Government Power Springs Forward

Victory-Cigar-Congress-Passes-DST.jpegDaylight Savings Time (DST) is a great example of how the government is slow to deal with change (if it ever does), and pushes wasteful and ineffective policy solutions – sometimes even on a bipartisan basis.

Although DST has been with us since the dawn of the 20th Century – and traces its roots earlier in time – the current incarnation of DST began in 2007, following implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The law was passed in a largely bipartisan (85-12) vote in the Senate with more controversy arising in the House (249-183) from House Democrats who took an ideological stance that the proposed law did not go far enough to place mandates requiring energy producers to use more expensive but politically friendly renewable energy in their overall energy production mix by 2020.

The arguments we often hear in favor of DST are that it saves energy. And of course the federal government knows best how to direct the activities of individuals from a national level. Have no fear, Department of Energy (DOE) “experts” conducted a study which estimates that the policy results in a savings of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours.

The government produces the most optimistic case for DST resulting in actual (albeit scarce) energy savings. Multiple sources across the ideological spectrum cast doubt on the effectiveness of the government’s DST policy for saving energy.DOE sheepishly acknowledges, “this might not sound like a lot.” And at least it is right on this point. The US produces more than 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours of energy on an annual basis. Meaning the nation’s DST policy puts everyone on edge for a net savings of about 0.03% of total energy produced in a year’s time. This doesn’t even amount to finding a penny on the sidewalk; it is finding about 3 hundredths of one.
DOE DST Savings
But despite the Department of Energy’s optimism produced by their “experts”, the litany of scientific studies and arguments against the effectiveness of DST changes are overwhelming.

Let us Google that for you!

Virtually all sources from the resulting search screen show no support for the widely held belief that DST results in energy savings. In fact, contrary to the DOE’s experts, another 2008 scientific study suggests that the government’s manipulation of our clocks may actually increase energy use when compared to doing nothing. The National Bureau of Economic Research issued a report demonstrating that “contrary to the policy’s intent — DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent.”

Rather than a savings of 0.03%, there appears to be a cost of about 1 percent of energy consumption. Not surprisingly, this follows another pattern from government “experts” who claimed that government control of health insurance would result in $2,500 in annual savings to the average family, when in fact, the opposite has taken place, and the average family has experienced a net cost increase of $7,500.

Apart from energy savings, the DST-imposed time changes have been associated literally with killing people. One study associates the loss of an hour sleep with additional risk for heart attacks. Another links DST to increased street crime. And another study attributes driving fatalities to drivers having to re-acclimate themselves to darker driving conditions.

Other studies have determined other, harder to quantify costs and impacts such as the expense of changing software, managing transit schedules, even hindered agricultural production. One of our favorite articles from the list we perused was by Tom Zeller at Forbes.com. His summary of the critics’ positions says it best:

“But critics of DST also argue that most energy-use analyses fail to account for a variety of potential costs associated with routine time changes. These would include everything from impacts on human health and crime rates to the costs of adjusting mass transit schedules, hindering agricultural work, and, well, putting a large segment of the population into a foul mood.”

If energy savings was the stated goal of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the government failed miserably in its attempt. So why was the Energy Policy Act of 2005 necessary? It must have done something worthwhile. The text of the legislation tops 550 pages, so surely there is something in there that was beneficial for the public good. Right?

Of course not.

As we leaf through the legislation and associated analysis, we find that like many other laws the federal government produces, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 does little more than spend money we don’t have for questionable purposes. Questionable, but profitable – from the point of view of politicians and their lobbyist allies.

Public Citizen offers a succinct summary of the law’s winners, and what it cost in terms of political contributions to receive such generosity from the treasury.

Oil and Gas Subsidies: $6 Billion
Coal Subsidies: $9 Billion
Nuclear Power Subsidies: $12 Billion
Electric Power Company Subsidies: $1.7 Billion

All told, the estimated value of subsidies and special tax deals totals $28.7 billion from 2007 to 2015. Not a bad return on investment considering that energy industry lobbyists contributed approximately $115 million in campaign contributions from 2001 to 2005 with about 75 percent of that cash going to the political party in power at the time – Republicans.

Once again, the public was sold a bill of goods, citing a national urgency to curb energy consumption and be responsible stewards of the environment. Studies have demonstrated that rather than decreasing energy demand, DST actually increases energy usage. Additionally, the policy has been linked to inefficiency, higher costs of doing business, higher crime, even death. While many people continue to believe that they’re doing their civic duty to this end in the twice-per-annum ceremony of adjusting clocks, the only real accomplishment appears to be the government giving away money it does not have to energy producers that had already been adequately incentivized by the free market – considering the high prices of energy during this time.

