Posts Tagged ‘P.J. O’Rourke’

MOVIE REVIEW: Two thumbs up for ‘Atlas Shrugged’

I disagree with P.J. O’Rourke’s mostly negative assessment of the ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ movie that hit theaters this weekend.

I’m a huge P.J. O’Rourke fan.  I rarely disagree with him.  But I disagree with him on this.

I thought ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was an excellent film — as good, I think, as ‘The Social Network’ (which I also really liked).  The two films had similar atmospherics.

I went into the theater expecting to dislike ‘Atlas Shrugged.’

Libertarians and Randians tend to be doctrinaire. They love to get into “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?” type debates — which probably accounts for why libertarianism and Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” philosophy never became successful political movements . . . and never will.

My expectation was that this film (created by Randians) would be preachy, too long on message, without much drama. I was not looking forward to the 50-page speeches that are in the book.

I was pleasantly surprised when the film kept my attention (and my 17-year-old son’s attention) throughout. We were not the least bit bored.

The film was well put together and professionally executed by director Paul Johansson.

It went by quickly.  I did not want it to end.

And I’m really not much of an Ayn Rand fan myself, especially her view that Christianity tends to produce wimps who undermine capitalism.

Oliver Cromwell was no wimp. Neither was George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.  No wimps, they.

I’m not a libertarian.  I’m certainly not an Ayn Rand “objectivist.”

I’m an American Constitutionalist.

The U.S. Constitution was not a libertarian document.  The Constitution sets up a system of ordered liberty — and gives quite a bit of power to government.  We want government to be strong where it’s supposed to be strong.  We also want a limited government — a government that can effectively carry out certain essential duties.

The original federal government proved to be not quite strong enough, so we had a civil war (600,000 dead).

And let’s not forget that America’s Declaration of Independence bases its entire argument that we have “unalienable” rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” on the proposition that these rights come from God — a proposition Ayn Rand vehemently disagreed with.

But the big point of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a great one.

What if all the achievers, all the successful people, all those who are able to build things and run things, all the rich people, just decided one day to take all their marbles out of the game and go home?

What if Atlas just “shrugged” — and said: “To hell with all this. I’m not holding the earth up any longer on my shoulders. I’m quitting.”

What would the world look like if that happened?

At a certain point, the achievers and producers are going to say: “Enough is enough.”

Instead of building businesses, they’ll buy gold, bury it in the ground, and that will be that.

I live in Cook County, Il, in a Chicago suburb where the property tax runs about 5 percent. So if your home is assessed at $400,000 (which doesn’t get you much around here), you’ll owe Cook County about $20,000 a year just in property tax on your home.  Then all the other Illinois taxes kick in.

No wonder we’re seeing so many vacant houses now around here.

It won’t be long before Chicago looks like Detroit. Chicago has lost 200,000 people over the last decade and 1,000,000 residents since 1960.

This is exactly what Ayn Rand is talking about. What happens when the rich people just decide it’s no longer worth it to stay in the game — just pack their bags and leave?

You have probably heard of the “80/20 Rule” in business and in life.

The 80/20 rule amounts to this:

80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of customers.
80 percent of commissions are earned by 20 percent of salespeople.
80 percent of the wealth in America is produced by 20 percent of the people.
80 percent of sales are generated by 20 percent of the businesses.
80 percent of your income is produced by 20 percent of your activities.

We even see this in farming and agriculture.

20 percent of the pea pods produce 80 percent of the peas. 20 percent of the chickens lay 80 percent of the eggs. 20 percent of Maple trees produce 80 percent of the sap for syrup.

So this is a universal law of life.

If you observe human behavior, you’ll immediately notice that about 20 percent of the population is pulling the wagon — that is, doing about 80% of the work and generating 80% of the wealth.

Everyone else is riding the wagon, hoping someone else will pull them along.

The great majority of people don’t have the guts or energy to start their own business. Most people would rather ride along on someone else’s wagon, happy enough in their 9-to-5 job and collecting a regular paycheck every month, while doing as little as possible to earn it.

Most people want to be taken care of.

Actually, the “80/20 Rule” is more like the “90/10 Rule” if we were to really analyze the facts carefully.

The top 10 percent (the super-achievers and producers) are the Atlases — upon which all human progress depends.

But what if they were all to just decide to shrug . . . and leave the system?

That’s what happens in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’

What I loved about the movie is it does not come across at all as a political screed — which the book does in many parts. No long speeches in the movie. It does a good job of sticking just to the story.

I like both the Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) and Hank Rearden (Grant Bowler) characters in the film.

I’m now looking forward to Parts Two and Three of this trilogy. I hope this first installment makes enough money to justify the next two.

The funny thing about libertarians is they spend so much time and effort defending capitalism, yet focus so little on their own profits. They attack altruism, but they turn out to be the true altruists. Far from being the hard-nosed businessmen they hold out as models, most libertarians I know are quixotic idealists.

They have some great ideas, but really aren’t suited constitutionally for running a business or a government. They’re intellectuals and theorists, not practical people.

The theater was full. So that’s a good sign that perhaps there will be a Part Two and Three.  I hope so.

It was only released in 300 theaters, but brought in $2,227 per theater on the first night — which ranks it third for the weekend on a revenue-per-screen measure.

Not bad, but needs to be in more theaters.

Here’s the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ trailer — which really doesn’t do the film justice.

I almost did not go to the movie because of this trailer. The movie turned out to be much better than this.

P.J. O’Rourke at his best on the NYT’s coverage of Tuscon rampage

P.J. O’ROURKE-WEEKLY STANDARD: It was a weekend of great sorrow. On Saturday, January 8, an insane young man tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, injuring her horribly. The man then fired his gun into a small political gathering, murdering a nine-year-old girl, a federal judge, a congressional staffer, and three of Giffords’s constituents. Thirteen other people were wounded. In the midst of life we are in death. There is, in this world, no making sense of such events.

Among the worldly, however, there is a temptation to make nonsense. Thus it was that on Sunday, January 9, the New York Times provided a further grief, much less important than the death and mutilation of innocents but shameful nonetheless.

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