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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Non-Commercial
A Publius Essay | 21 February 2009 | Publius

Posted on 02/21/2009 8:12:02 AM PST by Publius

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial

Synopsis

Hank Rearden, forgetting about his anniversary party, is sent home by his secretary and dresses for the party. He reads an editorial about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, which will forbid any businessman from owning more than one business. He has paid Wesley Mouch a lot of money to stop this and cannot believe it will pass the National Legislature.

Hank goes downstairs in time to hear Simon Pritchett state that man is nothing but chemicals with delusions of grandeur. He also says that there aren’t any objective standards and that the purpose of philosophy is to prove that there isn’t any meaning to life.

Balph Eubank pontificates on the state of literature, which should be to show that the essence of life is suffering and defeat. He suggests an equalization of opportunity bill for authors. Mort Liddy challenges this, but Eubank believes that no book should be allowed to sell more than ten thousand copies, thus forcing people to buy better books because there will no longer be any best sellers. Only those who are not motivated by making money should be allowed to write.

Bertram Scudder, author of a vile and slanderous article about Rearden, speaks in favor of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill to Philip Rearden and Betty Pope, who both support it. Philip has no problem with the government trimming Hank’s fortune. They are joined by Claude Slagenhop who argues that if the people are in need, they should seize things first and talk about it later.

Dagny Taggart walks in, and she is breathtaking. She tells Hank that this is a celebration of the first sixty miles of Rearden Metal track. Hank is strangely formal, as though he and Dagny have never met. Dagny is disturbed by his treatment of her.

Eubank and Jim Taggart speak about Dagny, whom Eubank sees as a perversion caused by the age of machines; Dagny should be home weaving cloth and having babies. Hank is enraged to see that Bertram Scudder is drinking in his house, but he is even more upset when Francisco d’Anconia walks in.

Francisco gravitates to Eubank and Pritchett. Eubank wants a government subsidy for the arts. Francisco delivers a delicious slam against Pritchett’s nihilism with a smile.

Jim takes Francisco aside to discuss the San Sebastian debacle, about which Francisco intends to do nothing. He tells Jim that the mines and rail line have been seized by the will of the people, and how dare anyone go against the majority? Everything Francisco did in Mexico was intended to follow the dominant precepts of the age. The mining engineer was chosen because of his need, workers received wages for producing nothing, and not a penny of profit was made. What could better epitomize the philosophy of Jim Taggart?

Francisco takes Hank aside and manages to read Hank’s innermost thoughts. He explains to Hank that he is carrying all the freeloaders in the room, and they have but one weapon against him. Hank gives him a tongue lashing about the Mexican business, and Dagny cannot believe that Francisco is taking it without fighting back. Francisco leaves, telling Hank he has learned what he needed to learn about him.

Dagny draws Hank into conversation, but Hank is still absolutely rigid, as though he had never met Dagny before. Dagny offers to slap Bertram Scudder. But Hank can’t keep his eyes off her bare shoulder.

Dagny overhears a conversation among some elderly people about their fear that the darkness will never leave. One old woman speaks about detonations heard out in Delaware Bay. The official explanation is Coast Guard target practice, but everyone knows it is the pirate Ragnar Danneskjøld evading the Coast Guard. Several European people’s states have put a price on his head, and he has captured a ship with relief supplies slated for the People’s State of France. His ship is better than any in the navy of the People’s State of England. The government has asked the newspapers to enforce a blackout on reporting about him. He was once a student at Patrick Henry University. (Major plot point!)

”Who is John Galt?” one asks, and Dagny walks away. But the old woman follows and tells Dagny of the legend of John Galt, a variant of the legend of Atlantis. Dagny doesn’t believe it, but Francisco says he does and tells Dagny the story is true. They spar, but when Francisco looks at Dagny and says, “What a waste,” Dagny walks away, realizing that Francisco has read her mind.

The last straw is when the radio comes on, and she hears Liddy’s bastardization of Halley’s Fourth Concerto. As she prepares to leave, she hears Lillian Rearden speaking disparagingly about the bracelet of Rearden Metal she is wearing. In a fury, Dagny offers to exchange her diamond bracelet for Lillian’s Rearden Metal bracelet. Lillian takes the offer, and Hank suddenly turns solicitous to his wife – and bitterly cold to Dagny.

Hank, in his wife’s bedroom, asks that she not invite these people again to the house.

The Purpose of This Chapter

We meet the friends of Philip and Lillian Rearden, a veritable rogues gallery of New York intellectuals; the overwhelming impression is one of uselessness and nihilism. Francisco is probing Hank, and Dagny’s relationship with Hank hits a bad spot. Something is going on, but it’s impossible to figure it out yet.