Americans should take away two things from their semi-annual Daylight Savings Time ritual. First, both political parties, even one claiming to be for limited government, are more interested in growing their own power and collecting political tribute than they are in effective policy-making. The second, following from the first, is the fewer things the government is in charge of, the better off we all will be.

Photo Credit: “Victory-Cigar-Congress-Passes-DST” by United Cigar Stores Company (sponsor); artist unknown – Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WWI Posters, LC-USZC4-10663

Is Virginia’s Recent Lyft and Uber Ban An Example of Keeping It All in the Family for Governor Terry McAuliffe?

Did the McAuliffe Administration Ban Uber and Lyft from Operating in Virginia as a Favor to the Cousin of the Governor’s Father-in-Law?

Last Friday (6/6/14), Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles fired the latest salvo in the ongoing battle of corrupt governments and tech start-up firms Uber and Lyft, which use technology to match drivers and riders. Virginia’s DMV issued a cease and desist order to the companies because they do not have the appropriate business model per state law. This action follows civil penalties the DMV assessed in April: $26,000 for Uber and $9,000 for Lyft.

We are always suspicious when a government shows a sudden and unexplained interest in an issue—much like our suspicion of New York City mayor Bill De Blasio’s immediate fixation upon taking office with banning the city’s horse drawn carriages despite it being a rather distant issue in his campaign. Likewise, we became very interested when one of Virginia’s executive agencies, under the administrative direction of Governor Terry McAuliffe, showed a sudden and intense interest with Uber and Lyft.

We have to build the case from several scraps of information, so bear with us.

Virginia’s DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb returned to head the DMV in 2010 following an appointment from Virginia’s previous governor, Bob McDonnell. He remains in office now under the McAuliffe administration. Lyft and Uber have had a presence in the Northern Virginia area outside of DC since 2011—without any publicly reported issues from the DMV until this year. So the timing is certainly curious. Why the focused attention on these two companies? Why now? Why with so many other issues in the Commonwealth, from passing a budget to fixing roads, is Lyft and Uber worthy of attention?

By our reckoning, only one thing has changed since the DMV Commissioner returned to office in 2010. Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe assumed office in January 2014 after winning a plurality of votes in Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial election to succeed Bob McDonnell.

Does the governor have an axe to grind against Lyft and Uber? Maybe not a personal one, but organized taxicab companies sure do. They view these start-ups as unregulated and not playing on a level playing field. And that’s where things start to get interesting.

The Taxicab Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a trade group representing 1,100 member companies with 100,000 passenger vehicles. This association, like any “good” trade group, sends letters to elected officials asking for rules and laws that favor their members—or for governments to simply ensure that those rules and laws are applied to all competitors in the marketplace “equally”—to ensure “fairness” you see. To translate into basic English, this group wants to protect the status quo, with all the rules, regulations, and barriers to entry for new competitors, and political gift giving intact. If you’re a new business like Lyft or Uber, and you are a threat to the status quo, or you don’t give your fair share of political tribute to elected officials, then woe be unto you.

Following the money was the logical starting point.

Paul Mears Donation VPAPAccording to the Virginia Public Access Project, Virginia’s taxi and limousine transportation industry was the fifth largest provider of campaign cash in the 2013 Virginia election cycle. We drilled down to statewide campaign donations, and found that the largest individual donor from this industry group was Paul S. Mears, Jr., of Orlando, Florida. His political contribution of $5,000 to the McAuliffe campaign was more than double the second-largest individual donation recorded from the taxi and limousine industry. Paul Mears III also showed up on the list, contributing an additional $1,000 to the McAuliffe campaign.

Paul Mears, Jr. operates Orlando-based Mears Transportation Group. According to the company’s website, Mears offers luxury van, sedan, SUV, and shuttle services in 51 airports and metropolitan areas, including Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport in Virginia.

Interesting stuff indeed, but would McAuliffe, following the nationally-splashed ethics headlines of the previous governor’s administration, engage in political chicanery for a measly $6,000? If he would, it certainly would be a fantastic return on investment for the Mears family.

But perhaps there’s a force even stronger than money and the political influence it can buy.

Further digging into the bowels of the Internets turned up an Orlando Sentinel article from 1998 describing business deals between Terry McAuliffe and father-in-law Richard Swann.

