Friday, March 6, 2009

On 'Going John Galt'

In a post here, Dr Helen Smith gives the background on the phrase 'Going John Galt' - as I read it's a 'slow down strike' for people making more than miniumn wage.

The idea comes out of Ann Rand's writing, which, unfortunately, makes it suspect in my book. (I managed to slog my way through 'Anthem' and didn't leave anything there I felt I needed to go back for. Others, I know, have found Rand much more personnally meaningful.)

This 'slow down, don't chase the dollar, why keep on working more than you have to' idea is not new to me. I've heard a similar theme from various people - from back-to-the-earth-organic-or-bust types, from vowed religious, from just about everyone who has ever looked at the wealth of the developed world and thought too. much. stuff. Can. not. COPE!!

A more simplistic lifestyle is one thing. I have a great deal of admiration for those who can engage in a perpetual Lent, forever aware of what they want, and deliberately setting their wants aside. In the same way, people who try to reduce their impact on the earth, or who give generously to charities, or otherwise 'fast' from consumption - nothing wrong with that, I think.

But last time I checked, we didn't have enough skilled surgeons, enough dedicated teachers, enough honest lawyers or straight cops. In fact, thinking on it, I'm not sure if there is a profession out there, from ditch-digger to rocket scientist, where the career as a whole would be helped by the self-removal of competent professionals with integrity and dedication.

It's one thing to step back, slow down, and spend more time off in order to save energy, support a loved one, go back to school, or save your sanity. But to do so in order to 'punish' the rest of society? Particularly in such an unfocused, generalized manner?

Of course, there's another option, for those whose intent is to produce less, but not undergo the restrictions that lowered effort generally produce. In my home town, it was called 'being a county employee' - once hired, you were impossible to fire, no matter how little you actually did.

I'm thinking those who propose 'going John Galt' really don't want other people to draw that corellary.

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