The New York Intellectuals

Intellectuals in general held differing but strong opinions of Ayn Rand.

After her Hollywood years, Rand came to New York and settled there for the rest of her long life. She had her own group of followers, whom she dubbed “The Collective” as a joke aimed at Marxism. Alan Greenspan was one of them.

Rand no doubt rubbed shoulders with New York’s intellectuals of the Left, and the dominant group at that time dubbed itself “The New York Intellectuals”. (How original!) This group defined itself as socialist and Marxist, but not pro-Soviet. They wrote for Partisan Review, Commentary and Dissent, any of which may be the real life version of Bertram Scudder’s The Future. (Today, one would point to magazines like Mother Jones or The Nation as candidates.)

The names of these intellectuals are a “Who’s Who” of that era, and some of them are still alive today. Among them were Lionel Trilling, Diana Trilling (his wife), Alfred Kazin, Delmore Schwartz, Harold Rosenberg, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Daniel Bell, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Most of them were Jewish. Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz moved right in later years and formed the core of the neo-conservative movement. Proving that some people just live too long, Susan Sontag spent her last years as a relentless self-parody, finally skewered by Camille Paglia in a brilliant essay.

One enjoyable parlor game is to look at the rogues gallery of intellectuals at Hank Rearden’s party and guess whom they were based on.

Typical of Rand, these characters drip banality and evil years before Hannah Arendt joined those words in her essay about Adolf Eichmann. More will join their ranks in future chapters.

Some Discussion Topics

  1. For the past three years, Dr. Simon Pritchett has been the chair of the Philosophy Department of Patrick Henry University. How the mighty have fallen! Considering what Rand has said about that school, what does this tell us of the state of American higher education?
  2. ”Good composers borrow, but great composers steal.” Today, John Williams is the film composer who steals brilliantly, mining the great European classical tradition. During the Fifties, Harvard professor Tom Lehrer performed a masterly comic bit about movies requiring a soundtrack that people could hum. (“The Ten Commandments, cha-cha-cha.”) Where does Mort Liddy fit in? How bad can his music be?
  3. ”The black dress seemed excessively revealing – because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.” Where there are chains, can whips be far behind? Yet more sadomasochism? What insight does this give us into the author’s philosophy of sexuality? Did Ayn Rand like rough sex?
  4. Balph Eubank’s comment about Dagny having babies strikes a false note. In the Fifties, such a view would have been considered normal, but not from a New York intellectual – except possibly Norman Mailer. Intellectuals of the Fifties were dismissive of the whole zeitgeist of that era when women were expected to cook, sew and have babies. So let’s take Eubank’s discordant note and analyze it. What is Rand trying to say here?
  5. Eubank wants a government subsidy for the arts. Less than a decade after the book was published, Lyndon Johnson signed a law creating the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. Have American art, radio and television improved since then? Has government involvement had a positive or negative effect? Why?
  6. It’s time to increment the body count. Hugh Akston, former head of the Philosophy Department at Patrick Henry University, retired and disappeared nine years ago. That’s contemporaneous with Richard Halley.
  7. How does one dare oppose the will of the majority? Contrast Dan Conway’s use of that question with Francisco’s.
  8. What is going on with Hank and Dagny?
  9. ”Who is John Galt?” This time it comes from an elderly lady, but she has some background information that sounds like the stuff of legend. Further, Francisco tells Dagny that the legend is true. Who is fooling whom?

Next Saturday: The Exploiters and the Exploited


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 02/21/2009 8:12:03 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 VI: The Non-Commercial

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
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Immovable Movers
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Climax of the d’Anconias

2 posted on 02/21/2009 8:13:07 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius

Can you add me to your ping list, please?


3 posted on 02/21/2009 8:19:57 AM PST by nodumbblonde (Produce, and feed us in exchange for our not destroying your production.)
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To: Publius

I’m so glad you’re doing this.

— Jane


4 posted on 02/21/2009 8:26:43 AM PST by quintr
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To: Publius

Please add me to your ping list. Thanks! (don’t know the rules, but I have read the book, just last summer)


5 posted on 02/21/2009 8:37:57 AM PST by blu (Last one out of Michigan, please turn off the lights.)
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To: blu
We are doing his one chapter a week. Some have already read the book all the way through but are going back to re-read each chapter closely. Some are following along slowly. Everybody has their own pace.

The only rule is to avoid spoilers.

6 posted on 02/21/2009 8:40:47 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius

Your synopsis’ and discussion topics are really helpful, thank you. It’s eerie to be reading Atlas Shrugged and hearing the national news and comparing the perspectives.


