April 7, 2010

The Departure from Rhode Island of the John Galts Can be Reversed

Monique Chartier

Under Justin's post "Do You Know This Guy?", BobN points out

Why would anyone have a problem with the [Ayn] Rand signs? They are neither in poor taste nor dishonest.

The condition of Rhode Island's finances, economy, and urban society does resemble the one described in Atlas Shrugged in a number of disturbing ways.

Indeed. As does the end result: the "strike" or departure of the John Galts. The only difference is that the John Galts - using the term in a larger sense to include both corporations and individuals - of Rhode Island have been leaving the state over the last two decades, not all at one moment. So they're departure is less stark.

That they have been leaving, however, is plainly demonstrated by the poor economic condition of the state on every level: the chronic scarcity of good jobs; an economy always worse than that of most other states; the extent of our tax burden (more payers would mean lower taxes); the size of the state budget deficit.

As in the novel, the decision by the John Galts to leave Rhode Island was not arbitrary but in response to certain repulsing conditions. The good news, however, is that, in real life, these conditions can be ameliorated with the legislative flip of a switch: the tax and regulatory burdens unique to Rhode Island can be eased and the John Galts encouraged to return.

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"The good news, however, is that, in real life, these conditions can be ameliorated with the legislative flip of a switch"

Ah...the Sisyphus fantasy.

Posted by: John at April 7, 2010 5:02 PM

Speaking of going Galt... I just got a new job down South and will soon be leaving this over-regulated, over-taxed, corrupt, unionized hell-hole of a welfare state.

Please consider signing up for the Free State Project or otherwise simply leaving Rhode Island. This battle became unwinnable a long time ago. LET IT BURN. I sincerely hope that that the rest of you make it out before the ship sinks to the bottom of the economic ocean.

Posted by: Dan at April 7, 2010 6:58 PM

On one of my occasional forays to see what's going on back there I came upon this thread. All I have to say is: "Welcome South Dan!"

I left shortly before Labor Day. While also experiencing the national recession, here it feels like a temporary situation, rather than the sense in RI that the national recession merely accelerated the long-term economic decline that was occurring before, and will continue after the national recession subsides. In other words, it feels temporary here, rather than the sense of permanent decline / the wheels are coming off the trolley feeling that one experiences in RI. Too bad it's self-inflicted.

The General Assembly has to power to turn things around. And RI has great potential, and could be highly prosperous, if the right steps were taken. But I was no longer willing to stake my economic future upon waiting for the major restructuring that RI so desperately needs -- for it's going to be a long time coming, if at all.

The reason is, unfortunately, the Democrats in RI are like the farm team of the Chicago Democrat / Obama major league of corrupt politics, thug politics and stealth-Marxist economic policy.

The General Assembly could turn things around, but up until now has shown zero interest in doing so. Its peeing through the tobacco money in recent years, and last year's 13% increase in the state budget demonstrates how hopeless the GA is, and so how hopeless is RI's future prospects.

Everyone is different and so I can't say this would be universal for everyone, but so far my wife and I agree that our only regret is that we didn't get out years ago.

FWIW, of the several other RI'ers I know who've left, only one has gone back, and that is the only one that I know of who's expressed any interest in returning -- so he's an outlier.

Posted by: Tom W at April 7, 2010 9:49 PM

I, too, landed a new job in a southern state and bailed out of RI. The low tax burden was like getting a 10% raise, the schools are top notch and the weather rocks. I can't get a good loaf of Italian bread, but I now have a few dollars left over at the end of the month to go out to eat with the family.

It's a whole different world outside of RI. I would encourage folks to take a look around once in a while.

Posted by: oz at April 7, 2010 9:58 PM

Enjoy the south, Dan!
I have a friend who visits factories all over the country - steel fab, etc.
He recently visited a plant in SC and told me the conditions were horrid - unsafe and that many employees were missing fingers and parts of fingers.

