nothin's scarier than a blank page

18 June 2011

Directive 10-289

In Ayn Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, a devolving economy fueled by crony capitalism and misplaced moralism destroy our country.  Moral capitalists attempt to save the world while others refuse to contribute to its demise (thereby going underground).

This is a must read for anyone paying attention to the world today.  This is a must reread for any Rand lovers.  This is a must re/read for anyone paying attention to the world today who dislikes Rand.  Lastly, this is a must read for anyone who has ever chanted "This is what democracy looks like."

About midway through the book, after the shadow government has passed myriad directives meant to improve the economy by limiting those participating in the economy and subsequently worsened the economy, the cronies bring out Directive 10-289.  Even they are nervous about it, nor do they know (or care) if it is legal.  When it is introduced to the public, it is clouded in "for the public's good" phrases that bring to mind contemporary phrases like "social justice."

The actual purpose of Directive 10-289 is, essentially, to freeze the economy to give the great crony minds time to figure out how to solve the problem without the economy getting worse while they work on their plan.  (And, of course, to allow the cronies to remain in power.  All that they do has the underlying purpose of remaining in power.)

The problem, of course, is that the economy is a living thing that can only be halted via death.  Like any mighty beast, it also needs the freedom to move as it pleases; more restrictions lead to a psychotic beast that is difficult to predict and even more difficult to contain.  Some animals can never be tamed.  Some animals were never meant to live in cages.  Rand's cronies did not understand this, nor do our modern cronies.


Point One. The right to have a job.  No one can be fired, no one can switch jobs, and all children will be assigned a job by the government when they turn 21.
All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation.

Point two.  No businesses can close; no business owners can quit, retire, sell their business or otherwise change vocation.
All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under pentalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property.
Point Three.  Your ideas belong to the government.  Patents are extinct; the government owns all businesses' secrets, to be redistributed to their competition to provide fairness in the marketplace.  No more trademark, brand names, or other such ownership of ideas and products are abolished.
All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.

Point Four. The death of innovation: new inventions are illegal.
No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufacturerd or sold afer the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.
Point Five.  All businesses will produce the same amount of money as they did this year, no more and no less.
Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
Point Six.  All people will earn and spend the same amount as they did this year, no more and no less.
Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less. Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
Point Seven.  The collapse of the economy: Anything and everything related to money (salaries, prices, interest rates, etc.) are frozen.
Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive.
Point Eight.  When in doubt, the cronies will decide.
All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final.
"It will give security to the people," said Eugene Lawson... "Security -- that's what the people want.  If they want it, why shouldn't they have it?  Just because a handful of rich will object?"

I'd like to amend my second paragraph to add a plea for Obama to read this book.

Directive 10-289 was the horrific mid-book event that tipped the world into chaos.  So simple on paper yet catastrophic in real life.  Each point begets the next.  If you freeze wages, then you must also freeze production rates.  If the producers threaten to strike, the system collapses, so the producers must be chained to their businesses.  Etc, etc.

Usually Dystopian novels take a frightening aspect of our culture, ask what if it went so overboard that ____, and then fills in the blanks.  Atlas Shrugged has aged, but society appears to have aged with it.  None of the Eight Points are so difficult to imagine being implemented, in some form or another.  Example: a federal arm (NLRB) intervening when a private company (Boeing) wanted to locate a new branch in a more politically business friendly state.

Some believe that health insurance companies will "shrug" (abandon their business and look for greener pastures) once Obamacare gets rolling, effectively eliminating private health insurance so the only option available is Obamacare.  Directive 10-289?  You tell me.

Am I predicting a total meltdown of society and a "job-creating" class of people who go on strike?  Yes and no.  Or, to be more precise, No and Yes.  Hopefully Obama will be voted out of office before any lasting, socially damaging directives can paralyze our nation; however, the job creators -- the producers, the businessmen, and yes, the rich -- are shrugging.  At least some.  Businesses are putting new, job-creating projects on hold while the wait to see what new bomb Obama will drop into the market and how, exactly, Obamacare will screw them.

I've personally spoken with one restaurateur who mentioned, in a conversation with no relation to Directive 10-289, that he had considered opening a third restaurant (thereby creating 80 new jobs), but Obama's choices (specifically Obamacare) halted the project.  In addition, his two other restaurants, popular to both customers and staff, will likely go under when Obamacare is enacted.  And those are businesses that are managing to perform relatively well, given the business climate.  Imagine how bad it'll be for those who are already struggling?

I'm not even focusing on the producers/business owners who are busting ass everyday to try and keep their business afloat despite Obama's business-busting "directives."  I'm thinking about what happens next -- those working for the businesses that go under.  And the goods they can no longer purchase, and those stores that will then go under...  Trickle up poverty.

But it's okay.  We'll just tax the rich.  The top one percent can pay for the food stamps of the bottom 99%.  Except, you cannot freeze the economy.  It is a living beast.  A beast.  If we're all on food stamps and dependent on the government for healthcare, housing, etc., who will pay for the goods sold by the rich that make them rich?  If no one can afford an iPad, how will Steve Jobs afford to buy us bread?

Please, Obama.  Read Atlas Shrugged.  Or if it's too difficult for you, you could always add Rand Reader to this guy's job description.

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