Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

Thoughts on Evolution and Republican Candidates

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

By all conventional standards of the time, William Jennings Bryant was a liberal.  He ran for president three times as a Democrat. He opposed the gold standard for limiting credit to farms in his famous and spell binding “Cross of Gold” speech. He was a populist who railed eloquently against oil companies and railroads. However, most people remember Bryant as the ardent and literalistic fundamentalist Christian who argued against the teaching of evolution in public schools in the famous Scopes Monkey trial.

How can we square Bryant’s liberalism with a position that many now associate with Republicans? The issue lies with the unfortunate extension of the meaning of the theory of evolution far beyond its legitimate scope. Some people perverted evolution into Social Darwinism, the notion that if some people do poorly in the economy is because they are not a socially fit as the successful. If the rich are more successful, it is consistent with the “scientific” notion of survival of the fittest. Ever the defender of the downtrodden, Bryant unfortunately conflated his Christian concern for the poor, with the necessity to dispute what he viewed as an anti-working-class ideology. At its heart, Bryant was not really making a scientific argument, but a moral one.

The problem for Bryant was he tried to unnecessarily take sides in a science vs. religion dispute. For many there really is no such conflict. Whenever there is an apparent conflict between science and the Bible, the problem is less likely to be science or the Bible, but rather Biblical interpretation or the inappropriate application of science.

It is the thesis here that for many Americans that disputes about evolution represent an unnecessary defense against people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who who argue that science precludes serious religiosity. It is my suspicion that political figures sympathetic to Intelligent Design is less the result of thorough grappling with the scientific issues, an more a defensive reaction to what I call “evangelical atheists.”

It would be preferable to have Republican presidential candidates with more thoughtful positions on evolution. However, I prefer their faulty Biblical interpretation (from my perspective) to the Constitutional jurisprudence of Democrats who believe that the commerce clause of the Constitution that can extend to grant Congress virtually unlimited powers.

It’s Not the Stimulus It’s the Regulation

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Marco economics is an observational science. It is difficult to construct controlled experiments. There always seems to be enough differences from situation to situation to introduce doubt. Nonetheless, sometimes unfair, or at least unsupported, conclusions can enter the conventional wisdom. The concept of a Keynesian stimulus may suffer this fate.

The Keynesian approach suggests that during a recession the government can stimulate the economy via spending to replace economic demand from private markets. An alternative approach championed by Milton Friedman suggests that monetary policy is more important than fiscal policy.

Democrats have traditionally favored a Keynesian approach, in no small part because it provides an additional excuse for the government to initiate spending programs to address Democratic priorities.

When President Barack Obama came into office, it was natural for the progressive to institute a massive, nearly trillion-dollar stimulus. So confident were Democrats in the efficacy of the stimulus that they promised that unemployment would not exceed 8%. We were warned that if no stimulus were instituted, unemployment would reach 9%. We now know that following the stimulus, unemployment blasted past 10%. Moreover, growth remains anemic and unemployment two-and-half years after the stimulus still exceeds 9%. More disappointing is that the officialunemployment value would be far higher if so many people had not given up hope of finding a job. The lack of growth and employment has reduced revenues exacerbating the deficit.

It is rhetorically convenient to declare in the face of these facts that Keynesism is dead, believe by only those immune to the evidence. I lend far more weight to the Friedman approach and would love to offer our current situation as definitive proof.

However, let me offer a slightly heretical view. While the current situation lends no support to the Keynesian idea of stimulus, the regulatory anchor on growth makes it impossible to tell whether the stimulus has indeed failed. Perhaps It is economic uncertainty that is restraining the economy irrespective of the stimulus.

Companies are uncertain because of a massive influx of regulations. Obamacare has passed, and mountains of rules based on the legislation are still being written. Companies, particularly small ones, are reluctant to hire uncertain of what Obamacare would require of them. The Dodd-Frank bill to regulate financial markets has introduced new banking regulations. Until these are finalized and better understood, there will be a backward tug restraining lending. This is not to mention the new regulatory aggressiveness of the the EPA anxious to implement policies bureaucratically that could never be passed legislatively. The EPA has more regulatory actions pending that the Department of Human Services which is responsible for implementing Obamacare.

