The question is part of the lore and backstory of one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
Last August, I took about ten days of leave and made my rounds across the United States. My family, you see, is old blue-collar Mid-Atlanticans. But due to a swirling convolution of circumstances and the hand of destiny, my parents and brothers moved to the Evergreen State about two years ago. The rest of my history and family are on the East Coast, mostly in Southern New Jersey (extended family, upbringing), the Trenton/Princeton area (college), or Greater Philadelphia (certain important acquaintances, my sister, some family).
That's the back drop. At the Portland airport, I was browsing the bookstore looking for some fiction to keep me occupied during my travels. I saw a book by Ayn Rand, and hazily remembered wanting to read Atlas Shrugged. I bought this book I saw, only to later discover that it was, in fact, The Fountainhead. While Ms. Rand's relationship with her Maker was clearly estranged, the book overwhelmed me (and not by its sheer volume).
My friend and erstwhile housemate Lieutenant John Law was reading Atlas Shrugged, so when we were both finished we swapped. And Ayn Rand's book was a 1100 page process of crystallization of so many ideas that had flitted across my mind for so long. (Law said the same thing, though he more emphatically embraced her anti-theism and leaned towards a more libertarian spin, probably more amenable to her sexual morality and pseudo-misanthropy.)
To extend Rand's title metaphor in Atlas Shrugged, the great giant is being stoned, spit on, and hamstringed, boiling oil dumped from the world on his back down his face, into his eyes. All the while the world tells him he is unworthy of his status, that he is culpable for its own deplorable state. They demand that he give more of himself in contrition for his exploitation of them.
Leaving the parables, AIG is basically a synecdoche for producers in the financial sector. AIG is like the firms in the early part of Atlas Shrugged who accept government grants and bonds for their own profitability, or the later-stage industries who accept bonds on the condition that they have a lengthy grace period for payback. These corporations eventually realize they have excavated their own graves, that they are no longer free to pursue their own interests, profit or otherwise, because they are at the mercy of the government.
In the novel, there is one man whose talents and conviction are profound enough that he effects a kind of secession of producers, refusing to live on the terms of the parasites. Is there such a clique today that can make the same statement? One sees some shimmers of hope through the clouds that is this Age of Obama. Barney Frank is Wesley Mouch: he is a Washington player who contributed greatly to this current state of affairs, and stands to be promoted if the new American Order comes to pass.
Is there a John Galt among us? Will any executive tell this administration that they do not have claim to his talent and industry simply because they can seize his property by armed force? Some politicians have stood for the rights of property, and they should be commended for it. Some intrepid journalist should compile a little digest of these men and women.
But where is Midas Mulligan to say: this is mine, which I have earned legitimately. If you wish to rob me by armed force, I would sooner destroy it all and close all accounts down to the very cent, before I consent to this confiscation. Or where is Fransisco D'Anconia to declare that his empire is not for the taking by any People's state, that nationalizing it will yield you nothing (he pulled that little trick twice, heh.)
Where is John Galt to tell the parasites that the engine of the world is free, and fettering it is impossible? In one of the most powerful examples of metaphorical imagery in her novel, the goons of Mr. Thompson and the state finally apprehend John Galt. They ask him what is behind a locked door, to which he replies "Private property." The heroine Dagny Taggart looks on, silently aghast, as they remove the locking mechanism - she has just seen the most remarkable laboratory, bearing the fruits of the mind of John Galt in advances far beyond the world's current technology.
They open the door to find an obliterated ruin of dust, described as looking as though it were very ancient. This is her image of a mind that is forced, of the engine that is fettered.
Who is John Galt? I hope dearly this question is not an empty reference.