“ All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man” – Henry David Thoreau.
Under the right circumstances, even a “semi-libertarian”, such as myself, can become enamoured with the idea of “Goin’ Galt”. In fact, I suspect that, never before in our nation’s history has John Galt been more popular. (Get your t-shirts and commuter mugs here.)
“Who is John Galt?” Yes, well that is the question, or was at least, throughout Ayn Rand’s magnum opus “Atlas Shrugged“, a book that, for more than 50 years, has continued to reminded many of us that there is, perhaps, an alternative to merely knuckling under to the unabated growth of collectivist interference in our lives.
For the uninitiated, the Galt character in Rand’s novel, is a prototypical individualistic capitalist. In the face of such collectivist pressure, Galt encourages society’s most productive citizens to simply disappear, effectively “shrugging” off the burdens imposed on them by the state. Naturally enough, “the system” breaks down, leading to vindication of Galt’s (and Rand’s) objectivist philosophy of “enlightened self-interest“, a point of view that is similar to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand“, tenets still cherished by modern libertarians.
In Rand’s words, “Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.” Indeed.
However, for me at least, one of the primary failings of “full-on” libertarianism is it’s persistent habit of bandying about moral and ethical concepts without quite ever paying heed to the author of morality, namely our Creator. That said, however, it does not then follow that any actual “good” results from the sort of coercion that collectivists insist upon. (Note: “Insist” is, perhaps, an overly polite description of what those who are addicted to coercion actually do.)
Alas, in this particular battle of nitwits, I will err on the side of the libertarians, who – inadvertently – defend the proposition of independent moral agency. To wit: without liberty, there is no moral agency and, thus, no “good”. This is the essence of our “inalienable rights”.
To those packing up for a move to “Galt’s Gulch“, I sympathize, really I do. Still, I recommend a pause for thought on the question of our (freely chosen) obligations to serve others. On the one hand, there’s a lot to be said for “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” (Matt 18:9). On the other hand, we must be mindful of our obligation to “with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men”, (Ephesians 6:7). Only you can (and should) decide which of these constitutes “enlightened self-interest”.
To be sure, the work stoppages occurring in Greece at the moment, or perhaps, the enticing notion that we’d be fools to keep pulling the collective wagon when all about us are climbing in the back, probably don’t qualify.