Who Is John Galt And What Is The Significance Of John Galt?

Who Is John Galt: The protagonist of “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s massive 1957 novel, is a man named John Galt. Atlas Shrugged was one of my required readings in high school, and I’ve read it again at least four or five times since then. There isn’t another book that comes close, in my opinion.

While cleaning out a closet a few months ago, I came across a long-lost coffee mug with the words “Who is John Galt?” on it, along with one of his quotes: “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.” Roughly speaking, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism advocates for rational self-interest and free-market capitalism.

John Galt personifies all that is great about unfettered capitalism: individualism, independence, and the ability to pursue one’s own goals without governmental interference.

A new cup now sits atop my desk, and I couldn’t help but notice this morning that the newspaper’s lead story detailed the riots in Greece after new legislative austerity measures were enacted.

I’m curious as to how my made-up acquaintance would feel about the present situation in Greece, the Euro, the European Monetary Union’s intervention, and the more activist practices of global central banks. There’s no way for me to know.

My understanding of Objectivism is roughly the same as my understanding of Ron Paul’s platform, which is to say, very little. There are features that I like, but not at the price they’re asking.

John Galt is a fictitious figure, therefore he doesn’t have to come up with a strategy to deal with the problems that plague the real world (albeit, as a product of Rand’s imagination, he didn’t have to deal with the problems of 1957, either).

Making assumptions about his beliefs is a reflection of our own internal economic tensions. Which would bother John Galt more, the government’s abundance of rules or its bailout of too-big-to-fail institutions? Who do you think he would dislike more: the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, or the “moochers” who “earned” large bonuses soon after their banks were bailed out? I also think he would have little regard for the practicalities and sharp concessions inside both US political parties, though for different reasons.

Unfortunately, real-world economic problems aren’t quite as black-and-white as the ones we invent in our fiction. When asked, “Who is John Galt?” the question often leads to a pause. How we each respond to that inquiry is up to us.

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