Imagine the metaphor of the stimulus package being a foot on the accelerator of the economic car, with a chain of regulations strapped to the bumper. The stimulus accelerator may or may not work, but the regulatory chains make it impossible to diagnose whether the accelerator is functioning properly. The Keynesian approach may deserve death, but the current situation cannot be said to have inflicted the true final blow.

Liberal Bias in the Media: A Study

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Recently and justifiably, Jonah Goldberg of National Review suffered barely controllable exasperation at the most recent example of the liberal bias in the main stream media. The proximate cause of Goldberg’s pique was the media acquiesce and perhaps complicity in the extreme language used against Tea Party members who used their political power to block an increase in the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts. These politicians where referred to as “Hezbollah faction,’’ “terrorists,’’ and “traitors’’ by liberal politicians and political pundits. These, in some cases, are the same people are the same who argued that the rhetoric employed in criticism of Obama is too extreme.

Liberal bias is hard to continue to muster anger about. It is an unfortunate calamity of nature, like high humidity in a Washington summer. It may be unhealthy and uncomfortable, but it seems as useless to complain about liberal bias as it is to shake a fist an an approaching high pressure system.

Nonetheless, it does bring to mind a sever year-old empirical study on liberal bias. We all feel we know bias when we see it, but it is hard to separate this assessment from personal biases. Tim Groseclose, professor of political science, published a clever technique to quantify such bias in the Quarterly Journal of Economics The study used the ranking of voting records by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action to determine which legislators are the most and least liberal. The study then correlated these rankings with the number of times these legislators cited various think tanks and policy groups in their writing and speaking. To rank the liberal or conservative bias of news organizations, they determined the extent to which the citation patterns of different news organizations mimiced those of liberal or conservative legislators.

The final ranking was represented by a scored form 0 to 100, from least to most liberal. The political scores of legislators and think tanks were consistent with common wisdom.. The Heritage Foundation ranked 20, while the Children’ s Defense Fund scored an 80. There were a couple of surprises. The American Civil Liberties Union ranked a relatively moderate 49.8 and the National Rifle Association earned a 45.9. Representative Maxine Walters from California scored a very liberal 99.6, complemented by the very conservative Tom Delay (4.7) from Texas. Pretty much in the exact center was former Senator Arelin Spector (51.3) when he was Republican.

The study showed that the most liberal news organization study was the New York Times with a score of 73.7 (23.7 from an unbiased score). Most news sources scored distinctly liberal scores above 60. Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume ranked 39.7. The Washington Times score of 35.4, was still closer from an unbiased score than the New York Times. The most centrist news organization from this measure from the Newshour with Jim Lehrer with a score of 55.8.

Studies like this are interesting, but are not dispositive to those who religiously cling to the view that the main stream media are not titled toward the left. There are probably other metrics that one could devise that would demonstrated similar results. The value of studies such as these is that it gives news organizations a chance for introspection. Perhaps the New York Times could examine if they are ignoring conservative think tanks and policy institutions. The Washington Times could see if is are too insular. It is a shame that news organizations will find in necessary to attack such studies, rather than use them as a chance for self improvement.

Bytes of the Apple

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

There are some US companies that are doing extremely well. In 2002, Apple’s market capitalization was a couple of billion dollars. Now a couple of billion dollars is a round off error in its over $300B market capitalization. In the consumer market, Apple has such cachet that it can ask for an receive a premium for the Apple logo. Bloomberg predicts that Apple revenue may grow by 50% next year.

On the other hand, most companies are not doing as well. As unemployment hovers at about 9%, the typical response is to erect barriers to keep jobs in the US. That was certainly the motivation of the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 that exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression by curtailing international trade with high tariffs.

Since that experience it has been conventional economic wisdom that free trade increases the wealth of both trading partners. Nonetheless, there is concern about how many jobs are being out-sourced overseas. A recent study published in the International Journal of Commerce and Economics by Linden et al.
carefully traced the jobs and their valued added for Apple’s Ipod.

The study found that the production of the Ipod yielded nearly twice as many jobs overseas as in the US. However, the bulk of the value-added and consequently the wages went to Americans. Moreover, the bulk of the salaries in the US went to engineers and managers. This does not count the value to US investors and to US consumers.

