Rand and Cloward-Piven


Leaving the movie aside, since I haven’t seen it yet, this certainly ranks as one of the weirdest criticisms of Atlas Shrugged:

For the past two years Glenn Beck has successfully demonized what he calls the Cloward-Piven strategy amongst his conservative audience.  Using a 1966 article written by academics Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, Beck has claimed that progressives are attempting to “collapse the system” by causing an economic downfall.  Theoretically, this collapse would then usher in a new, socialist government.  However, conservatives seem to be ignoring the fact that the same strategy is used, with an opposite goal, in the newly released movie Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged is based entirely on “collapsing the system” upon itself in order to achieve a better ends.  In the movie, if it stays true to the novel, a group of industrial leaders purposefully leave their businesses in order to collapse the economy.

While Atlas Shrugged reads at times more like a political tome than a novel, that’s no excuse for not reading like a novel.

First, the Strike – the Captains of Industry going on strike to protest their inability to actually create wealth – is a thought experiment.  Capitalists, innovators, will do what they love to do, and they’ll find someplace to do it.  They won’t go “on strike,” they’ll go to someplace where they can be capitalists.  That used to be the US, and in order to demonstrate the thought experiment, Rand had pretty much every other country on earth turned into a People’s Republic, so there was no other place to go.

Second, the capitalists are people, but they’re also a stand-in for capital, which has gone “on strike” in the past, when punished for success, or when regulatory uncertainty is too great.   Done so in the past, and may have been doing so for the last couple of years.

Third, at least one half of Cloward-Piven actively encourages street violence to get their way.  There’s none of that in Atlas Shrugged. Societal breakdown is never pretty, but from Rand, it’s a warning, from Piven it’s a means.

Finally, and a little tangentially, the goal of the strikers isn’t a more “pro-business” environment.  It’s a pro-market regulatory environment.  One of Rand’s main points is that Big Business is perfectly able and willing to collude with Big Government and Big Labor to lock out the little guy, whether he be businessman or worker.

Honestly, this looks like another in a series of “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” arguments by the left.

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