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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The John Galt Line
A Publius Essay | 7 March 2009 | Publius

Posted on 03/07/2009 7:48:34 AM PST by Publius

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line

Synopsis

Eddie Willers talks with the Anonymous Rail Worker in the corporate cafeteria, bringing him up to date. Dagny’s work on the John Galt Line is going so well the newspapers refuse to report it. The United Locomotive Works has gone bankrupt, and Dwight Sanders of Colorado has bought the plant. Dagny has moved into a little office near the back of Taggart Terminal, and Eddie feels badly about sitting in Dagny’s chair and taking credit for her work.

The office of the John Galt Line is on the ground floor of a half-collapsed building and is strictly a no-frills operation. Dagny is in town because she had rushed to New York upon hearing that Dwight Sanders had retired – and there was no trace of him to be found. In her office, an exhausted Dagny permits herself a small moment of weakness, longing for a man who can share her meaning of the world. Outside she sees the shadow of a man lingering near the door – but he leaves. Dagny rushes outside but sees only the rear entrance to Taggart Terminal. (No spoilers, please!)

Hank Rearden sells his ore mines to Paul Larkin to get around the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. Paul is consumed with guilt, and Hank is not interested in Paul’s rationalizations. Hank had earlier sold his coal mines to Ken Danagger, who was willing to sell his coal to Rearden at cost, even though that was illegal. Hank’s concern was not cost; he simply wanted to be the first to get the coal.

Wesley Mouch retires from Rearden’s employ to become the Assistant Coordinator of the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources.

Hank and Eddie Willers have breakfast at the Wayne-Falkland. With the railroad in such poor financial shape, Hank wants to give Eddie a moratorium on the first payment for Rearden Metal; from his perspective it’s just good business. Eddie is shocked but takes the offer, feeling badly that this will help Jim Taggart and his friends. Hank says not to worry about them.

The American people are worried about whether the Rearden Metal bridge will stand, and they curse Hank Rearden amd Dagny Taggart for caring about nothing but money. Simon Pritchett, Claude Slagenhop, Orren Boyle and Bertram Scudder are all fueling the chorus of public opinion while claiming that it arises spontaneously. Balph Eubank and Mort Liddy are the first signers of a petition from the Committee of Disinterested Citizens asking for a government study of the line before it can open.

But Dagny is thrilled. A union boss announces that he is not going to let his men run a train on her tracks, and Dagny throws him out of her office after giving him an ultimatum. Every engineer on the Taggart Transcontinental volunteers to run the first train. Pat Logan, engineer of the Taggart Comet on the Nebraska Division, gets the “demotion” to freight. Dagny is going to ride in the cab.

At the press conference, Dagny, with Hank in attendance, gives the media the details of the opening of the John Galt Line. She and Hank make it clear that their motive is profit, much to the discomfiture of the press. The first train will be a 4-locomotive mixed freight of 80 cars running the entire way at 100 mph. Hank volunteers to ride in the cab with Dagny and the crew.

Everything goes perfectly; in fact, the whole trip is a natural high. At 100 mph, the train streaks through the countryside and right through the Denver yards and station. It roars across the Rearden Metal bridge and comes to a halt at Wyatt Junction. Ellis Wyatt is positively giddy; he takes Hank and Dagny off in his convertible to his home. Over dinner, Wyatt tells them he is planning to extract oil from shale only five miles away in a magnitude previously unheard of. Hank, Dagny and Wyatt make great plans.

As they head for separate bedrooms, Hank pulls Dagny into his arms and kisses her brutally. Then he takes her into his bedroom and makes wild, hot, passionate love to her.

The Issue of Rail Speed Limits

At the time of the publication of the book, railroads were entirely responsible for speed limits on their tracks. A 1910 law, most recently upheld in 1996, refused permission for towns to restrict train speeds.

On the John Galt Line, blocks were two miles long. In the real world of railroading, blocks are of variable length. Each block begins with a signal tower that conveys the condition of the block by a red, yellow or green signal. In the earliest days, large balls on a pole were used, which is where the term “highball” comes from. Later came semaphores, and when the Pennsylvania Railroad switched to light signals, the lights mimicked the positions of a semaphore. There is no standardization of block signals in America today; each railroad has its own unique customs.

