Who is John Galt and where is Galt’s Gulch?

Last evening I had the pleasure of watching the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 3: Who is John Galt?

Before I get into the specifics of “Who is John Galt?”, I should say a few words about the Atlas Shrugged series, as a whole.

Atlas Shrugged Part 3 poster
Atlas Shrugged Part 3: Who is John Galt?” poster

The three movies were based on Ayn Rand’s seminal best seller, “Atlas Shrugged”, published in 1957. Much has changed since she wrote that tome, which she considered to be her “magnum opus” or pinnacle of achievement, but producers of the movie series did an excellent job of adjusting to those changes, while still remaining true to Ayn Rand’s initial concept.

Anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged knew, going into the theater for the first of the three movies, that it would be impossible to crowd all that was in that massive volume, into just three movies. To do the book real justice, each part should have been two movies. But making six movies was just not practical. That said, I must admit that the producers did far better at including all of the important parts than I would have imagined possible. Part of the reason for this was the cinematography, which was fabulous in all three movies. I suppose that it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, because the cinematography spoke volumes. Even when time constraints required important elements of the book to be shortened for the movie, the cinematography made up the difference. It made me feel like I was in the book and I understood the implied feelings.

The first two movies admirably set the stage for the final movie. At the end of Part 2, Dagny Taggart stumbles upon… or rather crashes into Galt’s Gulch, also known as Mulligan’s Valley or Atlantis. This is where “Atlas Shrugged Part 3: Who is John Galt?” picks up.

A good portion of the first half of the movie takes place in The Valley and it is here that the viewer is exposed to Rand’s objectivism, with Galt being the voice of reason and Dagny clinging to her belief that she could save the railroad and sooner or later, the “looters” would have to admit to the error of their ways. This portion of the movie was full-on, in-your-face Rand objectivism. When I stated earlier that the previous two movies had set the stage, this is what I was talking about.

I had wondered why the producers had re-arranged some of the events in the book, in the previous movies. But when watching this part of the third movie, the reason became obvious. The first two movies had strongly alluded to this objectivism. But it was rather downplayed and allowed to take supporting role in the plot till this last movie. Re-arranging some of certain events in the book also appear to have been done for the purpose of moving the hard, in-your-face objectivism lesson to the last movie. It worked.

The first two movies focused on building the case for the last movie, rather than pushing the lessons of objectivism. That way, viewers who were not familiar with Rand would not be turned off and would have reason to come to this last movie. This makes sense, because readers who bought the book, bought the whole book at once, and as such, would likely read the whole thing. But movie-goers had to pay to see each movie, as the movies came out. So this minor change of focus meant that by the time viewers got to this last movie, not only would they not be overwhelmed, but they would be ready to understand what was happening and the lessons of objectivism would not be lost on them. From discussions that we heard in the lobby, after the movie, I realized that this technique had the desired effect. I heard people saying things like, “You know, I never thought of it that way, but it really makes sense.”

The rest of the first half was a mixture of scenes showing the looters planning how they would take even more power and even beginning to panic.

The last half of the movie revolves around Dagny’s return to Taggart Transcontinental, the government’s attempts to find John Galt and the beginning of panic among the looters.

I will make one observation about the ending, that Ayn Rand fans will understand. But it’s not a spoiler. The movie ended before the book ended. That’s all that I can say, without spoiling the ending for others. This was only a minor issue and was obviously done due to time constraints. It would have been nice to have included that part, but if you haven’t read the book then you won’t miss it.

As with the first two movies, most of the actors were relative unknowns. That said, they did rather well. There were times, when I intentionally tried to focus on the acting, that I noticed that the emotion that I expected wasn’t quite as strong as I had imagined it in the book. But it took some effort for me to focus on the acting to that degree, due in large part to the excellent cinematography, that added to the emotion of the moment. The large cavernous buildings, the smoky rooms, the use of reduced color saturation, almost to the point of being black and white – all of this served as stark contrast to the great colorful vistas and mountain scenes in Galt’s Gulch. In fact, most of the actors and actresses in all three movies were at least as good as and often better than many of the one-dimentional actors and actresses who are most often type-cast into the blockbuster roles. It doesn’t matter whether the actors and actresses in these three movies could really act or were type-cast. Most of them fit the role very well.

All in all, I think that the producers did a fantastic job, with a limited budget. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s the best movie that you’ll see this year. But I will say that it’s “one of” the best movies that you’ll see this year. I’ll also go a step further and say that due to the recent wave of formal citizenship renunciations of wealthy Americans, it’s the most important movie that you’ll see this year. The reason why it’s so important is that the movie mirrors what’s happening today, with productive Americans choosing Galt’s Gulch, over their home. The only difference is that in 1957, when the book was published, Galt’s Gulch was in a mythical valley, in the middle of the USA and today, Galt’s Gulch is a variety of real places, bearing names like Panama, Ireland, Belize, Spain, and Costa Rica. Some are Going Galt to less likely places like Singapore, Columbia, and Guatemala. But the point is that, it appears that Ayn Rand’s vision of the future wasn’t that far off. Our producers, our innovators, and our most prolific taxpayers are fleeing the USA (Going Galt) at by far the highest rate in history.

