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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Immovable Movers
A Publius Essay | 7 February 2009 | Publius

Posted on 02/07/2009 11:11:19 AM PST by Publius

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers

Synopsis

Dagny fails to get a straight answer from the president of the United Locomotive Works as to when she will get her diesel engines and what is the source of the delay. There is even a hint she is being impolite by asking these questions.

Upon returning to the office, Eddie Willers tells her that McNamara of Cleveland has gone out of business and disappeared.

Dagny walks home through the streets of New York, and along the way she encounters signs of the times. First, there is a shop where a radio speaker is broadcasting a classical music concert with a piece that is both atonal and pointless. Then a book store advertises a novel as “the penetrating study of a businessman’s greed.” A theater shows a movie that is trivial. A couple leaves a nightclub drunk and staggering.

Arriving at her midtown apartment, Dagny puts on a recording of Richard Halley’s Fourth Concerto, which leads to a flashback on the life and career of the composer who had disappeared eight years earlier after the triumph of his opera “Phaeton”. Reading the newspaper, she stumbles upon a picture of Francisco d’Anconia, in town at his suite at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel for the purpose of dating a hat check girl and eating at a famous deli. Dagny drops the newspaper and silently sobs.

Jim Taggart awakens past noon to the sound of Betty Pope cleaning up in the bathroom after a night of meaningless sex. He brags to Betty that at this afternoon’s board meeting he will put Dagny in her place. He is interrupted by a hysterical phone call from Mexico. The People’s State of Mexico has not only nationalized Francisco’s San Sebastian Mines but Taggart Transcontinental’s San Sebastian Line.

Jim puts the best face possible on this development at the board meeting. He takes credit for running substandard service with old equipment so that the Mexican government could not confiscate any useful assets of the railroad. Delegating blame, he asks the board to request the resignations of the consultant who recommended building the line and the railroad’s Mexican agent.

Upon returning to his office, Jim finds Orren Boyle waiting for him. Francisco has lost $15 million in the nationalization, and Jim and Orren want to find out how he plans to recover their investments. Jim asks for a meeting with Francisco only to be told that Francisco does not deign to meet with him because Jim bores him.

The National Alliance of Railroads passes an Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule aimed at curbing “destructive competition”. Railroads defined as newcomers to an area serviced by a senior railroad must shut down within nine months. They can instead build in “blighted areas” where there is no need for rail service because “the prime purpose of a railroad was public service, not profit.” Major railroads, however, were entitled to public support to help survive. Dan Conway of the Phoenix-Durango Railroad, the intended victim of the rule, shuffles out of the meeting chamber demoralized.

Jim brags to Dagny that he has taken Conway out of the game, and Dagny is furious. She goes to Conway and offers to help him against the looters, but he demurs, pointing out that the majority has made its decision and he doesn’t have the right to buck it considering the tenor of the times. “Who is John Galt?” he asks. Conway tells Dagny that she needs to get the Rio Norte Line fixed up because it’s the only lifeline keeping Ellis Wyatt and the businessmen of Colorado going.

Returning to her office, she finds Ellis Wyatt himself barging in on her. He gives Dagny an ultimatum: in nine months time, either the railroad gives him the service he requires or he will take it down with him when its failure destroys him. Dagny tells him, “You will get the transportation you need, Mr. Wyatt.”

Dagny meets with Hank Rearden at his mill, asking him for a nine month delivery schedule for Rearden Metal rather than twelve, and Rearden agrees. He enjoys charging Dagny more for the rail, but Dagny has no problem with that. This is business, and she is not a moocher. The intent was for Colorado to save the railroad, but now the railroad must save Colorado. Hank sees their role as saving the country from its own lunacy, a lunacy that just has to be temporary. They understand each other: “We haven’t any spiritual goals or qualities. All we’re after is material things.” Dagny senses there will be a problem about that.

Railroads, Regulation and Competition

The early years of railroading saw competition that was vicious. It was not just that railroad men fought each other, they sought the aid of government in their battles. As soon as an operator of sufficient size built, operated and stabilized a line, he either acquired trackage rights over the line of a competitor, making him an ally, or acquired the competitor outright. This is how networks were built and America’s major railroads emerged.

In dealing with customers, railroads were predatory. This was standard behavior in the era after the War Between the States, a war in which American industry had defeated American plantation agriculture. Ellis Wyatt exclaims, “You expect to feed off me while you can and to find another carcass to pick dry after you have finished mine.” Wyatt is describing the world of Atlas Shrugged, but he could just as easily have been describing the second half of the 19th Century.

There is a saying in Buddhism known as the Law of Karma: “The good or bad you do in a given lifetime will come back to you in that life or a future one.” Americans prefer the pithier and more Protestant, “What goes around, comes around.” The predatory behavior of America’s railroads led to the Granger Movement which favored nationalization of the railroads. Outrage reached sufficient levels during the Cleveland Administration that Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate the railroads.