A railroad engineer is issued a booklet with each block on the line listed by milepost and with its designated speed limit. Railroads also use speed limit signs that are often coded separately for freight and passenger trains. The speed limit on a given block is determined by factors such as curvature of the rail and the number of grade crossings. Rail yards have much lower speed limits unless the yard possesses a separate bypass track.

As recently as the Fifties, a dispatcher might radio an engineer and say, “You own the railroad tonight.” This was a signal for the engineer to use his own judgment on following the posted speed limits. Today every rail line has track-side sensors, and every train has a FRED Unit (“friendly rear-end device”) where the caboose used to be. These tools gather data and use telemetry to pass it to the dispatcher. Thanks to these innovations, engineers with a heavy hand on the throttle are a thing of the past.

The Federal Railroad Administration now sets maximum speed limits on America’s railroads. The maximum speed for freight trains is 70 mph, and for passenger trains it’s 79 mph. Passenger trains on certain types of track with in-cab signals are permitted to go 110 mph, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has its own speed limits with sections rated at 120 to 150 mph.

It is obvious that turning the Rio Norte Line into the John Galt Line involved a complete re-engineering. The first freight train runs at 100 mph around curves and grades, which would imply a total rebuild. (That train today would have been restricted to 70 mph.) It even runs through heavily populated Denver and the Denver station and yards at 100 mph, which today is an absolute no-no.

What is even more interesting is that the ride was smooth and quiet with jointed rail; welded rail hadn’t been invented yet. I often wonder if Rand didn’t anticipate the invention of welded rail decades in advance.

The Disappearance of the Adversarial Press

Traditionally, the American press was highly adversarial. Every town had a Democratic newspaper and a Republican newspaper, and there was no line separating news from editorial content. You read the paper that reflected your political bias.

After World War II, however, that changed. Thanks to media consolidation, eight companies today control most books, newspapers, magazines, TV networks, radio stations and movie studios. Because of this, the mass market reflects a bland, corporatist, internationalist liberalism, quite different from the muscular liberalism that shaped America in the 20th Century. This is the liberalism of the intellectual, not the lunch bucket. This bland liberalism defines itself as “the American Center”.

In the Sixties, younger journalists became the avatars of advocacy journalism, in which Radical Leftist opinion was marketed as bland liberalism. Over time, advocacy journalism became the norm and today dominates the media.

Some Discussion Topics

  1. We have another of Rand’s metaphorical images. This time it’s the half-collapsed building in which Dagny establishes her John Galt Line. There is rich ground for interpretation here.
  2. Contrast Hank’s dealing with that old pirate Ken Danagger versus dealing with the sweaty wimp Paul Larkin.
  3. Increment the body count! This time it’s Dwight Sanders.
  4. Wesley Mouch goes through the revolving door, entering a lobbyist and exiting a bureaucrat. This was not an everyday occurrence in Rand’s day. Did she foresee today’s corruption of the regulatory system?
  5. “There are no objective facts ... Every report on facts is only somebody’s opinion. It is, therefore, useless to write about facts.” So say the journalists, editors and publishers of Atlas Shrugged. Does anything sound eerily familiar in that rant?
  6. Rather than open the John Galt Line, a “citizen’s committee” demands a government impact study first. Is there anything here that sounds frighteningly familiar?
  7. Pat Logan asks, “Who is John Galt?” Contrast that with the other people who have asked the magic question.
  8. ”He stood looking down at her naked body, he leaned over, she heard his voice – it was a more a statement of contemptuous triumph than a question: ‘You want it?’ Her answer was more a gasp than a word, her eyes closed, her mouth open: ‘Yes.’” The coupling of Dagny and Hank is the hottest thing in the book so far. The earth moves, oceans boil over and worlds collide. The prose is more purple than the coupling of Dagny and Francisco. After sponging off our sweaty brows, what insights into Rand’s philosophy of sexuality do we get here?

Next Saturday: The Sacred and the Profane


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: atlasshrugged; freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 03/07/2009 7:48:34 AM PST by Publius
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To: ADemocratNoMore; Aggie Mama; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; Amityschild; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Special thanks to those FReepers who have participated in these threads. We’re having some excellent and insightful discussions of the book. We’ll rap up in early August, so let’s keep up the quality.

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
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Non-Commercial
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Exploiters and the Exploited

2 posted on 03/07/2009 7:49:49 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: ADemocratNoMore; Aggie Mama; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; Amityschild; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part I: Non-Contradiction

Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Special thanks to those FReepers who have participated in these threads. We’re having some excellent and insightful discussions of the book. We’ll rap up in early August, so let’s keep up the quality.

