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Authored by Charles Krblich via The Brownstone Institute,

One fateful day in March 2020, the incompetent men shut down the world with lockdowns. It was the opposite of the premise in Atlas Shrugged.

Who is John Galt?

Who cares?

The incompetent people could stop the motor of the world too.

Atlas shrugs either by disappearing competence or by an overwhelming mass of incompetence too great even for Atlas’s broad, strong shoulders.

Competency crises seem to be brewing left and right and are constantly on public display of late. Consider the self-interested testimony of Fani Willis. Jared Bernstein, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, caused an interview to go viral by struggling to explain monetary policy. Several previously 100% effective Covid vaccines have been withdrawn from the market (Johnson & JohnsonAstraZeneca). Lastly, consider the inspiring image of our own Secretary of Defense triumphantly marching off his plane in the Philippines wearing his Covid mask and face shield. It is not-so-reminiscent of the image of General MacArthur triumphantly marching onshore at Luzon to liberate the Philippines. It is difficult to observe these things and think, These are competent individuals.

In Ayn Rand’s novelthe competent individuals who build businesses, products, and industries all go on strike and suddenly disappear. The resulting world becomes increasingly bleak. Government takes a larger role. Simple things start to break. Less value is provided and at the same time, everything is more expensive. That sounds much like the world we begin to find ourselves in today.

Rand witnessed all of this herself. She was born in the city of St. Petersburg in pre-revolutionary Russia, the daughter of a pharmacist. After the revolution, her father’s pharmacy was nationalized and they fled to Crimea which was under White Army control during the ensuing Russian Civil War. Afterward, they returned to St. Petersburg and were forced to live under desperate conditions. Nearly starving, she was granted a visa to visit Chicago. She managed to stay in the US and chose to leave her family behind. She watched as incompetent men destroyed her father’s business, needlessly broke up her family, and repeated this disaster society-wide.

Meanwhile, we can read and laugh about recent trends like quiet-quitting, which may be a darkly alternative concept of Galt’s Gulch. Regardless of competency, people can disappear and simply collect a paycheck. Rather than compete, the goal becomes optimizing work-life balance and pursuing passions outside of work. If competent people begin to do only the bare minimum, is it any wonder that customer service or quality control always seems to be on the decline everywhere we look?

The outcome is always the same: incompetence spreads. In many cases, incompetence becomes celebrated. In 2021, Fauci was awarded the Dan David Prize for “speaking truth to power” during the pandemic. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York was given an international Emmy for his “masterful” pandemic briefings. Today, where do both stand? 

Governor Cuomo’s Emmy was eventually stripped from him after he was forced to resign in response to sexual harassment allegations against him.  Fauci is admitting to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic that much of the rules for social distancing and masking were simply made up. Lying, in spectacular fashion, is “masterful” and “speaking truth to power” only in clown world. In reality, it is neither. 

Maybe, in the upcoming election, we will see Kamala Harris decry the Trump vaccine and claim she never took it. You see, it was the convicted felon Trump’s vaccine and the ineffectiveness and severe side effects were known to all. There will, of course, be video of her being injected, just as there is a video of her at the Vice Presidential debate where she states that she wouldn’t take a vaccine Trump told her to. It is only a coincidence that the Pfizer vaccine was approved in early December, just a little more than a month after the election in November 2020. 

I have long thought that the correct solution to all of this is to not participate, to only focus on what I can immediately control. I imagined that if the Von Trapp family could avoid Nazism and flee across the hills as shown in The Sound of Music, then I would be able to as well. It all seemed so simple. I spent little time contemplating how precarious and close to disaster their situation truly was.

Ayn Rand, on the other hand, fled with her family to Crimea with the White Army. It failed. They were returned to St. Petersburg, Russia. Her parents perished in the city renamed as Leningrad, Russia in 1941 when the Nazis began their Siege of Leningrad.

People pay far too much attention to the charade presented on their television screens. Individuality is lost; energy is squandered. The conflicting messages, hypocrisies, and our own inability to do anything about it affect us in ways that are often not conscious. 

I felt the way he looked. His was one of helplessness, frustration and indignation—but he could do absolutely nothing.

Ayn Rand, speaking about her father in the wake of the 1917 Communist Revolution

How many of us felt this way at the announcement of lockdowns? How many resisted? How many still believe? What does any of it mean? 

Rand’s father, however, did not give in. He refused to work for the Soviet Government, even if it threatened his family’s food security. He helped his daughter escape to America, and he encouraged her to follow her own dreams.

Atlas may shrug, justice may never be served, all of the structures and institutions around us may fall into disrepair or collapse, and the world may be forcefully locked down, but when we give in to apathy and shrug our shoulders in dejected acceptance and passive participation, we also hand over our own individuality, agency, and freedom.

It is then that Atlas shrugs, not once, but twice.

*  *  *

Republished from the author’s Substack


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