7 posted on 02/21/2009 8:53:06 AM PST by Brasil (Dem motto: Demagoguery trumps truth.)
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To: Publius
Two observations to get things rolling...

Balph Eubank’s comment about Dagny having babies strikes a false note. In the Fifties...

Perhaps this is an insight to Rands past.

Since the age of the character is not always obvious, could this be an ideal from an earlier time, indicating the speed of the social change?

But Hank can’t keep his eyes off her bare shoulder.

and

that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

Recalling Dagny's visit to Rearden's office, the jade vase was the only object that tied the outside world to him. Perhaps it is one piece of the outside that had some connection (the color of his steel) and thus allowed it in his office. The description of the Rearden home did not have any such item in it. Until Dagny....

8 posted on 02/21/2009 8:58:32 AM PST by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: Publius

Add me to the list, too, please. Thanks


9 posted on 02/21/2009 9:03:44 AM PST by griswold3 (a good story is more compelling than the search for truth)
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To: Publius

I’m so happy I came across your thread. Could you add me to your ping list? I am going out to buy the book today after work, can’t wait to read it!


10 posted on 02/21/2009 9:33:37 AM PST by NoGrayZone ("Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."... J. Adams (we're screwed)
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To: Publius

Fabulous job.

In a proper world, I’d have had you as a Literature teacher when I was a freshman instead of the jerk that I actually had.

Wasted a semester reading “important” black authors.. I put fiction down for 15 years and determined never to read another “important” book.


11 posted on 02/21/2009 9:36:56 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius
I read Eubanks comments about Dagny having babies a little differently.

I didn't see it as a generic sexist remark regarding women.

It was a specific jab at her competence.

They would have had no problem with her having a position if she were incompetent in it.

Producers and the competent are the enemy through the whole novel.

12 posted on 02/21/2009 9:45:22 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius
I've thought long and hard about the place of art in society.

Artists in general , at least until they reach a level of success have always been “starving” and requiring the tender mercies of a patron.

It is actually a far preferable system. It puts art in the competitive field. Competition always produces a superior product.

The National Endowment for the Arts has created a support system for a bunch of individuals that should have failed.

Art historically has been useful to elevate, it has been about beauty, now the system rewards denigration and lowering standards.

13 posted on 02/21/2009 9:52:13 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius; Mrs. B.S. Roberts

Again I advise: READ THIS BOOK carefully. Put it aside for three (3) months. Pick it up and carefully re-read it. Do NOT blow your brains out.
Remember, the political speeches you heard LAST WEEK were written into this book over 50 years ago. Be afraid...be VERY afraid!!


14 posted on 02/21/2009 9:57:58 AM PST by CaptainAmiigaf ( NY Times: We print the news as it fits our views.)
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To: Publius

Add Sundog to your ping list.

Thanks.


15 posted on 02/21/2009 10:03:15 AM PST by Sundog (Atlas Shrugged needs to be required reading . . . Which character are you?)
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To: Publius

Could you add me to your ping list? Thanks in advance : )


16 posted on 02/21/2009 10:08:44 AM PST by LeGrande (I once heard a smart man say that you can’t reason someone out of something that they didn’t reaso)
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To: Publius
I am working off memory... having read the book last summer.

Is this party where Francisco delivers his "money" speech? I think that speech is more important than the much longer speech delivered later in the book.

I believe the basic lack of understanding of money... more precisely wealth... is the root of liberal thinking and their misguided policies.

Francisico's Money Speech

17 posted on 02/21/2009 10:22:10 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it's a whole lot better than what we have now)
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To: Publius
I finished the book Sunday night and was depressed afterwards until I remembered these threads. I'm not ready to leave...so I'm glad I can keep hanging around here for many weeks to come!

Will review the chapter and post back later. Thanks Publius!

18 posted on 02/21/2009 10:28:05 AM PST by meowmeow (In Loving Memory of Our Dear Viking Kitty (1987-2006))
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To: Publius

ping


19 posted on 02/21/2009 10:30:46 AM PST by Wonderama Mama (Socialism is great until you run out of someone elses money - Margaret Thatcher)
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To: r-q-tek86

Nope, that was at a wedding.


20 posted on 02/21/2009 10:51:20 AM PST by WV Mountain Mama ("Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws." - Mayer Rothschild)
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To: WV Mountain Mama

Thanks. I guess I am going to have to start reading it again so I can keep up with the threads.


21 posted on 02/21/2009 11:56:02 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it's a whole lot better than what we have now)
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To: whodathunkit

Oo-oo-oo-h, I like that! I completely missed that. This is why I love dealing with FReepers.


22 posted on 02/21/2009 12:00:18 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Mama Shawna

Ping to Chapter 6.


