Long time readers will know that I am a fan of Ayn Rand’s greatest work of fiction, Atlas Shrugged, first published in 1957. The famed novel has developed a following over the years because it describes a frighteningly similar world in which the global economy has collapsed, while America remains as the last enclave of a free market, also on its way to collapse under the dogmatic application of the statist doctrine of mass sacrifice. Through the novel, readers are transported to a world in which the news media has become a lapdog for the statists, economic news is contrived and rigged to hide the onrushing collapse, while most people go about their lives with self-constructed blinders by which they are able to permit themselves not to know or even notice the facts of their increasingly dire situation. Rand never intended the book to be prophetic, and yet with each passing day, the global economy and the financial markets provide daily reminders of her fictional work. Economic conditions have grown steadily more awful, and yet we find the media is unwilling to show the American people more than a glimpse of the truth confronting them. It’s as though Rand’s fifty-five year-old novel is being acted out in real life, in a modern setting wherein the technology has changed, but acts merely as another shady disguise behind which to conceal the operative laws of nature. It now appears that Atlas is finally Shrugging.
Government has become an enormous bully, not concerned with improving the economic conditions, but instead with concealing them, and companies across the nation have been forced to collaborate in the deceit. Consider the case of Comcast. The company announced on Tuesday that it would be closing all of its California-based call centers, reducing their number nationwide from thirteen to ten. The original announcement mentioned that the reason the California centers were being closed was due to the extraordinarily high cost of doing business in that state. According to the Mercury News, Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson said:
“We have concluded that the cost of doing business makes operations in California expensive and very difficult”
Scott Anderson, the chief economist with Bank of the West is quoted in the same article:
“The cost of doing business in California is a well-known problem across the country and among business owners in the United States. With the fiscal problems in California, these expenses will likely get higher. Tax rates may rise in California.”
As bad as that may be on its surface, the truth is far worse. After pressure from the state’s Senate President Pro Tempore, Darrell Steinberg(D-Sacramento,) Comcast withdrew its earlier announcement, backing away from a statement that made clear the cause of the decision for the California closures. From the Belleville News Democrat:
“Instead, it said the California closures were needed for cost efficiencies and to consolidate its Western call centers from 13 to 10, based on customer needs, “rather than geography.” It noted that many customers rely on self-help and online tools to handle their service questions, which meant it doesn’t need as many call centers as in the past.”
I would direct my readers to consider what follows in the same article:
That turnaround was greeted warmly by the Governor’s Office.
“It is unfortunate that Comcast’s announcement to eliminate jobs in California inaccurately placed blame on the state, but I am pleased to see the executives at Comcast taking responsibility and correcting the statement,” said Mike Rossi, the governor’s senior adviser for jobs and business development, in a statement.
The governor’s involvement came after Steinberg issued a personal invitation to Comcast executives to meet “to outline their issues and discuss what my office and the Legislature might do to resolve their concerns.” Pending a meeting, he urged Comcast executives “to reconsider their actions.”
Steinberg said he was “puzzled and extremely disappointed” that Comcast representatives had not contacted his office, which represents the Natomas area, until after making its public announcement.
This is what the beleaguered people of California have as a state government: A Governor who is more concerned with appearances and blame than with the facts. Notice that Comcast is still going to close the centers, and more than 1,000 California workers are still going to lose their jobs, but the company’s official statements now reflect a more politically acceptable cause for the closures. This is the sort of crime-boss mentality that now pervades government, from the Federal Government all the way down to State and local institutions of government. They are no longer concerned with stopping the bleeding, but instead merely concealing it from your eyes, or in this case, merely causing you to believe they hadn’t been the cause.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely the sort of thing that Rand described in her famous novel, and indeed, she even described a breakdown particularly in California, but she was no prophet, much as some might by now be convinced to the contrary. Rand unflinchingly described the world as it is, and what happens when a people come to believe they have no further need to adhere to the laws of Nature, and that the technologies invented and built by others somehow insulate them the necessity to know the truth, or to somehow evade the objective reality that has been established by the laws of Nature.
At all levels, our governments now join in the gruesome spectacle of pretending that what matters is not what has happened or that will happen, but instead who will be blamed. The mad rush of politicians to twist corporate arms is another small sign that we are well on our way to a national demise, and I expect that these instances will become more frequent as politicians try to disclaim and evade responsibility for their respective roles in the looming disaster. Even now, our financial markets are beginning to realize the truth of QE3 (Quantitative Easing, round 3,) and as they do, the market will begin to lose its luster as a concealment for the impending collapse, and the banking industry will no longer be able to hide the truth of the looming collapse by effectively counterfeiting the value of collateral. As real household median income has fallen by 8.2% under President Obama, and as the shrinking number of jobs have caused the number of low-wage workers to increase by more than 30%, it is going to become increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion that “all is well.”
As bad as the government and media collusion in this deception may be, what may be more frightening is that as economic conditions worsen, ordinary Americans will become more polarized, divided into two general groups on either side of the gulf described by the bold line of truth: Those who see what is and are no longer willing to conceal it for any cause or contrivance, and those who will avert their eyes lest they be forced to grasp the nature of the horrors their continuing silence will have enabled. It is questionable whether disaster may be averted, but it is certain that if the American people fail to recognize the danger, there can be no avoiding it. It is therefore fitting that as we approach the release date of the second installment of Atlas Shrugged, the movie, and as we watch politicians scramble to avoid blame all while continuing their unrepentant war against us, it’s more important than ever that we refuse to accept the comforting lies they tell. Their attempt to conceal their responsibility in the impending collapse should not serve as our excuse to conceal our own as Rand’s unintended prophecy continues to manifest around us.
Note: For those interested, here’s the trailer for the upcoming release of Part II of the movie Atlas Shrugged