Much html code has been spilled about the wingnut obsession with “going Galt” in order to avoid paying a 39% marginal rate on income over 250K a year. Matt Yglesias points out that we’d probably be better off if a lot of wealthy Americans went Galt, the Washington Independent has a nice run-down of the whole movement, if it can be called that, and commenters all over point out that John Galt would never have worked as a dentist, represented people from Bakersfield, or slept with Glenn Reynolds.
These are good points, but I think there’s been too much emphasis on what idiots these people are and not enough on how childish they are. Quitting work because of a slight tax increase isn’t akin to anything from any sort of philosophy, not even one as crude and simplistic as Ayn Rand’s; it’s more akin to a child’s decision to take his ball and go home. It’s probably worse, though, since when a typical ten year-old gets home, stops crying, and wipes his nose, he doesn’t then fantasize about how the world will now suffer from the loss of his inestimable brilliance. I don’t know if Vincent Gallo is a Randian or not (it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he was), but this quote summarizes Galtism in its current form perfectly: “I stopped painting in 1990 at the peak of my success just to deny people my beautiful paintings; and I did it out of spite.”
What I think is more insidious, though, than wingnut dentists’ cutting back their hours or Mrs. Instapundit cutting back on whatever it is that she normally does, is the widespread belief among elites that they and their colleagues are indispensable men. Like one of JMM’s readers, I fear that Geithner thinks that our economy would be decimated if we forcibly Galted the geniuses who ran our financial industry into the ground. I fear that when Andrew Sullivan and Joe Klein gush about the greatness of David Brooks, it’s because they view themselves and each other as a d’Anconia-Danneskjöld-Galt punditocratic triumvirate that may yet save the world from unseriousness and blogofascism. I even fear that when Villagers praise Obama’s “political gifts”, they’re doing so for the same reason they praised George Bush’s cowboy gut instincts; that is, because they feel that the talents of leaders in Washington reflect upon its scribes.
To put it simply, I fear that we are now ruled by incompetent egomaniacs who will never blow the whistle on each other, no matter how bad things get, because to do so would be to admit that none of them is indispensable or brilliant after all.