“Don’t Blink” a review of the new movie “Atlas Shrugged, Part I”

Today, I attended a pre-release screening of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 in Washington DC.  As many fans of Ayn Rand’s monumental work of the same name, I had approached the release of the film with both excitement and a touch of anxiety.  This is not just some Hollywood film to be liked or not liked–this film is being measured by a virtually impossible standard of living up Miss Rand’s genius.  After some brief comments by the film’s producers and a few other folks, the packed theater went stone silent as the screen came to life.

The first few minutes are spent laying the “background” to the film.  The film opens in September of 2016 in an America falling apart at the seams because of a world oil shortage–causing $34/gal gasoline–and continued government growth and interference.  It is stated that railroads are the only way to get around that can be afforded by anyone other than the rich.  This particular part of the setup was unnecessary since the movie as presented would have been fully believable since Taggart Transcontinental was really only portrayed as a freight train company.  Nevertheless, the setup complete, the movie opens.

I have to say that Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Henry Rearden were truly spot-on actors for casting in these roles.  Both delivered believable and genuine performances.  In fact, every character who appeared on screen was well cast and well acted.  I have seen a number of pre-release criticisms that all of the cast are “only television actors” but I see no justification for criticism.  I was not the slightest bit disappointed by the actor choices–and rather, I thoroughly enjoyed the acting skill demonstrated.

On the side of “how did the actors compare to what I had envisioned when I read the book”, I was only surprised by Matthew Marsden as James Taggart and by Jsu Garcia as Francisco d’Anconia–both because they were a little younger than I had envisioned.  But, my assumptions aside, both men acted well and filled the roles well.

The most memorable visual of the film for me was the running of the John Galt Line’s first train at 250 mph through Colorado–and across a stunningly beautiful Readen Metal suspension bridge.  The cinematography in that portion of the film was superbly done–and caused me to envision what railroads and industry in the United States would actually be like–if not for constant government interference and looters (but I digress…)

The only really jarring part of the film–which I am unsure whether it could have been avoided–is that in several parts, the scenes change so quickly, the viewer has the impression of riding on the very train that was being portrayed, without enough time to see some things clearly as they shoot by the window.  But, as I said, I am unsure if this could have been avoided since there was sooooo much material to cover in such a short span of time. I entitled this review “Don’t Blink” because I am quite serious–do not blink too much during the film, or you will miss something important.

Towards the end of the film, there was a frantic search for the inventor of the motor found in the ruins of the 20th Century Motor company factory–and I say “frantic” not because of the storyline, but because the locations and scenes change and move so quickly–without sufficient explanation.  It was literally a 10 second scene to the effect of, “oh, he’s in…” and suddenly, Dagny and Hank are in the next city, etc.

Another odd treatment for me was the “80’s style computer text typing on the screen” every time someone went “MISSING:”  It was a little tabloid-TV-missing-girl-on-the-milk-carton for me–though not a major drawback, just a “huh?” kind of thing.

As much as I was worried about how faithful the movie would be to Ayn Rand’s meaning and intent with the story–I am no longer worried.  Despite the liberties taken to set the film into the not-distant future, I do not believe that Miss Rand’s meaning was watered down in any way.  I can say with confidence that I do not worry that the film will give the wrong impression of the philosophy behind it.  It is certainly a mere surface scratch on something far larger–but a pretty well placed and executed introduction.

The musical score was good–but did not stand out as much as I might have expected.  After all the descriptions of Richard Halley in the book, I miss that aspect of the book’s storyline–but perhaps more will come in the future parts of the film.  The only place that the music seemed to come towards the foreground was during the run of the John Galt Line train through the river valleys.  The combination of the visual with the music swept the audience along with the train in its triumphant run–but as someone else said, “when the train stopped, so did the scene.”

