Atlas shrugged.

When I was about 15 or 16 years old I started read the works of Ayn Rand, in which (drastically oversimplifying here) the capitalist heroes fought against the socialists who felt that the heroes only existed to provide for the less fortunate. The meaning of “less fortunate” was defined solely by the socialists.

This particular thinking is exempified by these quotes from Atlas Shrugged:

“A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to force them to be free.”

and:

“…we can’t worry about businessmen at a time like this. What we’ve got to think about is jobs…issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country.”

and:

“You boys have no excuse for permitting all that need an misery to spread through the country – so long as there are people who aren’t broke.”

Growing up in Canada, this always seems far too close to home. And Canadian Auto Workers leader Buzz Hargrove always made me think of the bad guys in Ayn Rand’s novels – extracting as much as possible for the “needy” union members from the “rich” companies – even the name sounded right.

The CAW demands have almost crushed the big three North American automakers, especially as productivity has dropped and the Canadian dollar has risen, making it expensive and uncompetitive to do business in Canada.

The final straw for me came today when Andrew Coyne pointed out this article:

Tory Leader Stephen Harper’s hand was forced yesterday by a tentative deal cooked up between Paul Martin and Jack Layton on Sunday night in a suite at the Royal York Hotel. The NDP Leader arrived on the subway; the Prime Minister came by limousine.

Organized labour pushed the deal aggressively, threatening to withdraw its support for the New Democrats if Mr. Layton favoured an early election.

Canadian Auto Workers leader Buzz Hargrove played a key role in the negotiations as a go-between and, in fact, delivered a forceful message at the 11th hour on Tuesday to Mr. Martin.

Realizing my worst fears, we now have the government of Canada being given orders by unelected union bosses; orders to change federal budgets to deal with the “needy” as defined by the unions, with complete disregard for those that create the wealth – the engines of the now slowing economy.

The economy is much like a train engine – the more weight you make it drag, the slower it gets.

The point of Atlas Shrugged is that the “rich”, the engines of the economy, eventually grew tired of being drained and packed up and went away. And since the “needy” don’t create jobs, the economy stopped.

I’m worried.