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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Fiction to Fact 50 years in the making...

It was by mere chance that I began to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for my first time during the course of the fall 2010 semester. I am a little over half way through the novel and if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it I would highly recommend that you do. It’s as if Mancur Olson and Leo Tolstoy had a literary love child and out popped Ayn Rand. Part of the novel read as if it was taken straight out of an Economics’ text book with prevalent themes of Power and Prosperity and more so the Rise and Decline of Nations. It has it all, distributional coalitions, rent seeking, roving bandits, stationary bandits (called looters in the book), protectionim and so on.
The book’s underlying premises is that the we’ve has become a dystopian nation where the ruling bodies take, through force and rule of law the production of the industrialists and the nation’s top producers. They do it in the name of social justice and in reality it is little more than the redistribution of wealth and the nationalization of production and invention. The situation becomes so extreme and the regulations so convoluted that almost no action that is capitalistic as we know it can be taken without it being deemed either illegal or otherwise ill favored.
The book takes rent seeking to the extreme so much so that it bypasses what we referred to in class as the natural rate of ‘life-sucking’ from the citizenry to the point where the motivation to produce is lost. Without giving away too much of the plot and storyline here for those who want to read it I took a very interesting point away from the book, as a manifestation, although be it in fiction of the compounding effects of regulation in a market based economy. This is something we’ve discussed in class but I will mention it here again. One regulation, minor in itself is introduced, and then another then another eventually until an underlying framework can be set for a fully controlled economy. The situation in the book is definitely one of extremisms but many elements of it ring true today, over 50 years after it was written.
Parts of the book are written to be theatrical in nature but all in all it would be a worthy text to have an entire economics’ class dedicated to it in my opinion, then again we sort of already do in Power and Prosperity. I am very interested to see how the book all pans out. But it is an interesting though to consider… what if everyone who produced and had that production taxed or otherwise taken from them merely stopped and walked away…

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