One of Ayn Rand’s best scenes in Atlas Shrugged has her hero Francisco d’Anconia complete the statement of one of her villains with a surprise ending. Villain James Taggart states:

We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by–

“the aristocracy of pull,” interjects d’Anconia.

I thought of that as I followed the brouhaha over the antics of the current governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

Rand points out that when voluntary commerce (profit chasing) is replaced with coercion, there will be an aristocracy of pull. And Blagojevich’s crass exchange of government favors for money is a stark illustration.

Interestingly, what most people have objected to is its starkness rather than its essence. Blagojevich’s behavior can be divided up into three elements:

1. The exchange of political favors for personal payoffs.
2. The explicit discussion of #1.
3. His foul language.

While many people seem to object to all three, many of these same people really object only to #2 and #3. In other words, they don’t really object to #1.

Why do I say that? Consider a case of #1 that received little objection. In 2005, shortly after her husband became a U.S. Senator, Michelle Obama was promoted to vice-president of the University of Chicago Hospitals, with a salary increase from $121,910 to $316,962. One of her bosses said she was “worth her weight in gold.” In 2006, Obama requested a $1 million earmark for his wife’s employer. How upset have people got about this? But take away the explicit exchange and the crass language and she and her husband did what he Illinois Governor did. Yet where’s the outrage?