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Rand lays out a clear criteria, which I think is completely reasonable, about when armed resistance is justified in an oppressive nation - when people no longer have freedom of speech, as in that case the government has removed any possible peaceful mechanism for changing it.

I've heard some people on this forum and others indicate that many productive minds are all ready on strike, or have hinted that they in fact are on strike as well. I certainly am not on strike, so I wonder what objective criteria, like freedom of speech in regards to civil liberties, people might suggest would be a reasonable dividing line in terms of economic freedom or when they themselves compelled to strike, or perhaps when we ought to be morally obligated (if ever) to strike.

It seems economic restrictions are so vast and varied that it's hard to pin any large salient curtailment of economic freedom as a dividing line. Perhaps we go by a general rating of economic freedom? Percentage of Taxation?

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Objectivists are so taken with the romantic allure of going on strike, especially if they have recently (re)read Atlas Shrugged. It's a bit narcissistic.

This is not the world of Atlas Shrugged, not by a mile. This is still the time to fight, and not to retreat/regroup or go on strike. The case for individual rights and capitalism has _still_ not been put to the people of the world.

I think I personally would take up arms at the point where they begin openly punishing dissent with force. For example, when they start carting off dissenters to concentration camps. That's not much of answer to your question, just a first stab really.

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Objectivists are so taken with the romantic allure of going on strike, especially if they have recently (re)read Atlas Shrugged. It's a bit narcissistic.

Actually most objectivists I have interacted with are not striking and do not plan to strike any time in the future. I don't think 'narcissistic' applies to considering putting one's productive mind on strike to stop promulgating the growth of an oppressive regime. Any strike, by any mind, grand or small, in this regard is a blow to any oppressive regime, whether you are Eddie Willers or John Galt, and cripples the nation at least a little bit. There is nothing narcisstic about it. A nation of producers thrives, a nation of exploiters collapses. I think it's wrong to paint any objectivists who contemplate striking as automatically having overinflated senses of self-importance in the world. It's more a matter of not helping evil, then it is thinking that all of technological civilization is dependent on you.

This is not the world of Atlas Shrugged, not by a mile. This is still the time to fight, and not to retreat/regroup or go on strike. The case for individual rights and capitalism has _still_ not been put to the people of the world.

Agreed. But when is the time to strike is important to consider.

I think I personally would take up arms at the point where they begin openly punishing dissent with force. For example, when they start carting off dissenters to concentration camps. That's not much of answer to your question, just a first stab really.

Someone on another forum suggested that the curtailment of the freedom of speech is an equally good criteria for an economic strike, although many nations in the world have had good rule of law and economic freedoms, but ranked very low in matters of free speech and civil liberties (Singapore, Chile, etc) In these nations the quality of life of the average citizen grew tremendously, as long as they kept quiet about objecting to the state.

Some other suggestions:

- when the private ownership of food is made illegal (this is one of the first things Lenin made illegal)

- when the private ownership of property is not recognized

- when borders are closed and one is not freely able to leave

I am thinking the proper time to strike would be quite a while before these happen. Some others:

- taxation reaches 50% of income

- government spending reaches some certain percentage of GDP (say 50%)

Edited by Matus1976
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I think I personally would take up arms at the point where they begin openly punishing dissent with force.

I have heard of cases where people have been punished with force because of dissent over the war in Iraq. E.g., people on "watch lists" who aren't allowed to board planes or leave the country, who have no recourse to get off the list. I don't know how widespread that is, but it is a concern when Bush is calling for things that would repeal habeas corpus etc. I am worried about what might happen to our civil liberties if we had another incident like 9/11.

I think there are vast numbers of people on strike who don't even know they are on strike. Many people get beaten down by the regulations and uncertainty and just throw in the towel and do some kind of work that is far less valuable than they are in fact capable of. Every time you hear about how hard it is to get good employees--many of those poor employees are people on strike, most don't know it consciously, their poor work is just a subconscious revolt against actual injustice they cannot identify. I am not saying that is the sole cause of poor work, but when you take away reasons to work well, you shouldn't be surprised that you end up with poor work.

Shayne

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- government spending reaches some certain percentage of GDP (say 50%)

If you're going to use that criteria you'll need to take account of inflation which is a hidden government tax.

I think Rand was right, limits on freedom of speech/assembly is central to questions of revolt. However, striking in various forms can make sense much earlier.

Shayne

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They're very smart when they single out people for deprivation of liberty, as with the watchlists. Large groups of people aren't going to get upset about that.

Perhaps 'strike' should be defined. Shayne's comments on that I found very insightful. Although I would only count people actively and consciously striking in the Atlas Shrugged sense of not engaging in productive work that benefits looters through the use of the mind/reason. For example, running a railroad for the looter state is out but running a farm in Galt's Gulch is in.

For example, it would be extremely difficult to mount a Galt's Gulch these days. After a few years the FBI would swoop in and confiscate it all in the name of tax collection. Armed resistance may just be a replay of similar standoffs - everybody gets blown away. Advanced technology to make GG invisible or something is nice in fiction but nothing like that seems to exist yet.