23 posted on 02/21/2009 12:02:01 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: TASMANIANRED
My literature teachers in the Catholic prep school I attended in New Jersey were a mixed lot. Some knew what they were talking about, but most didn't. I had to read and learn things for myself.
24 posted on 02/21/2009 12:04:50 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius

“How does one dare oppose the will of the majority? Contrast Dan Conway’s use of that question with Francisco’s.”

Put simply, Dan Conway asked this question with an air of resignation, as if it was useless to fight the mob that voted to drive him out of busness. Francisco poses it to point out the folly of the idea that the distribution of wealth should be based on need rather than ability (although none of those he asks seem to understand this).


25 posted on 02/21/2009 12:27:03 PM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Repeal the 16th!)
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To: Publius
I went to a public high school myself, but as part of the "gifted students" program I had the same English instructor for all but one semester. He was an ex-hippie and somewhat liberal, but he was a very good instructor. He was also smart enough to know that I was lazy and mostly coasting on my natural smarts; on one occasion I decided to plagiarize Cliff's Notes for a paper on Steppenwolf and he rewarded me appropriately (I did learn my lesson; it was the only F I ever received from him).
26 posted on 02/21/2009 12:32:56 PM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Repeal the 16th!)
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To: Publius

Can you please add me to the ping list as well?


27 posted on 02/21/2009 12:36:25 PM PST by Aggie Mama
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To: TASMANIANRED
Artists in general , at least until they reach a level of success have always been “starving” and requiring the tender mercies of a patron.

My own area of expertise is classical music. This was true for Haydn and Mozart, and to some extent even Beethoven. Once you sold your music to a publisher, the gold you received was the only payment you got. All profits went to the publisher.

But then British copyright law came into being throughout Europe, and everything changed. Brahms could make money off the sales of sheet music.

Then recording came along in the early 20th Century, and composers like Rachmanninov learned how to become media businessmen.

The patronage system gave way to capitalism in various forms as far as music was concerned.

28 posted on 02/21/2009 1:00:51 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius
Where there are chains, can whips be far behind? Yet more sadomasochism? What insight does this give us into the author’s philosophy of sexuality? Did Ayn Rand like rough sex?

I'm going to take the wearing of the diamond band in a different way

I'm not so sure it equals sex, but I think it is a symbol for the old society and the unnecessary adornment of greatness. In a society where the outward is prized and true goodness of character is disguised, jewelry, clothing, one's residence become the way to indicate that one is 'better' than another. Reflect back to the significance of the chain Hank created. It wasn't necessarily beautiful or valuable by traditional mores, it was valuable because of what it symbolized -- it symbolized the future.

When Dagny trades her diamond band for Lilian's bracelet of Reardon metal, she makes an important step down her own path - she trades an item of traditional value for one of the new values - the value of hard work.

Hank at this point becomes kinder to Lillian because it is at this point he falls in love with Dagny, but he will feel he is bound by the old ways and will not want to leave Lillian and thus violate his bond to her he made in the past. This internal struggle will have to be reconciled, and this type of struggle is not reconciled cleanly. The society of Altas Shrugged is clearly one in transition.

When Lillian and Dagney trade the diamond band for the Reardon metal, they each seal their own fate. One will remain in the past, one will belong to the future

29 posted on 02/21/2009 1:16:29 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: SoftballMominVA

Certainly Lillian’s trade of Rearden Metal for a diamond tells volumes about her character. But then so does her taste in friends and intellectuals.


30 posted on 02/21/2009 1:19:46 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius
The comment about Dagny's diamond bracelet actually came from Lillian Rearden:

"Lillian moved forward to meet her, studying her with curiosity. They had met before, on infrequent occasions, and she found it strange to see Dagny Taggart wearing an evening gown. It was a black dress......The black dress seemed excessively revealing--because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained."

Does this statement actually say more about Lillian Rearden than about Dagny? It is Lillian who thinks that a woman's feminity is defined as being a piece of property. Without question Ayn Rand had some sort of domination fetish going on.....

Although, truth be told, Ayn Rand is a bit bi-polar in her feminism. Why did Dagny have to be so beautiful? I guess that is the case with her mega-producer leading men: they are all gorgeous, as well.

So, why does Hank completely give Dagny the cold shoulder after the bracelet exchange? Does he realize that he is in love with her and must hide it at all costs? Or has he admitted it to himself?

31 posted on 02/21/2009 1:36:25 PM PST by Explorer89 (Could you direct me to the Coachella Valley, and the carrot festival, therein?)
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To: Explorer89
Why did Dagny have to be so beautiful?

Dagny is Ayn, or at least the way Ayn would have liked to be.

