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Life Imitates Atlas Shrugged in Austin, Texas

atlas-shrugged-coverIn Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, many people continually support statist policies that throttle producers and hamper the economy. Then, when producers are no longer able to produce and create jobs, and when consumers are no longer able to buy goods and services, the same people who created the problem cry, “Someone should do something!”

Real-life is again eerily imitating Atlas Shrugged, this time in Austin, Texas. Consider a recent report by the Austin American-Statesman:

“I’m at the breaking point,” said Gretchen Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8,500 this year.

“It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes,” said Gardner, who attended [two local] meetings. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.”

But the “big picture” is precisely what Gardner and many Americans choose to ignore. In the big picture, people cannot increase their own taxes and keep that money, too. In the big picture, government cannot violate people’s rights to keep and spend their earnings as they see fit without making everyone less free. In the big picture, when government violates people’s rights in order to “run” libraries, rail transportation, and the like, it cannot do so without stealing money from the productive and thus precluding them from using that money productively; it cannot do so without destroying wealth and blocking or pushing out private alternatives. In the big picture, the law of cause and effect is real.

The problem is not that “someone needs to step in”—the problem is that people such as Gardner need to start looking at the facts of reality and thinking in terms of causal connections. Only when enough Americans do that will we be able to start reversing the statist trend and begin moving toward a free, civilized, non-contradictory society.

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