You could try mounting it in a third-world country where law enforcement is minimal but then you might be under constant siege from guerrillas, poachers, etc.

To mount it in international waters or an inaccessible desert might solve those problems but then the technological hurdle is high. Or you would have to get used to living in a harsh environment.

When to strike is a very good question.

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For example, it would be extremely difficult to mount a Galt's Gulch these days. After a few years the FBI would swoop in and confiscate it all in the name of tax collection. Armed resistance may just be a replay of similar standoffs - everybody gets blown away. Advanced technology to make GG invisible or something is nice in fiction but nothing like that seems to exist yet.

As far as I'm concerned, we haven't even come close to exercising our freedom of speech properly yet, so such scenarios don't mean much to me. We can't even get a dozen "Objectivists" to agree on a specific political agenda, it's premature to start talking about leaving and such.

Shayne

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I first read Atlas in 1966. I have lived it, Strike and all. ...

Let me tell you a story...

I knew a guy who quit his job on the spot, got up and walked out of the bank where he was an accountant on the day that President Nixon announced a 90-day freeze on wages and prices: August 15, 1971. I was already on strike, so to speak, not working with my mind or at my potential. After a couple of years of part-time and temporary factory work, my wife told me to get serious, so I chose transportation, got a job on a loading dock and enrolled in a certificate program in transportation management. ... but I was still on strike... Many people were. Many of them were Objectivists or just people who had read Atlas and many others were just not sold on "corporate America" so they found other avenues for working. Crafts were big. So were low-paying jobs. Brains were not for sale.

The news media called it "stagflation." They could not understand how increased government speading was not creating more jobs, boosting the economy, etc.

Meanwhile, the computer revolution was hatching.

When President Reagan lifted controls and lifted taxes, things got better. Meanwhile, computering flowered. I came off the "picket line" in 1984. My strike was over.

Rather than kill the goose, the govenment encouraged golden eggs. The news media called it "the Me generation." By the end of the decade, the national debt was under control. Things looked pretty good... back then...

Of course, there was the persecution of Michael Milken by Rudolph Giuliani -- who later found himself without a police command center having put it in the World Trade Center (but that's another story).

Anyway, now we have this war and there was Martha Stewart. You would have thought that people of principle would have walked off the job for her, but, no... We did complain on behalf of Bill Gates. I guess we were into computers and not so much into drapes and fruit preserves.

So, there is that.

Freedom of speech is not that important. I say that because we pretty much have it. It does not matter. Little of the government is actually elected in the first place and what is elected is pretty stable. On my college campus we have all kinds of anti-establishment ideas, even Lyndon Larouche denouncing the international capitalist conspiracy. Who cares? Let the protestors vent their righteous anger.

As for Galt's Gulch, you ought to try it. My wife and I lived in a cabin the woods for 18 months in 2003-2005. We were on a road, about a mile up the road or two miles down from the nearest villages. For a boy from Cleveland, it was pretty primitive. So, you ought to think about what you can do without. That said, my research into anti-terrorist enforcements vis-a-vis the patriotic right is that the militia folks bring trouble on themselves. You go into the woods and stay there and the FBI is happy to ignore you. You come into town to buy or sell a sawed-off shotgun, and you are asking for trouble. I know three or four similar scenarios. I even asked some of my old friends, "Was that you in that report?" and those were not. They were not bothered because they never came into town to break the law. So, you can do a Galt's Gulch. But most people are pretty tied to urban life. ... as was Ayn Rand. She gave up a (free) Richard Neutra home to live in NYC. In her Valley, we see Dwight Sanders on a tractor in a potato patch -- not butchering a hog ... (Do you know how?)

So, there is that.

Of course, going on strike is lot less problematic than blowing up Courtland Homes. I mean, there are plenty of unfinished government office buildings all over if you want to give a speech in a courtroom. You could start with public schools over summer vacation. Clear out the janitor, secure the site and bring it down. Then stand around so you can tell eveyrone what an egoist you are. If that sounds crazy to you, then you are still sane. If it does not, let us know so we can all avoid you... while I call the FBI... My point is that The Strike is first and foremost an artistic device, not a plan of action.

If you wish to deny your destroyers the fruits of your labor, think closer to home... as in, you know, HOME. Myself, I have no problem buying Columbian coffee at the Venzuelan gas station, though I prefer BP's "Amoco" brand. In other words, I do business with Christians, Muslims, Jews, socialists, Republicans, and people who believe in ghosts and flying saucers. Today, I went to a florist and it just never occured to me to ask her her views on Immanuel Kant.

My views are another matter. Those I am responsible for.

I highly recommend Benjamin Franklin's "Way to Wealth" (find it here).

We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement.
Edited by Michael E. Marotta
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Matus and Shayne raise very salient points.

"- when the private ownership of food is made illegal (this is one of the first things Lenin made illegal)

- when the private ownership of property is not recognized

- when borders are closed and one is not freely able to leave..."