In real life, Ayn Rand was a short and rather dumpy woman. Her brainpower was amazing, and I think she looked at herself in a mirror and saw Dagny. Or at least wanted to see Dagny.

If you go back to last week's thread and watch Rand with Mike Wallace and Phil Donahue, it's a wonderful thing to behold. I'm hoping they both live just long enough to eat their words.

32 posted on 02/21/2009 1:40:39 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius
Thank you for these threads, it has been very enjoyable to have this give and take.

As far as the remark made to Dagney that she should be having babies. I immediately thought about a show I saw on Book Notes about the worst ideas/books of all time. On the list was Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystic. He explained it as expanding marxism to include the womens movement. Friedan's view was that the 1950’s housewife, while staying at home, was freed by modern technology to pursue more intellectual goals. She saw the modern housewife as the “vanguard” of marxism for women. Contrast that to Dagney, who doesn't have time for such nonsense, she has a railroad to run. Of coarse, as another poster already stated, he may have been critiquing her job performance.

As for the game to name the contemporaries of the party members, thats like shooting fish in a barrel! But what immediately comes to mind is all of these liberal movies like Redacted, Rendition & W. No one sees them, no one wants to see them, and they don't make money. The whole point is to pontificate to the masses.

33 posted on 02/21/2009 2:06:53 PM PST by gracie1
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To: Publius

I watched the first Mike Wallace clip. I will have to do those in bits and pieces.

Yup, she’s really kind of a troll, isn’t she? That is what is so strange about her heroines being so gorgeous. I’d want to make my heroine attractive, without needing the “legs like a dancer” sort of thing going on. It was Dagny’s mind that contained the true beauty. Hey, my vanity is such that I put my make-up on every day (well, except Saturdays....), so I’m not dismissing feminine attractiveness completely.

But, If I’m Ayn Rand, I’d be making my leading lady a little more in the realm of the human in terms of looks if she is going to be such a hot-shot business woman. I’d be making Dagny a little closer to the real Ayn.

Face it, there are very few Ann Coulters running around. I would have to hate Ann if she didn’t make me laugh hard enough to snort coffee thru my nose.


34 posted on 02/21/2009 2:11:59 PM PST by Explorer89 (Could you direct me to the Coachella Valley, and the carrot festival, therein?)
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To: Publius
Eubank wants a government subsidy for the arts. Less than a decade after the book was published, Lyndon Johnson signed a law creating the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. Have American art, radio and television improved since then? Has government involvement had a positive or negative effect? Why?

I'm going to say no, and not for artistic reasons, though I think that would probably be valid as well. I'm going to take as a given that people espousing big/powerful government principles is a bad thing. Then it follows that it's a bad idea to have government funding creative endeavors because if government decides who to fund who is likely to receive funding? Also, as a taxpayer I resent having to pay people to say things with which I disagree vehemently and make art I find offensive, especially when my counterparts on the other side of the political spectrum labor under no such burden.

35 posted on 02/21/2009 2:43:47 PM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: TASMANIANRED
I read Eubanks comments about Dagny having babies a little differently. I didn't see it as a generic sexist remark regarding women. It was a specific jab at her competence. They would have had no problem with her having a position if she were incompetent in it. Producers and the competent are the enemy through the whole novel.

I'm not sure about the lack of sexism. I don't know about Eubanks, but Jim was shocked at the idea of Dagny holding the post of VP Operations because she was a woman.

36 posted on 02/21/2009 2:45:51 PM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius
Eubank wants a government subsidy for the arts. Less than a decade after the book was published, Lyndon Johnson signed a law creating the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. Have American art, radio and television improved since then?

I'll answer when I stop laughing
37 posted on 02/21/2009 2:52:39 PM PST by CottonBall
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To: Explorer89

Sometimes great beauty and great talent/accomplishments do go hand in hand.

You mentioned Ann Coulter but also Michelle Malkin, in the field of Music..Dianna Krall.

Rand wasn’t so much trollish as she was unkempt. She had that bohemian Russian thing going on.

I wonder if there are pictures of her when she was young?


38 posted on 02/21/2009 3:02:22 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius
Add me to your ping list please! I've been spending too much of my time fascinated by watching the economy fall apart in real life; I'll have to dig out my old, dog-eared, copy of Atlas shrugged - it's a lot more fun to watch a fictional economy collapse. Hmmm, did that really come out the way I meant it? of what did I really mean? LOL!
39 posted on 02/21/2009 3:04:08 PM PST by Kay Ludlow (Government actions ALWAYS have unintended consequences...)
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To: Still Thinking

Re: Jim’s opinion about Dagney.

Jim being the brother knew Dagney was competent and would show him up as the greaser/and squeezer that he was.

