Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Exploiters and the Exploited
Posted on 02/28/2009 7:49:58 AM PST by Publius
We meet Mr. Mowen of Amalgamated Switch and Signal of Connecticut, who needs training from Reardens men before he can handle Rearden Metal, all the while bleating about whether the metal is real or a fraud.
In Colorado, Dagny is having problems with the Rio Norte Line. Ben Nealy isnt up to the job, and she and Hank have had to buy up bankrupt companies and shuttered plants to make the necessary equipment. Her chief engineer balks at reinforcing an ancient bridge with Rearden Metal.
Ellis Wyatt shows up and gives Dagny some good advice on upgrading the facilities for Nealys crew. Dagny takes Nealy into his work car and tells him what is to be done and how.
Hank Rearden arrives in his new car, a Hammond of Colorado, and his attitude toward Dagny is back to where it was when they were working together at his steel mill. They spar verbally, and Dagny is pleased at her emotions. Hank designs a new bridge of Rearden Metal on the spot with an estimated cost of less than half what her chief engineer has projected. He intends to confront the doubts about the safety of Rearden Metal by building an entire bridge out of it.
Hank is in Colorado looking for a copper mine because he doesnt want to deal with Francisco. Hank and Dagny have a sense of accomplishment, but when Dagny asks Hank for a lift in his plane to New York, Hank tells her he is flying to Minnesota. When she shows up at the local airport and finds there are no flights out that day, she discovers that Rearden has taken off for New York after all.
Back in New York, Dagny and Jim go to a dinner and conference at the New York Business Council where Dagny is scheduled to speak about Rearden Metal. Jim is in a tizzy. The National Council of Metal Industries, headed by Orren Boyle, has condemned it as a threat to public safety. The union is not sure it wants its members to work with it. A convention of grade school teachers in New Mexico has passed a resolution that children should not be permitted to ride the Rio Norte Line because of it. As Jim complains, Dagny notices that every good, reliable piece of equipment on the streets of New York has originated in Colorado.
Dagny is furious to discover that Jim has tried to get Dan Conway to sell his railroad to Taggart Transcontinental; Jims rationale was to use Phoenix-Durangos steel on the Rio Norte Line to avoid using Rearden Metal altogether. Jim wants to bid for Conways rail, but his looter friends at the National Alliance of Railroads are all attempting to get their own hands on it.
But it gets worse when Dagny discovers that she is there tonight to debate Bertram Scudder on nationwide radio on the topic, Is Rearden Metal a lethal product of greed? Dagny says the question is not debatable, and she jumps out of the car. She takes refuge in a diner in the shadow of a deserted ruin of an office building and orders coffee. An old bum gives Dagny a sermon on nihilism; in the middle of it the counter boy comments, Who is John Galt? Another bum tells Dagny yet another legend of Galt, this one about finding a fountain of youth and being unable to bring it back.
Dr. Potter of the State Science Institute sits in Hank Reardens office and asks him not to upset the economy by introducing Rearden Metal. Hank is not bothered by the disapproval of his metal by the Institute. Potter believes that if the metal is not a physical danger, its a social danger to the country. He offers to buy the rights to the metal from Rearden for a lot of government money to keep it off the market. Rearden refuses, and Potter issues a veiled threat about Rearden needing friends in politics and government.
Mr. Mowen bails from the project and refuses to make any more switches of Rearden Metal because too many people dont like it.
Dagny discovers from Eddie Willlers that the State Science Institute has warned people against using Rearden Metal but has not really said why. Taggart stock has crashed, Nealy has quit and the union wont let its members work with the metal.
Dagny visits the Institute in New Hampshire to meet with Dr. Robert Stadler, once the head of the Physics Department at Patrick Henry University and one of the nations leading scientists. Stadler has not even read the Institutes report on Rearden Metal. He knows that there is nothing wrong with it but says that there are other non scientific factors. He is concerned that the Institute, with all its government funding, has not been able to come up with anything useful. But Rearden did, and that makes the Institute look bad. The survival of the Institute is more important than the survival of Hank Rearden.
Stadler tells Dagny of the three star students he and Hugh Akston shared at Patrick Henry University. One star was Francisco, the other was Ragnar Danneskjøld and the third was a man who is probably a second assistant bookkeeper somewhere. (No spoilers please!)
Dagny finds a boozed-up Jim hiding at the old Taggart estate on the Hudson. Jim has been using his pull in DC, first to get the government to seize Dan Conways railroad, and then to convince the Alliance to let Conway run his line for another year. But Conway has refused. Dagny tells him she is going to start her own company and build the Rio Norte Line for Taggart Transcontinental on a turnkey basis. Eddie Willers will take over Operations. Dagny will call her company the John Galt Line.
But Francisco will not help fund the line, nor will he tell Dagny why. But he hints that her premises are wrong and that she must reach the correct conclusion herself. When Dagny suggests that she crawl, Francisco comes over to her and tenderly kisses her hand. Realizing he has given away too much, he puts on the act of a cad. He is horrified to discover that Dagny is going to name the line after John Galt, and he tells her that Galt will come to claim it.
Dagny meets with Hank to confirm the orders for the John Galt Line. The financiers are the Colorado industrialists whom the line will serve. Even Ken Danagger of the Pennsylvania coal company is in, and Hank signs on. Wyatt and Danagger have already agreed to purchase Rearden Metal simply because of the State Science Institutes partial condemnation of it. Stockton Foundry of Colorado is going to finish the switches that Mowen wouldnt make. The union wont try to stop the line because there are so few union jobs available.