Once a commission is created to regulate something, it takes about two decades before the regulated gain enough influence to become the regulators. This is a natural process, a revolving door that circulates executives from regulated industries, lawyers, lobbyists, politicians and regulators themselves. On occasion it also involves the passing of cash. Over time the ICC became the tool by which major railroads kept competitors out of the game by building a bureaucratic structure impossible for any but the best legal minds to penetrate. As long as railroads were the key movers of people and goods, this structure provided stability. But it failed as soon as real competition emerged.

By the early 20th Century, the internal combustion engine prompted states and counties to build roads to make space for all the cars pouring out of Henry Ford’s plant. After World War I, this began in earnest and increased exponentially during the Depression when the federal government created make-work jobs building bridges and highways.

The building of roads created space for trucks to compete with trains. At first, America’s highway network was a collection of two-lane roads, and trucks were not able to compete well for long distance hauling. But the Interstate Highway System changed all that. Antiquated work rules, featherbedding and deferred maintenance led to America’s railroads tearing out much of their physical plant in the Sixties. Wall Street believed it might even be in the best interest of investors to shut down the railroads and move everything by truck over the new subsidized freeway network. Railroads not only didn’t earn the cost of their capital, they were losing their shirts.

It was the Penn Central bankruptcy of 1970 that provided the reality check. The Penn Central, created in 1968 by the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads, crashed so catastrophically that it took down all the railroads in the northeastern US.

The Penn Central’s (ex-Pennsylvania) Northeast Corridor was the single most important piece of transportation infrastructure in the area – just as important as the New Jersey Turnpike – and it ended up in the hands of the government’s Amtrak, which had been created to preserve nationwide passenger rail service after the railroads had given up on it. Passenger trains had been subsidized by the Post Office via the mail contract, but in 1967 that had been shifted to the airlines. Government ownership was good for the Northeast Corridor but ended up being a major policy mistake.

The rest of the railroad infrastructure in the northeastern US ended up in the hands of the government’s Conrail, which hemorrhaged money until the railroad sold off much of its branch network to short line operators. In 1986, the government sold Conrail back to Wall Street, and a decade later CSX and Norfolk Southern carved up Conrail between them.

The creation of a large number of short line railroads was one of the most important developments in railroading in the second half of the century. The Class I railroads had not been able to make money on these branch lines, but short line operators provided the kind of customer service the major railroads had long since forgotten. With short line operators making these branches profitable, the Class I’s could turn their attention to hook-and-haul operations on major rail trunks.

In 1980, Rep. Harley Staggers (D-WV) wrote a bill that would replace the ICC with the Surface Transportation Board and finally deregulate the railroads. Following its enactment, by the end of 1980 all major railroads were profitable again. This set off a wave of mergers that is still ongoing. Competition is stiff, and each railroad feels a need to chivy its competitors out of every last available scrap of cargo – while the trucking industry continues to eat the railroads’ lunch.

Until recently, America’s railroads had been loath to accept government money to fix up their infrastructure because of a terrible fear of Open Access, which the government might demand as its price. This would require the railroads to dispatch the trains of competitors on their tracks for a fee.

However, Norfolk Southern has accepted government money to crown-mine the tunnels on its Norfolk-to-Chicago route so they can handle double-stack containers, the latest innovation in railroading. NS is also looking at government money to expand the capacity of its I-81 line from Harrisburg to Chattanooga to take trucks off that saturated interstate, and CSX is looking for money to fix up its lines that parallel I-95 and I-85 in the South. (It’s fascinating that the states of the Old Confederacy are far ahead of their brethren in understanding the role of rail in hauling cargo efficiently.)

Today there exists the Association of American Railroads, which lobbies before Congress. It has none of the monolithic power of the National Alliance of Railroads, but there is a sentence in the book that refers to laws enacted by the National Legislature that the alliance appears to be enforcing. Much like the old ICC, its practical goal is to protect current operators against upstarts, but it’s a voluntary association. Dan Conway was a signatory, and he believes that he must, if necessary, sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Some Discussion Topics