Of McAuliffe, the article quoted Eileen Miller, then the executive director of Public Campaign, which seeks to reform campaign fund raising (emphasis is ours):

“He’s always been a mover and shaker when it comes to the money trees,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of a nonprofit group, Public Campaign, which advocates reform of campaign fund- raising. “It’s inevitable he would get caught with his hand near the cookie jar. McAuliffe is playing fast and loose on the edges of what’s ethical.” 

A separate Orlando Sentinel article on Richard Swann had this to say:

Whispers of political cronyism seem to dog Swann whatever he does. A prominent Orlando lawyer and full-time chairman of American Pioneer, Swann has been mentioned in federal investigations of prominent Democrats at both the state and national levels.

Swann is comfortable in gray areas. A teetotaler at home among clinking cocktail glasses, Swann is not addicted to politics, friends say. Rather, his political strength comes from an ability to mix politics with business to forge a powerful network of friends that help him in both worlds, which is something he calls ”synergism.”

The article additionally discussed the relationship between Swann and McAuliffe, and Swann’s uncle, one Paul Mears, Sr., father of Paul Mears Jr.

The Mears family doesn’t seem to be a fan of Uber and Lyft. Mears III co-signed a letter (full text here) earlier this year from the TLPA discussing concerns with Uber and Lyft and other traditional taxi/limousine service company competitors.


Now isn’t that a coincidence? The governor’s father-in-law believes in mixing politics with business and calls it “synergism.” The cousin (Mears) of the governor’s father-in-law (Swann) provided the largest individual contribution by more than double of any other person involved in the taxi/limousine industry in Virginia in 2013. He provided it to Terry McAuliffe. And he has a taxi/limousine business presence in Virginia that sure doesn’t appear to care much for competitors such as Uber and Lyft. What a coincidence!

Perhaps Paul Mears and Terry McAuliffe are just engaging in Swann’s “synergism” though most honest people might call it corruption instead.

Of course money, cronyism, buying influence, and corruption is not limited to Terry McAuliffe or Democrats. We reported VPAP’s listing of campaign contributions from the taxi and limousine industry was the 5th largest of all Virginia industries. The largest organizational donation within this group ($60,500) belonged to the Virginia Taxicab Association. Seventy-five percent of those contributions went to Republican candidates for the Virginia General Assembly. The largest recipient was Republican Speaker of the Virginia House, William Howell.

Such contributions are rarely made without some expectation of a political dividend. Suppose Terry McAuliffe had not become governor. Who’s to say that the General Assembly might not have passed a state law to formalize what the DMV did instead?

Examples like this are exactly why government’s power must be limited. When government’s power grows, the value of holding office, and holding influence with office holders increases. In such a dynamic, free markets are perverted into the kind of crony capitalism (or crapitalism) that are so pervasive today where businesses spend more time coddling political relationships than improving their products or services. Free markets and the consumer would be better served by removing laws and restrictive regulations that limit competition and raise the cost of doing business.

We’ll leave you with the parting thought from the OS article that discussed McAuliffe’s and Swann’s business dealings:

The ethical watchdogs see people such as McAuliffe as a symptom of a political system in which fund-raisers earn clout that can be turned into opportunities to make money for themselves. “One of the problems we see is that very often the lines between political fund-raising and doing personal business are very blurry,” said Paul Hendrie of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non- partisan watchdog group. “It raises questions about whether the policy decisions being made are influenced by these relationships.”

Questions indeed…

Government Pays Hospitals to Let Patients Die?

UK-based The Daily Telegraph printed a story illustrating one of the dangers of socialized medicine. Based on a Freedom of Information Act request, the report demonstrates financial incentives were paid to National Health Service (NHS) hospitals to employ a controversial treatment, called Liverpool Care Pathway, for patients believed to be dying. The treatment can involve withholding diagnostic tests and “nonessential” treatments. In some cases “can involve the removal of hydration and nutrition from dying patients.”

In a sample, NHS hospitals were paid at least an equivalent of $20 million (£12.4 million), and potentially in excess of $32 million (£20 million) as an incentive for putting patients on the “treatment” course. As the debate over government’s proper role in healthcare in the US continues, this example from “across the pond” shows us exactly why Americans should be distrustful of a greater role for government in the healthcare sector of the economy.

We’ve heard the argument before. It goes something like, “well healthcare in the UK is so much better and efficient than here because they don’t give you medical services until you really need it.” Or so the argument goes.