While Dagny reads the structural specifications for the bridge, Hank indulges in a violent sexual fantasy about her.
An Atlantic Southern freight train carrying copper for the Rearden mills slams into a passenger train in New Mexico, and the railroad cant do anything but make excuses. Hank puts together a rescue effort that gets the copper moving again, although Hank decides to move his ore in the future via Taggart Transcontinental.
In the middle of all this, Hanks mother shows up at the mill and asks him to give his brother Philip a job that he doesnt deserve. Hank effectively throws her out.
Hank now tries to find some steel for the Ward Harvester Company of Minnesota, but he is interrupted by the news that the National Legislature had enacted the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. Wesley Mouch is nowhere to be found.
Hank suddenly comes up with a new design for the rail bridge. He calls Dagny in Colorado and tells her about his new design, which will outperform any bridge ever built and cost no more than a culvert. There is a hint that Dagny has broken into tears.
The State Science Institute
Rand knew about the National Science Foundation, headquartered in Arlington, VA, because it had been founded by an act of Congress in 1950. Every year it funds about ten thousand grants for research and development. It performs no actual research but acts as a clearinghouse for grants.
Rands State Science Institute, headquartered in New Hampshire, is a research and development facility; her model is the Department of Agricultures laboratory system. These facilities engage in pure research and occasionally come up with something useful. (I worked at one such lab over 40 years ago.) But the State Science Institute has not been able to come up with anything useful, and it views Rearden Metal or anything created by the private sector as a threat to its existence. Bureaucracies are terribly protective of their turf.
Some Discussion Topics
Ping! The thread has been posted.
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 dAnconias
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Non-Commercial
Please put me on the ping list.
Who is John Galt?
But that mother of his......I was hoping he would just slap that putrid face of hers.
Thanks much. That’s the chapter I’m on right now. You’ve given me thinking points for when I get done in a few hours, sittin’ at the Juice & Java in Orem, Utah, sipping my morning cup, looking at Snowy Mt. Timpanogos rising to 12,000 Ft just six miles away, and reading.
Junk science and opinion leading to public policy with regard to Rearden Metal reminds me of all that has been done in the name of “saving the planet.”
#2 “Ive hired you to do a job, not to do your best whatever that is, says Dagny. Ben Nealy answers, Thats an unpopular attitude, Miss Taggart... What has happened to make quality unpopular?
I think this goes again to how we raise our children. “All you can do is your best.” “As long as you tried, that’s good enough.” To suggest to a child that his best isn’t good enough - it just isn’t done. We want to encourage them, but we don’t want them to feel bad if their effort falls short.
Maybe some children need this approach, and would give up too easily without it. But it’s the ones who do beat themselves up after a failure who are relentless in trying again and again until they get it right - and I would guess that these are the Dagnys and Hanks of the world.
We frown on perfectionism because of its negative side-effects, but without these driven individuals, where would our world be?
Ping to the book club!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
How high up the mountain is the cave?
Hanks mother has always infuriated me. Hank’s mother may only be a character in a novel, but, unfortunately, she has too many counterparts in real life.
You hit it out of the park! Now you can strut around the bases with pride.
She and that whole nest of vipers will get theirs in a later chapter. Pour yourself a tall one when that happens.
This is good, but we need to go deeper.
Have you ever held a job, usually in a union shop, where quality was discouraged because it showed everyone else up? How about a school where the students got that attitude from their fellows about not making everybody else look bad, and the principal and the teachers could not break through?
General Aviation is one of those things that Rand obviously never understood. She has her people flying hither and yond as if these plane were time machines. Back when she wrote the book Commercial Aviation was still largely driven by piston engines; and the sort of planes that folks like Reardon and Dagny might have been able to fly might fly 140 mph tops. I once flew in one of these from NJ to South Florida (and back). You have to make one or two fuel stops along the way and it takes a full day to make the one-way trip. It's a kicky thing to do, but it's not for people who are in a hurry. No one could make it from Colorado to NY without an overnight stop someplace. And I haven't even talked about weather yet!
Unfortunately, you are too correct.
I finished the book yesterday! I can’t say anymore without giving anything away!!
The implication being that there were other things she didn't understand as well. She did know how to get people to buy her long, boring, and poorly written books, though.
Well, of course, I don't know what it looked like in 1957, but when I visited the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Gaithersberg, MD, sometime in the early 80s, it reminded me of the Physics Building at Rensselaer Poly where I went to school (in the mid 60s). I was doing some early robotics work (for a capitalist) and it turns out we had competitors at NBS so we went to see what they were doing. (And here I thought that the NBS was supposed to be the keeper of the golden ruler!) My guess is that NASA, which didn't exist in 1957 but did come about soon after, has multiple installations which would make the NBS building I visited look like an elementary school science lab. The government now, at least, is infested with government employees doing "research." I don't know anything about the Dept of Agriculture.
When something is as widely respected and referred to as ofter as Atlas Shrugged is, it pays to look in the mirror if you cannot find any virtue in it. There was a time when I might have applied the same adjectives as you have used to Wagner's opera and to The Ring in particular. I was smart enough to realize that the problem was not Wagner's but mine. I decided to work at liking and understanding these as best as I could, and now I am no longer an ignoramus.