Friday, December 05, 2008

Automakers: Where's John Galt When You Need Him?

Neither Rick Wagoner, Alan Mulally, nor Bob Nardelli, the three CEOs of the biggest automobile companies in the US, could play a credible John Galt in th upcoming movie version of Ayn Rand's novel.

As Wikipedia describes the hero of Atlas Shrugged:

"Galt is discovered to be a creator and inventor who embodies the power of the individual. He serves as a counterpoint to the social and economic structure depicted in the novel. The depiction portrays a society based on oppressive bureaucratic functionaries and a culture that embraces the stifling mediocrity and egalitarianism of socialistic idealism. He is a metaphorical Atlas of Greek mythology, holding up the world and namesake for the title Atlas Shrugged.

"An engineer by trade, Galt's actions include withdrawing his talents, 'stopping the motor of the world,' and leading the 'strikers' (in this case the captains of industry) against the 'looters' (in this case the mob rule of strikers and the common man)."

No, none of our three CEOs is going to play this heroic role, at least not this time around. They are incapable of fighting the unions on their own, one-on-one. And let's face it: They're probably making an astute business move in the context of the present economic climate. All three giants banded together, plus the government, against the UAW, now that's going to be a match worth watching. If only the government didn't have such a bad record of messing things up.

What a pitiful trio they are as they raise their right hand in unison before a grandstanding Congress, begging for help, the picture of utter defeat--or at best of pragmatic, cynical groveling. You almost could have heard them mumbling through their teeth-clenched grin, as they step out of their symbolic hybrid driver's seat: "There is no level to which I will not stoop."

[Thanks to for the picture.]

They might have a more successful acting career if they tried out for the other Galt, Henry, the main character of Garet Garrett's 1922 book The Driver.

In Garrett's story, Henry Galt is "an entrepreneur, ... blinded by the intense wealth and power ..., [against whom] the general population and government turn, ultimately destroying him instead of celebrating his success."

Ayn Rand was an optimist; Garrett apparently a pessimist.

Is there any hope left for the American entrepreneur in this strange new country in which we live? Since 1913 government has been screwing around with our monetary unit. Now we have to undergo the embarrassment of watching as they nationalize our banking system, our mortgage financing, and soon our auto industry.

What got us here?

I maintain that it is not corporate greed. The root cause is not, as President Bush claims, housing; nor is it the securitization process.

It is not China; it is not speculation per se. It is not Wall Street. It is not the wealthy, or special interests.

The cause of this crisis--i.e. what turned what would normally have been a healthy business cycle contraction into a recession, and perhaps a depression, are the over-expanded governments of the world, and most particularly their mishandling of the money supply. It's that simple.

For some of the tenets of my argumentation, see my previous blog posts, as well as this and this, (my article page 1 and 2); and this, this, and this (another one, pages 1-3).

Let's hope that Congress doesn't use the upcoming bailout of the Big Three as an excuse to pass the compensatory and ironically named "Employee Free Choice Act," which would take away an employee's right to a secret ballot, thereby pushing the U.S.A. towards the U.S.S.R.A. by allowing unions to put pressure on employees to agree to (and finance) the unionization of their workplace.

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