Who Is Wesley Mouch?

The long-awaited 'Atlas' program has now come to fruition. As the book's villains now seem to be ensconced in the halls of power, the show's timing couldn't be more perfect.

Tomorrow, my Fox Business Network show about Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged will finally air. That should stop the emails like this one from Karen Cooper:

"Oh for the love of god! 'Atlas Shrugged' explains about 99 percent of what's wrong in all of the arenas of topics: health care, education, climate change, unions, the economy, etc. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE cover 'Atlas.'"

Cooper makes a good point. Even though Rand published Atlas in 1957, her descriptions of intrusive and bloated government read like today's news. The "Preservation of Livelihood Law" and "Equalization of Opportunity Law" could be Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's work.

The novel's chief villain is Wesley Mouch, a bureaucrat who cripples the economy with endless regulations. This sounds familiar. Reason magazine reports that "as he looks around Washington these days," Rep. Paul Ryan "can't help but think he's seeing a lot of Wesley Mouch".

Me, too. I also saw a lot of him under George W. Bush.

So I'm conducting this unscientific poll: Who is our Wesley Mouch? Hank Paulson? Tim Geithner? Barney Frank? You can vote here.

Personally, I think Chris Dodd's ridiculous financial proposals ought to win him the honor. But he isn't among the choices on Fox's list. As I write this, Geithner, President Obama and Barney Frank lead the voting.

My first guest on the show (Fox Business Network, 8 p.m. Eastern Thursday, repeating at 10 p.m. Friday) is BB&T Chairman and Atlas fan John Allison. Allison's bank, the ninth largest in America, is doing very well, but he's angry the government forced him to take TARP money.

Allison once told The New York Times, "To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it's bad because he's alive."

I'll pack the audience with some Atlas haters. That shouldn't be hard. My daughter's boyfriend offers up his Yale classmates. Many "liberals" agree with the "South Park" episode in which one character said that "because of this piece of s--t, I am never reading again." Rand brings out ferocious hatred in some people.

Also, I'll get a fish pedicure. Really.

This is a dubious Turkish idea that's become popular in Asia and is now trying for a foothold (pun intended) here. Instead of scraping dead skin off their feet, people have little garra rufa fish gently chew on them.

Fourteen states have banned fish pedicures, claiming they are unsafe, and other local governments have proposed bans. OK, compared to the assault on entrepreneurship described in Atlas Shrugged, this is sort of a dumb example, but look — I work in television — dumb examples can make good points.

The bureaucrats say the fish can't be sterilized without killing them. They say customers will get infections. People could die! It's not safe! And it's cruel to the fish!

Has anyone died? Can you refer me to someone who got an infection? Anyone? The bureaucrats' answer is always no. But it's better to be cautious, they say.

In fact, the free market sorts such things out far more efficiently than bureaucrats. It's just not good business to hurt your customers. My 30 years of consumer reporting taught me that businesses rarely do this, and — here's the market's self-regulation — those that do don't stay in business long. That's not a perfect system, but it's much better than central planning. Had today's bureaucrats been in charge decades ago, they would have banned things like aspirin, cars and airplanes.

Sadly, they are in charge now. That makes the Atlas message important today.

Although Rand idolizes businessman in the abstract, Atlas Shrugged makes clear that she (like Adam Smith) understood that they are not natural friends of free markets. They are often first in line for privileges bestowed by the state. That's called "crony capitalism," and that's what Orren Boyle practices in Atlas.  After my Atlas Shrugged show, I plan a show on that subject. Suggestions invited.

I don't want to be controlled by business any more than I want to be regulated by Nancy Pelosi or Wesley Mouch.

I want the freedom to make my own choices.

John Stossel hosts the TV show "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He is the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media (January 2005) as well as Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know Is Wrong (May 2007), which is now available in paperback.

15 comments from readers  

To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.
I heartily anticipate Mr. Stossel's show. I know there will be some folks from the Ayn Rand Institute on the show, too.

This is a watershed moment in Objectivism -- its author's ideas getting national media attention at a crucial moment in our nation's life.

One day, we who love liberty will look back upon this moment and many others to come as the public turning points.
What can I say. John Stossel can do no wrong in my book. He is one of the few people in our universe who speaks out loudly and clearly about why we are entitled to be free, and how the people who want to stop us from being free are wrong, wrong, wrong. Then he tells us why.

How can you not love a guy like that? Freedom.

That's what it's all about. We fought for it, we need to fight to keep it. Thanks John, for every effort you make to bring the light to the darkness of mass altruism, disguised in so many forms as religion, socialism, authoritarian controls, government regulations, so many disguises.

This is war! We must all speak out. Follow John's lead. He is the truth.
John, we owe you a debt of gratittude easily comparable to what we owe Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry. There's no guarantee whatsoever that had you not been born, there would be another John Stossel out there for these times.

