It's an amazing book about the productive members of society becoming discouraged and fed up as their labor is appropriated to carry the rest of society.
There are interesting aspects of our society today that indicate we are getting closer to the reality Rand found so disturbing that she wrote a book about what might happen if the producers who earn their way decided they have had enough.
Eventually the producers withdraw from society and move to Galt's Gulch, founded by the infamous John Galt, one of Rand's heroes in "Atlas Shrugged." Remember the graffiti from a few decades ago asking "Who is John Galt?" Others wrote "Where is John Galt?"
As Wikipedia describes Rand's social commentary:
"Rand's heroes must continually fight against the 'Parasites', 'looters', and 'moochers' of the society around them."
"The looters are those who confiscate others' earnings "at the point of a gun" (figuratively speaking)--often because they are government officials, and thus their demands are backed by the threat of force."
Yesterday the Washington Post carried a story describing the increasing levels of unemployment in virtually every productive sector of the economy as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's not a pretty picture on the whole.
For example in July of 2007 there were 7.63 million Americans who earned a living through construction, but in July of this year only 7.17 million jobs were available in that sector. The total employment declined 6% in one twelve months.
In the manufacturing sector the total employment declined 2% from 13.8 million jobs in July 2007 to 13.5 million one year later.
15.3 million Americans worked in the retail sector this July, down 2% from the 15.48 million who had jobs a year earlier.
Only 200,000 Americans lost their jobs between July 07 and 08 in the transportation industry; a mere 4/10 of 1% decline.
Both the financial sector (banking/real estate) and professional services sector (lawyers, managers and administrators) had an even smaller relative decline of 2/10 of 1%; losing 120,000 financial services jobs and 400,000 professional jobs and ending up at a total employment of 8.21 million and 17.91 million respectively. Perhaps Bear Stearns really was an anomaly.
There was however some good news, at least if you aren't an Ayn Rand aficionado. In the 12 months ending July 2008 four of ten sectors experienced job growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- The biggest percentage gain--4%--was in Education, gaining 120,000 jobs and ending at 3.08 million workers.
- Next in job growth performance during the year was the health care sector with a 3% gain, ending July with 370,000 new workers for a total workforce of 13.33 million Americans.
- The government sector (federal and local) hired an additional 350,000 Americans, realizing 2% job growth.
- The leisure and entertainment sector, which includes hotels, also posted a 2% gain. As of this July 13.68 million Americans work in this sector, 210,000 more than last July.
So why would Ayn have a problem with 1,050,000 new jobs? It's simple really, except for the 210,000 new hires in leisure and entertainment, the other 840,000 lucky new hires in the remaining three growth sectors don't really produce anything.
Ayn would call them parasites, looters and moochers. All these areas (even the medical sector due to Medicare and Medicade) are highly dependent on tax transfer payments from the working stiffs, entrepreneurs, investors etc. who cause real growth.
Ayn presumably wouldn't have a problem if the taxes paid by the construction workers, manufacturers, retailers, transportation workers, financial workers and professionals paid their taxes voluntarily, but of course that isn't the way the world works. She would also have problems with the fact that the benefits, especially retirement benefits accorded government workers (think: Thrift Savings vs. Social Security, retire after 20 years vs. retire after 45+ years if ever, etc.) are so much better than what the rest of society can expect. But, that's another story.
If you want to know where the jobs are, there is the answer. The bottom line is you are less likely to get laid off if the paycheck is funded by taxes collected, as Ayn would say, at the point of a gun.