It’s Just Crazytalk in the Journal

If you want to get an idea of how crazy the Wall Street Journal editorial board is, read Friday’s oped by their senior economist, Stephen Moore. The title itself says a lot: ‘Atlas Shrugged’: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.”

Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read “Atlas Shrugged” a “virgin.” Being conversant in Ayn Rand’s classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only “Atlas” were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I’m confident that we’d get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.


In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal — stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in “the public good.” The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in “the public interest.”

Eerily similar? This flawed, unnuanced comparison illustrates the pathology of both the Cato Institute and the Journal!


  1. Anonymous

    ummm…they didn’t have to take the money?

  2. minimalist

    Oh man, if only that nasty ol’ Hank Paulson had let those genius Ubermensch bank presidents continue to work their miracle-economic-collapse in private, we’d all be rich, rich, rich today!

  3. When I was a teeny booper, I used to believe this stuff. 10 years and several degrees later, I realize its complete nonsense. However, no matter how much I scrub or wash, I cannot get the stink of stupid objectivism leaves on you.

  4. They took the bailout money…

    If anything the current climate shows just how bankrupt Rand’s ideas really are. She wasn’t creating utopias…

  5. Please tell me this is an elaborate satire.

    I’m sitting here just struggling to figure out how someone can physically sit and type these words–how the messages can travel from the brain to the fingers because, I mean, the brain has to be engaged at least in directing the fingers to type, if not in any other way–without running into a synapse somewhere that pops up “OH WAIT! THIS IS COMPLETELY STUPID!”

    My head hurts.

  6. One of the ironies is that our current bailout was made necessary in part by an Ayn Rand acolyte: Alan Greenspan!

  7. People, people. Clearly the current financial mess wasn’t caused by Ayn Rand-inspired ideology. It can only have been caused by insufficient deregulation — it’s the only possible explanation.

    See also: Communism’s failure due to not being socialist enough, and faith-healing only ever failing when you don’t believe enough.

  8. Which is more worrying, the fact that Stephen Moore seems to actually believe in this stuff, or that the Journal thought it worth printing? Either way, not on the same planet as the rest of us.

  9. About the only similarity between the two situations is government “summoning” someone(s) to DC. The circumstances couldn’t be more different, of course. But if you’ve read Ayn Rand and believe, as an adult, that her viewpoints are so great that you cite them as an influence, there’s little hope that anything coming out of your mouth or being typed on your keyboard will be worth listening to other than as a reverse barometer.

    I suppose requiring incoming government folks to read ATLAS or THE FOUNTAINHEAD would be a great idea if you want them to see how not to think about our current difficulties, but why bother: they merely need to study Washington, DC over the past eight years. If each new appointee did pretty much the opposite of his/her predecessor during the Bush years, the rest of us could start breathing again. Now, if each of them could figure out how to get us back to 2000 and begin over as if the last eight years hadn’t happened. . . time machine, anyone?

  10. Funny how that article doesn’t mention Greenspan… because, to other Objectivists, Greenspan has been rejected as not laissez-faire enough for them. Newsweek has an interview with one of their economic spokesmen, in which Greenspan is discussed and dismissed: link.

  11. In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal

    LOL! Entrepreneurs do not invent things. They con people who do invent things (scientists, engineers) into signing over IP rights to them.

  12. IMO the problem with Rand’s objectivism, rigid libertarianism and the claims about the transcendent virtues of free-market capitalism is that they all assume people are rational and under rational control of themselves.

    Studies of the brain shows that the human brain moves toward maturity but never actually gets there. No matter how rationally we behave most of the time there is always just a bit of the irrational child left. This bit of magic can insert itself at any point in our reasoning and topple all of our logic.

    The tendency of men with long histories of contribution toward the advancement of logic, science of reason to expose a belief in aliens, magic, pixies or superstition is so common it is something of a stereotype. The mathematician who has to wear his ‘lucky socks’ on the critical day. The economist who scientifically knows that the markets are random who then turns around and fools himself, and several Billion dollars worth of investors, that he has a ‘system’.

    No matter how old, educated and trained in logic and rationality a person gets they will always be prone to emotionalism, bouts of irrational behavior, diversion by ‘gut feeling’ and metaphysics.

    The Keynesians may not have all the answers but they understood, through the concept of ‘animal spirits’, that people are only mostly rational most of the time. Only capable of looking out for their own interests most of the time. That the gains of decades of rational dedication and logical calculation can be wasted in a few hours of irrational exuberance or desperation.

  13. “Studies of the brain shows that the human brain moves toward maturity but never actually gets there.”

    Apparently the study drew its population from the jaded, nuanced, leftie-university-indoctrinated juveniles who post to this blog.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  14. John Donahue, before you insult other people’s blogs, you might want to post something on your own. How are we poor college-educated sissies supposed to learn from your infinite wisdom if you haven’t updated since 2007?

  15. I have a website with commentary, not a blog. This includes two denunciations of Greenspan seven years before he failed in his role as collectivist dictator of the economy and blamed it on Ayn Rand. That is more impactful than any “I told you so” I could write today.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  16. John Donohue – “Apparently the study drew its population from the jaded, nuanced, leftie-university-indoctrinated juveniles who post to this blog.”

    You prove my point for me.

    How very irrational to think such a comment would accomplish anything but wasting time and effort. But it probably felt good to your irrational animal side. Just goes to show that your never too old to let your inner madman peek out.

    Humans and markets remain unpredictable precisely because we are not entirely under control of a logic system.

    As long as people remain entirely rational they get along individually pretty well and can orient themselves within their conceptual world fairly well. When reason fails, as it inevitably will, humans depend on others to keep them from disappearing over the horizon lashed to the side of a whale.

  17. Don’t bother, Art. If he’s an objectivist, he’s already selfishly decided what’s correct and declared that it’s the only “rational” conclusion. Shermer was wrong … it’s not at all unlikely that this “philosophy” turned into a cult.

  18. Among other things libertarians are suckers for scientific stupidity. Thanks to the poster who pointed out that entrepreneurs don’t invent anything. Inventions never happen in isolation. An advanced material of the sort the dunderhead Moore talks about, if it happens (and new materials are being developed all the time) would require several other innovations, and so there wouldn’t be one small thing to be patented and then be signed away. And industry wouldn’t spend the big bucks required to do the deep the science necessary for real breakthrus. It is hte government that would any way provide the the funding to get the project going, as it does for a number of new materials currently under development. One of the many times the government “ordered” inventors/corporations to pool their ideas hand them to the government and work together, was in the late 1930s in the case of the aircraft industry. There were so many discrete pieces of IP with IP owner companies suing each other, that there US military aircraft technology had almost become stagnant. The government’s order gave the industry a KITP, and got the industry ready for the 2nd WW.

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