One of the strangest—but perhaps, predictable—trends that has accompanied the recession is a resurgence of interest in the writings of Ayn Rand and especially, the book Atlas Shrugged. Sales of the book have apparently soared over the last year. The book's hero, John Galt, has become a rallying figure for anti-big-government activists.
You might have seen the latest appropriation of Randian thought in your newspaper: one of the ads used by the Employment Policies Institute (started by famous lobbyist Rick Berman) as part of a new campaign called Defeat The Debt. Check out the ad here.
I'm guessing the ad mentions Galt in the context of high tax rates on wealthy individuals to remind us of the main conceit of the book: that the most productive individuals will withdraw from society when they feel the government has screwed things up too badly and exploited them. Obviously that won't really happen, but the campaign's implication is that we can't tax the wealthy much more in order to really make an impact on the national debt.
The problem is, it seems like among policy wonks, the debate is already settled that the wealthiest can't be the only targets if we want to make meaningful fiscal reform. Honest people from right to left know that broad-based tax increases are on the way. That's why, as I've mentioned, a value-added tax is likely to be the talk of Washington over the next few years.
To me, the VAT is the issue we should be debating—not whether or not the most productive of us will be fleeing to Galt's Gulch.