I refuse to be guilty for being alive.
John Galt’s Speech
“We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil. We are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.“
The burden of responsibility is always placed on those with the greatest capacity to bear it. This is a universal law of human psychology that is the origin of the phrase “when you have an important task that needs to get done, ask a busy person to do it“. This is true at every level of human organization.
In the family, children who are matured too quickly by parental neglect are expected to take care of younger siblings. Their suffering forces them to become self-reliant. Once self-reliant, they are expected to take the next leap in responsibility: responsibility for others. It is seen as a natural, unquestionable, axiomatic truth – but it’s never named.
At companies, those with the largest book of business and best track record in sales are given the largest deals to close. They are expected to close them, and to maintain yet another relationship on top of the hundreds they presently maintain. The busiest people in life are the most responsible; the most responsible are the most busy.
In society, entrepreneurs are expected to produce goods and services for the greater good of society and their own individual profit. In Capitalist countries, individual profit is the primary motivator – though it is morally shamed by countless millions. In Socialist countries, “social good” becomes the dominant cultural narrative as to why businesses exist. They are perceived as a necessary evil, permitted to exist by the grace of government officials, at the expense of 50% or more of the company profit in taxation.
At the levels of family and company, the most responsible and capable ought to take leadership positions for the good of the family and company – but also themselves. The child who learns quickly to become self-reliant may gain a head start in life, quickly outpacing her peers in building a career or family. The man who takes on Fortune 500 client after Fortune 500 client bears a terribly great responsibility – yet he should embrace it for it foundationally shapes the man he must become to bear it.
He must yield sloth to discipline, complacency to growth, and pursue his potential or perish. The sacrifice becomes worth it for the man he becomes. Riches are an after-effect.
Government converts virtue into burden.
This paragraph of John Galt’s Speech doesn’t challenge the virtue of accepting greater responsibility in one’s personal life. To the contrary, John Galt’s speech encourages the listeners to adopt maximal responsibility over their capacity to think, to determine rational values, to act them out, and to live moral lives.
Galt has merely observed the following:
The greater you become, the more wealth you produce.
The more wealth you produce, the more wealth you are expected to produce for the good of “the people” (everyone except yourself).
The more wealth you produce, the more your wealth is taxed and redistributed to those who are less competent, less virtuous, and less capable than you of putting wealth to good use.
The more wealth you produce, the more you are shamed for being greedy.
The more wealth you produce, the more guilt you must accept for your greatness.
The more wealth you produce, the worse society wishes you to feel about your ability to produce, to create, and to grow.
The more wealth you produce, the more your growth is stifled by government regulation and taxation.
The more wealth you produce, the more government scrutiny is placed over your finances, for the purpose of ensuring the maximum percentage of your blood sweat and tears can be stolen by armed tax collectors and given to bleary-eyed bureaucrats unfit to run a lemonade stand.
The more wealth you produce, the greater risk you bust bear that the government may at any moment threaten you at the barrel of a gun for extortion money for their rackets, or else shut down your enterprise and take everything away from you.
The more wealth you produce, the less you’re entitled to your wealth.
The more wealth you produce, the less you’re entitled to your happiness.
The more wealth you produce, the less you’re entitled to your existence.
Observing this, Galt found it unacceptable. As do I. It is foundationally wrong, on every conceivable level, that society should ever be organized like this. Yet it is. Why? Society accepts a flawed moral code that presupposes that creating wealth is evil, and that money is the root of all evil.
To create wealth isn’t to steal it. It is theft of wealth that is evil.
It is man’s desire to parasitically suck the wealth of creative power from a more powerful man’s soul to feed his own that is evil.
Wealth creation is a positive-sum game. It’s a generative process inherently good for the world. Our world has it fundamentally wrong that it should be punished by scorn and theft.
This is false. This is why Galt says he refuses to accept that the pursuit of his own happiness is evil. Creation is an effect of an intelligent, reasoning mind and able-bodied consciousness.
Creation is intelligence having fun. Creation is a source of true joy.
For productive, able-bodied men and women of intelligence, talent, and ability, creation is a necessary component of building self-esteem, self-efficacy, happiness, love, connection, and joy. If we value those things, creation becomes necessary to life.
Life is not guilt. Creating wealth is not shameful. Creating is Good.