  1. Had the diesel locomotives come from the Richards Locomotive Works, run by the tall, dark and handsome Matt Richards, we would have had a different turn of the plot. But hiding behind the corporate name United Locomotive Works we see more of what we’ve seen from Associated Steel. Why does the owner believe that Dagny is being impolite in asking where her locomotives are?
  2. Rand is expert at using metaphors and symbols, something she may have picked up from Edgar Allen Poe. So far, we’ve seen a rotted out tree, a bar on the upper floor of a skyscraper that is decked out like a cellar, and now a precision machine rusting away on the property of the United Locomotive Works. Of what significance is this symbol? How does it relate to its predecessors?
  3. Dagny’s walk through Manhattan to her apartment reads like a tour of one of the circles of Dante’s hell. It opens a window onto the society of America’s greatest city and its influence over the rest of the country. Let’s take those four images apart and see what makes them tick.
  4. We are developing a body count. Richard Halley disappeared eight years ago. Owen Kellogg left the railroad to vanish in Chapter 1. Now McNamara, the Cleveland rail contractor, has gone out of business and disappeared. Let’s build a list and watch it grow.
  5. Woody Allen once said, “Sex without love is a meaningless experience – but as meaningless experiences go, it’s one of the best.” Why can’t Jim Taggart enjoy his meaningless experience?
  6. The threat of the railroad’s Mexican property being nationalized was foremost in Dagny’s mind, which is why she left the railroad’s worst assets available for the looters to confiscate. Orren Boyle insisted it would never happen and Jim bought those excuses. When nationalization occurred, Jim took credit for Dagny’s quick thinking, then delegated the blame for his own failures to two fall guys who were summarily fired. Is this any different from what happens today in the offices of America’s largest corporations? What does this say about the current state of American business?
  7. Dan Conway echoes Jim Taggart’s statement that it’s not right to buck the will of the majority. In his case, however, Conway is the victim of that will. Examine the holes in Conway’s logic when he gives in. Later we will hear the expression “the sanction of the victim”, but it doesn’t hurt to introduce the concept now.
  8. Dan Conway is the sixth person to say, “Who is John Galt?” Contrast his use of the expression to his five predecessors.
  9. We’ve seen Dagny interact with Owen Kellogg, Eddie Willers and Jim Taggart. But her interaction with Dan Conway is different; we see her emotions on display. Her interaction with Hank Rearden is of a different order of magnitude entirely; they are of like mind and joust not just as competitors, but as friends. What do we learn about Dagny?
  10. ”All that lunacy is temporary. It can’t last. It’s demented, so it has to defeat itself.” Hank believes that he, Dagny and other like minded people will save the country from itself. But just how long can such lunacy last? What is the fatal flaw in their argument?

Next Saturday: The Climax of the d’Anconias


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 02/07/2009 11:11:20 AM PST by Publius
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To: ADemocratNoMore; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; Amityschild; Andonius_99; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:
Our First Freeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Theme
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Chain
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Top and the Bottom

I know that most are far ahead of this chapter, and many have finished the book with bleary eyes because they couldn’t stop reading. No problem. I’d suggest that those who are ahead of the rest of us read at their own pace, but go back to the chapter under discussion and read it slowly and thoroughly. Rand’s book is thickly textured and worth a second, closer read.

2 posted on 02/07/2009 11:12:38 AM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Publius

Far be it from me to say this but in the context of this day and age, it is not a case of a dated “Atlas Shrugged” but one of a case where “America Got Punk’d”.


3 posted on 02/07/2009 11:12:42 AM PST by Gaffer
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To: Publius

Bookmark so I can come back to this. Please add me to your ping list.


4 posted on 02/07/2009 11:34:35 AM PST by T-Bird45 (It feels like the seventies, and it shouldn't.)
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To: All

To new thread-joiners, it’s worth noting that although Ayn Rand was clearly an intelligent and prescient woman, much of her writing bears the hallmarks of 19th century intellectualism; although her writing is superficially opposed to Marx, it is similar in many functional ways.

She reputedly loathed Ronald Reagan and other great conservative leaders, not only communists.

She was a devout atheist, jumping on that bandwagon as many early 20th century intellectuals did.

I am seeing conservatives defend abortion/drugs/porn, or whatever their sin is, by calling themselves a “randian”, and denigrating “social conservatives”. This is folly. No culture has ever survived the destruction of their ethics, whether by calling it “socialism”, or by calling it “randianism”. The end result is the same.

However, she was a clear thinker, and there’s clearly a lot most people could learn by reading her work. But personally I would be aware of potential 19th-century-style atheistic bias.


5 posted on 02/07/2009 11:38:32 AM PST by chuck_the_tv_out
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To: Publius

Not one of the discussion topics, (and also a bit before this term is used in the book, but not a spoiler so....) this week when I read Pres. Obama’s speech in Virginia, he referred to the “National Emergency”, I swear, the blood drained from my face.


6 posted on 02/07/2009 11:39:50 AM PST by Explorer89 (I believe in the politics of Personal Responsibility)
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To: Explorer89

National emergencies give government an excuse to violate the Constitution and burst its bounds. As Rahm Emmanuel said, “We wouldn’t want to waste a crisis, would we?”


7 posted on 02/07/2009 11:43:26 AM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Gaffer
It's important to remember, I think, that a lot of people have yet to hear of Atlas Shrugged. So, I'm particularly grateful that it is being highlighted by the Book Club here, if only because, though I've read it three times (and not until I was 40 years old) it's good to be reminded of it's details and raw poetry.

The chief problems I had with this otherwise delightful and empowering work was it's notable lack of crowds and children. Obviously, the actions of crowds are on display, as is Mob Rule, but you rarely encounter the Mob and almost never are there any children in the book, except in flashbacks to Dagny's youth, etc. This is, indeed, the world of Atlas Shrugged.

While the book has been empowering in the sense that it demonstrates the logic of dementia as a self-defeating process, the Sanctuary of the Disappeared is purely wishful thinking. More often in failed democracies, the Sanctuary of the Disappearados is the quiet peace of the Mass Grave.

