Obama’s Directive 10-289

by Morgan Freeberg | November 2, 2008 10:48 am

He’s going to try fleshing it out in real life[1]. For the uninitiated, Directive 10-289 is ratified roughly halfway through Atlas Shrugged as an emergency measure. It locks the economy in place.

As they learned the hard way in the subsequent pages, economy, like an education, is motion, not a status, position or level. To lock it in place is to kill it.

Point One: All workers, wage earners, and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment…

Point Two: All industrial, commercial, manufacturing, and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit, nor leave, nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business…

Point Three: All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes, and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift…

Point Four: No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive…

Point Five: Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as is, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more or no less…

Point Six: Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less…

Point Seven: All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive. (But taxes will be allowed to increase as needed for the public good)

Point Eight: All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions shall be final.

It wouldn’t…couldn’t…happen in real life? Could it? We would never do such a silly thing. Or surely, if we did, those responsible would be carved in the concrete of history ignominously. Their names would never enjoy high honor ever again…there’s no way we would do such a thing as, for example, stamp their profiles into our ten-cent pieces and leave them there.

Whoops, though, yes we did such a thing. Yes it did happen. And his face is right there on the dime in your pocket.

Obama’s New Deal No Better Than Old One
By Michael Barone

With victory in sight, Barack Obama’s supporters are predicting that he will give us a new New Deal. To see what that might mean, let’s look back on the original New Deal.

The purpose of New Deal legislation was not, as commonly thought, to restore economic growth but rather to freeze the economy in place at a time when it seemed locked in a downward spiral. Its central program, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), created 700 industry councils for firms and unions to set minimum prices and wages. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the ancestor of our farm bills, limited production to hold up prices. Unionization, encouraged by NRA and the 1935 Wagner Act, was meant to keep workers in jobs that the unemployed would have taken at lower pay.

These policies did break the downward spiral. But, as Amity Shlaes points out in “The Forgotten Man,” they failed to restore growth.
The postwar Republican Congress elected in 1946 dismantled some New Deal anti-growth policies. Labor unions’ powers to strike were sharply restricted. Tax rates were lowered, and wage and price controls were dismantled. Many hold-the-economy-in-place policies were retained until the deregulation of the 1970s and 1980s. But the New Deal was transformed sufficiently to permit buoyant economic growth for two decades after the war.

Obama seems determined to follow policies better suited to freezing the economy in place than to promoting economic growth. Higher taxes on high earners, for one. He told Charlie Gibson he would raise capital gains taxes even if that reduced revenue: less wealth to spread around, but at least the rich wouldn’t have it — reminiscent of the Puritan sumptuary laws that prohibited the wearing of silk.

Here in the 21st century, after millions of schoolchildren have been indoctrinated to the notion that FDR “saved us from the Great Depsression,” economists are just starting to wake up to the idea[2] that the Depression ended in America not because of the New Deal, but in spite of it.

We’re just starting to catch on to that…that the New Deal, like the fictional 10-289, harmed much more than it helped. A vote for Obama on Tuesday says, essentially, “Prove It.”

It’s just like renting this movie[3]. How it ends is guaranteed, even if you’ve not yet personally acquainted with it. The question is whether you’re up to sitting through the frustration, suffering, boredom and misery that will deluge you before the inevitability unfolds. The dialog surrounding the build-up is nothing more than a suffocating formality, no matter how much skilled line-delivery and hopey-changey goodness you want to mix in.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes[4].

  1. fleshing it out in real life: http://members.cox.net/polincorr1/rand3.htm
  2. just starting to wake up to the idea: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3357
  3. this movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/
  4. House of Eratosthenes: http://mkfreeberg.webloggin.com/obamas-directive-10-289/

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