Campbell Shrugged

With Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom indicating she will run for his 48th Congressional District seat, the big question is which novel Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach) will pull off his shelf for prophesy. The Washington Independent reported on Campbell giving his departing interns copies of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, which has produced among "thinkers" both a cult-like following and intense damnation.

There's nothing wrong with the former car dealer serving as the D.C. affiliate for the Ayn Rand Institute, which is, after all, within his congressional district. Heck, the interns can always hock the novels for cash or credit at used bookstores, a nice fuck-you to economic conservatives like Campbell who consistently try to gut their federally backed student loans.

No, where things start to get nutty is when Campbell sees the response to President Barack Obama's economic policies reminding him of a 57-year-old work of fiction, although at least he's not basing policy on the Bible. This time . . .

In the Rand book, creative people, or "Atlases," are hounded and punished for their labor by an oppressive, socialistic state before they retreat from society to a hidden enclave where they watch civilization's slow collapse. "People are starting to feel like we're living through the scenario that happened in Atlas Shrugged," Campbell tells the Independent's David Weigel. "The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit rest of us, are going on strike. I'm seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they'll be punished for them."

Campbell suspects we'll have reached the novel's final chapters when the expected recovery does not materialize. To be fair to the politico, he is not the only one inspired by Rand's hymn in praise of radical individualism, extreme self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism as the economic crisis deepens. Atlas Shrugged sales are surging, reports the Guardian UK, whose reporter Oliver Burkeman piggybacks on Campbell's quote to Weigel.

Indeed, Newport's man in Washington is not the only one on the Beltway seeing parallels between the novel and what's happening today, as commentator Stephen Moore wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, "The current economic strategy is right out of Atlas Shrugged. The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you."

When it comes to Campbell's handouts to interns, I suggest a companion novel: Oliver Twist.


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