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
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Non-Commercial
FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Exploiters and the Exploited

3 posted on 03/07/2009 7:49:49 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius

bfltr


4 posted on 03/07/2009 7:52:39 AM PST by mnehring
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To: Abathar; Abcdefg; Abram; Abundy; akatel; albertp; AlexandriaDuke; Alexander Rubin; Allerious; ...


Libertarian ping! Click here to get added or here to be removed or post a message here!
5 posted on 03/07/2009 7:56:01 AM PST by bamahead (Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master. -- Sallust)
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To: Publius

that’s correct.

there was the afternoon denver post, the “bankers’ paper”,

and the morning rocky mountain news, the union, democrat paper.


6 posted on 03/07/2009 8:00:24 AM PST by ken21 (the only thing we have to fear is fdr deja vu.)
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To: Publius
Rather than open the John Galt Line, a “citizen’s committee” demands a government impact study first. Is there anything here that sounds frighteningly familiar?

Sounds like the Coastal Commission in 70's Kalifornia (and maybe to this very day, I just don't care anymore).

When I can't take it anymore, I tend to tilt at those who by default think that a person espousing the liberal view of a matter is a pure-as-the-driven-snow "activist", while a conservative MUST have some conflict of interest. Global Warming grants are the perfect example. There is actually MORE opportunity for service of self-interest on the liberal side. Naysayers are constantly vilified. Any sane person looking to sell his opinion to the highest bidder would definitely choose the pro-AGW side, yet it's the anti's that must bear the stain of an assumed lack of integrity.

Another observation (and an incredibly obvious one): The companies run by the protagonists are all named after them (Taggart, Rearden, Wyatt, Marsh, Nielsen, Dannager), while the ones run by mealy-mouths like Mowen or Boyle have vague universal names like "Amalgamated..." or "Associated...". Like I said, this should be obvious, but it just struck me this week.

7 posted on 03/07/2009 8:09:03 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius

Not to get too far ahead in the story, but I often wonder why Eddie Willers was not invited to Atlantis? He was not a looter, he was dedicated to his work and a life long friend of Both Francisco and Dagny. But he was left in the world, last seen chasing rabbits around the dead engine of a dead locomotive.

Maybe he symbolized the innocent, “civilian casualty” of the war with liberals.


8 posted on 03/07/2009 8:13:52 AM PST by CrappieLuck
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To: Still Thinking
"The companies run by the protagonists are all named after them (Taggart, Rearden, Wyatt, Marsh, Nielsen, Dannager), while the ones run by mealy-mouths like Mowen or Boyle have vague universal names like "Amalgamated..." or "Associated...". Like I said, this should be obvious, but it just struck me this week. "

Well, they do have a history of "targeting" individuals..... first on a small, then massive scale.

I hear project X will have 4 million "shovel ready jobs" soon.

9 posted on 03/07/2009 8:15:39 AM PST by rawcatslyentist (Destined to take the place of the mud shark in your mythology)
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To: Publius
“There are no objective facts ... Every report on facts is only somebody’s opinion. It is, therefore, useless to write about facts.” So say the journalists, editors and publishers of Atlas Shrugged. Does anything sound eerily familiar in that rant?

Sounds like deconstructivism to me. Thank God that's finally started to be discredited in academic circles.

10 posted on 03/07/2009 8:15:54 AM PST by George Smiley (They're not drinking the Kool-Aid any more. They're eating it straight out of the packet.)
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To: Publius

I have tried over & over to get thru Atlas. I have never been able to get thru Rand’s ponderous writing style. I get the message just can’t handle the style


11 posted on 03/07/2009 8:40:09 AM PST by NCBraveheart (My inner child is a mean little SOB)
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To: Publius
We have another of Rand’s metaphorical images. This time it’s the half-collapsed building in which Dagny establishes her John Galt Line. There is rich ground for interpretation here.

I am not the great thinker you are (Wind in His Hair to Ten Bears), but IMO the shell of the building represents what is left once the takers in society get done with their taking leaving nothing but a shell of what greatness once was.

The new offices of the John Galt Line, regardless how tattered they may currently be, represent a new hope for a future that can be rebuilt from the bottom up with hard work and determination.

