Early readers of Atlas Shrugged thought Rand was taking events from headlines of the day – 1957 – and perhaps experiences from her past. We also suspected her writing had some predictive abilities, since she was a keen observer of what kind of people were out in the world and what they could be expected to do … or not do.
And we were right. There are numerous examples in the book. Here’s one scene from early in Part 1:
A man from a government research institute is urging our hero, steel manufacturer Hank Rearden, to take his super-metal off the market for an indefinite time. The metal, just invented, has made all the other, older steel more or less obsolete.
“It is the social aspect that I am asking you to consider, Mr. Rearden,” the man said softly. “I urge you to take note of the age we’re living in. Our economy is not ready for it.”
“For what?” [Rearden asks.]
“Our economy is in a state of extremely precarious equilibrium. We all have to pool our efforts to save it from collapse.”
Later in the same scene, the government guy continues, “We are thinking in terms of the country as a whole, we are concerned with the public welfare and the terrible crisis of the present moment which…”
“Is Rearden Metal good?” [Rearden is trying to get him to commit to a position on the quality of the new metal.]
“At a time of desperate steel shortage, we cannot affort to permit the expansion of a steel company which produces too much, because it might throw out of business the companies which produce too little, thus creating an unbalanced economy which…”
This passage made us think of the Bush Bailout and the Obama Stimulus. Just slight changes in wording and you have all the same arguments. For “take your steel off the market” just substitute “we have to expand the currency.”
Investors: take note of the managers of the companies you are thinking of investing in. Do they buy into, or even use, the government man’s arguments? Then, you don’t want to invest in their companies. What about the Silicon Valley moguls, formerly proudly independent, now wildly pro-government. What about GE? GM?