I guess you get what you pay for.
Hey, John Galt has some opening in coal mines down south in WV. They save a LOT of money on their safety equipment and get fined hundreds of times. If it kills you - heck, they are insured.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Given your attitude, the state is better off if you join your confederate brothers down there in 12% unemployment, poverty stricken S. Carolina!

As to John Galt - you really don't see the irony in looking UP to made-up characters? How about Santa Claus, will he save us? Does he really go down all those chimneys?

You folks give ideologues a bad name - heck, at least most of them try to use real human beings and stories as their ideals.

I'm still laughing.....

Posted by: Stuart at April 7, 2010 10:06 PM

I was going to disagree with you, Stuart, but you know what? You're right. Most of the people left in this state will be better off without me, since most of them are now public union employees, welfare dependents, corrupt politicians, or no-bid inside contractors. I am a threat to their giant ponzi scheme and I certainly want no part of it.

I will therefore leave you and all the other Rhode Island progressives with the cruelest curse imaginable:
May you get what you want.

Posted by: Dan at April 7, 2010 11:03 PM

Who is John Galt?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 8, 2010 12:41 AM

I think he's a character in an Ayn Rand novel.
Stuart derides fiction as a source of socio-political philosophy,but some people express themselves better in that medium.An idea is just that-whether presented in a screed or a story.
Stuart displays a smug attitude which I think has already palled on most of us.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 8, 2010 5:26 AM

There are plenty of "John Galts" around. They are busy making things, providing services and making their own lives full and productive. We have a finite amount of time to enjoy this existance. A never ending search for a place that conforms to our idea of fairness is futile. Learning to facilitate change, make progress and live and prosper within the confines of the law is the true challenge.

Seed the grass roots. Run for office or support somebody whose values you can believe in. Write, or speak about your views. Stay productive, not for society's sake, rather for your own selfish interests. The rest will work itself out. Or not, but you will have done your best, and before you know it, you will be gone and it will be somebody else's fight.

Or, be like Dan, and run away.

Posted by: michael at April 8, 2010 7:43 AM


Thanks for the help, but I knew "Who is John Galt?" is the opening line to Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrygged".

Sturt fails to understand that to change other peoples minds it is sometimes necessary to make them take a new look at the "facts" they know. Substituting "new facts" is sometimes effective, but you have to back them up.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 8, 2010 8:37 AM

Michael let me give you a hypothetical scenario:

You visit a restaurant. They make you wait before seating you, even though you can see seats available. The waiter is rude to you, service is lousy. The food isn't very good. The floor is sticky. The bill comes, and there are a number of expensive hidden charges added to it. The manager refuses to remove the charges and threatens to call the cops if you don't pay it, so you pay and leave.

Is your rational course of action then to:

A. Go to another restaurant with better service next time ("run away")

B. Join the wait staff of the restaurant at the bottom level, work your way up through the ranks over the next 15 years from busboy, to waiter, to shift manager, to manager, compromising all of your ideals and holding your tongue along the way so as not to get fired, then when you finally reach the top, try to make internal changes to the restaurant to improve it and turn it around.

Posted by: Dan at April 8, 2010 9:07 AM

>>"Seed the grass roots. Run for office or support somebody whose values you can believe in. Write, or speak about your views. Stay productive, not for society's sake, rather for your own selfish interests. The rest will work itself out. Or not, but you will have done your best, and before you know it, you will be gone and it will be somebody else's fight."

I suspect that Dan, like most of us, don't live in district from which we have any influence, i.e., the districts of Murphy, Paiva-Weed. The rest of the Democrats are just sheeple awaiting orders from "da bosses when dey come outta da backroom wid a decizion."

Meanwhile the RIGOP is neutered by the de facto Democrats within its ranks, the "go along to get along" brigade that buys "labor piece" (for their own political campaigns) with our taxpayer money (e.g., Scott Avedesian).

So while the call to "get involved" has theoretical merit, it would be folly to ignore the brain-dead reflexive Democrat voting of RI's electorate, and the systemic corruption throughout that political party, and its decades-long takeover by the special interests (tax-feeder public sector unions and poverty industry).