In other words, the jobs that went overseas where largely low-skilled manufacturing jobs that could not support an American worker salary. Moreover, many of these low-skilled jobs will soon be automated. The out sourcing of jobs to low-wage countries is typically the step right before automation.

As production becomes more efficient, fewer more highly skilled workers are used. It takes far fewer workers to produce a car than it used to. Indeed, since 1950 manufacturing production has accounted for a nearly constant 15% of the gross domestic product, while the number of workers in manufacturing has decreased by half from over 30% to less than 15%.

The problem is not out sourcing of jobs to other countries, the problem is that we do not have enough companies like Apple who make high quality products with Americans adding the highest value to the products.

It would be impossible to legislate more companies like Apple, but it would be foolish and all too easy to create trade barriers that would hobble such companies.

Judge’s Lesson

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The observation that slavery was the original sin of the United States is hardly novel. The US was born with the moral scar of this sin. The 600,000 dead in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s largely exculpated the US though there are undoubtedly remnants of the debt that have not yet been repaid.

One important lesson that some who suffered under slavery generously taught the rest of the country is the inherent value of freedom, a moral value ranking higher than comfort or safety. One poignant example was offered by Ona Judge.

Ona Judge was a slave in the household of George Washington. Measured by the standard of other slaves of the time, Judge’s physical situation could have been far worse. She lived in relative comfort at mansion at Mount Vernon tending to the needs of Martha Washington. She was so important to the Washingtons that she was one of the seven slaves they took with them to Philadelphia while Washington served as president.

Fearing that her opportunity for freedom would would be lost once her masters returned to Mount Vernon, she escaped and ultimate married John Staines, a free black sailor. The Washingtons, particular Martha were distraught at the loss. They viewed themselves as kind and just masters and could not fathom why she would run off. They were convinced that she must have been lured from her position by free blacks or abolitionists.

The Washingtons unsuccessfully tried to retrieve her. When the young Elizabeth Langdon, an acquaintance of the Washingtons, ran into Judge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Langdon queried Judge. Langdon could not understand why Judge had run away “…from such and excellent place? You had a room to yourself and only light nice work to do and every indulgence.’’

Judge acknowledged her situation with the Washingtons, but still desperately clung her freedom. “Yes, I know, but I want to be free, misses; wanted to learn to read and write.’’ [1] Judge lived out here life in freedom, but still liable to be enslaved if successfully returned to Virginia.

What Judge intuitively understood and teaches us is that freedom is more important than comfort. Although our current situation does not compare to the overwhelming evil of slavery, as the government grows larger and more intrusive, we are offered the bargain a little more safety and comfort for a little less freedom. Even if that were really the tradeoff, Judge reminds us that the safest choice is not always the most noble.

[1] Chernow, Ron, Washington: A Life, Penguin Press, 2010.

The Quiet Death of the War Powers Act

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

When the War Powers Act was passed in 1973, the country ached from the pain of the Vietnam War, an experience no one wanted to repeat. The conventional wisdom was the Vietnam catastrophe was caused by too much executive war-making discretion. Hence, Congress tried to limit the time the president could deploy troops without explicit Congressional authorization, constraining executive authority.

The Constitution is vague about separation of authority with respect to the use of military force. Congress is entrusted with the power to declare war, but the President is the commander and chief. The courts have been reluctant to intervene in this battle of separation of powers, leaving Congress and the President to contend in the political sphere.

Typically, Republicans incline to according more discretion to the executive, whereas Democrats tilt toward Congressional supremacy. Ironically, Republicans have observed the War Power constraints, even while arguing that the President is not required to. President George W. Bush sought and received Congressional authorization for the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The authorization provided political cover in the conflicts. If Bush had pursued those wars without Congressional approval, the country would have been even more divided than it was.

By contrast, Democratic presidents has asserted Presidential authority to act without Congressional approval, seeking instead international sanction. President Bill Clinton did not receive approval for his actions in Bosnia and Haiti. President Barack Obama has further eroded the War Powers Act, by not even making motions to comply with its limitations in the War Power in actions against Libya. International approbation rather than Congressional authorization legitimized the intervention in the eyes of the President. This is particularly surprising given that Obama opined during the 2008 campaign that:“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.’’