The first movie in the Atlas Shrugged series pretty much brought us up to where the USA is today. The second movie in the series is roughly what is quietly happening today. Atlas Shrugged Part 3: Who is John Galt? is where we’re headed, if we allow our government to continue in the direction they’re going. That’s why this is the most important movie you’ll see this year.

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” — John Galt

Sen. Sanders attempts to buy AFL-CIO votes with flawed wealth tax logic

Sen. Bernie Sanders, pandering to the Vermont AFL-CIO annual convention on Saturday, used the opportunity to trot out the old socialist vote-getting scam of a “wealth tax.” As reported by the Washington Times, “Sanders, a self-described socialist, called for a progressive estate tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires.”

By calling for a wealth tax, Sanders completely ignores the fact that never in this planet’s history have such taxes had the desired effect.

Well in actuality, wealth taxes have often had the effect desired by those calling for such a tax. But that effect is not the effect that proponents claim. So let me correct the last part of the statement in the previous paragraph.

Wealth taxes have never increased overall tax revenue. But they have had the effect intended by the person calling for them. That’s because the real, un-stated intent was not to increase tax revenue, as they claim, but rather, to get the votes of those too naive to know that wealth taxes just drive wealth to other nations and thus increase the tax load on the poor and middle class, who remain.

Wealth taxes have been tried in many forms, over the years, and not only have they all failed to increase tax revenue, but overall tax revenue ended up being down significantly, as a direct result of a wealth tax.

In George W. Bush’s infamous betrayal of his “No new taxes” oath, was a 10% Luxury Tax (a type of wealth tax). Proponents of the tax “claimed” that it would raise tax revenue. On October 26, 1990 the Joint Committee on Taxation issued a report titled, “Budget Reconciliation (H.R. 5835) – Revenue Provisions as Reported by the Conferees”, in which the the committee projected that the Luxury Tax provisions of the budget bill would generate $25 million in 1991 (found at the bottom of page 2 in the linked report). In 1992, we learned that it had, in fact, only generated $16.6 million in 1991. Oops!

But that’s not the worst of it. As a direct result of the luxury tax, more than 9,000 jobs in the USA were lost in the yacht, aircraft, and jewelry industries. Those job losses cost the government $24.2 million in unemployment benefits and lost income tax revenue in 1991. So the net effect of the luxury tax was a $7.6 million in lost revenue in 1991, alone.

The luxury tax was repealed in 1993. But by that time it was too late. The formerly booming U.S. yacht industry, which represented 7,600 of those lost jobs, had already moved offshore and that industry has remained largely offshore since that time.

Then look at the French wealth tax. In a paper titled, “The Economic Consequences of the French Wealth Tax“, the renowned French professor of economics and finance, Eric Pichet states, “The ISF (‘Solidarity Wealth Tax,’ the French wealth tax) causes an annual fiscal shortfall of €7 billion, or about twice what it yields; The ISF wealth tax has probably reduced GDP growth by 0.2% per annum, or around 3.5 billion (roughly the same as it yields); In an open world, the ISF wealth tax impoverishes France, shifting the tax burden from wealthy taxpayers leaving the country onto other taxpayers.”

These are just two recent examples of wealth tax failures. In fact, every attempt at employing a wealth tax has not only failed to increase tax revenue, but has significantly reduced overall gross revenue, largely due to the flight of wealthy taxpayers, to more wealth-friendly jurisdictions.

Some people reading this may be thinking, “That can’t happen here. The luxury tax failure was a fluke. This is the USA. Where would the wealthy go?” But the evidence shows that it’s already happening here. Since Barack Obama assumed office and embarked on his “Soak the Rich” agenda, the rate of wealthy U.S. citizens who formally renounce their citizenship each year, as recorded in the Federal Register, has increased by 1300% and renunciations this year indicate that it will be even higher in 2014.

Taxpat Chart for 2013
Hover over image to view at full size.
Renunciation History (This frame may be scrolled if it doesn’t fit your browser window.)

In the entire history of the planet, wealth taxes and other attacks on success have never resulted in increasing tax revenue.

But wealth taxes almost always achieve what its proponents secretly intend. It convinces naive and uninformed voters to vote for the person calling for a wealth tax.

In all likelihood, Sen. Sanders knows full well that a wealth tax will significantly hurt middle and lower class working people. But he also knows that if he plays it up long enough, it will convince many naive and unsophisticated voters to vote for him. In that case, the wealth tax will do exactly what he intends – get him votes at the expense of poor and middle class voters.