Dagny burst out laughing. Thanks, Mr. Weatherby!
The April 3rd article in this series explored the virtue of integrity. It highlighted classical composer Alma Deutscher, her romantic philosophical themes, and her fidelity to her music. Her fictional counterpart was Ayn Rand’s character, from the 1943 novel The Fountainhead, architect Howard Roark. His primary struggle, and victory, was the conflict between the individual and the collective in man’s soul.
In the March 6th blogpost, the artistry of gymnast Simone Biles was analyzed in the context of moral and legal justice, and her experience was compared with Rand’s character Henry Readen from Ms. Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. This mystery, now non-fiction, explores the conflict between the individual and the collective in a dystopian, postmodern society.
So who is Dagny? What is she laughing at? In Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart is the Chief Operating Officer of the Taggart Transcontinental railroad, and the moral, intellectual, and spiritual giant of the company. In this excerpt, she is laughing at the Poetic Justice being visited upon her brother Jim Taggart. He is the CEO of Taggart Transcontinental, and against Dagny’s explicit objections, had sold out some of their best customers and suppliers in return for government favors on union wage deals and freight pricing regulations. As Objectivist Book Club curator Pooja Gupta explains,
Her sense of justice can’t help but enjoy the moment; justice for people she values who were betrayed by Jim. Justice and integrity; her dedication to the primacy of existence. She thanks Mr. Weatherby for “kinda” making the world make sense: actions and choices have consequences.
Mr. Weatherby was a government enforcer. While attending a meeting with Jim Taggart and his cronies, he reminded them about the inevitable consequences and capricious nature of social justice. Moral principles be damned, the situation was urgent, Dagny laughed.
Surgery Center of Oklahoma
Entrepreneurs like Dagny Taggart are not mere fictional heroes. For Rand, they demonstrate in detailed rationality, that “The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” For example, it exists and is real at 9500 North Broadway Extension, Oklahoma City, OK 73114. The moral, intellectual, and spiritual giant of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma (SCO) is Dr. Keith Smith.
In Episode 150 of his video blog released in January 2020, he also scoffs at the inevitability of government force. Yet 63 years after Atlas Shrugged, he explains that inevitability has evolved into an authoritarian propaganda tool,
Many physicians succumb to hospital employment under the inevitable takeover we call Obamacare. The worst features of this were not inevitable after all. Inevitability is used to manufacture surrender by physicians, and the little hope many have left. With Universal Healthcare, many see the specter of this disaster as inevitable.
So who is Dr. Keith Smith? He saw the lack of moral principles behind the inevitability propaganda, and co-founded the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. Instead of being owned by a large hospital corporation, its owned by about 40 of the top surgeons and anesthesiologists in central Oklahoma. Besides that, they did something even more extraordinary. Dr. Smith and partner Dr. Steve Lantier asked, Why? The answer can be found on the home page of their website.
The question we keep getting is “How can you do it so cheap?” Not, “Why are they doing it for so much?” Health care shouldn’t be that expensive, simple as that. It’s the value proposition, quality for a good price. Its what we are all about, value.
Dr. Smith and his colleagues identified the most important piece of information for efficient health care delivery and finance. The piece that is the most incredibly complex, the most elegantly simple, and most vehemently condemned by authoritarian government – Price. The price mechanism of markets is rooted in moral principles.
To understand the complexity, consider reading Leonard Read’s classic essay I, Pencil. To appreciate the elegance, consider the smartphone app you use to compare prices while shopping at Target. To know the condemnation, consider the criminal lack of pricing transparency at America’s universities.
Price, Service, and Quality
As Dr. Smith continues, his Surgery Center doesn’t compete on price alone, they are not a commodity extracted from the earth’s crust. Their Surgery Center delivers the creative energy of the human mind, and integrity requires their work to be world-class. Justice and integrity are inseparable.
Because our prices are so low, the quality light is even brighter on us. We have to be more transparent in our quality metrics than the person charging ten times as much. The average hospital infection rate is 3 – 6%, the average surgery center is about 2.6%, but in 2012, the infection rate at SCO was zero.
The SCO’s business model is predicated on three core values – honest pricing, superior service, and the highest quality care. In other words, they do what all successful entrepreneurs do – meet the need, be easy to use, and be reliable. Or as Dr. Lantier explains, “Its about something different. It just takes stepping through the door, and people sense it.”
What Dagny Taggart sensed was people forcing their way through her door. Her prices were being set by government regulators. The quality of her railroad’s operations was being undermined by union bosses who controlled the government regulators. The reputation of Taggart’s service standards were eroding because her brother Jim was weak. For him, it was more important to be “the voice of the people.” He was adored by the public until his incompetence was exposed.
Skin in the Game
Inevitably, “the people” are a fickle lot too. In contrast, Dagny’s customers had skin in the game. So did her suppliers and trusted employees. They were all in the business of trading values and mutual respect. The members of Jim Taggart’s Unification Board had no values they earned, or self-respect to trade.
In today’s dystopian reality known as the Wuhan virus disaster, neither does the World Health Organization or their patrons in Washington, Beijing, and European capitals. But they do trade, in looted wealth, influence, statist prescriptions, and victims. As the character Francisco D’Anconia explains in Atlas Shrugged.
The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence.
Dr. Keith Smith and his partners in Oklahoma City refused to sanction their own victimhood. They declined participation in the managed care plans imposed by the Clinton Administration, or to be coerced into hospital employment by the Obama Administration, or any other Universal health scheme being spewed today. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma deserves millions of bright lights shining on it, and reflecting it back into the eyes of the world.