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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Atlas is shrugging: Alabama mine owner goes Galt

Back in late February through early March I wound up reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time in my life. That revelation shocked many of those closest to me, who had assumed that bibliojunkie that I've always been, that I would have long ago devoured Ayn Rand's classic novel.

Can't help but wonder what my life would have developed into had I read the book when I was in high school or college. Atlas Shrugged didn't add much substantially "new" to my belief system, but it did clarify and crystallize it as nothing else had before. I'm thinking of re-reading it again sometime soon (but I've re-read the part about Kip Chalmers' train at least forty times since winter and laughed every time it goes into the tunnel: yes, I'm perverse that way :-P)

So now in a page right out of Atlas Shrugged, a coal mine owner in Alabama has metaphorically taken the Ellis Wyatt route: abandoning his business and leaving the sign saying "I'm leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours."

Here is Ronnie Bryant's statement that he made at a public hearing in Birmingham, as being reported on David McElroy's website...

"My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you."
Well, I can't say that I blame him. Earlier today I learned that a dear friend in California was having to apply for a business license just to tutor kids after school. When I read that, I was like "What the...?!?"

Business owners, and especially small business owners, are the source of all industry and productivity in this country. Hell, in any country. They do not need or deserve to be overly burdened with ridiculous amounts of government oversight, legislation and regulation. When I read the story of Ronnie Bryant, and how he has given up out of frustration... it pisses me off!! This was a man who created and maintained jobs that people need and want.

Much more of this, and there won't be a United States as we have come to know it.

Sometimes, I wonder if that's the conscientious purpose of too many in our government.


Brian Fesperman said...

Three words:

Ayn was prophetic.

Anonymous said...

Those were the RESIDENTS of the area and the LOCAL Water Board opposing that permit .... not the government. Yet, somehow, you equated this issue with "ridiculous amounts of government oversight". So you are not in favor of public input on local issues?

Chris Knight said...

You're damned right its too much government! Unless somebody can show me where Mr. Bryant's operation was depriving others of some right or of clean air and water, this WAS an example of people using force of government - or threat of force, in the form of the water board - to attempt to deprive someone of their livelihood.

Too many people think of heavy industry as being nothing but a polluter with no regard for either the environment or neighboring residents. I have personally known many industrial owners and managers who have gone out of their way, WITHOUT any government mandate, to lessen the impact of their commercial activities. But that's not good enough for some people, apparently.

Mr. Bryant should never have had to go before such a board in the first place. But as it is, many such business owners are deemed guilty before proving innocence of their operations... and that can't possibly result in anything but the stifling and closure of good-paying and responsible companies.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Bryant should never have had to go before such a board in the first place"

How do you know? You don't live there. You don't drink the water.

I take it you don't think PBK should have to go before any "boards" before they build a landfill next to the Dan River in Rockingham County. They surely have our best interests in mind so we shouldn't regulate them. Just like you are sure an Alabama business (you have no knowledge of) will do the right thing.

Mr.Bryant's endeavor is(was) a local issue that neither of us is knowledgeable enough to pass judgment on. I don't know who was justified, neither do you. You are assuming that "government" inhibited a business. It could have been the people most affected by his business.

Hint: Following blogs is not the best way to obtain unbiased information.

Sonia said...

I completely agree with you Chris and glad to have found your blog. It is very overwhelming to think about all the regulation and red tape for an average person to start a small business.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous. The major issue with limited government interaction is the simple fact that businesses and individuals tend to do what is best for them rather than what is best for the people surrounding them. Government serves an important role in protecting the interests of those who would be oppressed or damaged by the actions of others, even if they are well-intended.

Should there be no government regulation for the landfill in Rockingham County? How about for the mountaintop removal mining corporations in West Virginia? Is it worth polluting the water of citizens and decreasing their quality of life just to create jobs?

We should learn something from this issue and work to prevent the landfill in Rockingham County before it reaches this level. Hopefully a solution can be found so that quality of life does not have to be compromised for job creation.