Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going Galt

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

Sincerely,

Jake DeSantis

(executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit)


The New York Times has published in full this man's resignation letter in which he explains the effect of recent congressional action and grandstanding on the work, morale and lives of individuals working in the financial industry. Although his story is specific to A.I.G., the experience and implications are far wider.

When the primary law-creating body of the United States passes legislation which reverses its own very explicit promises and forces a company to renege on its contractual agreements, it should be obvious that our leaders consider themselves above the rule of law.

When taxes are implemented, for whatever reason, depriving individuals of 90% of their income, no one should be able to pretend any longer that this country still protects private property.

How long can we expect intelligent, honest individuals to continue working in occupations where they are denied fair-market compensation, repeatedly vilified by our elected officials, and where "the only real motivation anyone...now has is fear?"

I am not surprised by the resignation. I am grateful that he stuck it out this long. I regret he found it necessary to give away the unconfiscated portion of his compensation, but I fully appreciate and support his belief that he "at least deserve[s] to dictate how [his] earnings are spent."

The sanctimonious outrage expressed by Congress at the greed of businessmen is severely misplaced. Is it greed when one desires to keep that which one has earned through voluntary exchange? Is it greed that motivates people to work hard to improve their own lives through their own efforts?

Or, is greed perhaps instead when someone attempts to live off the hard work of others? Isn't greed more properly defined as desire for that which you have not earned yourself, whether it is money, or fame or moral credit?

When purveyors of force and power are publicly lauded for violating property rights and the rule of law, and the men who produce and exchange voluntarily are vilified and punished, ours is truly an upside-down world.

Who is John Galt?

He is the man who said:

"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."

He is Ayn Rand's hero in Atlas Shrugged who who teaches that each man is a sacred end in himself, that the initiation of force is the ultimate evil between men, and voluntary trade of value for value is the only way for everyone to gain.

Recovery will not occur and prosperity can not return until we as a country can recognize that self interest is not greed, and that the rule of law and property rights are requirements not just for a functioning economy but for our lives.

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1 comment:

Doug Reich said...

Hear, Hear. Well put. Thanks.