Ok, I am currently reading Atlas Shrugged, and I must say, it really has changed many of my views on government and the way our economy is run. That being said, I feel like some assumptions about Rand's utopian society are a little extreme. First off, while I agree that every many should be working for his own self interests, where do you draw the line? In other words, what about things like roads, public schools, law enforcement, judges, lawyers, prisons, etc. Rand is clearly very adamant about not having any kind of government control, but if we eliminated all forms of tax and privatized everything, then wouldn't the laws of the land essentially be up for grabs? If Rand suggests that police officers, judges, and prisons be privatized, then couldn't somebody literally "own" the legal system? For that matter, if we privatized the military, couldn't somebody literally take over the world with that kind of power? I feel like reading about Atlantis and the utopia that Rand creates comes with a lot of very bold assumptions. One of the biggest is that people will all be good, but the fact is, "looters" exist, and who is to stop them if the government doesn't have any way to fund a system for stopping them?
Does this also suggest that school should all be privatized? Wouldn't that lead to a system where nepotism would rule the world because the child of a poor man would have absolutely no chance to get a good education? Where is the government supposed to get money for public schooling?
I was just curious about this because throughout Atlas Shrugged I was thinking to myself that this women is brilliant, and many of the big speeches and points made (particularly about the root of money that Francisco makes and also the concept of the depravity of the ideal "to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities" is absolutely BRILLIANT...and to be honest, makes me despise the welfare system and dislike our progressive income tax system, but it doesn't answer the question of where the government should actually be getting it's money from).
There's a lot to cover in your question. I'll start by correcting one premise: Rand did not intend her presentation of life in Galt's Gulch to constitute a political blueprint for an actual society. The Gulch is a large piece of private property, owned by Midas Mulligan. The other residents are, in effect, his houseguests -- or perhaps renters would be more precise. That model works for the relatively small number of exceptional, hand-picked residents in the gulch but would not scale up to a real society.
Rand also does not advocate the privatization of "everything". While she does think that roads and schools should be privately owned and run, she most emphatically does not think that law enforcement, judges and prisons should be. (That's an anarchist position and Rand was not an anarchist.) Rand thinks government is a vital necessity in a free society. Its purpose is to place the use of retaliatory force under objective control, for the protection of individual rights. So in Rand's ideal society there would be a government with a court system, a police force, a military, a legislative and executive branch and whatever logistical support functions are required to enable them to function. (I'm thinking here specifically of a treasury department to handle government resources, pay bills and salaries, collect revenue and the like.)
You are correct that a rights-respecting government would not have the ability to tax. It would have to raise the funds it needs to operate on a voluntary basis. Rand has some suggestions on how this might be done in her essay "Government Financing in a Free Society", reprinted in her book The Virtue of Selfishness. I strongly suggest you read it.
Another very interesting book that you might want to check out is Individual Rights and Government Wrongs by Objectivist writer Brian Phillips. Phillips discusses a wide range of issues typically handled by government and how they might be (and in many cases actually have been) handled privately. He talks about parks, mail, education, roads, charity, occupational licensing, racism, immigration, food and drug safety, pollution, utilities and taxation. If you're interested in concretizing how Objectivist political principles might play out in these areas Brian's book is a good place to get a sense of the possibilities.
A final point, and one that Rand makes explicitly in her essay on government financing: eliminating taxation is a very long-range political goal, not something that could be done today. It took us generations to get to where we are, and it will take more to turn around and move to a fully-free society.
answered Dec 21 '12 at 17:46
Kyle Haight ♦