Though Michael Milken turned finance on its head on the way to securing capital for previously overlooked companies (think CNN and MCI among many others), he was in prison for the “violation” of laws that were undefined, and that previously no courts had ever pursued. Milken’s true “offense”, one that the blue chip investment banks wouldn’t dare admit, was that he’d cleaned their clocks. While in prison, it’s notable that Milken was the recipient of countless copies of Atlas Shrugged; copies sent by Rand devotees who well knew his only offense was success.
And then later in the ‘90s, Bill Gates of Microsoft found his company under attack from the U.S. Justice Department; Gates’s mistake one of “antitrust” for having given consumers some of what they wanted for free. Gates’s actions violated what regulators deemed fair, and right out of the pages of Atlas Shrugged and Rearden, Gates lacked “a man in Washington” to do his bidding.
Microsoft soon learned its lesson, and now it’s got a major Washington operation, including lobbyists seeking to do to Microsoft’s competitors what competitors used to do to Microsoft. Needless to say, Gates wasted years defending his company, and when the DOJ ruled against it, I sent Gates a copy of Atlas Shrugged. Full of Randian vigor throughout this period, I would regularly ask why the “vital few” in society would put up with barriers placed in the way of their economy-enhancing achievement by the ankle-biters of the political and regulatory class. Why not just disappear, and let society’s takers and wealth gap worriers figure out just how brutal life would be absent the genius of the talented?
Maybe I’m just another hopeless liberal dreamer, but I’d like to think that at times like this, when the breaks are beating the boys, that everyone on the left — Obots and Firebaggers, principled progressives and Manichean monsters, hapless deniers and clear-eyed Sullivanites — can join hands and laugh at poorly written glibertarian nonsense.