Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Aristocracy of Pull
Posted on 04/04/2009 7:41:47 AM PDT by Publius
The men of Colorado disappear one by one until only Ted Nielsen is left; he promises Dagny he is not going anywhere. Dagny realizes she is encountering a Destroyer who is performing the reverse of the mystery motor, turning kinetic energy back into static.
Quentin Daniels and Dagny hit it off; neither of them thinks much of governmental scientific inquiry. Daniels is the night watchman at Utah Tech but uses the laboratory facilities of the closed school for his own purposes. Dagny and Daniels conclude their own private deal without the involvement of the railroad.
The cigarette stand proprietor catches Dagny as she is leaving the building and tells her that Hugh Akstons cigarette had attributes he had never seen before and was not made anywhere on this earth.
Ken Danagger and Hank meet discreetly in Hanks hotel room at the Wayne-Falkland to conclude a deal, now illegal, giving Danagger Coal the Rearden Metal it needs for its mines. Danagger has expanded his operation by acquiring a bankrupt coal company to the conflicting complaints of bureaucrats that he is a monopolist but needs to expand further.
After Danagger leaves, Lillian Rearden surprisingly arrives; she is in town for Jim Taggarts wedding to Cherryl Brooks, which she sees as perfectly ridiculous. She wants to be the center of her husbands life, and although Hank would prefer not to go, he does so to please her.
The courtship of Jim and Cherryl has so far not included sex, for which Cherryl is grateful. But she is hurt by those who see Jims involvement with her as being generous, as if she were an object of pity. She is especially hurt by the reception she gets from Jims friends, particularly Betty Pope, whose cryptic comments are disturbing. When she hears comments about Jims connections in Washington, she thinks the men hate Jim out of envy, not something else, like disgust.
At the reception Orren Boyle and Bertram Scudder scan the room, classifying each guest as friend or foe. Jim and Boyle get into an argument about who has the greater influence and is more to be feared; each has friends in high places because of personal blackmail. Boyle says that if they dont trade money, they can trade men. He reminds Jim that Wesley Mouch has been bought twice already and can be bought again.
Cherryl spots Dagny and tells her that she knows about the hell that Dagny has put poor Jim through. Im the woman in this family now. Dagny smiles and says, Thats quite all right ... Im the man.
Lillian approaches Jim and asks if he likes her wedding gift, which is Hank. It gives the impression that even the great Hank Rearden has to toe the line with Jim Taggart and serves as a warning to all in the room. Lillian wants Jim to understand that she has the power to deliver Hank.
Lillian accosts Dagny and asks her opinion of Jims marriage; Dagny doesnt have one. Lillian tells Dagny that Cherryl had resorted to talents that Dagny would despise; Dagny chooses not to be offended. Lillian notices the Rearden Metal bracelet and wants it back, but Dagny refuses. She tells Dagny that her wearing it might hint that something improper was going on; Dagny looks her in the eye and asks if that improper thing might be that she is sleeping with Lillians husband. Lillian backs off, and Hank tells her to apologize, which she does.
The intellectuals in the room gather around Jim to praise him for his enlightened behavior. Bertram Scudder gives Jim his highest accolade: he is not a businessman. Jim says, We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by, and Francisco interrupts, the aristocracy of pull. Jim loses his composure, but Francisco rescues him by suggesting that he be presented to the bride.
Francisco tells Jim that he knows Jim is the real stockholder behind all the straw men that Jim and friends have erected to hide their purchases. Francisco understands that Jim doesnt want people to know how he got rich. The copper company has done well in the past year, and it would take a most unusual kind of man to destroy it. He thanks Jim for the crippling regulations that have made dAnconia Copper the last man standing in the business. He intends to repay the favor.
Francisco goes to Dagny and asks if she is fishing for a compliment on her achievement, the John Galt Line. Dagny is hurt that Francisco should so despise success. He tells her that John Galt has claimed her line.
When Bertram Scudder says that money is the root of all evil, Francisco launches into his famous Root of Money Speech, available here. As he finishes, the crowd at the party reacts in horror, particularly one woman who just feels that Francisco has to be wrong. Francisco tells her that when she sees people dying of starvation around her, her feelings wont be of any use to them.
Rearden greets Francisco as if they were old friends. Francisco tells Hank he shouldnt have come to the party because people would assume that he and Jim were friends. Hank now feels differently about Francisco following the speech, but he cant figure out why Francisco is wasting his talents. Francisco tells Hank to check his premises and warns him to stay away from dAnconia Copper; when Hank sees what happens in the next fifteen minutes hell understand why. The people in the room have secreted their looters profits from their Rearden Metal wealth in stock in Franciscos company. There was a fire tomorrow morning at the companys docks at Valparaiso, Francisco explains, then there will be a rockslide in a critical mine, and the companys mines will turn out to be worthless. Hank laughs explosively, then backs away in horror. He thinks that Francisco is guiltiest man in the room. Francisco tells Hank to watch and learn.
