the books. Go back to the top of the thread, and read where I explained that Rand believed in the right of every man to go on strike. Yet, you’re still harping on that as if you were making a telling point. That’s an example of your imperviousness to anything I have to say.

    Anyway, Rand’s novels aren’t the only sources of information on her philosophy. She also wrote a great deal of non-fiction explaining her beliefs in great detail. Go to it, man. Don’t cop out.

  26. I should add, there will never come a point where I will crave for the knowledge of how Galt fed himself that I come begging to you or any other Rand follower to please be kind and bring back your knowledge. Like I said, the premise of Atlas Shrugged is utterly silly and ridiculous.

    And the question of how Galt fed himself is central to the point of Galt’s strike. See, if you have, say theoretically 100 people gathering somewhere, eventually those 100 people are going to get hungry, will thirst for water, will need to relieve themselves, and will need a place to sleep. Food, while in some places growing on trees, does not generally get produced without some effort on the part of those 100 people (or someone they happen to pay to work for them to feed them). So how exactly did Galt and his bunch (how many of them were there, all the talents of America? About how many? 100,000? Too many? Maybe 10,000. That’s a lot of mouths to feed) eat? Who cooked the meals? Who gathered the food? Who created the sanitation to ensure disease and sickness did not arise from going poop just anywhere? Remember, 10,000 people pooping makes one big pile of shit! So. Answer my question if you wish to continue debating on my blog. If you do not wish to, then by all means, head on out. The door is open. Just make sure it doesn’t hit you on your way out.

  27. Bye Pup. You’re welcome back anytime. Just have your answer please. 🙂

  28. Sorry Daniel, you can’t use the word “rape” to a woman and expect her to continue to interact with you.

  29. no worries Pup. I don’t think it was my word to use in the first place. I believe that was how Galt and his bunch felt. I was going for effect. As for it offending you, my apologies.

  30. so…

    how did Galt and his bunch feed themselves… they were gone out of regular society for quite some time… surely there weren’t that many apples on those trees in Galt’s Gulch…

  31. That’s wanting something for nothing times two. You want the information without having to read the book, and you want a refutation of the book over what would be nothing but a minor plot hole.

    There is no plot hole, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

  32. heh, well you’re a selfish Randian, that’s for sure. See, us Christians gladly share. Oh well, I guess I’ll die never knowing how exactly John Galt fed himself in his exile…

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