No guy wants his sister showing him up.


40 posted on 02/21/2009 3:04:59 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: TASMANIANRED

Good point.


41 posted on 02/21/2009 3:52:13 PM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Still Thinking
There's a Tim Robbins film called "The Cradle Will Rock" that covers a lot of this territory. It's about Orson Welles and John Housman putting on a "labor opera" during the Depression that is funded by the government.

In a subplot, John Cusack plays young Nelson Rockefeller who is involved in privately financing a mural by a young communist artist. Cusack doesn't look like Rockefeller but has the accent and mannerisms down pat.

This film is over-the-edge liberal but is beautifully done and covers a lot of your points.

42 posted on 02/21/2009 4:48:12 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: TASMANIANRED

She was pretty good looking before she got that bohemian Russian thing going.

43 posted on 02/21/2009 4:53:04 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius
Howdy Pub'!

One of my favorite chapters is number Six, a set-piece at Hank Reardon’s house at which some of the foundational ideas of both looter and immovable mover are trotted out in conversation. When first I read this I thought it painfully contrived, but that was before I heard many of these cases made in earnest by real people. Rand didn’t make any of it up; she didn’t have to. To the chapter:

Hank Reardon is a failure as a husband, which isn’t an unmixed blessing because Lillian is a failure as a wife. This one’s headed straight for the rocks, slowly and inevitably. Atlas Shrugged here shows itself a product of the 50’s, the days before the advent of vending-machine divorces wherein a feller can get gutted, skinned out, and hung up to dry in the course of a single morning and still have time for a cup of coffee he can no longer afford. Score one for modern efficiency.

To celebrate the eighth anniversary of this shipwreck of a marriage we have The Party. For Dagny such affairs are misplaced – she says that they should be a celebration, peopled by deserving celebrants. Clearly there is something epochal to celebrate – Reardon metal. And just as clearly there are very few people there who have earned the right to celebrate it or who are even aware of its import.

One who is aware is Francisco d’Anconia, who plays here the role of a satyr before the proscenium, commenting mockingly on the earnest posturings of the other partygoers. The only time he is serious is when he is occupied in his principal purpose for attending, which is taking the measure of the industrialist Reardon.

We've all been to one of these things at one time or another. In these days of computer cultism the geek corner is a fixture at nearly every one of such affairs, geek boys and geek girls, and no matter what the dress each of whom is wearing a little invisible beanie with a propeller on it. When the conversation turns technical you can visualize the propellers turning. To anyone normal the topics are absolutely stupefying and normal people tend to leave them alone. Us alone. Mea maxima culpa.

Hank doesn’t even have that comfort at his joyless affair. I could have helped him if he’d invited me. I’d take him aside and tell him, “Come on, Hank buddy, you gotta man up there. Learn some social skills, like me. If women can fake orgasms we can fake in interest in French impressionism. Let the Drillster show ya how it’s done.”

(I saunter over to a current flame).

“Wow, Mavis, that’s shore a purty drop cloth you got there. What’d the painting look like?”

“That is the painting, Bill.”

“Oh. Uh…” (Blushing, shuffling feet). “Nice.” (Long, painful silence. I slink back to the geek corner, tail between legs, propeller on my beanie drooping).

Which brings us to the topic of Silicon Valley. (Work with me here, I’m in coffee-fueled state of free association). Rand died in 1982, which was just a little too soon to see her imagined world of immovable movers take shape before her, but take shape it did, and I was there to see it. You didn’t see a lot of this sort of party there at the time. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, was too busy.

And so is Reardon here. Breaking off from a hot project to tend the home fires is absolutely one of the hazards of domestic felicity. I don’t think anyone could maintain that state of intensity for long, as Reardon does, even with a toxic home life to avoid. A sad gaggle of Silicon Valley burnouts are what’s left of the people who tried it. I’ll be comparing the world of Atlas Shrugged to that of Silicon Valley at greater length as the novel progresses. For now let us return to The Party and examine the menagerie.

The creature in the first cage is one Dr. Pritchett, a philosopher by trade, the successor to Professor Akston at Patrick Henry University. Check him out:

“Man? What is man? He’s just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur,” said Dr. Pritchett…

A fair enough case, I suppose, but there’s chemicals, Doc, and then there’s chemicals. Ethanol, for example. As a side note, neither Reardon nor Dagny drink. It might have helped.

“But which concepts are not ugly or mean, Professor?” asked an earnest matron…

“None,” said Dr. Pritchett. “None within the range of man’s capacity.”

A young man asked hesitantly, “But if we haven’t any good concepts, how do we know the ones we’ve got are ugly? By what standard?”