12 posted on 03/07/2009 8:40:57 AM PST by GeorgiaDawg32 (A democrat will break your leg, then hand you a crutch and take credit for your being able to walk.)
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To: Publius

I was thinking about the “cartoonish” epithet that somebody tossed out somewhere upthread. While they meant it as an insult, it shouldn’t be. Stylistically there’s a fair point but it is intentional and purposeful. It is to mistake starkness for simplicity. The characters are drawn starkly. High contrast. The objective is to evaluate the differences between people, between worldviews, not to get distracted yet in the exact boundaries of where those differences are. Or... allow the context to become a character itself and too much a part of the story.

There’s a timelessness to the story and I think the style is there to support that. It’s “Film Noir”, to me anyway, as it plays in my head. I’m seeing cinema like an old Cagney or Bogart film. Sam Spade. I hadn’t thought about it before but yes, it’s even in black and white! Maybe a splash of color here and there... the blue on Rearden metal... some intense red on Dagny’s lipstick... the brief orange glow of a cigarette... but otherwise stark, dark and mostly colorless. Like a graphic novel. Like Bogart and Bacall.

Starkly drawn characters that don’t blend much with the setting, the decade, the techology at the time... it makes it possible then to tear them out of the story and put them down anywhere in time. The story is being told against this backdrop but it could easily be any other. Casablanca had stark, yes cartoonish characters, but it made for a story that wasn’t locked into a particular place and time but could find an analogue anywhere, in any time.


13 posted on 03/07/2009 8:47:49 AM PST by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: Ramius
Herzlich Wilkommen.
14 posted on 03/07/2009 9:17:11 AM PST by ExGeeEye (COTUS 2A should be the USA's ONLY gun law.)
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To: Ramius

Where does your tag line come from?


15 posted on 03/07/2009 9:33:51 AM PST by patton (America is born in Iceland, and dies in California)
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To: Publius

One thing that surprised me about the book is that Ayn Rand knew about the existence of shale oil.

When I first read the book, I’d never heard of shale oil and thought it was a literary device so Ms. Rand could create another strong willed industrialist. It wasn’t until a few years after I read the book that shale oil became news.

So, I suggest that Ms. Rand did her research and knew what she was talking about.


16 posted on 03/07/2009 9:42:06 AM PST by stylin_geek (Liberalism: comparable to a chicken with its head cut off, but with more spastic motions)
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To: stylin_geek
Liberalism: comparable to a chicken with its head cut off, but with more spastic motions

And the chicken tastes better.

17 posted on 03/07/2009 9:55:17 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius
I find it tantalizing to think of who Eddie's dinner/lunch partner is. I'm sure we'll find out it's someone that has already been mentioned.

The other thing that keeps striking me as I read the book, is how the people don't seem to have any say. No voting, no rioting, no court cases, just sheeple. Surely, someone would speak out against these know nothings. Then I see the union rr workers come back to work under assumed names and I'll thrilled by the rebellion. If only it would catch on.

The rough sex thing puzzles me. Does that mean that is how Rand likes it? Is it some puritanical throw back of guilt?

18 posted on 03/07/2009 10:02:48 AM PST by patj
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To: Publius

I actually listened to it unabridged on Audiblebooks. It worked very well for long drives.

57 hours of listening. They read every single word.

She amazed me with her precognition. “Anthem” is a very short read, and is about the aftermath of where “O” and his new boytoy Chavez wish to take us.

Gunner


19 posted on 03/07/2009 10:34:49 AM PST by weps4ret (HOPE! The only change is the deception.)
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To: Publius

Whenever Wesley Mouch is metioned I see Barney Frank in my mind.


20 posted on 03/07/2009 10:37:58 AM PST by MtnClimber (... _ _ _ ...)
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To: Still Thinking

Think about the ubiquitous Environmental Impact Statement. Every time anything is to be built, you need to file that statement. Today, if Dagny were to re-engineer the Rio Norte Line, there would have been at least one environmental study comducted by a politically connected consulting firm before a spade of earth could be turned. That study would have cost a bundle and taken at least a year to perform.


21 posted on 03/07/2009 10:38:51 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: CrappieLuck

When we get to the last chapter, I’ll have an essay exploring that issue.


22 posted on 03/07/2009 10:39:40 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: George Smiley
Sounds like deconstructivism to me.

DING DING DING! We have a winner!

