Has ‘The Strike’ already started?

One of the first things you notice when you go looking for “mainstream” reviews of the film “Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?” is how few there are.

Needless to say, most of the mouth-flappers of our mainstream media — being diehard fans of (and apologists for) our current, all-corrupting, welfare-warfare-taxation state — hate Rand, Objectivism, Libertarianism, the Free Market, and anything else in the top corner of your handy Nolan Chart. They hate these things with a passion which can belong only to those who can’t actually disprove any of the free marketers’ dystopian predictions for their failed regulatory police state, which are systematically coming true before our eyes. (“It failed in Russia! It failed in Cuba and Cambodia! And it’s soon to fail again, in a national capital near you!”)

In fact, it would appear the hope that “John Galt” might sink like a stone without trace actually outweighed the modest personal gratification these critics might have gotten by individually shredding its low-budget lack of slam-bang action and its “mean-spirited” theme.

One of them, however, did break ranks and weigh in last week with a very curious criticism of a scene that occurs near the beginning of the film, as Dagny Taggart suffers a sprained ankle after literally crashing her way into Galt’s Gulch.

The Dagny character (Laura Regan, in this outing) is examined by a physician, using a hand-held scanning device of his own invention that appears to operate like a miniature fluoroscope. The physician is played by a fine character actor named Steven Tobolowsky. Dagny recognizes him as someone who had been a famous neurosurgeon “on the outside.” He smilingly says he now practices “a different kind of medicine” here.

(You may have noticed I’ve avoided Tobolowsky’s character name. That’s because he’s actually playing a character named by Rand’s book Dr. Thomas Hendricks, a brain surgeon who gave it all up to join the strike, though the film’s official credits all seem to list him as playing Dr. Hugh Akston, who was in fact a Ph.D. of Philosophy, not a physician. Beats me . . . though they did reportedly film this thing in 18 days.)

Anyway, the Tobolowsky character states “Every physician should have one of these.” Our trusty statist reviewer seems to have interpreted this to mean Tobolowsky’s character was somehow greedily withholding this invention from those in the “outside world” because they wouldn’t pay him enough, just as Galt is withholding his source of cheap electric power. (When all this time we thought it was the Greedy Oil Companies!)

So . . . a millionaire brain surgeon is willing to give up all that wealth and prestige in order to be a GP in a little mountain village -– accepting a vast reduction in standard of living -– but the meaning of this scene is that he’s “too greedy” to share his invention? Might it not be a tad more reasonable to assume the point is that in today’s heavily regulated (in fact, government controlled) medical field, no single individual could hope to win “FDA approval” of such a device in a time period measured in less than decades or for a cost measured in less than millions, even though a single inventor, working in some mountain village, has here managed to get one up and running in only a matter of months, and is obviously willing to employ it without demanding any vast fee?

Look at all the iconic breakthrough firearms invented by John Moses Browning, working at his private workbench in Utah, back before 1920. Today, any single individual seeking to invent and manufacture the Browning Automatic Rifle would be jailed, if he didn’t die in a hail of ATF gunfire in the initial government raid. (What’s that? “All you need is a license”? Write in and apply for one, then, informing the ATF that in keeping with the 2nd and 14th Amendments you plan to sell your new machine gun to any “civilian” who can come up with the cash, just as John Browning did. Let me know how you do.) And it follows as the night from day that the pace of medical innovation in America will also now slow, under the regulation and rationing imposed by ObamaMedicare.

I believe Tobolowsky even tells Dagny “It’s amazing what you can accomplish without red tape.”

If the statists wants to argue devices like the hypothetical Galt’s Gulch scanner shouldn’t be made available until one of several corrupted medical corporations, paying off their FDA regulators by offering them all highly-paid “revolving door” jobs, spends 20 years and millions of dollars on “regulatory approvals,” because “After all, it might have some dangerous unforeseen side effect,” go ahead and make that case.

But Tobolowsky’s character is withholding his invention because he’s “greedy”?

As a matter of fact, as others have pointed out, Ayn Rand now suffers a version of that fate which awaits anyone whose predictions are too good. Point out that some clever science fiction writer (Gernsback? Van Vogt?) predicted cell phones, robots, television, or atomic weapons in the 1920s or ’30s or early ’40s, and Today’s Youth gives you a blank stare. Haven’t we always had that stuff?

When Rand predicted in her 1957 masterpiece that even physicians might someday join her “strike of the productive class” -– millionaire neurosurgeons preferring to accept a much reduced standard of living rather than put up with a government regulatory takeover of the entire field of medicine — critics jeered that this was far-fetched nonsense. But today, a “government takeover of medicine” is so close to being a fait accompli that Rand gets little credit for having shown any great powers of foresight and extrapolation here -– the average younger viewer apparently just dismissing this as “The same right-wing ‘Tea Party’ whining we’ve been hearing for years — these greedy right-wingers just want all the poor people to get sick and die.”