As a mataphor of the General Strike and peaceful non-cooperation with Tyranny, it is far more hopeful.

8 posted on 02/07/2009 11:50:56 AM PST by Prospero (non est ad astra mollis e terris via)
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To: Prospero

No problems with the context of the book.....I just think there are additional factors here that really couldn’t have been considered here given the extremes to which this entitlement population has gone to recently.


9 posted on 02/07/2009 11:59:57 AM PST by Gaffer
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To: Publius

I liked the rich and successful guy who dropped out of the rat race because of such high taxes and the parasites on society. He went someplace and opened a hamburger joint where he made really good hamburgers. - Maybe my husband and I will go somewhere, set up a coffee roaster shop called “JOE’S” and serve coffee, bagels and cream cheese and other snacks, make just enough to eat and clothe ourselves - make the best cup of coffee anywhere around - and live out our days at that. - Right now we’re on a sort of homestead with our own firewood, a garden, fruit trees and bushes, house paid for, some food storage (although it needs upgrading), a well, a woodstove, so it’s kind of hard to think about leaving that self-reliant sort of life. Sigh. We’re in our sixties, husband will soon be eligible to “draw” social security, but really who knows what’s what with that and we don’t even really want to do that anyway; just more at the old sow’s teat.


10 posted on 02/07/2009 12:07:15 PM PST by Twinkie (TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT!!!)
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To: Twinkie
Ah yes. Hugh Akston. We'll meet him later.

I'm just looking for a Galt's Gulch to hide in while I run our FReeper Book Club.

11 posted on 02/07/2009 12:09:35 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Publius
I wonder how Hammas feels about Rahm Emmanuel? Should be getting interesting as our new Hammas neighbors show up in our neighborhoods.
12 posted on 02/07/2009 12:19:47 PM PST by April Lexington (Study the constitution so you know what they are taking away!)
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To: Publius
So far, we’ve seen a rotted out tree, a bar on the upper floor of a skyscraper that is decked out like a cellar, and now a precision machine rusting away on the property of the United Locomotive Works. Of what significance is this symbol? How does it relate to its predecessors?

What an excellent juxtaposition. What we have here in all of these symbols is power wasted or power wasted away. The glory of a tree, the grandeur of a view, the greatness of a machine, all for naught. In every case, we the reader, are left with a feeling of doom that if these obviously valuable assets are allowed to wane into ruin, what else will this society allow to deteriorate?

Another possible relation would be the character of Doc. A man who is also allowed to go to waste -- he doesn't even bother to order a new typewriter beause he will know it will be worthless. Why bother? Again, as mentioned before, it is indicative of the moral rot - and the vision of the tree slowly rotting from the inside, while still appearing to be strong reminds me sadly of our own nation.

13 posted on 02/07/2009 12:34:33 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: SoftballMominVA
Thank you for bringing up Doc Harper. I hadn't thought of including him in this question.

As you can see, in this chapter I'm asking hard questions that require some serious thought and good writing skills. I'm not surprised that reaction to this thread is so slow. But I know this group is capable of that kind of searching thought. This is a band of FReepers that can rise to this challenge. I have faith.

14 posted on 02/07/2009 12:39:12 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Publius
Dagny fails to get a straight answer from the president of the United Locomotive Works as to when she will get her diesel engines and what is the source of the delay. There is even a hint she is being impolite by asking these questions.

This is becoming more common every day, IMO. Just expecting someone to do their job seems to be annoying to many (especially civil servants).
15 posted on 02/07/2009 12:50:30 PM PST by CottonBall
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To: Prospero
The chief problems I had with this otherwise delightful and empowering work was it's notable lack of crowds and children.

I've noticed that too. Not even a teenager has shown up. I wondered if they were all being raised in a commune-type brainwashing camp.
16 posted on 02/07/2009 12:53:40 PM PST by CottonBall
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To: CottonBall
This is becoming more common every day, IMO. Just expecting someone to do their job seems to be annoying to many (especially civil servants).

Excellent observation. Now dig deeper. Why is this so? What prompts people to not gave a damn about their jobs? Why is there no fear of retribution from management?

You've uncovered the tip of an iceberg that connects the world of Atlas Shrugged to today's world. Let's throw some sunlight on that iceberg.

17 posted on 02/07/2009 12:55:08 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: CottonBall

IIRC, there were all of two children in Galt’s Gulch, and Dagny’s comment was that they seemed different from children outside of Galt’s Gulch. Their mother explained that as being they were not afraid of what they had being taken from them, they were being raised with reason. Again, this bit relies on my faulty memory. No way I’m going to read that tedious tome again!