Some might ask, “Was this a ‘great’ film?” and I am unsure how to answer–so I shall break it down:

* Was the film entertaining and enjoyable?  Certainly!
* Was the casting well chosen?  Definitely!
* Did I believe the characters?  Yes!
* Was the cinematography well done?  Yes!
* Was the music good?  The music was good, but it is not a soundtrack that I will be rushing out to buy.
* Was the script faithful to the book?  Yes, I think the story is faithful, even with the 2016 timeline updates.  But perhaps this is what keeps me from declaring the film “great”… I know many elements had to be cut due to time constraints, but the movie was only 106 minutes long– why not go for 140 or so and give more detail?  And the transitions I mentioned earlier were simply jarring/rough in places.

Overall, I was happy to see the film and very much enjoyed watching it.  I will encourage others to see it– both because of the book on which it is based and also because it was simply a well-made film with an interesting story line and good acting.  I am looking forward to the full release on April 15th and even more to the production of Part II, since Part I ends at such an “unfinished” point.

Go and see this film.

by Eriks Goodwin-Pfister on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 9:02pm

This review is fully original work and is copyright 2011 by Eriks Goodwin-Pfister.  Permission to reproduce this review as a whole and without edits is granted, on the condition that the byline and copyright notice remain intact.  Please send me a link to anywhere it is published.  Thank you for respecting my intellectual property rights.  🙂


The Means Justify the Ends

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all….It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

Frederic Bastiat

I think that it is truly sad that there are those who simply do not realize that the “people” do a better job than the “state” in all things other than national defense and law enforcement.  Normally, I would include the courts in that list of things since that is the only other legitimate function of government, but juries *are* the people–and are the arbiters of justice.

Why is it so difficult for so many to realize that while they claim that the ends are worth it, i.e., people having access to universal health care, they can’t even conceive of the evil of the means by which they want to achieve it.  Why is it so difficult to understand that the means justify the ends, not the other way around?  If one’s means are evil or even just a little tainted, so will the ends be, too.

It’s Insurance, not Free Lunch

When people demand that pre-existing conditions be covered by health insurance, they are forgetting that insurance is to cover one’s risks, not one’s certainties. It is not fiscally possible to grant insurance at a price that makes it worthwhile when the insurance company is 100% certain they will have to pay out.

Since insurance companies have to break even (at the very least) in order to stay in business, they would have to charge a premium equal to the entire cost of the pre-existing condition PLUS the cost of administration and accounting related to processing claims for payment. At that point, one is better off just paying out of pocket.

Realistically, the people who demand coverage for pre-existing conditions are people who are scared of the costs of health care for their condition–which makes perfect sense.  The problem is that what they seek as a remedy is a FREE LUNCH instead of an actual solution to the costs of health care.  The only way to pay for pre-existing conditions without making the insured person pay 110% of the cost for treatment is to spread that cost to others–which raises everyone else’s premiums.

This spreading of costs is only possible in large employer groups and only when an employer voluntarily chooses a health insurance company and plan that allows it.  When the market (i.e., private companies) CHOOSE to offer this coverage and are willing to pay the costs, I have no issue.  The problem is that the proposal is to take away the choices available to companies and to prevent insurance companies from running the way they should.

How about we take a serious look at repealing all the “reform” [sic] since 1964 so that costs will come down?

Privitization IS the Answer

The news recently revealed that the United States Postal Service is running massive deficits yet again (translation: their hand is out to Congress).  When the USPS floated the idea of cutting Saturday mail delivery (which may well have been a good idea), the idea was slammed to the ground– but not by anyone managing the Postal service.  It was killed as an idea by Congress since the various elected folk didn’t want to have to answer to their constituents about no more Saturday delivery.  If the USPS was a private company, it’s Board of Directors would simply make decisions based on what made business sense to do.  But, of course that’s not the case here.  The decisions made by the Post Office are governed largely by the whims of Congress– which have little to do with what makes business sense.

So what’s the answer?

I never thought I would point to EUROPE as an example of free market success, but in this case, I can do so…

Let’s look at Deutsche Bundespost Postdienst–the German government agency equivalent to the United States Postal Service.  Prior to 1995, they ran massive deficits and were accused of all sorts of bad management practices, etc. Is anyone surprised that a government agency was poorly run??

