(Mike Chamberlain/The Cranky Hermit) – The premise of the novel Atlas Shrugged is that businesspeople, worn down by intrusive government regulations, taxes and control, simply quit, leave, and disappear. Sometimes they even destroy their own assets in the process.
Yesterday morning we were greeted with possibly a real-life manifestation of Atlas Shrugged. David McElroy, a journalist from Birmingham, AL, reported on the events at a recent hearing in Birmingham designed to obtain public input on some local environmental issues.
McElroy related the reaction of a local mine owner, Ronnie Bryant, to the hearing.
After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.
My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.
I have no idea what Bryant will actually do. He might have made a quick emotional decision based on anger at feeling blamed for things that are frequently just normal health issues of life. He might reconsider and go ahead with his project.
Is this a reaction we will be hearing from more and more businesses in the future? The truth is there is a lot of this feeling now although this is the most public expression of that sentiment.
Everywhere you look there is more and more intrusion by government and self-appointed do-gooders of all stripes – environmentalists, nanny-staters, social “justice” peddlers and others. In many cases they’re simply unaware of the damage they cause pursuing their crusades against all of the (real and imagined) societal ills they see. In other cases they simply don’t care. In still others, that damage is intentional.
Assuming Mr. Bryant was serious and doesn’t have a change of heart, what will be the reaction of people to his statement? Believe it or not, for many liberals the reaction will be to try to take away his mine and his money.
Think that’s a bit far-fetched? Many of them don’t have the same view of private property the rest of us do. Listen to their reactions when presented with statistics that show banks aren’t lending as much as they used to or that corporations may be sitting on “idle” cash.
Despite the fact that these situations may be a very rational response to the economy or to government policy that discourages activity and risk, often the response of the left is even more government intervention. They’ll try to devise ways to encourage or force banks to lend more or corporations to hire or they’ll seek to tax away some of those “unused” assets.
For example, last week Las Vegas Sun columnist J. Patrick Coolican penned a piece floating an idea for Clark County to lease the undeveloped property MGM owns at Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard and operate a “flea market.” Let’s even leave aside the fact that this business would be directly competing with the privately-owned Broadacres Swap Meet a few miles further north on LV Blvd and with other private businesses in the area. Coolican ends his piece with, “And if MGM can’t use the land — and it can’t — then why would we just let it sit there, wasted?”
The obvious answer, as someone pointed out, is because it doesn’t belong to you.
In Monday’s Sun there was a letter to the editor in which the letter writer advocated raising taxes on the wealthy because low taxes make them “lazy”.
The fastest way to create jobs in the current economic mess is to raise taxes. Not a couple of percentage points with corresponding loopholes so no one ends up paying any more than they did before the tax hikes; tax hikes to a significant enough level that people are motivated to invest and increase the velocity of money.
The current tax levels encourage hoarding. There is no disincentive to letting huge amounts, say $2 trillion, of capital sit idle. The opportunity cost of hoarded wealth is it takes away the opportunity for anyone else to invest it and create jobs.
In other words, since people are not using their own money in a manner of which this writer approves (“hoarding” it), he feels perfectly justified in simply taking it away from them. There is absolutely no respect for, not even any comprehension of, the concept of private property. Why would anyone in their right mind get into business and try to build up assets if they knew the state could simply take those assets away whenever some ambitious politician thought they could be put it to “better” use?
Over the last several decades, accelerating in the last few years, the left has pursued policies that, as expressed by Mr. Bryant, create a hostile environment for businessowners. These efforts, combined with the current sluggish economy, have caused many corporations, businesses and entrepreneurs to become risk-averse and decline opportunities they may otherwise take.
The left reacts by claiming the right to confiscate that property because it’s not being used in an approved manner. This is tyranny.