Ray Dalio, who runs the world’s largest hedge fund, recently penned “Reflections on Trump’s Presidency” in which he urged that “Regarding economics, if you haven’t read Ayn Rand lately, I suggest that you do.” He’s only the latest of both friends and foes of President-elect Trump to invoke the author of Atlas Shrugged. And he’s right!
The CEO of Bridgewater Associates writes that Rand’s “books pretty well capture the mindset. This new administration hates weak, unproductive, socialist people and policies, and it admires strong, can-do, profit makers. It wants to, and probably will, shift the environment from one that makes profit makers villains with limited power to one that makes them heroes with significant power.”
The power of Dalio’s insight can be magnified by another concept from Rand: The sanction of the victim. Rand, indeed, held up as heroes in her novels great inventors and businessmen and women who grew prosperous by producing goods and services for willing customers. Their “power” was in their ability to create wealth. But she also explained that governments can only limit the liberty of achievers to create wealth when the achievers allow themselves to be guilt-tripped about their highest virtues and apologize for their abilities that they should hold up as badges of honor.
Now look at the American political scene. Bernie Sanders denounces the “top one percent” of the wealthy, not for gaining their wealth through government handouts (that’s not achievement, it’s theft) but simply because they are wealthy. He denounces themas villains and calls on the government to seize their wealth. And he’s cheered because he appeals to the slowest emotion in people: envy, which is hatred of the good for being the good.
And what do the honest achievers at all levels of income do? Too many actually apologize for their virtues, for the fact that they have prospered through their own honest efforts and hard work. These victims sanction those who would destroy them.
At our moral best, we are all achievers. Nothing would do more to restore individual liberty than if all achievers, from hedge fund managers and Silicon Valley techies to car mechanics and Uber drivers, took pride in their achievements, respected the achievements of their fellows,refused to sanction their would-be destroyers, and saw themselves as heroes of their own lives rather than as villains.
Let’s hope that President Trump makes a political revolution by removing the taxes and regulatory burdens that strangle wealth creators. And let’s spark a moral revolution by removing the guilt that strangles the spirit of all creators.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.