The tag line from Ayn Rand’s master work about the disintegration of economies. Her experience growing up in in Russia going through a revolution and its aftermath made her think carefully about how societies turn on themselves. In a way my novel was formed from reading and rereading Atlas Shrugged when I was a teenager. I think I missed the philosophy of selfishness that Rand espoused. But it is a compelling narrative despite its obvious flaws. Even when I loved the story, I think I hated the philosophy. So few people are in the .1%. I think it’s a bit of luck of the genetic lottery and a bit of family money to help out, and not growing up in the ghetto, or having the connections to get into the right college. Rand mixes up the Roosevelt New Deal with Soviet Russia. I probably never read the last 50 pages of the story when John Galt speaks to the nation about how useful greed and selfishness is to motivate capitalists and how socialism and idealism destroy self-interest. Libertarianism with its limits on government activities can trace its intellectual roots to Rand’s philosophy, but libertarians may find that building their dream houses on the shores of the rising oceans will not save them when the waters rise.
The story I’m telling in three parts in the Phoenix Agenda Trilogy (will be available on Kindle in 2021 unless I find a real agent for the story and try to do this the right way) is a different story with a different message about capitalism and free markets than the one that Rand told. The world we live in is far more complex than the one that Rand described. Liberal ideals are not always bad and while sometimes Bernie Sanders seems more like Leslie Mooch of the National Economic Planning Board in Rand’s story, he’s not a socialist nor is the world likely to be socialist in the future. Which system of exchange and development is better at meeting goals of clean drinking water, health, food, shelter, and happiness depends upon your philosophy. Each has its benefits and its costs. Which is better -- American capitalism with its independence and self-interest, European social democracy which is somewhere mid-way between laissez-faire capitalism and socialism, but is over regulated and far too rule based (a by-product of the rule based Napoleonic system of laws introduced during the 19th century in Europe). Unlikely to emerge is the Communist planned economy of Soviet Russia with its Commissars and secret stores, or the new Hybrid Capitalist-Socialism of China that can only exist so long as excess production is wholesaled to the world. Equally unable to fulfil the needs of the world we are moving towards is the free wheeling, mostly underground economies that exist at the fringes of the established systems.
The multi-billionaires who are at the heart of this story are like the Bezos, Gates, and Buffets of the world, are so rich that they see their purpose in making things better or at least believe they can make it better by destroying American style, managerial capitalism with its short-term interests in next quarters profits and the stock price rather than long-term results based on innovation and growth. While Larry Fink can, as the introduction suggests, argue that public and private companies must look to growth as much as profits in measuring success, in social obligation to communities and the world as to shareholders and pension funds, his investment firm often as not rejects proposals that don’t return 40% returns in three years. They have good intentions, but often the best laid plans for utopia (from various American utopias created in the 19th century to the present day notion of classless, moneyless societies) fail because of human greed to get more than a fair share or contribute less than you take, i.e. freeloaders or for companies, free riders who pollute leaving the clean-up to others). By book three the protagonists have the hard task of reconciling their ownership positions to the needs of society without losing the power that markets and self-interest to drive progress.
The Revisions from the Earlier Version – The Phoenix Year, published 2014
The Phoenix Year, an earlier version of this story, has been updated to include Trump’s Presidency in this version. It was published in 2014 both in print and electronic versions with good reviews and little real success. The publisher was distracted and honestly unless you get a major publisher you don’t usually make much from it. Under terms of the original contract I had to deliver the remaining two volumes to finish the story. I wrote both within about 18 months, but they were never published. In that version of the story, the engineered financial and stock market collapse started in 2016.
With the election of Donald Trump in 2016 a fait accompli and with time on my hands, I decided to revise the first book now that I had all the rights back in hand, with the disaster moved to 2020 and to deal with President King’s (Trump) election consequences. Much of the storyline with respect to placing tariffs on American imports by an American President, in this case President Toure (Obama) , to try to stop the loss of American manufacturing jobs, has actually taken place. So in some ways, at least, part of the original storyline has come true. How the Trump tariffs ultimately turn out for the US, China and the World economy remains to be seen.
My goal is to get at least the three full volumes of the story published – The Society of the Phoenix, The Phoenix Storm, and Phoenix Rising and afterword. In the last volume, the solution to how to reform modern managerially focused capitalism is suggested. Managerial style, stock market fueled, capitalism may be harmful to the planet and to future life here. To solve the problems of today and the known problems of tomorrow, then the time frame of cure must be in decades and centuries, not in weeks and months. Cooperative capitalism with all stakeholders – workers, shareholders, managers, and governments – working towards the same goals may be a better approach to dealing with the issues we face -- from rising seas to virulent viruses. If this means companies must cooperate with other companies, even competitors, then this is a better outcome than seeing one company drive the other out of business.
The Ancient and Honourable Society of the Phoenix is the first book in a three book trilogy to be available on Amazon Kindle electronically and in print tracing the effort to reform capitalism into a new model reversing three hundred years of competitive capitalism to a new form of cooperative capitalism where companies work together for the great good. In the second volume, The Phoenix Storm, the fall-out of the sudden collapse of the market and the loss of trillions of dollars in wealth on the global economy leads to a worldwide depression. While Michael and Natalya fight for control of the Phoenix Trust assets in order to complete the Von Kleise vision of a cooperative capitalism organized to work together to solve global problems, other members of the Society try to force the dissolution of the Trust and the dilution of the assets. As members of the Society are being killed one-by-one by Michele, one of Von Kleise’s former assistants angry at his decision to place the final execution of the plan in Michael and Natalya’s hands, a meeting is arrange, high in the Swiss alps at a closed ski lodge to vote shares and decide the next moves of the Society. Lacking enough votes to keep control without the share her father holds, Natalya flies into a war torn Russia to rescue her father from a Russian prison. With the world economy nearly at a standstill, regaining control of the massive assets owned by the Trust and using these to restart the economy, the fate of the world comes down to if she can fight her way up the mountain, face down and kill Michele, and regain control of the Society and the Trust so that Von Kleise vision of a global business alliance organized around social principles of fairness and growth can restart the global economy damaged by the collapse of confidence and markets that the Society engineered last October.
In book three of the trilogy, Phoenix Rising, the Ross’s face a new enemy, The One Hundred Club, a secret group of executives of the largest companies who realize that control of their Boards could be lost once the shares sold during the panic are voted. While the Ross’s work to develop a plan for a rapid changeover in the make-up of the Boards of the companies they now are majority owners, they don’t control the current Boards of Directors. Fearing poison pills and golden parachutes, the work of transfer shares and readying legal documents is going on in secret. When Michael is kidnapped and held in a remote Caribbean Island estate, Natalya is forced to rescue him so that they can be in New York in time to execute their plan for the consolidation of ownership before the One Hundred Club’s members realize the peril their control of these world spanning companies is in jeopardy. With a late October hurricane making its way, slowly, up the East coast and air travel limited, Natalya and Michael are forced to make the long sail from Turks and Caicos to New York in the one sailboat and with the one crazy skipper who just might make it in time to file the papers late on Friday with the courts. Once in New York, the One Hundred Club and one member of the Society make a last ditch effort to assassinate the Ross’s before they can sign the legal documents needed to start the process of gaining control. With the transfer of the ownership and the change-over in management and Boards completed, they are left with the huge task of rebuilding confidence in the future and restarting the world economy using a new economic paradigm replacing self-interest, market driven capitalism of Adam Smith with a new model built on cooperative relationships, partnerships, designed to solve the pressing problems of the world facing the ravages of climate change and wealth inequality.