“There are no standards.”

Here the Professor has departed the bounds of reason, literally. This statement is a violation of Aristotle’s rule of non-contradiction, (which is, after all, the title of this section of AS). You can't judge by standards that don't exist, and Pritchett has judged. But Pritchett is not simply a fashionable nihilist. One can hear in him some of the more dreary excesses of the school of Existentialism, which Rand saw succeed Aristotle in the real world as well as at her Patrick Henry University. Glance at The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus and tell me if it doesn’t resemble Reardon’s life and that of all of Rand’s immovable movers before Atlas shakes himself free of the burden, before Sisyphus tosses his rock back at the gods.

To Rand this secular hell is the result of the denial of reason. Nietszche stated that in the absence of God there is an inescapable trend toward nihilism. Rand is stating that in the absence of reason one gets the same result.

On a side note, one tends to get other things as well – there appears to be something in the proponents of Existentialism that gravitates toward totalitarianism. Not all of them, to be sure – Camus, for example - but certainly Heidegger was attracted to Nazism and Sartre to Communism. Perhaps that is another result of the denial of God or the denial of reason. Perhaps both. A topic for another day.

There isn’t really much left of the school of Existentialism in formal philosophy these days. It has, however, bled over into the field of social science and constitutes one of the sources of the feminism of Simone Beauvoir and other fields such as Critical Race Theory. Rand presents it as a malign influence in modern intellectual life. One occasionally hears its feminist adherents deride Aristotle as “linear male logic,” as if a syllogism possesses a penis. Rand has no time for that sort of hyperimaginative silliness and frankly it is amazing to me that anyone does.

In Rand’s world a reach for intellectual depth must be accompanied by intellectual rigor. “Things are not what they seem” is a perfectly permissible proposition both to Rand and to Aristotle. Pritchett’s “Things are not what they are,” is not. That’s what “A is A” means.

But this is the way Rand saw academia decaying, Akston to Pritchett, Aristotle to Sartre. And by the way, where did Akston disappear to? And what about the composer Richard Halley, where did he go? And where did Reardon’s foreman at the beginning of the chapter go, and why? Good people, hard to replace. It’s almost as if there's some sort of con…

Speaking of Halley, we note that his immortal Fourth Concerto has been stolen and transformed into sappy movie music, for which the thief, a menagerie display named Mort Liddy, has won an unnamed prize. And in the real world we hear with apprehension that Atlas Shrugged itself may soon be worked over by Hollywood, an irony not lost on the reader of this chapter. If it’s used to sell soap Rand might excuse it; if it’s used to sell socialism she’ll be spinning in her grave.

One last thought from Pritchett: ”The purpose of philosophy is not to seek knowledge, but to prove that knowledge is impossible to man.” I suspect that might be a weak case - it’s knowledge, after all, that enables you to load the rifle when the tiger is coming for you and unlike Existentialist philosophy, tigers are real. We all can echo Francisco’s laughter at this ridiculous poseur.

In this chapter we are introduced to the Equality Of Opportunity bill, whose title (remember, this was written in 1957) echoes the Newspeak grotesqueries of, say, the “Fairness Doctrine” today. This is, in reality, an anticompetitive measure designed to force industrialists such as Reardon to give their assets to government lackeys. It will become significant as the novel develops. From the next cage in the menagerie we hear one of the animals bleating:

“A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to allow them to be free.”

We may be tempted to laugh at this patent silliness, supposing it an exaggeration on Rand’s part, if we hadn’t heard it coming from the television so much of late. The underlying theme of much of the economic “stimulus” legislation is the notion that markets are only truly free under coercion. It is considered impolite to give that notion the horse-laugh it deserves. Francisco d’Anconia is more polite:

“…that nationalization. [James Taggart asks] What are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“But surely you don’t want me to do anything about it. My mine and your railroad were seized by the will of the people. You wouldn’t want me to oppose the will of the people, would you?”

That’s flippant, but the assertion placed in the mouth of Bertram Scudder, the author in the next cage, is not:

“Property rights are a superstition. One holds property only by the courtesy of those who do not seize it. The people can seize it at any moment. If they can, why shouldn’t they?”

“They should,” said Claude Slagenhop. “They need it. Need is the only consideration.”

So it is in Obama’s America and in every tinpot socialist kleptocracy ever spawned. “To each according to his need” is, of course, Marx, whose doctrines Rand would have seen in application at first hand before she fled the madness. It didn’t work even then. That formulation was, as Trotsky pointed out in The Revolution Betrayed, quite impossible to achieve at that stage of his imagined historical progression. Not, presumably, in the unattainable world of “high” communism, when Party fairies riding proletarian unicorns run the State. Stalin found it necessary to re-codify the proposition to “To each according to his work,” a rather different concept.