While Vice President Joe Biden was so convinced that a President does not have the authority to act unilaterally without Congressional authority that, when a senator, he boasted that would move to impeach Bush in the event Bush ordered and attack Iran.

“I want to make clear and submit to the Untied States Senate pointing out the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran. And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the foreign relations committee and former chair of the judiciary committee, I will move to impeach him.’’

I am sure that Biden meant that he would encourage the House to impeach since the Senate does not so.

The sorry situation is that Republicans will not bring the Libyan action to a vote for fear of looking like that they are not supporting the troops and most Democrats don’t want to impede a president of their party.

The War Powers Act has been dying almost since the moment of its passage, and perhaps is should. It has been honored more by Republicans than Democrats. However, it would have been more poetic if a Congressional-Executive conflict on war powers would have been effectively settled on something more relevant to direct US interests than Libya.

From Chickens to Rabbits

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

The radical momentum of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal perhaps crested with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States. Large elements of the the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 were ruled unconstitutional. The Court found that the extensive regulatory structure of the act gave too much discretion the the Executive Branch violating the separation of powers. Agents of the Executive branch were making rules that should have been enacted by Congress. Further, some regulations actually exceed even Congressional federal authority with regard to the interstate commerce clause. Justice Louise Brandeis is reputed to have commented that “This is the end of this business of centralization…. we’re not going to let this government centralize everything.’’ Roosevelt was so furious he unsuccessfully attempted to stack the Supreme Court with additional Justices more inclined to rule in his favor.

What is interesting about the Schechter case that Schechter was not an large cooperation but a small, family-based Kosher wholesale poultry provider run by Jewish immigrants who did not speak English well and certainly did not understand the subtleties of the National Recovery Act. They were upset that their religious devotion was implicitly in question by the charges that they sold unhealthy chickens. This was a charge the authorities could not prove. A closer examination of the case, suggest that authorities were as much trying to make an example of a small defenseless enterprise as they were protecting public health.

There is small echo of this case in a modern situation where the USDA is fining a Missouri family $90,000 for largely a paperwork deficiency. Over the course of a couple years, the Dollarhite famly of Nixa, Missouri had raised rabbits both to sell as pets and for animal food. When they sold the rabbits to local pet stores they were designated as wholesale breeders. No one claims that rabbits were mistreated. However, they were is technical violation of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act.

When informed of this violation the Dollarhites immediately ceased activities. The enterprise was, after all, something of a hobby. Nonetheless, the Dollarhites have racked up a fine of $90K. There is also evidence that their may be some political motivation in the prosecution and that the family is being singled out to serve as an example to other wholesale breeders.

No one likes a bully and the USDA is shaking the Dollarhite familty down for more than just milk money. Fortunately, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Representative Billy Long are seeking to intervene on behalf of the Dollarhites. Americans should not have to rely on special attention is order to be treated with respect by the Federal government.

Quick Thoughts on Bin Laden Killing

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


Any morally calibrated person felt a sense of justice delievered upon hearing that mass murder Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces. An important measure of justice comes from the realization that Bin Laden was not killed instantly from a cruise missile attack. Rather he must of had time to realize that the Americans had found him and his last sight was of an American SEAL.

I was a little surprised to see the street celebrations in Washington and New York City. At first glance, there was a superficial resemblance to the celebrations in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks. It does not take too much thought to see the difference. Americans were celebrating killing a mass murderer, the radical Islamists were celebrating mass murder of the innocent. Americans were waving their own flags, radical Islamists were burning the American flag. Americans chanted “USA’’ into the evening air, radical Islamists shot AK-47’s into air. I am not personally given to such street demonstrations, but for anyone upset at these rather modest celebrations after the killing Bin Laden — live with it.

Kill or Capture

In old westerns and cop shows there were many times when the criminal had been captured, but has not been shot by the heroic protagonist. It would not be morally right for the “good guy’’ to shoot the “bad guy’’ in cold blood. However, writers sometimes used the convention that the bad guy would start to shoot at the good guy and be killed in self-defense. The plot device maintained more clarity.