18 posted on 02/07/2009 1:00:43 PM PST by knittnmom (FReeper formerly known as 80 Square Miles)
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To: Publius; CottonBall

You can ask your question from the opposite way — what makes people give a damn about their jobs?

i think people care about their jobs when they have a stake in the outcome, either financially or in a sense of group pride. The attitude that “I do my job but nothing more” that is pervasive in this book and in places today may be indicative of a lack of locus of control - things happen to us, we do not affect things

A true conservative DEMANDS locus of control. By god, we WILL be in charge of our destiny and we will REFUSE to allow events to wash over us.


19 posted on 02/07/2009 1:03:49 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: SoftballMominVA
You can ask your question from the opposite way — what makes people give a damn about their jobs?

This is why I love this assignment I've undertaken. FReepers possess an intellectual curiosity lacking in much of the country and have no problem turning a question inside out.

i think people care about their jobs when they have a stake in the outcome, either financially or in a sense of group pride.

I've seen both in one place. I like to ride across the USA via Amtrak. On any given train, I'll run across people who do their best and care about their jobs. At the same time, I'll run across employees who don't care at all.

I've even seen this in the private sector. I've managed people who took their jobs seriously and those who were time servers, all at a place where there was no union protection.

I've noticed that some companies have a corporate culture that is entrepreneurial, while others are bureaucratic. This has always been an indicator (for me) as to what to expect from employees.

20 posted on 02/07/2009 1:11:42 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: SoftballMominVA

Yes, this lack of work ethic that is becoming more and more acceptable quite noticeable. I have worked for an organization that tolerated haphazard performance and employees who I could only describe as ducks, every day brings a whole new world. Out and out carelessness and lack of work ethic was a hallmark of the late USSR. I have become increasingly concerned over this,


21 posted on 02/07/2009 1:13:41 PM PST by gracie1
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To: gracie1
Out and out carelessness and lack of work ethic was a hallmark of the late USSR.

Bless you, Gracie, for bringing this up. The social contract of the old USSR could be defined, "As long as the government pretends to pay, we will pretend to work."

That we're seeing this here at home is alarming.

22 posted on 02/07/2009 1:16:08 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: SoftballMominVA

Or we know the One Whom we are really serving. Beside a strong work ethic learned from my parents, I realize that one day I will stand before my Maker. He gave me my talents and will inquire of me what I did with them. No other motivation needed.


23 posted on 02/07/2009 1:22:38 PM PST by Mom MD (Jesus is the Light of the world!)
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To: Publius

Terrible post!!!

I will now have to break an arm or a leg to prevent me from dragging out my new special edition of Atlas Shrugged, dust it off and start reading it again. Dread, Dread , Dread


24 posted on 02/07/2009 1:23:08 PM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . The original point of America was not to be Europe)
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To: Publius

I think their fatal flaw is that they don’t realize some people have given up. And other people like the way the world is changing, as it allows them to blame someone else for their own failures. And then there are the lazy people, who will be there no matter what. It is easier to be a slacker than an innovator, especially when you have permission.....morally, that is.


25 posted on 02/07/2009 1:54:26 PM PST by w4women
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To: Publius

BTTT


26 posted on 02/07/2009 1:57:49 PM PST by Bradís Gramma ( PRAY! Pray for the U.S. Pray for Israel.)
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To: w4women
That's a good answer. There is also the issue of acclimation.

Dagny and Hank think that the dementia is self-defeating. They don't perceive that the nationl insanity is creating a new construct with its own rules, and a stable one at that. This construct will go on until it reaches a point of genuine self destruction -- but that might well take years to unfold.

Hank and Dagny have more faith in the people than they deserve. Rand didn't live long enough to encounter the word sheeple, but I think she would have understood.

27 posted on 02/07/2009 1:59:57 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: An Old Man

Ping to Chapter 4. Previous chapter links are in Post #2.


28 posted on 02/07/2009 2:03:53 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: Mom MD

That is motivation that drives you, but what drives people who are non-christian? And even in yourself, do you fight how to give your best when you are working for a corporation who will have any number of flaws?

If one is a Christian working for Dow Chemical or Dupont or Boeing, these companies do not always have a reputation as the best corporate citizens for any number of reasons. But a specific agency may have a sterling reputation. Is there a conflict? How good or bad does a business have to be for a Christian to work there?


29 posted on 02/07/2009 2:04:52 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: SoftballMominVA
That is motivation that drives you, but what drives people who are non-christian?

Like Rand, I'm an atheist. What motivates me is personal pride and a sense that I should give good value for the money I'm being paid. I don't worry about some Cosmic Cop punishing me after death. I do it because I believe it is the right thing for me to do.

30 posted on 02/07/2009 2:09:09 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: SoftballMominVA

Not sure I understand your post. The companies you mention have had break-through research that actually make our lives better. They are a producer of something, not like an agency. And they also provide benefits second to none. As far as DuPont is concerned, my dad retired from there and my brother works there, contribution and work ethic are rewarded; with money, recognition and opportunity.


31 posted on 02/07/2009 2:15:03 PM PST by w4women
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To: Publius
Howdy Pub’!

A couple of thoughts before we get into the main argument. Rand takes a long time to set the table in this 1100-page monster but the supper will be worth it. Lots of courses in this meal.