The fundamental flaw for the pro-government approach to health care delivery is that politicians and government bureaucrats tend to see “healthcare” as a finite resource that must be distributed as “fairly” and as equitably as possible to the voting constituencies (or an even more cynical view, campaign donating constituencies). In dessert terms, government views healthcare as a cake and its mission is to decide who will get how big of a piece.  We’ve heard ad nauseum from one presidential candidate about fairness. We’d like to point out that our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which describe the roles and powers of government does not discuss “fairness.” They do, however, mention “freedom.”

And freedom is lost in a government-controlled healthcare system. As seen in the bureaucratic machinations of the Affordable Care Act, an unelected, appointed group of bureaucrats serving on the Independent Payment Advisory Board will wield power (not subject to Congressional override) to determine anything from a list of accepted treatments to an overall “per capita funding level” in the event that the growth of medical payments exceeds targeted amounts.

Government fails to efficiently allocate resources because it is subject to political pressures. Would government mandates have lead to the creation of “minute clinics” now popping up in various pharmacies and discount stores across the US? No, of course not. Because rather than finding a way to more efficiently deliver service–and thus find a way to increase the size of the healthcare cake available to all, government is locked into its finite resource mentality of allocating scarce resources. It’s the incentive to reap the rewards of their innovation that has inspired US companies to research and develop new medical technologies–technologies that other countries benefit from (even those with socialized medicine). If the US turns to socialized medicine, who will be left with any incentive to develop new and life-saving medical innovations?

Sarah Palin is noted for coining the phrase “death panels” and was savagely criticized for it. But the reality is she’s far closer to the truth than those who attacked her for using the phrase to describe the future of government-managed care in the US. The UK health system uses a metric called “quality adjusted life years” to determine if a disabled or elderly patient will be eligible for various treatments. One of President Obama’s healthcare advisers, Ezekiel Emanual, is noted for his contributions to the Complete Lives System, which evaluates a patient’s future overall value to society in decisions of allocating healthcare resources.

Which leads us to our conclusion. If government is permitted to decide what treatments are available to certain patients, healthcare in the US becomes an entirely new proposition, not unlike the relationship many people have with their cars. When a car needs a new transmission or another expensive repair, many owners (excepting true car lovers!) either resort to a do-it-yourself option or often weigh the cost of a repair against how many useful years a car “realistically” has left. If the fix is determined to be more expensive than its worth, the car owner evaluates trade-ins or how to finance a new car.

This is the undeniable reality of government-managed care that we see coming via “Obamacare.” Government management of the healthcare system chases political rewards rather than economic ones. If a company finds a low cost and profitable way to deliver care via a minute clinic, patients win by finding a low cost provider, and the company wins by earning profits. But instead of engaging in this market-based behavior, the UK government established financial rewards to ease a patient’s passing and allocate scarce healthcare dollars to other areas. It kind of reminds us of another group, also from the UK:

(Warning: Strong Language at close of clip, but very funny!)

Atlas Shrugged and Government Regulation by Val Muller

I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2 this weekend. For a limited-government fan like me, it’s a must-see.

You don’t have to have seen the first part to appreciate the second. Part 1 established the world in which the characters live—a world dominated by an energy crisis that has “forced” the government to take tighter control of business and production. In this world—a world not dissimilar to ours—masses of people began hating businesses for being greedy and refusing to share the wealth. All the while, a man named John Galt is claiming all the intelligent and competent members of society—people like our Andrew Carnegie and Steve Jobs. People who create products and resources and opportunities that benefit everyone else. These productive members of society have been disappearing—giving up their hard-earned businesses (often by destroying them) to a world that doesn’t appreciate their contribution.

In the midst of this world lives Dagny Taggart, member of the Taggart family that now owns the nation’s largest railroad chain. With the energy crisis, railroad is the primary mode of travel (note that the filmmaker has slightly modernized the book from which the movie is derived, as Rand wrote in a time when even computers didn’t exist). With increasing government regulations, though, it’s becoming more difficult to be productive, and at the end of Part 1, business owners are forced to sell all but one business—because it isn’t fair that one person should own and operate more than one.

Part 2 follows Dagny’s efforts to continue her family’s railroad business despite a brother who is controlled by politicians (and is the incompetent head of the railroad company). She is also thwarted by increasing government regulation (the Fair Share Act) that forces companies to produce and provide equally to all consumers, not to mention the fact that the major suppliers for the railroad’s raw materials have been disappearing with John Galt.