Perhaps in keeping with this sort of narrative, early this week spokesmen in the Obama Administration suggested that Bin Laden had gone down fighting Americans. Later he was said to be reaching for a gun. This effort only served to undermine the Administration’s credibility and competence after it had executed the extremely competent mission to get Bin Laden.

The attempts to construct a story missed the point. The mission to get Bin Laden was not a criminal enforcement with the primary goal of apprehension, it was an tactical strike in a war Bin Laden had declared. The goal was to kill the enemy. The only way that Bin Laden would not be shot is if he immediately and conspicuously surrendered. In war, an enemy combatant are typically shot on sight.

Enhanced Interrogation

During in the Bush Administration, arguments about “enhanced interrogation’’ techniques, the claim by some was it doesn’t work. In turns out that one of the threads that began to unravel from the pull of “enhanced interrogation’’ led to information about Bin Laden’s couriers and ultimately to Bin Laden himself. One can argue against enhanced interrogation from a variety of stand points, but one can no longer make the argument that such techniques don’t at times work. This does not make enhanced interrogation legal or moral, but does suggest that there may be a moral dilemma associated with their use. Perhaps the arguments about enhanced interrogation now can be made with more intelligence and less righteous bluster.


The Obama Administration has correctly decided not to release photos of a dead Bin Laden. The photos are surely gruesome and need not be released. Americans should not display vulgar trophies of victory. If there are people who believe Bin Laden is still alive, they would not be convinced by photos which a skeptic could dismiss as easily as other evidence. If there are some people foolish enough to believe Bin Laden is still alive, let them.

Net Neutrality

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

The Internet began under the auspices of the military’s ARPANET and was later augmented as the National Science Foundation sponsored links to educational institutions. For the most of the 1980’s the Internet was a robust network largely closed to everyone not involved in governmental or research activities. Many enjoyed this exclusivity and limited access. There was resistance to opening up the Internet to commercial activity. To many this bow to the market would taint the nobler aspirations of a publicly-developed, open communications shared among particularly educational institutions.

Once the Internet allowed for commercial activity its public adoption exploded, first with the availability of modem connections via telephone lines, dedicated cable lines, and now wireless connections. For a while, there was talk of a social-class based “digital divide’’ that separated the computer/Internet haves and havenots. Almost before people conjure up government programs to address this crisis, the falling costs of computer and Internet connections have largely alleviated this perceived problem. There are still pockets of the world with limited connectivity, but wireless communications may cause these areas to leapfrog the desktop computer Internet connection to almost exclusive wireless cell phone Internet connectivity.

Now that the Internet and Internet applications have become ubiquitous, the newest worry is “net neutrality’’. The concern is that the relatively few very high speed Internet providers will use their positions for unfair competitive advantage. For example, some Internet service providers also provide Internet-based telephone services. It is conceivable that they might prevent or handicap rival companies from using the Internet connection offering an alternative telephone service. Now that one of the major Internet providers, Comcast, owns NBC, the fear is that Comcast might some how give speed or connection preference to NBC content.

The concern is real and possible abuse plausible, but there have been few instances of abuse to point to and it seems premature to begin regulation. Nonetheless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed net neutrality regulations, which were recently rejected by Congress.

Republicans have been largely against compelling net neutrality via regulation in no small measure because they distrust the FCC. Liberal members of the FCC have suggested that they would like to re-institute the “Fairness Doctrine’’ as a means to balance political content radio broadcasting. Conservative view this as unnecessary given the many available communications channels, and as a means of silencing popular Conservative radio talk show host like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. The mistrust caused by these efforts explain part of the reluctance of granting the FCC authority to regulate Internet content.

Concern over Internet service providers exploiting monopoly or near monopoly positions to control content and access need not be the concern of the FCC, but rather the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In general, Internet service providers have an economic interest in allowing broad access to online services. If they begin to use non-competitive practices, the FTC can intervene under its anti-trust authority. In the meantime, the best role for government would be to provide conditions necessary to mitigate monopolies. Such conditions might be the availability of more wireless spectrum to allow more competition with wired services, or making available public rights of way so that additional providers might be able to provide wired access.