What James Taggart and Orren Boyle (another great character name there IMHO) accomplish through the auspices of the National Alliance of Railroads is a restraint of trade that is nominally illegal in the United States since the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. It is a textbook example of a cartel, in fact, an old economics professor of mine actually used this selection as an illustration of how, and why, this sort of anticompetitive behavior takes place.

Meanwhile James Taggart deftly takes credit for his sister’s actions in moving railroad assets out of Mexico before the nationalization, taking caddishness to a new height. It’s perfectly in character. Very nice touch. Rand makes the point here that Dagny’s was the risk and his the reward, which is actually the premise of the entire novel in miniature. In view of the later historical nationalization by Mexico of her privately-held oil industry one has to tip one’s hat to Rand for prescience.

Well, here we are at the third chapter and we find ourselves discussing Aristotle. Aristotle? Yep. Rand’s philosophy is heavily dependent on Aristotle and she isn’t shy about informing us of that in the chapter title. The “Immovable Mover” (also translated as “unmoved mover”) is straight from Aristotle’s Metaphysics. If that weren’t clue enough, Rand entitled the three sections of Atlas Shrugged after the three axioms of Aristotlean logic: non-contradiction, either/or, and identity. She and her Objectivist followers add a fourth, the axiom of consciousness, more pertinent, in my opinion, to epistemology than logic, but that’s a topic for another day.

We’re also going to encounter a heavy dose of Nietzsche in AS. Rand studied both Aristotle and Nietzsche in Petrograd before emigrating to the United States, and Chris Sciabarra (Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical) informs us that Thus Spake Zarathustra was the first book she purchased upon arriving here. I’ll touch on Nietzsche a little in the following paragraphs.

First Aristotle. Rand’s persistent evocation of reason in all her works is to a great degree an invocation of Aristotle’s body of thought. The “immovable mover” of the chapter title is God, both for Aristotle and his subsequent interpreters, the brilliant rabbi Maimonides with respect to Judaism, the philosopher Averroes with respect to Islam and Christianity, and of course St. Thomas Aquinas with respect to Christianity. Here the existence of God is not so much “proven” by Aristotle’s system of logic but appears as a necessary consequence. Students of medieval philosophy will immediately recognize it in the roots of the Ontological argument for the existence of God, an argument that impressed even that unrepentant old atheist Bertrand Russell.

But there are difficulties inherent in having the existence of God dependent on the congruence of a system of logic to the bones of actual reality. That involves Russell and Kurt Godel and is the topic for another day.

And yet Rand herself was an atheist. How are we to reconcile the two positions? Enter Nietzsche. I think that far from denying it, Rand embraces Aristotle’s conclusion, moving not God but the functions of godhead into men and women, Dagny and Reardon, to be specific, at the end of the chapter. That is what she meant by her statement in the first paragraph that the skyscraper was dependent on motion for its existence. The building – the society – is not, in her view the immovable movers, certain creative, productive people are. Atlas shrugs when they decline to move it.

Nietzsche is most famous for his asseveration that God is dead, by which he did not mean that the Big Fellow was literally pushing up cosmological daisies but that God, being in Nietzsche’s view an imaginary collective construct, ceases to exist when His reality is rejected (as Nietzsche felt that it was in Europe at the time), and that when that happens God ceases to be a source of values and morals, not to mention spiritual comfort. Further, that this deficiency in the basis of morals needed to be addressed lest humanity slide into nihilism. (Jews, Christians, and Muslims might have some difficulties with the notion of God as Tinkerbelle but that need not impede the discussion of Nietzsche’s philosophy). I will note in Nietzsche’s defense that nihilism is, IMHO, the root of the multiculturalism that is gripping the cultural leadership of Europe at the present time, and that one cause is the popular rejection of religion as a cultural anchor. God may not be dead but He’s probably bored.

Nietzsche’s answer to this was the advent of an Ubermensch, imperfectly translated as “Superman” and carrying with it the unfortunate connotations of a fellow with a cape flying through the air. “Overman” is as good, but the basic idea was that this creature transcended humanity, being a more perfect version of its progenitor, exempt from the strictures that originally were necessary to circumscribe his behavior. And that once expressed, this new creature would be not only a paragon of a new morality but its very source and origin. One hears echoes of this in both the Blond Beast of Nazism and the New Soviet Man. One hears less malevolent echoes of it in Rand.

The reason Rand’s overmen and –women are less malevolent is something Rand commented on herself. The difference between her philosophy and Nietzsche’s is that “his epistemology subordinates reason to ‘will’, or feeling or instance of blood or innate virtues of character.” (introduction to The Fountainhead) . Hers celebrates the subordination of man only to reason. Enter Aristotle.

