Monday, April 18, 2011

Atlas is Shrugging in California

I probably should have avoided the movie reviews before seeing the new film version of Ayn Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. Rand's relentless affirmation of the individual against the state would be censored if today's socialist saboteurs of the economy had their way. And thus the reactions among the progressives --- while not unexpected --- were simply visceral in their condemnation. Of course the eternally angry Roger Ebert panned the film, but a bevy of other reviewers were only slightly less disgusted. Roy Edroso's piece is actually quite hilarious, but I doubt the diarists at Daily Kos have even read the book: If it's about the supreme morality of individualism and markets, then scoffs and guffaws attacking "greed" is about as sophisticated a response as you'll get. And other reviewers are just piling on by now, for example at Creative Loafing Atlanta, "Atlas Shrugged. Critics Deplored. Ideologues Flocked":
... it's a monumental piece of crap.
Left-wing propaganda? Perhaps. But when The Atlantic's Megan McArdle threw in the towel, herself a connoisseur of the free market, that sure seemed like a little much.

But just in the nick of time comes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, with a fabulous review, where he notes:
The best word to describe Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is … surprising. It’s surprisingly well-paced, surprisingly intelligent, surprisingly well-acted, and surprisingly entertaining. Perhaps most surprising of all, it has me thinking about re-reading the novel again. I would highly recommend it to friends and their families.
And he adds in an update:
I deliberately avoided reading reviews of the film until after I saw it first...
I'm not that disciplined, alas, but RTWT. And see also the outstanding piece by Vin Suprynowicz at the Las Vegas Review Journal. I'd quote it, but considering the Review Journal's a Righthaven partner, folks can just read it at the link.

I have to admit being a little disappointed in the film, a disappointment only partially influenced the left's anti-Randian diatribes. I just felt that it needed to be bigger somehow, bigger in reaching to the majesty of the novel. I know I'm idealistic. Atlas Shrugged is larger than life, especially life in these United States where to celebrate achievement and self-interest is to be attacked as a class warrior. (I know, it should be the other way around, but I just last week had debates with people who attacked conservatives as fomenting class warfare, strangely enough.) That said, I did like the movie. I liked it a lot. I think Taylor Schilling plays a perfect Dagny Taggart. Not too different from how I envisioned her. And the sleek cinematography was perfectly riveting. I know this is Part I of a trilogy, but the movie was short and I wanted more. I wish I could just go back out to see Part II this afternoon.

One thing I worried about was how well the filmmakers would be able to place the setting in present times, 2016, amid a crisis of severe economic dislocation (like we're having under the Obamacrats in D.C. and across the nation). After seeing the opening scenes, and thinking about it a bit more, the scenario of disappearing industrialists seems entirely accurate. Indeed, as I've been reporting here of late, in California we've got the same kind of wrecked economy that Ayn Rand inveighed against. The Los Angeles Times was touting the expansion of the tech sector in February --- 100,000 new jobs were created --- while burying the lede on lingering massive unemployment in the state. But then the March job numbers --- unemployment edged back up to 12.1 percent --- forced the paper to be more honest. And then this weekend the Orange County Register published a devastating piece on the exodus of 69 businesses from the state for the first quarter of 2011. Reading the top ten list of reasons for businesses bailing is a jaw-dropping experience, but one that I'm getting used to. Between Sacramento and Washington, California can't get a break. Indeed, state officials have taken a fact-finding trip to Texas in hopes of stemming the flow of jobs to the Longhorn State and elsewhere.

Let's hope it gets better. For the past two years, the old Sunset Ford dealership in Westminster has been vacant, a symbol of the depression-like marketplace that hammered key sections of the local economy. For more than 40 years Sunset Ford did business at the intersection of the 22 and 405 Freeways, and so it was a shock to see that enterprise close its doors in 2009. And despite the Obama administration's economic stimulus, the location remains idle, like a ghost town:




Here's the old Sunset Ford sign, in disuse with no indication of replacement, down the way along Garden Grove Boulevard next to the 22 Freeway. It's a constant reminder of a collapsed marketplace:


As I was returning home, I saw this fellow with his homeless sign at the Jamboree offramp at Interstate 5. Notice the sign asks not for handouts, but for help finding ANY work.