These were some of the "red flags": The recent Supreme Court Case in Connecticutt fulfilled the begining of number two {2};

If a non custodial parent is more than $2,500 in arrears in child support, the passport is revoked and the citizen who never applied for a passport will be denied, which begins to fulfill numer three {3};

Non-custodial parents are rountinely incarcerated, and before we made case law in NY State by at least forcing the assignment of counsel, non-custodial parents were routinely incarcerated for up to six months.

Finally, in a page right out of Atlas, Support Magistrates in NY and there aka titles in other states routinely impute income to a non-custodial parent and tell them they must pay child support based on the imputation of income.

The State actually has an argument when the custodial parent is on public assistance because they do have a financial "interest" in recouping tax monies.

Well that should be enough for discussion.

I do agree that the concept "strike" should be defined for the sake of quality debate.

Adam

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My point is that The Strike is first and foremost an artistic device, not a plan of action.

Exactly. Yet there may come the day when it is an appropriate plan of action. It's good to be prepared.

In other words, I do business with Christians, Muslims, Jews, socialists, Republicans, and people who believe in ghosts and flying saucers. Today, I went to a florist and it just never occured to me to ask her her views on Immanuel Kant.

"To the extent that a man is guided by his rational judgment, he acts in accordance with the requirements of his nature and, to that extent, succeeds in achieving a human form of survival and well-being;"

IOW, who cares if they believe in the easter bunny as long as they are engaging in trade, right? :)

Edited by George Donnelly
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  • 3 months later...

I was just re-reading Rand's Playboy interview and found this exact question posed to her.

PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt leads a strike of the men of the mind -- which results in the collapse of the collectivist society around them. Do you think the time has come for the artists, intellectuals and creative businessmen of today to withdraw their talents from society in this way?

RAND: No, not yet. But before I explain, I must correct one part of your question. What we have today is not a capitalist society, but a mixed economy -- that is, a mixture of freedom and controls, which, by the presently dominant trend, is moving toward dictatorship. The action in Atlas Shrugged takes place at a time when society has reached the stage of dictatorship. When and if this happens, that will be the time to go on strike, but not until then.

PLAYBOY: What do you mean by dictatorship? How would you define it?

RAND: A dictatorship is a country that does not recognize individual rights, whose government holds total, unlimited power over men.

PLAYBOY: What is the dividing line, by your definition, between a mixed economy and a dictatorship?

RAND: A dictatorship has four characteristics: one-party rule, executions without trial for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship. Above all, this last. So long as men can speak and write freely, so long as there is no censorship, they still have a chance to reform their society or to put it on a better road. When censorship is imposed, that is the sign that men should go on strike intellectually, by which I mean, should not cooperate with the social system in any way whatever.

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Nice post!

"expropriation or nationalization of private property" <that's one see Connecticut Eminent Domain Case.

"one-party rule" < that's two, there is no essential difference between the D's and the R's.

censorship is getting too close for my comfort, but we still have access.

executions without trial for political offenses not anywhere near that nightmare.

Adam

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I was 19, I was mortally offended by the post office. Roads pissed me off too. I wished the deaths of my enemies and almost all Americans were my enemies for having no problems with government roads or the post office. Bunch of looters they were.

It took me a long while to realize that people who agreed with me weren't automatically good people and an unfortunately longer time to figure out that people who didn't agree with me could be way better people than me.

I suspect this kind of juvenile dementia isn't idiosyncratic, but is characteristic of many young Objectivists, who share many of the psycho-epistemological characteristics of young Palestinian terrorists. (As have I.)

I went "on strike" for a decade and still am not sure how much of that was "on principle" and how much "on not wanting to get a real job." I'm going to say 30/70, optimistically.

After I stopped striking, life got a lot better and I worked a lot harder. Coincidence, probably.

One of the things that Rand said that stuck in my craw was that it wasn't justified to violently seek the overthrow of the government as long as free speech was possible. She was so right. If you can't make your case while the government is letting you make your case, your case sucks.

I love America. I'm plenty free here. I pay the government 60% or so of what I make and I can say what I want--even about the government--and do what I want without fear. Oh, but what if I didn't pay the 60%? They'd make me sorry. But as long as I pay it, I am safe and comfortable and I'm welcome to subvert the system to my 40% heart's content. That's a great deal.

My employer restricts my freedom far more than my government and I can tell him to go to hell when I please too.

I travel where I want when I want across 3000 miles of territory without a single government agent knowing, unless I cross a border claimed by another government.

Oh, no, Bush is enslaving us! Really? Your mom enslaves you more. Maybe your problem is with your mom.

Not only is America worth saving, it's worth building. Get over your puritanical Objectivist self and do something worthwhile to contribute.

There is no excuse for going on strike in the USA. Rand's dystopia not only didn't happen, it's on the run. Push harder--it's getting better. Running away now is the sure sign of the pinhead rationalizing cowardice.

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Mike:

Thanks for the free analysis. I do not think you understand the point I was making.

Adam

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