Political Controls Provoke Producers to Go On Strike

The following article originally was published March 2, 2009, by the Grand Junction Free Press.

Political controls provoke producers to go on strike

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The economy has recovered from every recession so far, so it’s a good bet that, eventually, the economy will recover from the current recession as well. We can be sure that, so long as the recession lasts, Barack Obama will blame outside forces, and as soon as the recession has ended Obama will take the credit.

Assuming the economy starts growing again, it will do so in spite of, not because of, Obama’s new forced wealth transfers and political controls of the economy. The controls of Obama, the Congress, and the state legislature, on top of earlier controls promoted by both political parties, threaten economic prosperity.

Such controls violate the rights of producers — of doctors, engineers, programmers, builders — to set their own destiny, control their own business and property, and interact with others on a voluntary basis. Political controls subject producers to the whims of bureaucrats.

Controls also forcibly transfer wealth from some people to others, thereby reducing the incentive to produce wealth. Around 40 percent of each new dollar earned goes to taxes. The deficit spending of Obama and George W. Bush threatens to impose the hidden tax of inflation.

When producers face the twin threat of bureaucratic meddling and confiscation of the fruits of their labor, many throw up their hands and either quit producing or cut back. They go on strike, in part or in full, loudly or quietly.

We have talked with countless friends who have decided to invest less or work less. Many would rather work on the house or the car, where at least their labor is not taxed, than spend more time in their chosen field where they are largely directed by bureaucrats and forced to hand over much of their earnings to others.

We have heard of doctors leaving medicine or certain specialties to avoid the associated bureaucratic nightmares.

We have heard of entrepreneurs who would rather sell their dreams to safe corporations than risk opening a new business under the regulatory nightmare of Sarbanes-Oxley and other controls.

We have heard the outrage of working-class families, who are struggling to make their ends meet even as they are forced to subsidize the irresponsible, such as the woman in California who added octuplets to her six prior children. We hear, “Why am I working so hard?”

This idea of a strike of producers is hardly new. In 1937, Harold Ickes, FDR’s Secretary of the Interior, “gave a radio speech assailing America’s wealthy, charging that sixty families who ran the nation were on strike against the rest of the country,” writes Amity Shlaes in The Forgotten Man.

The next year, Wendell Willkie fired back at a similar claim made by Assistant Attorney General Robert Jackson. Willkie said, “Mr. Jackson has previously spoken of a ‘strike of capital’ against the government. If there is any strike of capital it comes from these millions of small investors, not from the wealthy few… The main problem is to restore the confidence of investors in American business, and to do this will require more than pleasant speaking on the part of government. For several years the government has taken definite action to show its hostility to business.” [See This Is Wendell Willkie (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1940), p. 70.]

Ayn Rand, who lived through both the Russian Revolution and the Great Depression, made the idea of the productive strike the theme of her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. For many years the working title was “The Strike.” Rand described the theme as “what happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike.”

Rand wrote of her “fantastic premise,” a “hypothetical case” in which the world’s top producers disappear, one by one. (Much of the drama takes place in a fictional valley near Ouray.) But the truth behind Rand’s literary device remains: political economic controls discourage the producers from creating the wealth necessary for our lives.

Today the fantastic pushes through reality. In a touching YouTube video called “My Strike,” a man begins his address by quoting Atlas Shrugged. He explains how friends of his have left their fields. He says, “Now I’m on strike… I woke up one morning and could not think of a single reason to come to work… We live in a time when billions of dollars of market capitalization can be wiped out by a single political speech, statutory command, or regulatory decree. And those politicians consume our lives as much as our dollars.”

It’s no wonder that sales of Atlas Shrugged have tripled over the same period last year, reports the Ayn Rand Institute.

Perhaps it’s time for you to fold up this paper, roll up your sleeves, and get back to work. Because that’s what we always do, right? We go back to work, no matter what the politicians do to us or how much they take from us. Until they cross that line and we the producers say, “No more.”