Governments too often have embarked on regulation for the benefit of the consumers have succumbed to the temptation of protecting incumbent business. Even Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter saw that regulation of trucking and airline fees were largely hurting consumers and deregulated trucking and airlines. The result has been lower trucking fees and availability of air travel to a broader range of consumer income levels.

Prudence and history suggest that we wait and see how the Internet develops before leaping to regulate it even under the auspices of “network neutrality.’’

Atlas Shrugged: The Book and Movie

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that Atlas Shrugged has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand’s ideas.”— John A. Allison, former CEO of BB&T

The book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was released in 1957. It is part a political polemic, part a mystery novel, and part science fiction. The thesis behind the book is that there are a few, of what Rand would refer to as “prime movers,’’ upon whose backs we have built the world. These are scientists, inventors, and businessmen who produce the the goods and services upon which the world rests. These “Atlases’’ are popularly denigrated and their property confiscated by government action. Rand asks: What would happen if “Atlas shrugged,’’ if these people went on strike and withheld themselves and their work from the world.

Critics did not favorably receive Rand’s book on its release. It was panned as “nearly perfect in its immorality’’ and “shot through with hatred.’’. It was even criticized for its rigid approach by Whittaker Chambers for the Conservative National Review. However, the book reached the New York Times Best Seller List on its introduction, has sold over 7 million copies up to 2010, and has enjoyed enormous popular influence.

When the Modern Library of Random House asked “prominent thinkers’’ to name the best books of the 20th century, Ulysses by James Joyce and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald topped the list. Atlas Shrugged did not make the top 100. However, when readers where asked, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand ranked first and second.

The truth is that solely as a novel Atlas Shrugged is mediocre. It is too long, its polemicism too conspicuous and heavy-handed, and its heroes too noble and its villains either too pathetic or too evil. The ongoing success of the book is not a consequence of literary excellence, but of fact that it taps into the natural appeal to unembarrassed and unapologetic accomplishment.

Economist and columnist Paul Krugman once made fun of the uncanny appeal the book has to 14-year old boys, ignoring the obvious observation that 14-year old boys who read 1200 page novels about political philosophy are more than likely to grow into influential adults. There are other books of Libertarian bent. Frederick Hayak’s Road to Serfdom is more serious Free to Choose by Milton Friedman is more carefully explained. However, Atlas Shrugged captures the heroic romance in capitalism and that explains the book’s appeal.

The movie Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 seems destined to same fate at novel: critical rejection and fervent popularity among those who see it. The day after the opening, at the Rotten Tomatoes site only 5% of professional reviewers liked the movie while 86% percent of actual audiences did. Granted those who saw the movie were a self-selected lot, but so are those who are willing to read a 1200-page novel.

Unfortunately, those unfamiliar with the book are not likely to follow the movie. There are too many characters whose purpose we will not appreciate until the sequels and too many fleeting allusions that may be overlooked by the casual observer. Even though Atlas Shrugged was also written in three parts, there is no natural closure at each part. For those who have read the book, there will be a anxiousness to see part 2, for others there may be only confusion.

Because the movie lifts much of its dialogue from the book it suffers from the same problems. The heroes are too rigid and upright, while the villains not sufficiently sympathetic. It too hard to empathize with heroes that are too perfect and too easy to dismiss villains in whom we cannot even see a little bit of our own failings.

The heroes struggle to keep the world afloat. Yet the heroes — prominent producers — keep disappearing. Although, we will presumably find out why in later novels, we need to see the internal struggle between continuing in the world or leaving it.

Perhaps the best scenes in the movie are when the Dagney Taggart the railroad owner and Henry Reardon, the inventor of Reardon Metal, enjoy the culmination of their work in the completion of the rail line to Colorado despite government opposition. No longer the stoic heroes, we see the joy of accomplishment.

It is hard to to believe that this movie was produced for only $15 million. There is richness and depth in the photography and music scoring difficult to find in movies that cost much more. The aerial shots over Colorado alone are worth the price of admission.

Given the natural constituency of Atlas Shrugged readers and the low cost of production the movie will probably be sufficiently popular to justify the production of Parts 2 and 3. These movies will not be blockbusters but after their theater runs they will ontinue to be played and replayed on NetFlix generating a small but influential group of followers.