But before we put Nietzsche back on the shelf a few side comments. First, that his Zarathustra has so little to do with the historical character of that name that real Zoroastrians – there are quite a few – must be scratching their heads wondering how the old fellow could have come up with this stuff. Second, that Nietzsche places his statement that “God is dead” in the mouth of a madman, which is ironic inasmuch as Nietzsche himself later wound up in a psychiatric clinic in Basel. But nuts or not, it was Nietzsche who brought to my reluctant attention the difficulties encountered in rejecting God as a source of morality. Whether one can replace Him with will, reason, or even politics seems to me to be a very contemporary question.

Objectivism as a body of philosophy is taken less seriously than it otherwise might be in academia due to this necessarily derivative character. It is far more Aristotlean than Nietzschean. Atlas Shrugged, however, seems to me to circle the two in an irregular orbit like a planet circling a binary star system, now lurching one direction, now the other.

The novel is also taken less seriously than it otherwise might be in academia due to a couple of fairly serious flaws, most notably the brick wall it hits at chapter VII of the third section, “This Is John Galt Speaking,” wherein the dramatic narrative gives way- probably necessarily, we’ll discuss it - to a polemic. We’re not there yet so I’ll say little about it other than likening that brick wall to the building with which this chapter opens, a great edifice that must be supported by the motions of its occupants.

One last thought – my copy of AS has a different illustration from its predecessor (which I lost through lending), which was, logically enough, a fellow bent over with the world on his back. The new illustration is that of a tunnel from which two rails of Reardon Metal emerge toward the viewer. There is, as well, a circle of light that represents an oncoming train. Given recent events I find that more than a little disturbing. ;-)

32 posted on 02/07/2009 2:18:44 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

Thank you. You add so much to these threads. I learn a lot from your work.


33 posted on 02/07/2009 2:27:32 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: w4women

My point? Easy - for all their good, they have done bad. Boeing supplies weapons that kill, Dupont has supplied materials used in war, Dow has killed people through faulty safety precautions. Yes, they have done good, but they have not been perfect.

If you look at my post, I even mentioned that certain divisions may be sterling, but the whole may be tarred

So, the quetion is the same, how good or bad does a corporate entity have to be for a Christian to work there?

Taking it back to the book - are the people in this book giving up because they dont really believe they are in an area doing ‘good’ or because they themselves are not doing good.

BTW, I meant no offense to you dad and brother.


34 posted on 02/07/2009 2:27:53 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: Publius
Great discussion - busy weekend! I am trying to find some uninterrupted time in which to respond to the very thought-provoking questions.
35 posted on 02/07/2009 2:57:45 PM PST by Savagemom (Educational Maverick (at least while homeschooling is still legal))
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To: MarkL

Ping to Chapter 4. Links to previous chapters are in Post #2.


36 posted on 02/07/2009 3:00:10 PM PST by Publius (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: CottonBall; Prospero

“The chief problems I had with this otherwise delightful and empowering work was it’s notable lack of crowds and children.”

“I’ve noticed that too. Not even a teenager has shown up. I wondered if they were all being raised in a commune-type brainwashing camp.”

Two thoughts tying it to today.
First, I have long observed that in today’s society, there is an atmosphere of ever increasing societal expection for children to hurry, and grow up. The, “It’s the real world, and they need to learn to deal with it.” mentality, that usually is voiced by adults who do not want any restrictions placed on anything they want to do, see, or hear. Consequently, we now have 8 and 10 year olds dressing, and behaving like “teenagers” : / And it is not restricted to the U.S. In the Middle East, you have children, even toddlers, being dressed up, by their families, as Jihadist fighters. Might the lack of children be a symbolic absence, signifying the deterioration of society?

Secondly, about Obama’s National Service Camps....

Tatt : |


37 posted on 02/07/2009 3:57:38 PM PST by thesearethetimes... ("Courage, is fear that has said its prayers." DorothyBernard)
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To: chuck_the_tv_out
I am seeing conservatives defend abortion/drugs/porn, or whatever their sin is, by calling themselves a “randian”

Rand was absolutely opposed to any form of self destructive behavior.Her standard of value for morality was survival not self destruction. Addictive behavior was considered self destructive.

38 posted on 02/07/2009 4:18:19 PM PST by mjp (Live & let live. I don't want to live in Mexico, Marxico, or Muslimico. Statism & high taxes suck)
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To: Publius

Re: the rusted out locomotive.

The engine of progress has stopped, it has more than stopped it is running in reverse.

The world isn’t moving into the future, it is moving into the dark ages.


39 posted on 02/07/2009 4:30:44 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius
Management is top down and bottom up at the same time.

When management has an attitude that it expects excellence, it rewards excellence and will tolerate nothing else, People tend to deliver.

The high achievers will hold their coworkers to a similar standard.

When management puts up with substandard performance it is demoralizing to people who try to do well and over all performance will fall.

Slime begets slime.

40 posted on 02/07/2009 4:42:46 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: SoftballMominVA

I fight to give my best exactly because I am ultimately working for Christ, not for who signs my paycheck. Christians are commanded to be salt and light in the world, not to work for perfect employers (and there are none by the way) Having said that, I would do nothing at work that would violate my conscience or bring dishonor to my Lord. What corporation is too evil to work for? I’m afraid that is a matter for personal conscience, but no matter who one works for one can be a light shining in the darkness.


