John Galt and Lululemon

Over the holiday season, shoppers at Lululemon stores may have wondered about the slogan appearing on their bags “Who is John Galt?“.

For those of you who may not know, John Galt is a character in the fictional book, Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand and first published in 1957. It is approximately 1200 pages, so you can’t be blamed if you never read it! Ayn was an immigrant to the United States from Communist Russia, and wrote the book from the perspective of a direct comparison to the living conditions between the two countries.

My father forced me to read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager, so I have some understanding of the basic premise of the story, which is often misunderstood and can be polarizing in nature. Take a minute to read the some of the blog postings at the Lululemon site and you will see the controversy it created for that company.

Basically, the book is written about a world where the top minds, business executives and inventors are frustrated with the corruption occurring as politics in the United States becomes more and more entangled with the private business of the country. Contracts are handed out to companies based on who you know and not what you know. Businesses that refuse to play the political game are more often than not buried under government bureaucracy and lack of financing by the banks who do not support those that do not support the system. Corruption is rampant and as a result, unemployment reaches record levels, infrastructure is beginning to fail and the world is sinking in to a deep depression. Sound familiar?

In this fictional world, the top minds, lead by John Galt, begin to go on strike and refuse to work. They believe their efforts are only benefiting the current system. To make a 1200 page story short, the world goes straight to hell in a hand basket. The prevalent slogan throughout the book is “who is John Galt?”. It comes up whenever something bad happens, like a train derailment or other types of bad economic occurrences. In other words, who is this guy and why does he hold so much power in the world?

Ayn Rand was most definitely a capitalist and believed in minimal government. One has to remember the book was written in the mid nineteen fifties. My personal interpretation is the book is as much about anti government as it is about anti corruption. It should also be noted that Ayn Rand would never have bailed out the private sector banks and auto companies like was done by the US Government at the height of the financial crises three or four years ago. That would be entirely against the free enterprise world she envisioned, where if companies fail…they fail.

While the writer has long since passed away, I think she might have toned the book down somewhat if she could see today’s economic conditions. Much of the outrage posted on the Lululemon web site is related to what can happen if business is allowed to run rampant without any constraints, an idea which is continually pressed in Atlas Shrugged. In her world, however, government would never step in to bail out any business. I personally think many of the outraged posters on the Lululemon site would be better served to re-read the book, as it addresses corruption not only in government but also in business.

While I can’t speak for Lululemon, I believe the point made with their bags is – the world is messed up at the moment. Governments and business are misleading people on financial statements. Heads of corporations are pocketing hundreds of millions when their companies lose money with no responsibility attached. People are loosing confidence in their leaders and as such are loosing confidence in the world around them. It’s not about anti-wall street, anti Obama Care or the Tea Party in the United States. It’s about fixing the system so we can once again trust in what we are trying to build, represent or create. I believe the message on the bags had no other meaning than to make people think, ask questions and create some discussion. I think they were successful…

Who is John Galt?

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One Comment on “John Galt and Lululemon”

  1. Jen Cowling says:

    Very thoughtful and well-written!


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