Francisco runs into a businessman harried by a bureaucrat who grandly states that he will decide if the businessman is permitted to make a profit or not. Francisco says in a loud voice to Hank that he is sorry that Hank will not grant him the loan because if he cant raise the money tonight, then when the stock market opens tomorrow... The bureaucrat blanches, Francisco asks him if he owns any dAnconia Copper stock, and upon receiving affirmation advises the bureaucrat to sell immediately but not to tell anyone in the room so as not to start a panic. Within minutes, everyone rushes to the phones to call their brokers. Jim asks if the rumors are true, and Francisco explains that if money is the root of all evil, then he is just tired of being evil. As Hank, Dagny and Francisco watch, Jim and Orren Boyle join the general chaos.
Cherryl, Sex and the Fifties
As mentioned in a previous chapter, in the Fifties chastity became trendy again and virginity became desirable. But that is not at the heart of Cherryls gratitude that Jim has been willing to wait until their wedding night to consummate their relationship.
Cherryl does not want to use underhanded methods to win Jim; she wants to put the lie to the evil assumptions of Jims friends. She has her moral code and intends to stick to it come hell or high water. She is completely clueless as to the relationship between Jim and Betty Pope and even more clueless as to the true nature of the man she is marrying. Poor Cherryl.
Franciscos Root of Money Speech
This speech is an audition for Hank Rearden, and it has the desired effect. There are lines that are seared into the memory long after one has put the book back on the shelf.
Other Discussion Topics
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FReeper Book Club: Introduction to Atlas Shrugged
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the dAnconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatts Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
This was a great chapter—i loved story between Francisco and Hank at the end-they are both so alike that you cannot dislike either of them!...The middle part involving Cherryl was fairly sad, because I knew what Jim was doing to her.
Great speech that should be read over and over by people today—look at what is happening with our govt printing money that we don’t have. sad stuff.
The money speech was one of my favorite parts of the whole book...lengthy, but needed to be.
I even found it in the past election. A woman who was supporting Obama was doing so on the basis of feelings and felt those feelings were more important than facts.
I have read the money speech many times now and still have a hard time believing when it was written.
Fixed it for you... sadly.
I think this goes beyond a Second Amenment issue... though the Second Amendment is an improtant component. We are "disarmed" in a multitude of ways beyond the RKBA. With every law that does not serve the proper role of government, our ability to defend ourselves diminishes.
And they deserve to get it good and hard.
Fascinating. I’d never heard of it before.
But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed citizens then money becomes its creators avenger. Such looters believe it is safe to rob defenseless men, once theyve passed a law to disarm them. Second Amendment, anyone?
I never looked at it in terms of the Second Amendment - or, the literal sense of being disarmed, before. I always looked at "disarmed" and "defenseless" in the sense of the moral code of the time. The victims are being disarmed by their own sense of right and wrong, their own virtue in other words. (As we will see later, Rearden is going to run head first into this particular dilemma.) At the risk of getting ahead a little bit, it's called "The Sanction Of The Victim". It's a code where the honest are punished for being honest, and the dishonest are rewarded for their dishonesty. The honest and the virtuous play along with the system because they believe in obeying the law, and the thought of going against the system is repugnant to them, while the looters have no such compunction against using the system against the virtuous. They are thus "disarmed" and defenseless, until they get wise to the fact that the system is being used against them. I think that's what's happening with those who are disappearing.
One of the most powerful statements in the book:
"Madame, when we'll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won't be of any earthly use to save them. And I'm heartless enough to say that when you'll scream, 'but I didn't know it!' - you will not be forgiven."
This applies to every person who voted for Obama, in my opinion.
I like that analysis.
The Aristocracy of Pull, is the title of the chapter, but that may actually be a bit premature. In it we are introduced to the concept but its membership and operations are only hinted at. Well see more of those in the next two chapters. But Rand has chosen her terms carefully it is, in fact, an aristocracy, an insular ruling class with its own hierarchy and means of exchange.
I should like to take up the topic of humor in this chapters commentary, or more precisely a sense of humor, which Ayn Rand is occasionally accused of being without. Certainly some of her principal characters seem to suffer from this deficiency: Rearden the tormented, for one, whose blood pressure could probably benefit from a sense of the ridiculous. James Taggart, too stupid to know a joke if it were tattooed to his forehead and too anxious to laugh at it in any case. Dagny herself, too driven, too pure as Lillian puts it at one point although she meant something else by it. Frankly there isnt a great deal that makes Dagny laugh, and she could use a good one.