Dan has a choice. Go below decks and help man the bilge pumps on the RItanic, or hop a seat on one of the lifeboats heading for southern shores.

If one cannot practically leave RI, then by all means fight, for someday it might turn-around (presumably its going to take multiple municipal bankruptcies and pension defaults to force change, as the General Assembly certainly won't be proactive). The fiscal collapse now appears inevitable, so there is some hope for change for the better on the other side.

But for those who have a chance for a better life now and for decades to come, who can blame them for doing so? Spiritually they are like domestic immigrants, leaving the stifling old country RI) and heading for Ellis Island in search of individual opportunity and a better life (available in several other states).

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at April 8, 2010 9:38 AM

Instead of a made-up Galt, you folks should be studying the Emperors New Clothes (bush, palin and all) and teh Boy Who Cried Wolf (just about every tea party member and republican).

Maybe what you mean to say is that RI wants a Warren Buffet? Why not use actual people? Oh, I think I know - he is a democrat and has progressive views!

Well, instead let's use a REAL life John Galt who you might approve of - a Republican!

His name is Don Blankenship, and he owns that non-union unsafe mine in WV where all those people now lie dead. A true modern day robber baron, who pushes him power and influence around in order to allow him to operate with impunity.

Google him and read up - maybe John Galts like him can come to RI and put you folks to work in the new LNG facility - non-union, of course, which means in his case 60-80 hour weeks, dangerous working conditions, etc.

Well, I have to say RI is probably so spoiled that you would not take him up on his offer. It might spoil the views.

Posted by: Stuart at April 8, 2010 11:43 AM

Stuiart-not only "robber barons" play with the lives of employees.
Your Federal government is pretty good at it.When I was stationed in Chicago,the INS had us raiding all kinds of hazardous industrial sites-it was unsettling(at least)to go into a place where everyone had protective gear except us-also places where we didn't have any advance warning of the hazards and get into foot chases through who knew what just to grab some illegal alien-going into places like slaughterhouses and pickling plants and have to question and arrest people holding boning knives and the government being too f***in cheap to provide body armor.You had to get it on your own.You have no idea smartass Stuie.
Forget pathogen exposure.It took a young agent named Tommy Kwok Chin dying from pathogen exposure on a Chinese smuggling vessel for the turds in charge to FINALLY give us hepatitis shots,TB testing,and sophisticated protective gear.
Handling contagious people was routine,and not being so afraid for myself,it always worried me to go home to my family with the potential of dangerous contagion on me.
But you worship government,so I expect you'll have one of your clever quips available.I don't think you'd have liked doing my job.
And I KNOW you'd never be a miner,so don't carry the crying towel vicariously.Let those with true loss tell us the truth.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 8, 2010 1:11 PM


Nice speech you got going there on that soapbox. You should write a book.

I participated in local government meetings to call out the reckless politicians - over 200 times. I ran for office - twice - knocking on 15,000 doors along the way. I worked hard to raise awareness at the grass roots level and got other people fired up and involved. I raised and donated money for good candidates. I'd say that for 6 years I did my part and then some.

Then one day I realized that my efforts resulted in not one thing changing for the better, so I decided to cut my losses, pack my bags and hit the road.

I might be a runaway in your eyes, but my wife and kids think I'm the best. We have no regrets about having fled RI.

You'll probably bail and go to Florida when your municipal pension kicks in, and then you'll begin to understand.


Posted by: oz at April 8, 2010 5:26 PM

I don't like Florida. I do like soapboxes though.

Good analogy, Dan. It just seems like just as much work to move as it does to stay.

Posted by: michael at April 8, 2010 6:13 PM

I have to agree with oz that politics is a losing game...for those whose real desire is to change the system for the better. The politics game is set up for insiders - for those who already own the land, run the political machine, etc.

That being the case, I would say that my conclusion is to either enjoy where you live and basically support the system there - or get up and move somewhere else.

However, don't always assume that "somewhere else" is much better. The good ole boys are there also, and you aren't gonna be the winner there either.

