"When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that an old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had only one before." ~ H.L. Mencken
A Review of 'Geauxing Galt'
Column by Eric Field.
Exclusive to STR
Libertarians often use fiction to share ideas, more so than perhaps any other philosophical group. I have friends who tell me that Atlas Shrugged or The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress were intellectual turning points. That these novels challenged their notions of right and wrong. That fiction is what began their process of self-study which led to the ultimate conclusion of some form of libertarianism. Fiction has a special power, leading one to examine their underlying premises, allowing for the discussion of aspects of culture that are often taboo in polite company. Jason Garey’s Geauxing Galt is the latest example in the long line of libertarian fiction.
Jason Garey is a 28 year old professional soccer player from Louisiana. Garey earned the Herman Trophy for best collegiate soccer player while attending the University of Maryland. He went on to play professional soccer. All of which is fairly typical stuff for a professional athlete.
Off of the field, Jason Garey is anything but a stereotype. For instance, Garey is an activist involved in non-governmental conservation projects protecting Louisiana’s wetlands. Garey is also a self-described libertarian and Ron Paul supporter. Jason began writing as a hobby to fill time on soccer road trips, mostly because he did not like video games. Garey wrote his first novel while convalescing from surgery during the winter and spring of 2012.
Geauxing Galt deals with a multi-decade struggle between two New Orleans men, the protagonist, Wyatt Bourgeouis, and the antagonist, Harry Maddow. Wyatt Bourgeouis is a Randian hero in the mold of Howard Roark. Harry Maddow is a caricature of the modern bureaucrat, consumed by his own sense of importance and entitlement. The story begins with the two as prep school classmates; Wyatt is an athletic, intelligent, and hardworking young man, while Harry is the spoiled only child of the Mayor of New Orleans.
Wyatt spends his college summers interning with the crew of an offshore oil company, performing the assorted odd jobs and learning everything he can about the oil business. Along the way, Wyatt develops a strong work ethic and sense of obligation to his coworkers, as well as the technical knowledge required of an entrepreneur. After graduating college, Wyatt and his friend, Tim Hebert, form their own oil firm. Wyatt Oil is famously successful, ultimately becoming the largest oil firm in Louisiana.
Harry Maddow spends the majority of his 20s finishing his bachelor’s degree. Maddow finds a mentor in Dr. Robert Ayers, a social progressive and fictional Dean of the Tulane University School of Sociology. Under Ayers, Maddow comes into his own, becoming a civil servant with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Protection. Maddow climbs the bureaucratic ranks, ultimately becoming head of the Louisiana Environmental Department.
Wyatt and Harry’s careers bring them into competition. Harry lobbies for regulations which drive the majority of oil companies out of business. Maddow succeeds in eliminating all oil businesses in Louisiana, except for Wyatt Oil. Wyatt and Harry’s conflict comes to a head during a public debate on the morality of taxation. The debate ends with Wyatt making an impassioned argument for free trade and property rights, but realizes that the state will continue destroy his business. Bourgeouis “Geauxs Galt” and abandons modern civilization, waiting for an opportunity to resume his business in a free society. At this point, the novel is far from over, but to explain anymore would ruin the story for the reader.
Bourgeouis is an intelligent, hardworking, innovative man devoted to the goal of creating the largest oil company in the State of Louisiana. Bourgeouis is a sort of male Dagny Taggart, a man consumed by the goal of becoming the best in his career field. Bourgeouis is very much the Randian hero, an idealized businessman just a little bit too professional and single-minded to be believable.
Harry Maddow is the son of the New Orleans mayor and member of a prominent Louisiana political family. Maddow is less a Randian villain than an overt critique of modern civil service bureaucracies. Maddow plays a character that doesn’t actually do anything, beyond creating obstacles for the most productive members of society. Much of Maddow’s inner monologue might come across as cliché, except that Maddow’s monologue resembles much of the mainstream American argument for statism.
Geauxing Galt is an enjoyable story. I found myself drawn into the story, concerned with how events would affect the characters of the novel. Garey’s novel is well written, especially when compared to similar self-published novels. My only criticism is the level of character development. Most characters are allegories of virtues and vices, as opposed to being completely believable human beings. Garey’s character development resembles that of Ayn Rand’s novels, where human ambiguity is avoided in order to explicitly advocate for specific virtues.
Similarly, readers of Strike The Root might criticize the apparently minarchist ideals of the novel. Jason Garey set out to use the vehicle of fiction to argue for a free society, a task that he accomplishes. Throughout the novel, his heroes engage in business practices bordering on agorism, ultimately creating businesses that exist outside of any state’s law. Much like Atlas Shrugged, Garey’s book is an argument for freedom that allows the reader to draw the ultimate conclusions.