And so could we. Watching a country slide inexorably into ruin tends to be grim business. Does Rand have it in her? We shall see.
It is September, and industrialists are falling faster than the leaves that are about to. Quentin Daniels, Dagnys hope for somebody to reveal the mystery of the motor, has already gone Galt, earning his daily bread working as a night watchman. We remember from a previous chapter one engineers sneering demand that Dagny support him at the rate of $25,000 a year (quite a generous salary in 1957) to investigate the thing, hinting openly that it is likely to be a long-lived and fruitless effort, fruitless, that is, except for the health of his bank account. Daniels, on the other hand, is a risk taker who only expects to get paid for results and paid well if he manages to produce them. That is Rands idea of a moral business arrangement.
But Daniels lets slip one possible weakness:
If I spend the rest of my life on it and succeed, I will die satisfied Theres only one thing I want more than to solve it: its to meet the man who has.
We could not be accused of clairvoyance to suspect that, in Hugh Akstons words, he will.
Ken Danagger, who has been illegally supplying Dagny revealing that we think of it as her personally and not her corporation with the fruits of his coal mines, which is all that is keeping Taggart running now that it has been forced by industrial shortage to shift its engines back to coal. Coal is necessary to the forging of Rearden metal as well. Danagger and Hank find it necessary to meet in secret to conclude an illegal but honest business arrangement. We have reached the point at which the only legal business arrangements are the dishonest ones. But why would anyone want to make the honest ones illegal?
The reader might be forgiven for skipping some of the grim depression that is the exploration of Lillians and Hanks relationship. We already know what that is, and Lillian is an enduring mystery, namely that a woman that simultaneously shallow and dense isnt holding up a bridge abutment somewhere.
Cherryl Brooks is now Cherryl Taggart, beneficiary of the sort of leech-like arrangement in love that James Taggart appears to have with business. She is treated by Jamess contemporaries with the same regard one might expect of a horsefly floating in the Dom Perignon. She is the innocent that Lillian thinks Dagny might be, and is cautioned by a nameless newspaper columnist who has befriended her:
Listen, kid, the sob sister said to her, when she stood in her room for the last time, the lace of the wedding veil streaming like crystal foam from her hair to the blotched planks of the floor. (A lovely word image, actually. Rand should do more of it.) You think that if one gets hurt in life, its through ones own sins and thats true, in the long run. But there are people wholl try to hurt you through the good they see in you knowing that its the good, needing it and punishing you for it. Dont let it break you when you discover that.
Its good advice that flies far over the head of the naïf. This cannot end well for the poor dime-store clerk married to the rich poltroon. She gets a welcome to the big leagues from none other than Dagny herself:
[Cherryl] Im not going to put on the sweet relative act Im going to protect him [Jim] against you Im Mrs. Taggart. Im the woman in the family now.
Thats quite all right, said Dagny. Im the man.
Oh my, yes. You might not read that line in a contemporary novel due to the tender feelings of feminists whose intellectual attainment appears principally to consist of tender feelings. But we know exactly what she means. She is quite as direct with Lillian. Concerning her continuing to wear the Rearden metal bracelet (and in formal dress, too. Tacky.):
Im sure, Miss Taggart, that you realize how enormously improper this is dont you think that this is a case where one cannot afford to indulge in abstract theory but must consider practical reality?
Dagny would not smile. I have never understood what is meant by a statement of that kind.
Oh, but she does. The sort of abstract theory with which Lillian is most familiar is the sort that issues from the impure mouths of Pritchett the philosopher, Ferris the false scientist, and Scudder the polemicist. It isnt really the sort of stuff in which Dagny tends to indulge. She will have her own confrontation with abstract theory, not that kind but the real thing, and the time is not yet.
So why does Dagny continue to wear the bracelet in public? It is an acknowledgment of Reardens achievement, and hence Rearden himself in a non-sexual sense, and it is, as well, a covenant, a private sign of possession strictly between the two of them, but although she knows that it is also a public statement that she is sleeping with Rearden, she appears not to care. Does she find the inability of those around them to conceive that they might be having an affair to be amusing? Perhaps she would not smile but if so, it isnt obvious, and it doesnt strike me as the sort of sense of humor that fits Dagnys straightforward personality. But Rand finds it highly amusing, and so does the reader.