Of course, this illustrates another problem for RI and other similar places. People TAKE from the state, raising their kids in the schools, etc. and then LEAVE to go pay lower taxes after the kids are out of school. That is not a sustainable model. Too much taking and not enough giving.

Posted by: Stuart at April 8, 2010 10:36 PM

>And I KNOW you'd never be a miner,

I certainly don't worship government, but do think that our system has some of the best ideals in the world - if we would just live up to them.

As to WV miners, I am very familiar with them having lived there. All the young people tend to leave the state, since you either have to be a coal miner or a car mechanic - no other work. That makes for a pretty sad society.

I am also an avid reader of history, and have read many a book about the history of coal in this country - fascinating stuff.

Oh, and a lot of my family (the italian side, of course!) were coal miners and are buried in the church yards of coal towns. Hazelton, Latimer, Reading.....the Ferragames, Denardos and more.

No, I will never work in a mine like that....and they shouldn't have had to either. It should have been safer and up to current standards.

Posted by: Stuart at April 8, 2010 10:43 PM

"I don't like Florida."

That's just because you see it as major competition to your new business, Michael ...

Posted by: Monique at April 8, 2010 11:48 PM

RRI writes:
"If one cannot practically leave RI, then by all means fight, for someday it might turn-around (presumably its going to take multiple municipal bankruptcies and pension defaults to force change, as the General Assembly certainly won't be proactive). The fiscal collapse now appears inevitable, so there is some hope for change for the better on the other side."

Can't you just hear the stories after a few municipal bankruptcies? "We worked hard, we did our best, it is just that there were circumstances beyond our control. Vote for us now, we know the problems and we will come back stronger".

As to wheter we should fight or leave, my advice is to only fight the battles you can win. In my opinion, the ProJo is no ally and the other media outles not much better. As to "leaving", that is a statement that wil be heard. Perhaps sooner, perhaps later. If sooner, you may benefit; if later, it will not be your concern.

There does circle in my mind some idea of "Patriotism". I suppose the real questionof our Civil War was wheter a citizens loyalty was to their state, or their country. That question was resolved in favor of the "country".

As to Stuart's diatribe about "robber barons" and coal miners, the issue resolves itself. Coal mining, or any sub surface mining is an inherently dangerous occupation, probably on the level or police or fire fighting. But no where near as dangerous as lumber jacking or commercial fishing, the two most life threatening occupations. It would be nice to believe that union rules and instensive regulatory enforcement would make it safe, but the law of gravity is always against you. Of course, "strip mining" does offer a safer alternative. But, oh those poor trees.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 9, 2010 1:32 AM

Commercial fishing and lumberjacking are definitely two of the most dangerous,but I think building demolition is even worse.
Working on a railroad is also very dangerous.We had to work around train yards frequently in the INS and it doesn't take much to screw up.
I made one bad mistake and narrowly avoided being run over by a "stopped" train while I was searching the underside of a freight car.
It sure made me pay attention.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 9, 2010 1:39 AM

Actually Monique, I have an irrational fear of alligators.

Posted by: michael at April 9, 2010 3:27 AM

>It would be nice to believe that union rules and instensive regulatory enforcement would make it safe......

"In 2006 through 2009 union mines accounted for 10, 6, 10 and 5 percent, respectively, of all coal mine deaths, but over that period unions represented 15 to 22 percent of coal miners. For those years unionized miners appear to have been one-fourth to one-half as likely to be killed in mine incidents as non-union"

Well, Faust, you must not do too much reading of history, as safety in factories and mines was one of the beneficial outcomes of the big Union Movements.
Given the choice, I suspect you or I would choose 1/2 to 1/4 the chance of dying...along with the better working conditions and higher wages....

Or would you not?

Posted by: Stuart at April 9, 2010 7:32 PM

" I have an irrational fear of alligators."

That's not irrational! (Although they do make very nice bags ...)

Posted by: Monique at April 9, 2010 8:55 PM