Despite these disappearances, Dagny has not given up on helping her world and saving her business, and her one partner in this is Hank Rearden of Rearden Steel. Even with increasing government regulations (under a state of emergency, the federal government has seized the ownership of all copyrights), Dagny will not give up, and she struggles to discover who John Galt actually is (if he exists at all) and why everyone competent is disappearing. In the meantime, the more the government tries to fix the economy, the more the country falls apart. At the end of Part 2, even the people are realizing that the government is nothing more than a masked thief, taking what belongs to individuals under the guise of law.

While the film is a hyperbole of our current society, it isn’t that far from our reality. The film’s premise is that capitalism isn’t the problem—government-regulated crony capitalism is the problem. As a result of the government’s regulations, Dagny’s company is forced to shut down some of its rail lines. As a result of the government’s regulations, important producers are unable to secure the raw materials needed to run their businesses. A coal mining company, for example, is unable to buy enough steel to reinforce its mines, resulting in a coal shortage, resulting in a further energy crisis, resulting in lower production across the board. The point is, government regulation that claims to be fairly dividing up resources for everyone just ends up hurting a supply-and-demand system that, if left unregulated, would find its own natural balance and create a better world for all involved.

We can see this problem even today—thankfully on a smaller scale (at least, for now). I even have an anecdotal example from my own HOA experience. Our HOA hires a lawn management company to manage common areas—including mowing, aerating, and fertilizing the common grassy areas. A few times per year, the company sprays pesticide on the lawns. When I walk the dogs, I sometimes walk for the equivalent of two city blocks without seeing a single pesticide application notice sticking in the ground. By the time I see one, I’ve already let the dogs run through the grass, and during this time of year I’m usually wearing sandals as well.

When I contacted the lawn company about placing more signs to inform residents with children and pets of the dangerous pesticide, I was told that the company placed the exact number of signs as required by law, so they were already complying and were not required to place any additional signs. It struck me that in this case, government regulation had failed. Some probably well-meaning politician had at some point created legislation mandating the requirements for placing pesticide application warnings. Companies, being held to the law, now fulfill the minimum requirement and then wipe their hands clean of responsibility.

The mistake here is in thinking government regulation is necessary in the first place. In a truly free market, consumers pressure companies into having good ethics. If a consumer is not happy, he votes with his wallet. If a lawn company was not placing signs for pesticide applications, customers would become angry, and the company would either have to start putting up more signs or look for new customers.

Government regulation makes business lazy and makes people stop thinking. Without government regulation, people would have to be much more aware of business and legal procedures. Businesses shipping labor overseas, for example, would have to balance the potential cost-savings with the potential anger (and quality issues) experienced by its customers. Standards for cars and vehicles—gas mileage, safety ratings, etc.—would not disappear if the government were to step down from regulating. Customers would have to become more informed. Private rating companies (they already exist!) would be used to inform customers of the dangers and benefits of each vehicle. Without aiming for the lowest common denominator—government’s gas standards—companies’ brains would start working on their own, innovating to create even more industrious cars. And to take a shot at the Chevy Volt, without government subsidies, this inefficient vehicle would never have left the drawing room. What customer, in a free market, would want a vehicle that is not cost effective, even factoring in gas savings?

Remember when you were a kid, and you did your chores just well enough that your parents wouldn’t make you redo them? Think about things you actually enjoyed doing. Didn’t you do them with much more ardor and investment than something you were forced to do? Probably didn’t even seem like work, did it? It’s how humans operate. When we’re told to do something, we figure out the minimum standards and make sure we tick all the boxes. When we do something we’re passionate about, we’re much more innovative.

This country was not founded on government regulations. It was founded on the belief that individuals are competent enough to make smart decisions. At some point along the way, we’ve “checked out,” as Dagny notes, turning over our brains to government bureaucrats. I say, it’s time we start thinking for ourselves and shrink bureaucracy back to the molecular size it ought to be.

VAL MULLER is a fiction writer and teacher living in Virginia.  Her mystery series, Corgi Capers, is available with DWB Publishing. You can keep track of her at www.valmuller.com

Government Corruption File #1 : The WARN Act

Here we have a prime example of the federal government ignoring its own rules when politically convenient for a government incumbent running for re-election.

A few facts:

1. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act was passed in 1988 by a Democratic-controlled Congress. President Reagan did not sign the bill, but it became law because it was passed by a veto-proof majority of Congress (during an election year of course!).