Yeah, and those who wanted to close the wait-in-line-for-hours Communist food dispensaries in Moscow “wanted all the Russians to starve.” So why didn’t any of the Russians starve?

This is not all just “theoretical.” I happen to know a few physicians who are either recently retired or in the process of retiring, years earlier than might otherwise have been expected. Why? They tell me “Medicine is no fun anymore.” Why? For the most part these guys aren’t doctrinaire Objectivists, or Libertarians, or political animals of any stripe. They tend to draw few distinctions between Medicare and private insurers and the new regulatory purveyors of Obamacare. They still enjoy diagnosing and healing. They just noticed that every year they were spending less time and money on practicing medicine, and more on a growing office staff that spends its days on the telephone or on their computer monitors, seeking “permission” from some far-away, anonymous bean-counter (who DOESN’T have a medical degree) before the doctor is allowed to proceed with each (progressively more curtailed) step of testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

These medicos are not writing long-winded political diatribes to their local newspapers. They’re just throwing up their hands, folding their tents, telling the spouse “Honey, we’ve got enough money, this is no fun anymore and it’s getting worse, let’s retire and enjoy life for however many years we’ve got left.”

They may not all be moving to the same mountain valley in Colorado. But they are going on strike. We are losing their services, and the bright kids who should have succeeded them are wisely going into management or Big Pharma.

I believe I can even tell you how it’ll end up. Washington will promise everyone the same quality of medicine, all essentially for free, and that’s what they’ll deliver: Soviet-style medicine, with really long lines and increasing mortality rates (which they’ll fudge to look better), for the “bottom 93 percent” of us.

For the 7 percent who can pay cash? The best quality medical treatment will now be available in sparkling modern clinics operated by the best and the brightest American-trained doctors . . . just not in the U.S.A.

Where was it the leaders of the Soviet Union used to go for their medical treatment? I don’t think it was Leningrad.

6 Comments to “Has ‘The Strike’ already started?”

  1. R. Hartman Says:

    Spot on, as usual.

  2. Leslie Fish Says:

    Being raised in a family of doctors, and keeping up my contacts since, I’ve noticed that a lot of medical innovations are sneaking in through the “back door” — that is, doctors will dare to prescribe (or “recommend”) AMA/FDA unapproved but proven effective treatments (like Niacin for circulatory ailments, or marijuana for a host of things, or cannabidiol for cancerous tumors), but just won’t mention it to the govt. powers that be — or add it to their bill, where it would show up on the official records. Of course, this means that pharmacists have to get their pay directly from the patient, since the insurance isn’t paying for it, but they really will do their damnedest to find the cheapest available brands. Also, marijuana dispensaries are careful not to price-gouge — if only because they know that their patients can always buy seed (it’s legal to buy hemp seed!) and grow their own. And of course “supplements” aren’t recognized by the govt. or the mainstream medical industry at all. Anything as vital as healthcare isn’t going to be regulated beyond people’s reach. It’s like trying to squeeze water in your fist.

    BTW, I did a review of Atlas Shrugged 3 on my blog, above. Enjoy.

  3. MamaLiberty Says:

    Not just doctors, Vin. I retired from official nursing in 2005 because I could no longer reconcile the insane and immoral tangle of government control with anything resembling providing honest care to individuals who needed it. I’ve seen a lot of other health care professionals leave in the meantime, and have actively discouraged people from entering any aspect of “licensed” medicine since then. I’ve studied and begun to practice several kinds of alternative medicine, and only the possibility of jail time prevents me from working to share it with more people. That, and the problem that so many people think there just has to be a magic “pill” or herb they can take which will eliminate any need for them to take actual responsibility for their own health and wellness.

    I tell prospective clients that I have a map, and I have a good idea how to get there… but that they must drive the bus. I can’t get well for them.

  4. Gordon Gartrell Says:

    I saw the film, and Dr. Hendricks was credited as being played by Scott Klace. He was a different actor and a different character than Tobolowsky’s Professor Akston. It is Klace’s character that says the lines about red tape and his medical device. He does look similar to the Akston character, but they were different people.

    Other than that, great column, as usual.

  5. NotChuck Says:

    Good luck with that “enjoy retirement for however many years we have left,” which will be fewer if Ezekiel Emanuel has his way. Rahm’s brother, the architect of Obamacare’s long lines and increasing mortality rates, announced this week that he doesn’t care to live past 75 (and by implication, doesn’t think the rest of us should either). He thinks that consuming resources beyond that age when we become unproductive is unconscionable. Here comes the ramping up of the Death Panels!

  6. Rachel Sonnier Says:

    “They may not all be moving to the same mountain valley in Colorado. But they are going on strike.”

    My doctor has retired and moved to Colorado, as of October 1. He is far too young to be retiring and said much of the same things, almost word for word, such as “retiring to enjoy life”.