Cliffhanger’s Morality on Capitalism” Elon Musk and Han Solo–the unseen value

A few years ago I spent a good part of a summer vacation on the balcony of a condominium reading the Ayn Rand books that my son-in-law had recently bought for me—particularly her collection of essays on capitalism. For as long as I had been alive capitalism was always portrayed as evil, which I never bought into. Yet nobody ever offered any competing theory. Even my favorite character from Star Wars, Han Solo was an unfettered capitalist without any apologies provided. George Lucas by the end of the original trilogy wanted to make Han into a more compassionate person who saw the errors of his ways—and thought about others more than himself—but I never personally bought into that theory. I’ve always seen capitalism as the way to making better things from nothing and had a far superior moral platform to project goodness than the altruistic sacrificial victim of yesteryear. After all if people are asked who they like more in Star Wars, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker who do you think they’ll pick? The results are well documented—just Google it.

I spent much of that summer thinking about those books as they provided a support that was found no place else in favor of capitalism. People like Milton Freeman were before my time, Walt Disney died when I was a little kid, and John Wayne was only fondly remembered in old movies. Reagan pretended to embrace capitalism as a continuation of his spokesman job he had at GE—but there really wasn’t anybody openly defending the morality of capitalism—and there needed to be. After all, from the world that I know people like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and many others like them are doing far more for people than the person who sacrifices their time and energy at a soup kitchen helping the poor. While donating time is a nice thing to do for people down and out—the cause of why people are down and out in the first place is the real issue that needs to be explored—not the result. Capitalism has in it a morality which deserves a hero so that people can understand the value.

Even stories I really like, such as Robin Hood, and Zorro have in their underlying value a kind of socialism—the villains are the rich, the protagonists are the poor. Batman who is a direct evolutionary character of Zorro was like Don Diego a wealthy man who took his gained assets acquired through his family’s success and did good to fight crime.   But what always bothered me about Zorro and Batman is that they inherited their wealth; they didn’t do as Elon Musk did and make it from nothing into becoming one of the most influential people on planet earth. Without Elon Musk and Richard Branson where would the world really be? The wealth they create for the overall economy makes it even possible for people to donate their time to a soup kitchen for the poor. The inventions of the wealthy create spare time and resources so that something can be given back. Without that infusion of wealth, Harrison Ford wouldn’t be able to donate his time to left leaning causes.

Harrison Ford is my favorite actor—maybe just a bit ahead of Clint Eastwood. Ford made a lot of money as an actor because American capitalist culture had expendable income to go see his movies in a darkened theater. He has turned around and done a lot of great things with that money. Individually he became a private pilot most notably crash landing his crippled vintage craft into a golf course saving the craft, people and even himself in a way that defies the actions of most Hollywood actors. But Ford is also a very giving person to the poor, to environmental causes, and to virtually everyone in his life. He is a person who is easy to respect. But what would he be without George Lucas creating the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films? He would have been just another actor jumping from job to job. Lucas used capitalism to create wealth not just in monetary value, but in philosophy. Without the creation of capitalism all the good things that Ford does in his private life would go nowhere. If he didn’t have excess as a result of his success, he’d have nothing to give away to others by his own volition.

That is why capitalism needs a real hero—and unapologetic champion. I had started formulating that champion years ago in my own character of Cliffhanger. In my novel The Symposium of Justice it is eluded that the protagonist made all his wealth by winning a lottery ticket. However, this is a falsehood created by his political enemies who are protecting their old money political connections from the reality of what Cliffhanger represents—creation and justice. Most people who win the lottery are broke within a few years because they lack the internal value as people to support the sudden infusion of wealth. Unlike people like Elon Musk, most people lack the ability to create wealth, so they assume that it’s a finite resource open for equal distribution discussion. But they are dreadfully wrong. As the Cliffhanger series The Curse of Fort Seven Mile continues to evolve over the coming installments it becomes quite clear who and what Cliffhanger is and why people who can perform such creation are so important to society.

When I was in high school I was the only kid who actually wore a t-shirt featuring Howard Hughes on it. I’ve always liked Hughes and Harrison Ford’s recent plane crash reminded me a lot of a similar incident that Hughes had, in the same area years ago. Hughes was extremely rich, and did a lot of really good things with his money—particularly advancements in aviation that simply would not have happened without his actions. He was an eccentric whose mind ended up collapsing on itself, but the world is much better off because of his life than without it. Yet thousands, even millions of people flash upon the earth in a lifetime and disappear just the same and nobody notices. Is that fair? Aren’t they equal to Howard Hughes? The answer is no. The ability to create something from nothing is more important than equal distribution of fairness.

This brings us back to that summer in Florida with the Ayn Rand books. She was on to something and to my mind she broke through the first layer of an important revelation. In philosophy this is called the creation of Objectivism. I agree with most of the tenants of Objectivism. However Ayn Rand was a lot more socially liberal than I am. She was much more permissive on drugs and sex which hurts her position on capitalism. It allowed liberals to attack her as a product of excess greed and selfishness, which is an inaccurate assessment. The books of hers that I read were very valuable because what she was doing was on the cutting edge of a new way of thinking, so context is needed. Capitalism needed champions, and she officered them particularly in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Other than those characters there really aren’t any other champions of capitalism in novels or movies—with the rare exception of Harrison Ford’s film characters particularly Han Solo. In almost every other circumstance, most notably the man everyone loved to hate in the 80s television show Dallas—in JR, or Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard, rich people are evil and need to have something taken from them and given to people supposedly repressed and in need of equality.

The truth of the matter is that people who don’t have things are in that condition by choice most of the time. The big difference between people like Elon Musk and the typical volunteer at a local soup kitchen is that one creates wealth that enriches our entire culture and the other just does good deeds. Both are important, both may be good men, but only one makes something from nothing which leads to good options for everyone. The creation of Space X is more important than a local charity asking people to throw money into a hat for the needy. Space X creates expendable income to toss into the hat. Without it, there is nothing to donate to the needy.

The efforts of my new Cliffhanger installments are to further this exploration into the morality of capitalism in a way that has been utterly ignored. Ayn Rand started the process and did a lot of great work along that line of thought, but there is much, much more to do. This Cliffhanger project will likely go on for many years but already the stories feel like a continuation of the type of material I wanted to read more of after that summer vacation in Florida. After I ran out of those Ayn Rand books I wanted more, but since she died in the early 80s, there was nothing more to read. But there needed to be. So it is up to us in this new generation to expand on those arguments and further peel back the mysterious goodness of capitalism and to properly define why collectivism is a vile evil—even when its been told to us for centuries that it’s the only path to redemption. These are difficult subjects, but they need to be explored—and through Cliffhanger—they will be.

Rich Hoffman


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