2. The Congress passed, and President Obama signed a law stating that if debt commission recommendations did not receive a vote in Congress, there would be drastic cuts to government spending that would take effect January 1, 2013. In federal budget speak, this is known as sequestration.

3. The WARN Act covers employers having 100 or more employees.  Employers must give at least 60 days advance notice or they may face lawsuits from employees for back pay.

4. January 1, 2013 – 60 days = November 2, 2012.

5. November 2, 2012 is 4 days before Election Day (Nov 6).

6. Contractors providing goods or services to the government would potentially be required to mail out thousands of layoff warning notices to employees, particularly in the battleground state of Virginia, which has many federal contractors. Does anyone see a problem?

7. The Administration, via the Department of Labor, issued letters to federal contractors in July encouraging federal contractors not to comply with the law.  They wrote in typical government-speak: “it is neither necessary nor appropriate for Federal contractors to provide WARN Act notice to employees 60 days in advance of the potential sequestration because of uncertainty about whether sequestration will occur…”

Translation: Despite the fact that the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate have no plan to reverse the pending budget cuts, you, Business Owner, should not comply with the law.

8. Fearing lawsuits, federal contractors announced that they would continue with plans to send out the WARN Act notices.

9. In September, the government again encouraged businesses not to comply with the law and not to send out the WARN Act notices.This time the notice came from higher up in the Administration’s food chain: The Executive Office of the President/Office of Management and Budget.

In a memo dated September 28, the Administration promises federal contractors that they may be reimbursed the cost of any potential lawsuits but only if they followed the Department of Labor guidance. So there you have it. The Administration–standing for re-election–is promising YOUR tax dollars to companies in exchange for not complying with federal law so that the President’s campaign can score political points (or avoid the consequences of its own decisions).

Of course government’s solution would be to pass a new law (after the election of course) with even stiffer penalties for greedy businesses who “don’t follow the rules.”  Never mind that the government takes no responsibility for its own actions.

This is the kind of corrupt government meddling with the private economy that leads to losses of freedom for everyone. The government instructs businesses to ignore a law so that the consequences of that law are avoided at a politically convenient moment. This is why crony capitalism has earned the name “crapitalism”. It stinks!

Atlas Shrugged II Premieres Friday 10/12

Whether you believe Atlas Shrugged is hyperbolic, cautionary, or even prophetic, it’s an important story to read to remind us of the freedom America offers—and to remind us how quickly that freedom can be taken.

Since Ayn Rand is not the most concise author, we’re fortunate that the book is being made into a film. Part One of the trilogy was released on tax day last year, and Part Two will be released on Friday.

To understand the genius of Rand’s work, it’s important to understand a bit about her life. Born in Russia in 1905, Ayn Rand was subjected to the culture of collectivism in Russia. Almost immediately after teaching herself to read, Rand discovered European fiction, which introduced her to the idea of the hero—the individual—something lacking in Russian culture. She saw two revolutions, and a resulting Communist victory forced her father’s pharmacy to be confiscated, causing her family to nearly starve to death. It wasn’t until her last year of high school that she was introduced to American history. The principles she learned led her to hold America as the paragon of freedom.

She continued her studies through college in Russia, but communists continued to take away students’ rights to freedom of thought. Rand took solace in Western films, once again holding Western culture as the paragon of free men. In 1926, she arrived in New York after telling Soviet authorities she planned only a short visit to America to visit family. Her intention was never to return, and indeed she remained in the United States for the rest of her life.

She moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, meeting Cecil B. DeMille and Frank O’Connor, her future husband and Hollywood actor, during her first two weeks there. She continued her writing career, creating characters and stories that illustrate the potential of the ideal man. Atlas Shrugged pits the government collective against individual businessmen.

Here is a synopsis from the producers—hope to “see” you at the show!

In Atlas Shrugged II, the global economy is on the brink of collapse. Unemployment has risen to 24%. Gas is now $42 per gallon. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear at the hands of the unknown.

Dagny Taggart, Vice President in Charge of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered what may very well be the answer to a mounting energy crisis – found abandoned amongst the ruins of a once productive factory, a revolutionary motor that could seemingly power the World.But, the motor is dead… there is no one left to decipher its secret… and, someone is watching.

But, the motor is dead… there is no one left to decipher its secret… and, someone is watching.

It’s a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good.

Who is John Galt?