“Atlas Shrugged: Part I,” which opens April 15th, is a movie unlike any other. Based on Ayn Rand’s novel, it dramatizes the fundamental conflict gripping our world: the battle between those who create value and wealth through their own efforts (the producers) and those who seek them through force (the looters and moochers).
With eerie accuracy, Rand’s novel depicted — in 1957 — the very struggle between these diametrical opposites that we’re witnessing today. This battle couldn’t be more important because the fate of civilization rests on the outcome. Since this conflict inescapably affects everyone, it’s crucial to know which side you’re on.
In Atlas Shrugged, producers like railroad executive Dagny Taggart and self-made steel titan Hank Rearden create new products and services, offer them in free trade, and consequently become rich. They are exploited by looters and moochers like Dagny’s brother James Taggart and steel executive Orren Boyle, who seek government intervention that favors them and thwarts their competition. In the story, the producers are vilified and their property expropriated, until they disappear. Without them, the country collapses.
Sound familiar? Today, America is in decline. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the number of U.S. IPOs has plunged to an annual average of about 130 since 2001 from an average of 503 during the 1990s.” Our nation’s debt is skyrocketing. Government has seized unprecedented control over industries like healthcare and banking. Corruption, group warfare, and the sense of “entitlement” to other people’s money are rampant. As Steve Moore notes in “We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers,” public jobs, money, and power are burgeoning while the private sector is shrinking.
In this epic drama of our age, what does each side have to offer?
Makers are essential to life. Humans must exert effort to create the food, housing, clothing, and other things we need and want. Producers are the people who make that effort and deliver the goods.
Some think producers are limited to corporate moguls, but in fact, they include anyone on any level — from janitors to company presidents, in small or large organizations — who earn what they have and don’t steal from others.
Producers offer their goods through voluntary trade — capitalism. Whenever producers have been the freest, the result has been an explosion of wealth and prosperity and a high standard of living for everyone. Witness 19th-century America or today’s least-regulated fields, like technology.
The opposite type is the taker, who wants to forcibly live off others’ efforts. Looters are takers who jockey for positions in government in order to seize wealth and gain power over producers. Moochers vote the looters into power in order to receive government benefits like welfare, subsidies, grants, business advantages, or jobs.
Since its inception, America has been a land of producers. The world’s most can-do people cleared farms, opened shops, lived and traded with one another in harmony, and created the great middle class — the producer class. Now, many Americans take no responsibility for their lives. Instead, they line up for money that’s not theirs; it’s simply “Obama money.”