If you find yourself in need of a deeper explanation of why things work the way they do, one is readily available. It is also, unfortunately, one of which few people have ever heard: the case of Ayn Rand.
A Russian expat who fled to the United States from Soviet Russia in the 1920s, Ayn Rand went on to become one of the leading – and some would say the number one – authors of the century … based, not only on the public acclaim of the novels and philosophical volumes she produced but, especially on the basis of her no-nonsense message: life belongs exclusively to the individual who shall, in turn, be absolutely free to do with it whatever he pleases – as long as the rights of others are not transgressed.
In 1957, Rand published her stunning and immensely significant novel Atlas Shrugged (out of print in the UK, it is still available from Signet Books, New York). And whereas the socialist George Orwell secured a more lasting, mainstream place in history for himself with the publication of 1984, Atlas Shrugged explains exactly how things work in the real world and what may happen if too many people forget the facts – the basics. The terrifying bit is that much of what Rand predicted might happen to western civilization has come true.
Set in the United States of America (without mentioning any specific year), the backdrop for the novel is industry and the people who make it work. The heroes, according to Rand, an* not unionized workers who alternate between whining for shorter hours and demanding more pay for less work, but rather a few, rare capitalists, without whose constant quest for efficiency and profit the engine of the world would stop.
In Atlas Shrugged a number of senseless laws are introduced by government. All are, officially, passed “for the common good” and “the public welfare”. Competition is restricted by law, lest old and inefficient companies with bloated payrolls lose ground to new, ambitious upstarts. Plans are introduced to “spread profits around”, lest a few attain “excessive” riches. An industrialist, Hank Rearden, invents a revolutionary metal, Rearden Metal. Suspicious, at first, over this new product, it soon dawns on the world that the invention holds supreme advantages over steel and will revolutionize just about every sector of industry. To make sure that Rearden Steel does not discriminate against those customers who initially refused to buy his product, laws are passed that require Rearden Steel Mills to put a quota system into operation so that all comers will get his state-guaranteed “right” to buy his “fair share” of the output. Even so, Rearden profits mightily due to his years of research and hard work. Soon rival mills, unable to compete against him with their old-fashioned steel, are driven to the brink of bankruptcy. Making no excuses for his success, Rearden is in due course blackmailed by the government into giving up his patent rights so that “all may share” in the benefits of his invention. The following excerpt from a verbal exchange between Rearden and Ferris, the emissary of Big Brother, visiting the mills to announce the blackmail.
Ferris: “You honest men are such a headache. But we knew you’d slip up sooner or later – and this is just what we wanted.”
Rearden: “You seem to be pleased about it.”
Ferris: “Don’t I have good reason to be?”
Rearden: “But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”
Ferris: “Well, what do you think they’re there for?”
Dr Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden’s face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.
“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against…
We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
Translate this to modern-day politics. The “war on drugs” is, in fact, nothing but an elaborate scam to make it ‘legal’ for the state to invade the privacy of you, me and everybody else, and to create a situation where prosecutors can select and convict almost anyone of a “drug-related” crime.