In Rand's day, deconstructivism was just a gleam in the eye of a nihilistic academic somewhere. Rand had had her experience with nihilism in Bolshevik Russia, but here she was creating the academic basis for denying reality itself, which will come soon in the book.

Damn, you're good!

23 posted on 03/07/2009 10:42:59 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: GeorgiaDawg32
On the money. Very good.

Most of us at FR are great thinkers. (Maybe that should be my next tag line.)

24 posted on 03/07/2009 10:44:24 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Ramius
Welcome to the club. Great post.

By the way, "Casablanca" was set in that city during a specific period of World War II. But rent the 1984 film "Streets of Fire", and you'll see what you're talking about.

25 posted on 03/07/2009 10:47:06 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: patj
...no court cases...

Wait until we get to the "trial" of Hank Rearden. A lot will be explained then.

26 posted on 03/07/2009 10:49:22 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Publius
Ah, good point.

In my #7, your question got me going on another facet of the "disinterested third party" phenomenon. In AS, when people describe themselves as "disinterested" the media assumes (1) They ARE disinterested, and (2) That this renders their opinions worthy of consideration and of respect. This is similar to today's assumption that anyone spouting the liberal line is altruistic, while anyone taking the other side is assumed to have sinister motives.

27 posted on 03/07/2009 11:06:45 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius
Howdy, Pub’!

Here we are in Chapter 8, entitled “The John Galt Line,” subtitled Dagny’s Ride To Glory. In it she ramrods her way through technical difficulties, public pressure, and political skullduggery to run her train over Rearden’s metal and their mutual bridge, after which she and Hank finally satisfy our expectation and tumble into one another’s arms. An elegy to prurience and propinquity. One of my favorite words, the latter – it means kinship or likeness, similarity in nature, which describes Dagny and Hank’s relationship. Love between the two as commonly understood is still nowhere in sight.

Within the chapter we see the upshot of the Equality Of Opportunity Bill, which is simply the division of Rearden’s empire up among sundry political operators who engineered the act’s passage. Each of these wants his own little bite of an enterprise he considers a static reservoir of wealth. He cannot create it, he cannot run it, but he can despoil it. That is life under socialism.

Quite often on FR we have one of those “when did the rot set in?” threads, the usual consensus being somewhere in the late 60’s when the (highly debatable) conventional morality of the Greatest Generation was swamped over by the licentiousness of us Boomers. Those threads generally deteriorate pretty rapidly to useless flamefests and rational folk wander off to debate more important matters such as the merits of Obama’s torso or the high drama within the New York Yankees’ infield.

But I think Atlas Shrugged gives us more than ample evidence that the rot had already set in after its current familiar form well before the days of nascent hippiedom. By 1957 Rand was already giving us polished gems of corruption with far too much verisimilitude for her to be accused merely of making them up out of whole cloth. Here are a few:

The general policy of the press had been stated by a famous editor five years ago. “There are no objective facts,” he had said. “Every report on facts is only somebody’s opinion. It is, therefore, useless to write about facts.”

One need look no further than MSNBC or the pages of the NY Times to note that this doctrine has been taken to heart. What counts is journalism’s social effect (that word again) and not whether its facts are correct; what counts is whether the reporter and editor have “made a difference” and not whether they have made an accurate description of events. Journalism no longer intends to reflect, it attempts to shape.

It certainly tries to in AS. Journalism is a knowing conduit of the smear campaign directed against the John Galt line -

“I don’t say that the bridge will collapse,” said the chief metallurgist of Associated Steel, on a television program, “I’ll just say that if I had any children, I wouldn’t let them ride on the first train that’s going to cross that bridge. But it’s only a personal preference, nothing more, just because I’m overly fond of children.”

Cute. And from social critic Bertram Scudder:

”I don’t claim that the Rearden-Taggart contraption will collapse…the important issue is: what protection does society have against the arrogance, selfishness, and greed of two unbridled individualists…? These two, apparently, are willing to stake the lives of their fellow men on their own conceited notions about their powers of judgment, against the overwhelming majority opinion of recognized experts. …Should society permit it? …It has always been the belief of this column that certain kinds of horses should be kept bridled and locked, on general social principles.”