This was a couple of weeks ago, and later that afternoon I went shopping at the District in Tustin. Borders is closing its location there, one of the 200 stores nationwide going belly up:


They were unloading everything:



But copies of David Remnick's recent book on the Radical-in-Chief weren't moving so well, and that's at 60 percent off:

And elsewhere around the mall stores have had trouble staying open , so it's not just Borders over here:



And checking over at Jamboree and Main Street in Irvine, this copying business, MyPrint, consolidated with an equity firm and closed this location. The local printing market is pretty messed up:



A lot of commercial real estate available throughout the Irvine business district.


I'm not sure what this was, probably a restaurant. This is down by Lake Forest, off the 5 Freeway:


I haven't had a chance to update with more pictures over the last couple of weeks, and not for lack of material. That said, there's indeed some robust sectors of the economy, especially entertainment and high tech. But overall California's economy is stagnating, and it's not going to improve as long as Democrat-socialists continue to sabotage the business climate with high taxes to fund out-of-control spending.

Sounds like something out of a movie, or something.


dave in boca said...

I thought Remnick's panegyric hagiography had gone straight to the remainder bin like everything on Obama written after Black Christmas Eve, 2009.

I'm planning on watching Atlas Shrugged, but it sounds like War and Peace without the battle and the love scenes! I'm rereading Montefiori's Young Stalin to remind me on how a bank robber & double agent could get a totalitarian grip on a helpless society. The left is ruthless and the conservatives seem to have lost much of their gumption.

Justin said...

Depressingly spot on.

Phocion said...

Not to laugh at California's well deserved downturn, but the state has people going to Texas to try and figure out why businesses are leaving California. Are state officials that blind to the business atmosphere they have created?
Even Cubans are calling Marx that "little old man who creates hunger." The Chinese even went to capitalism to stem their ever growing problems. One cannot pay homage to the dictates of Marx and expect another result. How many failure does one have to see to understand that it just does not work.
If one just took the time to understand the "Multiplicative Factor Of Money" and its effects on an economy one should be able to ascertain part of the problem. If one creates a business that makes widgets then one is also creating a number of second and third party businesses as a result of that creation. Government workers do NOT create anything tangible, they provide a service which once accomplished is gone. That is not to denigrate the service provided, because in many cases it is one that needs to be done. Whether that service needs to be accomplished by government is another question.
If a state or country is to do well it has to have a business friendly environment. Instead of trying to divide the pie why not make the pie bigger so everyone has a stake in a piece of a larger pie?

Anonymous said...

Since the first of the year 69 companies have announced they are relocating, reducing or closing their California operations. That is an approx. average of over 4 business a week.

Where are they going? Here's a ranking:

#1 – Texas
#2 – Arizona
#3 – Michigan and Nevada
#4 – Colorado and Florida
#5 – Georgia
#6 – Canada
#7 – Mexico
The other states and India had one each.

Here's a link to the companies and the more detailed information:

Bob Belvedere said...

Love the way you structured this post, Prof. Well done.

Quoted from and Linked to at:
Atlas Dug Or Atlas Ugh?

JBW said...

Most of the negative reviews I've read aren't anti-capitalism or anti-Rand rants by "socialist saboteurs of the economy" Don, they just say that it's a bad movie. All subdued conversation and no action. You do realize that it's possible for a movie about a subject you support to have been poorly made without there being a secret communist plot behind the bad reviews, right?

This was indeed part I of a trilogy but as McArdle points out AS wasn't written that way as Lord of the Rings was. You can't just take the first act of a three act play and expect it to stand on it's own. Let me guess: you didn't find out who John Galt is. Yeah, that was kind of a big plot point in the book.

Oh, and Texas is the Lone Star State, not the Longhorn State. If you weren't a West Coast government employed elitist and had grown up in the Real America like me you'd know that.

I'm just kidding, big guy! Love the blog!