But it does prove convenient depending on what one means by “work.” The elite, the “brainworkers,” offer a value to society that is quite out of proportion to their actual sweat equity (just ask them) and must be offered a commensurate reward. That elite populates the menagerie at Reardon’s party and a bigger real-world menagerie seen in the pages of the NY Times, the screens of MSNBC, and in the septic ravings of the Daily Kos, in any of which we might encounter the occupant of the next cage, one Bertram Scudder:

He [Reardon] saw the article, “The Octopus,” by Bertram Scudder, which was not an expression of ideas but a bucket of slime emptied in public – an article that did not contain a single fact, not even an invented one, but poured a string of sneers and adjectives in which nothing was clear except the filthy malice of denouncing without considering proof necessary.

The title “The Octopus” is a reference to Frank Norris’s 1901 novel by that name, a bit of populist propaganda that was romantic and quite unfairly anti-corporate, inspired by the events of the Mussel Slough Tragedy in California. Here Rand, like Ambrose Bierce before her, wasn’t buying into the inflammatory mythology that turned Norris and the Muckrakers into celebrities. Teddy “The Trustbuster” Roosevelt did. It wasn’t one of his better moments.

Finally, as The Party reaches its climax of inanity, there is The Bracelet, a recurring symbol of merit, bondage, and Dagny’s sexual inclinations. Of those we already had a clue, which Rand reinforces at Dagny’s entrance to the party:

The diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

Personally I never imagined a diamond bracelet in quite that kinky a vein, but symbolic it certainly is, as both Hank and Lillian Reardon grasp fully when Dagny calls Lillian’s bluff and exchanges it for the genuine chain of Reardon metal. She has, in effect, laid claim to Hank. This affront to connubial bliss is extremely interesting in view of Rand’s real-world affair with the much younger Nathaniel Branden, an early Objectivist follower (whose name appears in “Nat” Taggart, Dagny’s heroic forbear). Rand was writing Atlas Shrugged during that affair, which although nominally approved of was distressing to the spouses of both parties. It isn’t obvious whether art was imitating life or it was the other way around.

And so we and Rand move from an uncelebratory party to end the chapter in Reardon’s painfully uncelebratory marriage bed. Lillian is as cold a fish physically as she is mentally, and clearly Reardon is punishing himself for being with her by being with her. A Sisyphean rock for Hank, perhaps, but it cannot go on forever. Something has to give.

Have a great week, Publius! ;-)

44 posted on 02/21/2009 4:56:00 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Explorer89
But, If I’m Ayn Rand, I’d be making my leading lady a little more in the realm of the human in terms of looks if she is going to be such a hot-shot business woman. I’d be making Dagny a little closer to the real Ayn.

In her interview with Donahue, Rand talks about how much she admires beauty. (Her favorite TV show at the time was Charlie's Angels, believe it or not.) I don't get the impression that she was trying to model the character, Dagny, after herself. If I'm calculating correctly, Rand was in her 50's when she wrote AS, whereas Dagny is in her 30's. I think she crafted the image of Dagny into something she herself would admire in someone else.

45 posted on 02/21/2009 5:02:32 PM PST by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: Billthedrill

You’re right. I should have incremented the body count by two this week, not one. Shame on me.


46 posted on 02/21/2009 5:10:20 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius

She was a nice looking young woman.


47 posted on 02/21/2009 6:04:56 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Billthedrill
“Things are not what they seem” is a perfectly permissible proposition both to Rand and to Aristotle. Pritchett’s “Things are not what they are,” is not. That’s what “A is A” means.

An interesting and illuminating contrast.

48 posted on 02/21/2009 6:22:20 PM PST by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: whodathunkit
"...that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained."

This subject came up a couple of weeks ago. Dagny chained?

Did not Dagny pay for that steel bracelet?

Did Ayn Rand feel chained because of her gender? It seems unlikely, but I try to perceive symbolism where I find it.

I saw nothing that indicated to me that Dagny Taggert was about anything remotely connected to servility, unless it was about profits. Perhaps I read too fast, and miss a lot.

That is possible, but at this point, I am not buying into the notion that she was some sort of a masochist. Hardly.

49 posted on 02/21/2009 7:00:29 PM PST by Radix (22;22 EST, 13 Feb 2009, C-Span2, Silent wait for Sen to come bury USA after burying his Mom)
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To: Billthedrill
When I did my research on the New York Intellectuals, I was surprised to see Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb pop up.

They had a fascinating trip from one side of the spectrum to the other.

50 posted on 02/21/2009 7:29:40 PM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce; lead and brass for protection.)
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