THE ATLAS SHRUGGED PRINCIPLE
When I was at high school, we had to do book reviews for English, and we had to do one book a term. Of all those books I only remember three of them, and only one of them I revisited in my adult life. Those three books were John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, Sabatini’s ‘Captain Blood, and Monsarrat’s ‘The Cruel Sea.’ I joined the Air Force as a trades apprentice straight out of school aged nearly 16.
Like most boys, I had no interest in reading. A little later, and yes, for the obvious reason, I started with the Harold Robbins books, the early ones, The Carpetbaggers, The Adventurers, and two or three others from his golden era in the fifties and sixties.
Then I moved into science fiction, (typical boy) the books of Asimov, Heinlein and Doc Smith.
Slowly I moved into some other authors, Calder Willingham, Irving Wallace, John O’Hara, and ever so slowly to James A Michener, not long before he passed away.
My children reached an age when they wanted to buy their own Christmas presents rather than a Lacoste shirt that Mum might wrap for them in their name. When asked by my children what I wanted, I suggested, actually out of left field, that they get me a voucher from a book store so I could buy some books to read, sort of like a short time fad. One son thought that was actually akin to giving money, so he asked me for a list of books and he would get me two of them. I duly got book vouchers from my good lady wife and my daughter. One son gave me a Lacoste shirt, and the other one gave me two books, Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’, (and don’t judge the book by that turkey of a movie) and Larry McMurtry’s absolutely brilliant ‘Lonesome Dove’.
From that point, my love of reading literally exploded. I read all I could get my hands upon, the classics, modern fiction, science fiction, crime fiction, all I could. I’m still a keen fan of fiction, and I much prefer to read a story than to watch that same story portrayed on screen. The odd thing I did find was that some of those perceived dry and ancient books they call ‘The Classics’ are actually some pretty good books to read, and the story is not only timeless, but often copied in modern books. Tolstoy and Conrad remain favourites to this day.
In the mid nineties I read a book that when I finished, I was just so sad. It was probably the book I had been building up to, and when I finished it, I realised that every other book I would read from that point was virtually inconsequential, because I had reached the top of the craft of fiction, and that was what made me sad, the knowledge that I could go the rest of my life and not read anything as good as that book again.
That book was Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’.
The premise of the book is that because you have something of use that is of high value, then it is your moral obligation to make that available to everybody, and because they cannot obviously afford it, then your moral obligation is to give it to them for nothing, and if you quibble, then we’ll get the Government to take it off you and give it to those people, and still give you nothing for it. The main characters of the novel disagreed with that point and withdrew what they had, not the thing itself, but their knowledge, and expertise that made it possible.
The book has been maligned from the day it was released as a dangerous novel because of just that same principle. The novel itself is anachronistic, because you actually have to invest a very large amount of your time to read the book. People would rather read an article about the latest juicy gossip about some starlet, male or female and their latest sensational antics, than to sit down and read something that makes them actually think, something that they then have to form an opinion about, something that will polarise them, that they will then have to come out and declare for one side or the other. Therein lies the cleverness of Ayn Rand the author. She left it for you to decide whether or not you agreed with the thrust of her book. She must have smiled when people, if asked about what they thought of the book, would say, ‘I’ve heard it’s such a dangerous book’, preferring to believe another’s opinion than to have one of their own. Then the book was arbitrarily removed from impressionable minds for fear that they might actually make up their own minds. It’s actively maligned in mainstream life, famously so in ‘The Simpsons’ TV show.
The actual premise of the book is similar to the situation I am discussing here, and it brings me neatly back to the Kyoto Protocol.
The same applies here for the Kyoto Protocol. Because we in the Western World have ready access to electricity, and the technical knowledge to actually develop new methods of the production of electricity, then it is our moral obligation to not only make that technology available to those developing Countries, but to supply those people with the brains to develop it, and to supply also the money to construct those plants, and then to give all that to those Countries, just because we are considered to be privileged, and they are not. Then, because we do have that technological engineering capability, then we should also pay a penalty, just for actually having it, and then to also develop replacements for those plants that are polluting the atmosphere and altering the weather.
Environmentalists latch onto the Protocol as their answer to curing the World’s weather, as if signing the document will make it better, so to speak. Woe betide anyone who tries to rationally explain what could result from this, and that the consequences might not be as rosy as may have been thought at first. The stock reply when concerns are brought up is that this is a case of the establishment attempting to persevere with the status quo, because they are gouging money from it, and they want to keep doing that.
Right there is the problem. Those people with the concerns, those engineers who have to actually make it happen think to themselves that they are better off out of it, and to not even get into the argument in the first place.
Hence, they remain quiet and behind the scenes.
When I started this series that was the impression that I actually got. The fact that good men were not speaking up for fear of being shot down by loud strident environmentalists with their own agendas to push and heaven help them if anyone got in their way.
What I actually found was that scientists and engineers were actually out there doing something about it, not protesting loudly about the situation, not running around the World making a carbon footprint that a thousand people would be hard pressed to equal, not just saying that something needs to be done about it. No these people were actually out there, not just spruiking ideas, but actually constructing plants and bringing them onto the electricity grid. Companies, with men of vision behind them, actively working on ways that will actually make a difference.
You know what the end result is going to be from all of this?
The environmentalists will proudly proclaim at the tops of their loud and strident voices that see, we were all just speaking doom and gloom. We HAVE woken up one morning and it HAS come to pass. None of this would have happened had it not been for us , as environmentalists out there making this happen, getting these people off their asses to do what only we can force them to do.
No, the good guys in this will get no thanks, just suspicious looks thinking that they only did it for the money. That because they had the technical, scientific, engineering expertise, then they had the moral obligation to make this available for us all, just because we environmentalists demanded it.
No wonder Atlas Shrugged.