41 posted on 02/07/2009 4:48:36 PM PST by Mom MD (Jesus is the Light of the world!)
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To: CottonBall
Not even a teenager has shown up. I wondered if they were all being raised in a commune-type brainwashing camp.

Like Public Schools?

42 posted on 02/07/2009 4:48:54 PM PST by meyer (The left is flooding the ship - let's quit bailing water. We are all John Galt.)
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To: chuck_the_tv_out
Perhaps you might consider the particular book titled “Atlas Shrugged” the next time that you decide to pontificate on a thread that is supposed to be about a book titled “Atlas Shrugged.”
43 posted on 02/07/2009 5:40:14 PM PST by Radix (There are 2 kinds of people in this world. Those with loaded guns & those who dig. You dig.)
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To: Publius
"What prompts people to not gave a damn about their jobs? Why is there no fear of retribution from management? "

IMHO, this mindset is the clear outcome of a strategy proposed in the late 19th century by the Fabians and finally implemented successfully during the past 40 years. That strategy being to gain control of the Nation's education system as a means to peacefully force socialism on a society.

The steps were clear:

So....we are seeing the 2nd or 3rd generation of ready-made serfs. No self-respecting serf would care about the job he/she has. In fact, in a socialist society, no serf really cares or worries about the consequences of disagreement with the boss.

When competition is bred out of a society, as has been done in this country for 40+ years: things fail, science crumbles, infrastructure rots, the entire moral fabric decays, and the government ruling class gets stronger and stronger.

So who is John Galt? "Who cares!" is the subliminal response.

44 posted on 02/07/2009 5:44:59 PM PST by SuperLuminal (Where is another agitator for republicanism like Sam Adams when we need him?)
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To: SoftballMominVA

I can definately relate to this. You can probaly figure out why. Innovation is just plain gone now.


45 posted on 02/07/2009 9:52:30 PM PST by WVNight (We havn't played Cowboys and Muslims yet....)
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To: w4women

That’s interesting. Of the three that were mentioned in the original post. One company is struggling with poor upper management decisions. One is ran by an egotist surrounded by a never ending line of yes men. One likes to lay claim to being humanistic. While the innovation that it was once famous for is bieng weaned away from the company.


46 posted on 02/07/2009 10:00:05 PM PST by WVNight (We havn't played Cowboys and Muslims yet....)
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To: chuck_the_tv_out

Welcome. I first heard about Ayn Rand in an economics college course in the mid-1980’s. When I heard she favored pure, free market capitalism and a laissez-faire government, I became a fan, without knowing much more about her.

In the late ‘90’s, I remember following discussions on atheist forums about Objectivism.

Then, in recent years, I finally watched/listened to an interview with Rand. Some of her comments were disturbing, and now that I’ve read her book, Atlas Shrugged, I can honestly say I’m not a Randian.

But, I agree with you that there is much to learn by reading her work. IMHO, her theories are not original. This book only reaffirms much of what I already knew and believed, but I’m glad she put it in writing. I disagree with a small bit of what she puts forth; then again, no one agrees with anyone 100%.


47 posted on 02/07/2009 10:28:02 PM PST by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: SoftballMominVA
Easy - for all their good, they have done bad. Boeing supplies weapons that kill, Dupont has supplied materials used in war, Dow has killed people through faulty safety precautions.

So, supplying our military with weapons is somehow a bad thing to you?

As far as I'm concerned, doing that is a good thing. If it weren't for the efforts of Boeing and Dupont supplying our military during WWII, we wouldn't be communicating right now, since you'd be speaking German and I'd be speaking Japanese.

BTW, if you're referring to the Bhopal incident, that was caused by a subsidiary of Union Carbide rather than Dow.

48 posted on 02/07/2009 10:28:07 PM PST by Bob
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To: Prospero
The chief problems I had with this otherwise delightful and empowering work was it's notable lack of crowds and children.... almost never are there any children in the book, except in flashbacks to Dagny's youth, etc.

I noticed the same, as I was reading the book. I don't want to spoil the story by talking about if and when children are mentioned as the story continues. (Others here have not read the book completely.) But, even at this chapter, I was wondering about children.

My thinking was: Rand didn't have children, did she? Children are important to me, and they probably would play a prominent role in a story I wrote, if I were a writer, because I'm a parent. But, when I was single, I didn't think much about children, either, and I probably would not have placed them prominently in a story, if I'd written one at that time. So, I suspect Rand is writing from that point of view, as someone who isn't a parent.

But, this question about children extends deeper, and it brings me to question something Rand puts forth later. But, I'm waiting for later chapters before bringing it up. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone.

49 posted on 02/07/2009 10:42:05 PM PST by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: meyer

Exactly like public schools - but more like boarding schools where they can’t go home to be reeducated by their parents.


50 posted on 02/07/2009 10:44:31 PM PST by CottonBall
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