But, on January 1st, 1995, Germany converted Deutsche Bundespost Postdienst into Deutsche Post AG–a for-profit stock corporation (i.e., privatized it) and the result is not only elimination of losses–but now it turns a profit for its shareholders!  As a for-profit company, Deutsche Post was then free to expand its services to create Deutsche Post World Net.  We here in the U.S. know them as DHL.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them?  😉

There are SO many examples of what happens when you take government OUT of the marketplace.  Privatization WORKS.  It’s not a theory, it’s a proven fact!  People are motivated by their own self-interest (whether they admit it or not) and so it is no surprise that when you rely on the profit motive of private corporations instead of the power motive of petty politicians, the results are far better and more desirable.

Attacking vs. Proposing

During an Objectivist dinner club meeting I attended with my husband this evneing, a new attendee asked, “Why is everyone so quick to attack Obama’s health care reform ideas and spreading fear about them–instead of proposing alternatives?”

I thought for a few minutes while the discussion went on, then I realized the “why” as to the volume and viciousness of attacks by people who are opposed to any socialized-medicine scheme for the United States…and why little airtime is spent talking about alternatives…

Think of it this way, what would you do when you’re on an airplane high in the air and terrorists are rushing the cockpit intent on crashing the plane?  Would you look to the people around you and start a discussion about way to improve airplane safety?  Or, would you do anything and everything in your power to stop the terrorists from killing you and everyone else on board?

According to a retired physician I know, the alternative is simple:  DE-regulate.  In his practice–before 1965–he talks about how everyone had access to medical care and how doctors were of a higher caliber.  But, he went on to explain that Medicaid and Medicare put an end to America’s clear dominance in health care– both in terms of access and quality.   Before the government got involved, health care costs were much lower than today (even after taking inflation and technological advances into account).

The poor had ample access to charity hospitals (supported by *private* charities) and most commercial hospitals offered some degree of free/low cost care as well.  A night in the hospital in 1965 would have cost you about $7 ($48 in today’s money).  Even the working poor could afford that!  But, thanks to government intervention and insane tort laws, an average hospital stay averages $1,000 a night ($148 per night in 1965 money).

He was also explaining that in the 60’s, there were 20 applicants for every seat in medical schools nationwide–and only the best of the best got in.  Now, there’s only 2 applicants for every seat– plus there’s the spectre of racial quotas.  So it is easy to understand what is happening to the quality level of doctors coming out of schools now.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great physicians coming out of those schools even today– but they become disenchanted in many cases because of the switch from a focus on “solving the case” to “decrease time per patient to raise profits to overcome losses from government patients.”

Want to know why people like me are so terrified of any and all of the plans floating around inside the beltway to reform health-care?  Simple!  Look at what an abysmal failure Medicaid and Medicare have been– and they want to EXPAND that to the whole country?  It does NOT matter whether the plan is “administered” by the government (a la “public option”) or by private insurance companies– it will be bureaucrats deciding on the standards and compensation rates–not the doctors and hospitals–not even the insurance companies.

But, all that said, you want to know what the solution to our horribly corrupted health care system is for the United States?  ….  REPEAL Medicaid and Medicare (in an orderly fashion, perhaps a 5-10 year phase out program), DE-regulate medicine (who knows better…your physician or a faceless bureaucrat?).  Basically, remove government from the equation.  Government is a mechanism of force/enforcement– neither of which have a place in health care.

Let’s have REAL reform, not just more of the same.  Let’s dial back the health-care clock to 1964 (not including the technology or medicine, of course) and let’s re-establish the United States as the greatest health care in the world–to which everyone has ACTUAL access.

But before we can even have the debates and discussions, we must first stop Obamunism.

The White House Requests that Americans Inform on One Another

Most of us learned about how people in Communist countries were encouraged to inform on their neighbors and even their own families when they heard them say something anti-government.  Apparently, the Obamunists want Americans to become informants any time someone contradicts the White House goals for socialized medicine.  What’s next?  Will Acorn stop by and give gifts to those who inform and protest in front of homes where dissenters live?  Here’s more…

From WhiteHouse.gov:

“There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

From Dr. Michael J. Hurd:

“This statement is actually from the White House web site. I did not make it up. What exactly is “fishy”? And what exactly is the White House going to do with the “help” of those who report on the emails and conversations of those who disagree with them? If this doesn’t send a chill down your spine, then either you don’t care about freedom of speech, the most precious right an individual possesses in a free society–or you have no remote clue of the difference between living in a society with such freedom, or without it.