That word “social” again, not to mention claims of a phony “scientific” consensus that might have issued from the capacious yaps of Al Gore and James Hansen. We have with further poignant familiarity a petition from an “expert” committee, and of course the mandatory public opinion poll -

A few businessmen… did not hire metallurgists to examine samples, nor engineers to visit the site of construction. They took a public poll. Ten thousand people, guaranteed to represent every existing kind of brain, were asked the question: “Would you ride on the John Galt Line?” The answer, overwhelmingly, was: “No, sir-ree!”

It’s a public relations campaign undertaken by political thugs and abetted by journalist sympathizers who want nothing more than to share the power. The railroad unions do their part by threatening to prohibit their members from running the train. Dagny puts paid to that little ploy in the space of a single paragraph:

“You want a stranglehold on your men by means of the jobs which I give them – and on me, by means of your men. You want me to provide the jobs and you want to make it impossible for me to have any jobs to provide.”

Politicians, academia, the literati, the media, and now the labor union. It is 1957 in the real world and yes, the rot has set in. Here in this chapter we have the précis of the novel: that the main impediment to achievement is the political power of those who cannot achieve themselves but intend to control it and everything else, and the only way to break that control is to remove from the system the means of conferring that political power onto the unproductive.

The union backs off – it has little choice. Every single operational individual on the Taggart Lines volunteers to ride Dagny’s chariot of fire. And they provide an armed escort, one per mile of track. It isn’t ceremonial. Dagny’s opponents would not stick at sabotage and everyone knows it.

I might point out that these individuals, here celebrated for their independence and courage, are the same ones cursed earlier in the novel for enervation, incompetence, and ennui. Rand is attempting to have it both ways and that, I’m afraid, won’t do. It brings to the fore a question that I don’t believe Rand completely addresses in AS – is the relationship between employer and employee strictly on the basis of largesse – “jobs which I give to them” – or is there an element of reciprocity, a responsibility on the part of the employer toward an effective and ethical employee? And if there is the latter, at what point is Atlas shrugging an action that is impermissible by the very morals that mandate it? I’ll leave that an open question for now but I think it’s a central ethical question in the novel and I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with the way Rand addresses it.

We have, though, already seen Francisco d’Anconia’s view of that issue. It is that he provided the jobs for people who couldn’t do that for themselves – point taken – and that he allowed them to be defrauded by the system in which they were participating. Were there no ethical employees in that arrangement, no one who did what he paid them to do honestly and effectively? And if there were, did he not betray them, judged by his own standards? Or does he deny the reciprocity? My sense is that he does feel that he betrayed them and that it haunts him, a deplorable but inevitable cost of his own shrugging. In that sense Francisco is not only pretending to fall but really has. We have already seen within Rand’s atheistic world the artifact of soul, and now we encounter the inherent concept of sin. I find this exceedingly curious.

To the fun part – we have for the next dozen or so pages Rand’s best effort at descriptive writing nearly uninterrupted by dialogue. It is the exhilaration of speed, the expression of high achievement in a train doing no less than a hundred miles an hour over untested rail. It is a metaphor for the sort of life the immovable movers lead, the reward due them for their own personal excellence and that of their followers for their faith.

It’s quite a performance, actually, although those of us who live in the west might look askance at the notion of a freight train hurtling through a small town at a hundred miles an hour, traffic being protected by nothing more than an occasional cross-buck sign and the native caution of someone who suspects that although no train has heretofore done so, some lunatic might decide to run one at breakneck speed through the community. Stranger things happen all the time out here.

At last there is a triumphant arrival, a climax to this crypto-sexual Ride of the Valkyrie that is reflected later in Dagny and Hank’s physical congress in Ellis Wyatt’s house. Earlier in the chapter Hank’s wife has scoffed at the notion that Dagny is his mistress – how well she knows her husband, nearly well enough – and yet here they are in one another’s arms. It shouldn’t be a surprise. They are two people very much alone. Propinquity. They thirst, they ache for peers. Either Hank and Dagny will find them, or they will find Hank and Dagny.

One of them, at least, knows the score:

“Ellis Wyatt picked up his glass, looked at their faces and said, “To the world as it seems to be right now!”

He emptied the glass with a single movement…She heard the crash of the glass against the wall in the same instant…It was not the conventional gesture meant as a celebration, it was the gesture of a rebellious anger,…movement substituted for a scream of pain.

“Ellis,” she whispered, “what’s the matter?”

…“I’m sorry,” he said. “Never mind. We’ll try to think that it will last.”