Personally, I never regarded Wesley Mouch as the 'ultimate villain' in "Atlas Shrugged." The most vivid portrayal of naked spiritual evil is, in my opinion James Taggart. Rand peels him like an onion, with every dark layer after dark layer revealing how the concept of being "anti-life" is a reality.

Functionally, what about Dr. Stoddard, whose contempt for having to justify himself in the marketplace ultimately eventuated in the grotesque, but too credible, Project X? Shades of the Climate Change Hoax and the counterfeit scientists profiteering from it...Who, in human history, has cruelly and unnecessarily scared more children and robbed more people without firing a gun?

On my last reading of Atlas, Mr. Thompson reminded me of George Bush. Not in the same league of evil as those who surrounded him, but aw shucks!

Finally, the consummate evil person in Rand's Hall of Vampires remains, for me, Ellsworth Toohey. The community organizer. Miles ahead of his ultimate successor, Barack Obama, an amateur by comparison.

In summary, John, those like myself are, and should be, eternally appreciative of your integrity and courage...Thank you!
George Soros
Not only the "boys in Washington" (Ayn Rand's term, used in Atlas Shrugged, to refer to Wesley Mouch and his ilk), but at least some of those operating at the STATE level of government bureaucracy (state representatives, senators, and their associated lobbyists), need to be included as well.
Raum Emanuel is your man. He is the ultimate bureaucrat behind the Obama mask. Good luck on you new show.
There are far too many Wesley Mouch types and wannabes in Washington for Rand to have begun to describe them in Atlas Shrugged. Besides, as a novelist she had to limit their presence, since they are such downers. If it were not for the frequent appearances of her heroes, the Wesley Mouch parasites would have caused numerous readers to commit suicide or to seek self-preservation by reading no further.
Gary D
0 points
It is great to see John Stossel is on TV again. I've been a fan since I first watched him interview the pro wrestler, that knocked him down when he politely asked the question nobody else would, is it fake (like everyone, I expected the usual evasive lie). The first thing out of my mouth was "wow, that reported has guts". I respected him from that moment on and 20/20 became the only mainstream news show I watched on a regular basis. No other mainstream show gave a honest view of some of my favorite subjects like public school, global warming, recycling, unions, etc. Keep asking the questions others are afraid to.
Rand's character could be considered "Jedermouch," embodied today not by an individual but by a mindset found at all levels of politics. Modern-day Mouches form Neighborhood Associations to regulate the length of their neighbors' lawns; they set up Historical Commissions to dictate acceptable housepaint colors. As these small-minded, small-time busybodies learn to love the taste of power they move up the statist ladder, seizing control over larger and larger fiefdoms, but ultimately the Mouch in Washington (and Turtle Bay and Brussels and "Hope-n-hagen" ad infinitum) is just the nosy neighbor with too little to do who won't mind her own business.

We can try to tackle the problem from the top down, but every time we remove one world-class Mouch there will be a hundred others eager to fill the void. Ultimately the war won't be won simply by neutralizing the visible Mouches who reach the top, but by discouraging the development of a multitude of mini-Mouches in our own homes, schools and neighborhoods. The battle against meddlesome local regulations is no less important than the effort to unburden the nation from federal -- and now global -- assaults on liberty.
I wish I could get John's new show on the web.

Chris Dodd is going away, so he won't be my choice, although John's comments about his policies are spot on, as usual.
In regard to your comments about "South Park," the person who reads AS and vows to never read again is Officer Barbrady, just recently (in the episode) literate, and a complete moron in every episode. His not liking it is PRAISE for the novel by Parker & Stone!
Saw the show. It was good to see Ayn Rand discussed openly, but I think you should dig deeper into finding out why some react so strongly against her philosophy. Few explain "Objectivism" well enough for the average non-philosopher or non-intellectual. Ron Paul would have made a good guest on your show. Why do so many "intellectuals" hate capitalism? When capitalism is explained clearly and simply, it makes perfect sense. Why are we not explaining it properly to our children?
The equivalent to Wesley Mouch in today's USA is unquestionably Ben Bernanke.
Many thanks Mr. Stossel for bringing this important piece of literature and historical relevence to the public's attention. I hope it runs again. Ms Rand had a huge impact on my life when I first read her many years ago. I plan to re read "Atlas". So much in it we need to revisit. Time and energy and funds are of the essence if we plan to defeat this "Socialist /Facist combine.
If they get any part of this health care fiasco, we are in for a long cold winter.
Fantastic column. Please keep it going. We need this now more than ever.

By the way, note for John Stossel: please interview Nathaniel Branden on your show. He more than anyone alive can speak authentically to Rand's ideas as he discussed them with her, first-hand. I hope he lives forever, but he's 80. So get him on video tape now.
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.