This is the White House web site we’re talking about here. It’s not a private organization. It’s a government context–it is, quite literally, the government of the United States. The official web site of our government is asking citizens to report on fellow citizens who disagree with the official statements of our government. Are you going to take this lying down? At a minimum, write your representatives and express outrage over the use of the White House web site for purposes of inhibiting freedom of speech on the Internet–while you’re still free to do so.

Why Are We Moving Toward Socialized Medicine?

Why Are We Moving Toward Socialized Medicine?

By Yaron Brook

Government intervention in medicine is wrecking American health care. Nearly half of all spending on health care in America is already government spending. Yet President Obama’s “reforms” will only expand that intervention.

Prior to the government’s entrance into medicine, health care was regarded as a product to be traded voluntarily on a free market–no different from food, clothing, or any other important good or service. Medical providers competed to provide the best quality services at the lowest possible prices. Virtually all Americans could afford basic health care, while those few who could not were able to rely on abundant private charity.

Had this freedom been allowed to endure, Americans’ rising productivity would have afforded them better and better health care, just as, today, we buy better and more varied food and clothing than people did a century ago. There would be no crisis of affordability, as there isn’t for food or clothing.

But by the time Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965, this view of health care as an economic product–for which each individual must assume responsibility–had given way to a view of health care as a “right,” an unearned “entitlement,” to be provided at others’ expense.

This entitlement mentality fueled the rise of our current third-party-payer system, a blend of government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, together with government-controlled employer-based health insurance (itself spawned by perverse tax incentives during the wage and price controls of World War II).

The resulting system aimed to relieve the individual of the “burden” of paying for his own health care by coercively imposing its costs on his neighbors. Today, for every dollar’s worth of hospital care a patient consumes, that patient pays only about 3 cents out of pocket; the rest is paid by third-party coverage. And for the health care system as a whole, patients pay only about 14 percent.

Shifting the responsibility for health care costs away from the individuals who accrue them led to an explosion in spending. In a system in which someone else is footing the bill, consumers, encouraged to regard health care as a “right,” demand medical services without having to consider their real price. When, through the 1970s and 1980s, this artificially inflated consumer demand sent expenditures soaring out of control, the government cracked down by enacting further coercive measures: price controls on medical services, cuts to medical benefits, and a crushing burden of regulations on every aspect of the health care system.

As each new intervention further distorted the health care market, driving up costs and lowering quality, belligerent voices demanded still further interventions to preserve the “right” to health care: from regulations mandating various forms of insurance coverage to Bush’s massive prescription drug bill.

The solution to this ongoing crisis is to recognize that the very idea of a “right” to health care is a perversion. There can be no such thing as a “right” to products or services created by the effort of others, and this most definitely includes medical products and services. Rights, as the Founders conceived them, are not claims to economic goods, but to freedoms of action.

You are free to see a doctor and pay him for his services–no one may forcibly prevent you from doing so. But you do not have a “right” to force the doctor to treat you without charge or to force others to pay for your treatment. The rights of some cannot require the coercion and sacrifice of others.

Real and lasting solutions to our health care problems require a rejection of the entitlement mentality in favor of a proper conception of rights. This would provide the moral basis for breaking the regulatory chains stifling the medical industry; for lifting the tax and regulatory incentives fueling our dysfunctional, employer-based insurance system; for inaugurating a gradual phase-out of all government health care programs, especially Medicare and Medicaid; and for restoring a true free market in medical care.

Such sweeping reforms would unleash the power of capitalism in the medical industry. They would provide the freedom for entrepreneurs motivated by profit to compete with each other to offer the best quality medical services at the lowest prices, driving innovation and bringing affordable medical care, once again, into the reach of all Americans.

Yaron Brook is the president of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

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