Have a great week, Publius!

28 posted on 03/07/2009 11:07:41 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill
Ah, BtD! Always look forward to your analysis.

An elegy to prurience and propinquity.

Eschew obfuscation.

29 posted on 03/07/2009 11:09:20 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: NCBraveheart
I have tried over & over to get thru Atlas. I have never been able to get thru Rand’s ponderous writing style. I get the message just can’t handle the style.

How about just coming to the threads and reading Publius' summary of the chapter? That way you get the gist of AS, can join in the discussion, and don't have to read it actually unless you chose to. I figure I might do that from time to time when I can't force myself to read it (I have about 3 or 4 other books in my queue right now and frankly, I gravitate to Thoreau instead. Talk about a polarity of writing styles! Not to mention the drabness and dullness of AS's world vs. Thoreau's vivid nature writings.)
30 posted on 03/07/2009 11:10:59 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: Still Thinking
I have seen this myself. When I was working on a rail line sale here in the Seattle area, I ran across letters to the editor protesting the sale supposedly coming from the chairman of the Committee for This or That. No one had ever heard of the committee, and the phone number on the letter belonged to a phone booth at a strip mall.

In the book, the disinterested citizens turned out to be liberal idealogues.

But check the prose that preceded it. All these great names among leftist intellectuals were playing every public relations card they could while insisting that they had nothing to do with public opinion.

31 posted on 03/07/2009 11:12:29 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: CottonBall; Billthedrill
How about just coming to the threads and reading Publius' summary of the chapter? That way you get the gist of AS, can join in the discussion, and don't have to read it actually unless you chose to.

Ooh! We could publish them and call them "Pub's notes"! Don't forget BillTheDrill's always excellent comments as well.

32 posted on 03/07/2009 11:15:46 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Ramius
I hadn’t thought about it before but yes, it’s even in black and white! Maybe a splash of color here and there... the blue on Rearden metal... some intense red on Dagny’s lipstick... the brief orange glow of a cigarette... but otherwise stark, dark and mostly colorless.

I agree that when I think of AS's cities, they are all in black and white. The colorlessness of AS's setting perfectly depicts the mood liberals have created in dampening the human spirit. There's more of it happening in real time as well. ;(
33 posted on 03/07/2009 11:16:03 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: patton
Where does your tag line come from?

Same as my handle, Ramius, from The Hunt for Red October. There's no special meaning for selecting that... really, other than it was on the TV while I was signing up for an account on FR. Several other tries were already taken, and when I glanced at the movie... I tried it, it was available. :-) And the tagline seems to work in almost any context, I've found.

34 posted on 03/07/2009 11:18:13 AM PST by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: CottonBall; Ramius

Me too, with the black and white thing. It’s weird. Don’t know what it is about her style, but it seems to have that effect on a lot of people.


35 posted on 03/07/2009 11:19:07 AM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Billthedrill

Magnificent! Thanks.


36 posted on 03/07/2009 11:20:17 AM PST by Publius (The Quadri-Metallic Standard: Gold and silver for commerce, lead and brass for protection.)
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To: Ramius

Oooooh, I knew it sounded familiar.

My favorite line from that movie is, “You A@@, you have torpedoed US!”

Seems apropos, somehow.


37 posted on 03/07/2009 11:20:30 AM PST by patton (America is born in Iceland, and dies in California)
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To: Still Thinking

Good idea. I thought having Publius’ summaries all in one place would be beneficial. First, to refer back to at some later time. And for those coming to these threads later on.


38 posted on 03/07/2009 11:22:46 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: Publius
“There are no objective facts ... Every report on facts is only somebody’s opinion. It is, therefore, useless to write about facts.” So say the journalists, editors and publishers of Atlas Shrugged. Does anything sound eerily familiar in that rant?

What drives me nuts at the moment is the disconnect in logic that is going unnoticed (or at least unreported). In the California legislature, a RINO - after voting for the huge tax increase here - stated he was looking forward to working with other Republicans to reduce taxes. And Obama saying he wants to work towards fiscal responsibility and reducing the debt (after spending trillions).
39 posted on 03/07/2009 11:24:53 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: Still Thinking
Don’t know what it is about her style, but it seems to have that effect on a lot of people.

