Bloomberg columnist Carol Baum puts together a baffling analogy:
The hero of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is smiling because he’s seen it all before: the government’s intervention in the private sector; the constraints placed on business in the name of the people; the desperation on the part of government bureaucrats when they realize their leverage is limited; and — this part is still fiction — the decision on the part of business leaders to walk away from the enterprises they built. [...] The government needs Liddy and Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit and Bank of America’s Ken Lewis to continue working to restore their firms to prosperity in the same way the looters in Rand’s novel need Hank Reardon and Francisco d’Anconia and Dagny Taggart, respectively, to run their steel mills, copper mines and railroad.
Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid. That said, none of them are nearly this stupid. Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms, then come to the government hat-in-hand asking for bailouts, then find that the bailers-out want to attach some strings to their hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds and then go to hide out in Galt’s Gulch. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
If the folks running Citigroup and Bank of America and AIG were good at their jobs, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. That’s the point. But they weren’t good. They lost staggering sums of money. Their companies went broke. They had to beg for taxpayer dollars. You don’t get to do that and then turn around and “go Galt.”