Why the new ‘Atlas Shrugged’ movie could become a cult classic

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Brian Calle
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      Brian Calle

      Brian Calle is an Opinion Columnist and Editorial Writer for the Orange County Register, the Managing Director of Gambit Consulting Group; a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute; Editor of FreedomPolitics.com; President of the Young Executives of America; a Distinguished Speaker in the Friedman Foundation School Choice Speaker’s Bureau; and a member of the Board of Governors for the University of Southern California.

      Prior to his current professional pursuits Brian served as Vice President of the Claremont
      Institute, one of the nation's premier public policy think tanks, and was Director of Sales and Marketing for Sally Ride Science where he worked under noted Astronaut and CEO Sally Ride. He has also worked as a Congressional Aid in the United States House of Representatives; served on the Mount San Antonio College Governing Board; and recently finished his term as an Associate Professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

      Today Brian advocates and consults on a wide range of public policy issues including education, entitlement reform, economics, foreign policy, and national security. He is particularly passionate in his advocacy for high-quality science, math, engineering, and technology education for boys and girls and restoring financial strength in the American household.

      Outside of his entrepreneurial ventures, Brian is also active in numerous national and local organizations. In 2009 Brian was appointed the University of Southern California’s Board of Governors. He served as a Strategic Planning Commissioner for the Center for the Advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education at the U.S. Department of Defense; the board of directors for the Tennant Foundation; Vice President of the Los Angeles Organization of Ultimate teams; the Heritage Foundation Southern California Committee; a director of the Frugality Nation Foundation and is an active member in numerous organizations including Gen-Next. In 2007 Brian was awarded a prestigious Lincoln Fellowship and in 2009 he was selected as a delegate to India for the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

      Brian holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Business Communications and Political Science from the University of Southern California and California State University, Los Angeles, respectively. He resides in Orange County, CA.

“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s prescient, unabashedly pro-free market capitalism novel, hits theaters April 15. Its timing could not be better.

Though taken from a book written a half-century ago and set in the year 2016, the movie is eerily similar to the world today, bearing a particular resemblance to the United States and the societal and economic depreciation of states like California, where manufacturing industries have collapsed, economic liberty and entrepreneurialism are eroding, and productive members of society seem to be rapidly disappearing, or rather, run out of business by bureaucratic red tape and unreasonable regulations.

While the literary polish of Rand’s 1,000-plus-page novel is unparalleled, the cinematic version of her philosophical peregrination that questions which society is preferable for mankind — one of rational self-interest or one meant to level all individual output — upholds her objectivist worldview and ought to stoke the debate about free society and the role of government.

Not only is the film a winner for holding firm to Randian philosophy, it also brazenly and refreshingly brings a political perspective that is almost universally absent from the big screen; so much so in fact it could become a cult classic, especially among Tea Partiers and their admirers, not to mention hordes of libertarians.

The film, true to the book, is set in the United States in 2016, with a global economy in shambles, conflicts in the Middle East disrupting oil supplies, massive oil spills, pronounced class warfare, demonization of private companies, overly powerful union bosses, bureaucrats and special interests, empty factories, fleeing entrepreneurs and innovators, overreaching government regulations and businesses ever more subservient to government bureaucrats. Does this dystopian society seem familiar? If not, perhaps you have been hiding in some utopian village in the Rocky Mountains the rest of us do not know about.

With all this against them, some creative business-types are still trying to innovate, produce, and make money, namely Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt and Hank Rearden.

Taggart, the assertive young idealist heroine with a pronounced zest for entrepreneurialism, runs a railroad, Taggart Transcontinental. Wyatt is a wealthy oil man whose company is responsible for the one economically viable and prosperous state in the union, Colorado. Rearden is the inventor of Rearden Metal, a fictitious alloy used in railroad tracks that is cheaper, more durable and stronger than steel.

In the film, government is devoted to economic equality. Bureaucrats seek to thwart the growth of thriving companies, like those of Taggart, Wyatt and Rearden, because society “cannot afford to allow the expansion of a company that produces too much and might replace companies that produce too little.” To the government (and broader society), such expansion would “create an unbalanced economy.” That is, the most productive and capable members of society would enjoy a disproportionate share of the society’s resources.

Of course, these ideas mirror the rhetoric coming from many in Washington, where the prevailing wisdom is that profit is bad, profiteers are greedy, and meritocracy in the marketplace is contemptible.

A telling quote comes from a lobbyist who later becomes a government economic czar, Wesley Mouch (who bares a resemblance to Democratic Rep. Barney Frank): “Everybody needs to share the burdens.” That sounds like something an Obama speechwriter would write. Actually, while addressing the National Governors Association a few weeks ago, Obama made “shared sacrifice” the theme of his talk.