With the very first chapter, I got a chill with the gloominess of the setting. And not being a literary-type, I can't figure out how she does it so well either! Her characters also seem to be 2 dimensional. I don't know if it's poor writing (going to get flamed here for that!) or brilliant writing that sets the tone perfectly.
40 posted on 03/07/2009 11:27:36 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: weps4ret
Before I dove into Atlas Shrugged, I read "Anthem." Even for as short as it is, it's not an easy read; you have to get used to the narrator's use of "we" and "they" when he means "I" and "he/she".
41 posted on 03/07/2009 11:29:03 AM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (This is my tagline. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: CottonBall
I agree that when I think of AS's cities, they are all in black and white. The colorlessness of AS's setting perfectly depicts the mood liberals have created in dampening the human spirit. There's more of it happening in real time as well. ;(

Yes. I should also have added that when there are those splashes of color, there's generally only one, and it's a vivid primary color. Again... like an illustration painted to draw the eye to one thing.

An exhausted, gray city inhabited by black-and-white people with only every now and then a flash of a bright red dress and all the heads turn.

42 posted on 03/07/2009 11:29:28 AM PST by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: CottonBall

“How about just coming to the threads and reading Publius’ summary of the chapter? That way you get the gist of AS, can join in the discussion, and don’t have to read it actually unless you chose to.”

I’m already up to Chapter 2 of A is A (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for those of you who aren’t that far yet), and I use Publius’s synopsis as a review. It’s also helpful because I haven’t been very consistent in my reading habits lately. I read Ch.1 of A is A and then didn’t pick up the book again for almost two weeks.


43 posted on 03/07/2009 11:37:05 AM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (This is my tagline. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: ExGeeEye

Guten Tag!


44 posted on 03/07/2009 11:37:07 AM PST by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: Publius

A couple of things stood out to me in this chapter:

When Dagney says to herself while working late and being alone, “This is not the world I expected”. How many of us will be saying that pretty soon? Or have been saying it now? Thank goodness we have FR to talk to like-minded people to stave off the mental loneliness that Dagney was feeling.

What about crime? That same scene, with alleys, half-demolished buildings, late at night, her being alone and seeing a stranger loiter by her doorway - in todays’ world, it could be a dangerous situation. Yet, she felt no fear and even went after the stranger. Perhaps with everone’s needs met, they had no need for crime. But I don’t think that fits in with human nature - everyone wants more, more, more.

The government loans for 2/3 of the money for buying businesses for owners who “have never had a chance”. Sounds a lot like recent events of banks being forced to give loans to people who cannot repay them.

Lastly, the part about Hank Rearden being a greedy monster because he made money and supposedly didn’t help anyone hit home. I recently had an acquaintance (ie., a liberal I’ve known for years but wouldn’t call a friend) lambast CEOs and how much they made. Envy rears its ugly head again - but only for those employed in capitalistic endeavors. When asked about those employed in Hollywood or athletes that probably make more than most CEOs, he had no class envy for them. I pointed out that Hollywood is doing more to promote immorality than CEOs and many athletes using drugs are poor role models for our kids - he didn’t care about that. Only the CEOs are “evil”.


45 posted on 03/07/2009 11:37:50 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: ZirconEncrustedTweezers

That’s another reason Publius’ summaries should be encapsulated together!

BTW, is it just me? When trying to find old threads on AS, I don’t have much luck. What keywords work?


46 posted on 03/07/2009 11:39:30 AM PST by CottonBall
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To: Publius

Thank you! This is so great. I had meant to read this for YEARS, sheepish look, and now, with thanks to you, I am! AND enjoying the discussion, and all manner of insights that enrich the experience :)

Tatt


47 posted on 03/07/2009 11:40:13 AM PST by thesearethetimes... ("Courage, is fear that has said its prayers." DorothyBernard)
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To: CottonBall

“Her characters also seem to be 2 dimensional. I don’t know if it’s poor writing (going to get flamed here for that!) or brilliant writing that sets the tone perfectly.”

Perhaps Rand saw her characters as secondary to the setting? Or perhaps she simply fleshed out the characters sufficiently to serve the point she wanted to make?


48 posted on 03/07/2009 11:45:13 AM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (This is my tagline. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: CottonBall

I just did a search on “atlas shrugged” and it brought up all the Book Club threads (plus a lot of others!).


49 posted on 03/07/2009 11:47:42 AM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (This is my tagline. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: Publius

Bump


50 posted on 03/07/2009 11:51:50 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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