Standing unnoticed on the edge of the group, Rearden heard a woman, who had large diamond earrings and a flappy, nervous face, ask tensely, “Señor d’Anconia, what do you think is going to happen to the world?”
“Just exactly what it deserves.”
“Oh, how cruel!”
“Don’t you believe in the operation of a moral law, madame?”, Francisco asked gravely. “I do.”
(From Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged)
These days many people think that laissez-faire capitalism has failed and that the only alternative lies in tighter government control of the market, and in particular of the financial sector. The banks and mortgage companies have caused the financial crisis with their unbridled, uncontrolled and irresponsible hunt for profits.
And I am certain that a lot of people are asking, “NOW what would Ayn Rand say if she rose from the grave and saw the world we live in?” After all, Ayn Rand spoke in favor of free, unbridled, laissez-faire capitalism.
That is a good question indeed.
The kind of society that Ayn Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged, which is collapsing in her story, is not a laissez-faire capitalist society. It is a “mixed” society which is part capitalism, part collectivism. Or, as Francisco d’Anconia puts it in his famous “Money Speech” in the book, a society that is “half-property, half-loot”. A society where government pays lip service to property rights, except that it keeps coming up with more and more laws and restrictions against free trade and property rights, until freedom ceases to exist.
A society where government more or less openly exists to serve its friends and connections. Where fortunes are made, not by work, but by pull and graft. Where you fail if you try to run a business; the way to succeed is to run to Washington! Where trade by voluntary agreement is prohibited, but trade by dictate from politicians, bureaucrats, and their friends is forced.
Ayn Rand’s ideal society was a society where trade was made voluntarily, where property rights were respected as an absolute, and where people were free to make their own fortunes. Where government didn’t exist to hinder free trade, but to hinder coercion and enforce contracts, and other than that, to leave people the hell alone!
Looking back at the society we have had over the last 30 or 40 years, from Nixon over Ford to Carter and Reagan, to G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush and now Obama, which society do you think we have lived in? (Danish readers may ask the same about our own governments from Anker Jørgensen until Helle Thorning-Smith. The answer would be the same.)
I think we have lived in the dystopian society that Rand warned us against.
Laissez-faire capitalism hasn’t failed. In order to fail, an idea first has to be tried.
But “Crapitalism” (or to put it more bluntly, “Cleptocracy”) has failed! And it won’t succeed just because we try to “fix” it. The answer to failed government intervention is not more intervention. The answer to failed regulations is not to tighten the regulations further.
The answer to a failed “solution” is never “more of the same”. It is “less of the same”.
So if you’re asking yourself, “What would Ayn Rand say?” I believe the answer is:
I TOLD YOU SO!