There is at least one character among the opposition who does possess a sense of humor it is the brutal and marvelously cynical Orren Boyle. He is a wolf among sheep and knows it, and enjoys letting the sheep know it as well. He gives us a glimpse of what passes for a medium of exchange in his political circles:
The ones you buy arent really worth a damn because somebody can always offer them more but if you get the goods on a man, then youve got him, and theres no higher bidder and you can count on his friendship what the hell! ones got to trade something. If we dont trade money and the age of money is past then we trade men.
The age of money, past. It isnt only Boyles opinion:
We are at the dawn of a new age, said James Taggart from above the rim of his champagne glass. We are breaking up the vicious tyranny of economic power. We will set men free from the rule of the dollar We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by
the aristocracy of pull, said a voice beyond the group.
They whirled around. The man who stood facing them was Francisco dAnconia.
It is Francisco the playboy, the wastrel, the clown. He has been Loki in Rands tripartite pantheon, but no one seems to be laughing.
Senor dAnconia, what do you think is going to happen to the world?
Just exactly what it deserves.
Oh, how cruel!
Dont you believe in the operation of the moral law, madame? Francisco asked gravely. I do.
Moral law? Thats pretty rich coming from a playboy, and everybody knows that Francisco is a playboy, dont they? And now Francisco gets to deliver the opening salvo in the battle that is being joined. He steps out of the party for a moment and in front of the proscenium where he makes his Root of Money speech. I shall quote only a small part but it seems hauntingly pertinent:
Do you wish to know whether that day [of reckoning] is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a societys virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion when you see that in order to produce you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws dont protect you against them, but protect them against you when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice you may know that your society is doomed.
Are we doomed, then? It is no idle question. In order to run a commercial enterprise in the United States one may very soon need to purchase a remarkable contrivance known as carbon credits from, and obtain the kind permission of, men who produce nothing. We know who they are. Consider that from Rands point of view we have here a group of political operators who have created a webwork of real law around a scientific fiction and are drawing from it the power to dictate every aspect, not only of commercial enterprise, but of the lives of human beings unfortunate enough to come under their sway. Rand has not yet expounded on morality she will but she has described obscenity with sufficient accuracy for us to recognize it when it appears before our astounded eyes.
The Root of Money speech is the first indication that Rearden gets of Franciscos true nature and game. But he already knows that Francisco is far more than he appears.
What are you doing at this party?
Just looking for conquests.
His face suddenly earnest, Francisco answered Yes what I think is going to be my best and greatest.
He means Rearden himself, of course, but Hank doesnt make the connection.
Reardens anger was involuntary, the cry, not of reproach, but of despair: How can you waste yourself that way?
The faint suggestion of a smile came into Franciscos eyes as he asked, Do you care to admit that you care about it?
And Hank does care, because he senses a kindred spirit under the tuxedo and suntan.
I wish I could permit myself to like you as much as I do.
When youll learn the full reason, youll know whether theres ever been anything or anyone that meant a damn to me and how much he did mean.
He, who? We know, of course, but Rearden does not, yet. We also know where the looters have been keeping their ill-gotten gains, safely invested or so they think in dAnconia stock, a company that has never failed in 150 years. That is why Francisco is systematically ruining it.
No one listening seems to take this disquisition very seriously although is it not entirely the sort of talk one might expect to hear at a wedding party. Francisco is putting on a show, but it is a show for a very select audience. He is a select audience as well, being the only one at the party who knows both Dagny and Hank well enough to realize that they really are lovers. I think that knowledge in the face of the stubborn denial of lesser souls would be the sort of thing that would appeal to his own mordant sense of humor. That it is the woman he loves might appeal to his sense of tragedy. Loki indeed.
And he returns to that character so quickly that no one other than Hank and Dagny seems to notice, starting a run on his own stock with the mere suggestion that it is about to fail, the guests scattering from the exclusive wedding party like cockroaches exposed to the light. It is sordid, and very funny. I suggest that Rands characters may lack a sense of humor but their author definitely does not. Hers just happens to be a very dark one.
Have a great week, Publius!
“The Sanction of the Victim” applies to how the media responds to political scandals, especially sex scandals. Since liberals have no sexual morality other than “if it feels good, do it”, There is no shame, no taint, no consequences other than a quick apology, then back to business as usual. However if there is any scandal involving a conservative, how quick the response of “hypocrite!”. That is because conservatives actually claim to have standards and morals. They are quickly excoriated as scum, run out of town, charges filed, and generally turned into a laughing stock on shows like Daily Show, SNL, and Letterman.
Exactly, look what happened to Rush Limbaugh when it was discovered he was addicted to pain medication. He became public enemy #1. “He’s a hypocrite! He’s a hypocrite!!”. If he were a liberal, they’d have rallied around him and said “Awwwww...”
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