04 April, 2020

Who is John Galt? They all are now!

You might remember – although you probably don’t – a time around ten years ago at the height of the Tea Party cult. (By the way, whatever happened to them?)

Around this time, a whole lot of loudmouths who thought they held the world together – the bankers, the stockbrokers, the hedge fund managers, the lawyers, the talk radio hosts, the columnists, the talking heads on news channels – were threatening to “Go Galt.”

The expression was a dog-whistle reference to a character in the novel Atlas Shrugged – a libertarian masturbatory fantasy aimed at the feeble-minded – who removed himself from society. One by one, he took similar elites with him until, somehow, society collapsed without them. In 2010, they were essentially threatening to strike, although the word smacked far too much of workers’ rights for them even to countenance using it.

I always wished they would. I said at the time, they should go for it. If withdrawing such services was going to teach the mean old socialists a lesson about who keeps the world turning, I still say they should have done it. I think the lesson would have been the opposite of what they expected, so I’m sorry they never quite got angry enough to test their theory.

Cut back to present day, and a funny thing has happened: Due to spatial distancing and self-isolation requirements to reduce the spread of Covid 19 to manageable levels, they have all been forced to withdraw their services.

And they’re pissed about it! What’s more, nobody misses them.

The true heroes in these challenging times are just who any reasonable person would expect them to be: Doctors, nurses, paramedics, truck drivers, shelf-stackers, checkout operators, cleaners. You might notice a few minimum-wage positions in there.

This may be a naïve hope but it some good can come out of this global crisis, it might be a reassessment of what we value. It’s at times like this we begin to see the absurdity of betting on the price of crops that haven’t even been planted yet. Even the staunchest of free market rationalist governments have suddenly stopped regarding unemployment as a personal failing on the part of those affected by it.

Let’s try to keep up this new understanding of what’s really important.