Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, White Blackmail
Posted on 04/11/2009 7:40:36 AM PDT by Publius
Lillian condemns Francisco for what he has done and for shooting off his mouth at the wedding. She takes the train home while Hank heads for Dagnys apartment.
Hank is sorrowful that Dagny had to see him with his wife, but Dagny is more sorrowful that she had to witness Hanks agony in being in the presence of that woman. Dagny views their relationship as a fair trade with each drawing joy from the other. Hank wants to know the identity of Dagnys mysterious first lover, but Dagny intends to keep that private.
Dagny thinks that Francisco has intentionally engineered the disaster that is going to break tomorrow, but she cant figure out why. She ought to feel that Francisco is depraved, but for some reason she cant. And neither can Hank, who is starting to like the guy. He views the coming disaster as just one more obstacle, and he and Dagny will have to keep the ship afloat as long as possible before they go down with it.
Hank returns to the hotel to find Lillian awaiting him. Caught! Lillian makes fun of Henry the Monk who has not touched her for the past year and asks if his mistress is a manicurist or a chorus girl. Hank is ready to give Lillian anything she wants except for one thing: he wont give up his paramour. Lillian wont divorce Hank; he is the source of her social position, and Lillian makes it clear she has no regard for money. She is going to make his life hell by being the judge of his morality. Hank congratulates himself for letting her leave the room alive.
Dr. Floyd Ferris drops in on Hank at the mill and tells him how valuable the Rearden mills have become to the country. Hank points out that his opinion was different eighteen months ago, but Ferris explains that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Ferris wants to settle the delivery dates on the orders that Rearden refused five months earlier. While Rearden refused the paramilitary, Ferris is sure that Rearden will feel differently because of what Ferris possesses: information about the illegal sale to Ken Danagger. Hank can either fill the Institutes orders or go to jail with Danagger for ten years. Hank says this is blackmail; Ferris says were in a more realistic age now, and its time for Rearden to become a team player. Ferris can offer the muscle to crush Jim Taggart or Orren Boyle.
Ferris offers Hank another glimpse into the heart of darkness when he tells Hank that the laws are made to be broken. Theres no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there arent enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Now Hank understands; he challenges Ferris to put him on trial. Ferris loses his composure, and Hank throws him out of his office.
Eddie Willers sits down with the Anonymous Rail Worker in the Taggart corporate cafeteria and brings him up to date. Rearden and Danagger have been indicted and go on trial in Philadelphia next month. Dagny doesnt think Danagger has the courage to face what is coming and will be the next person to disappear; he is ready for The Destroyer. Dagny is going to Pittsburgh to beg Danagger to stay.
Dagny waits in Danaggers office while he is busy with a visitor; she ends up waiting for two and a half hours. She just misses the visitor as he leaves by the back door. Danaggers face is a miracle of deliverance. Affectionately, the crusty old businessman suggests to her that they fly to New York together and take a tour boat around Manhattan to see it one last time; he is not worried about the indictment because he is going to disappear. Dagny is stunned and realizes she has almost met The Destroyer! She is horrified that she has come too late, but Danagger tells her not to worry; there was nothing she could say to counteract the visitors words. She tries to penetrate Danaggers reasoning but cant get to the heart of the issue; Danagger will say just so much but not more. He asks her to tell Hank that he is the only man whom Danagger has ever loved. He tells her that he is merely complying with the system the looters have established; they want his coal but not him, so they can have it. Danagger gives Dagny one critical piece of information that she is too distraught to assimilate: the visitor told Danagger that he had a right to exist.
Dagny spots a cigarette in the ashtray; it is stamped with a dollar sign. She asks if she can take the cigarette, and Danagger agrees. He says he will see her soon, not because he is coming back, but because she will be joining him.
At his steel mill, Hank is troubled by the loss of Ken Danagger, but he is more troubled by Danaggers words of love. He wishes he had spent more time with Danagger and less with his brother Philip. As Hank prepares to leave, he finds Francisco waiting for him in the reception area.
Francisco knows how lonely Hank is this evening with the loss of the one man who counts. Hank says he will have to work that much harder now that Danagger has gone, and Francisco asks just how much he can take. Francisco tells Hank he is the last moral man left in the world. He has placed moral action into material form at the steel mill, but he has not held to the purpose of his life as clearly as he has held to the purpose of his mills. Hank developed Rearden Metal to make money but has not. The fruits of his labors were taken from him, and he was punished for his success. He had wanted his rail to be used by those who were his equals like Ellis Wyatt, those who were his moral equals like Eddie Willers, but not by the looters and failures of the world who proclaim that Hank is their slave because of his genius. The people reaping the fruits of Hanks labors are those who proclaim a right to another mans effort. Hank is putting his virtue in the service of evil. He has left the deadliest weapon in the hands of his enemies: their moral code. Francisco tells him the reason he is drawn to Francisco is that he has given Hank a moral sanction. Hank has made the mistake of accepting undeserved guilt. He has accepted the need of the looters as a reason for his own destruction. If Hank saw Atlas suffering but still trying to hold the world aloft, what would he advise? To shrug, Francisco finishes.
Francisco dAnconias recruitment of Hank Rearden is almost consummated when an alarm goes off signaling a breakout at a furnace. Francisco and Hank run to the furnace, and at lightning speed and with astonishing expertise Francisco flings fire clay into the gap, an art form Hank thought had died out years ago. Hank joins him and watches Francisco grinning widely. Hank realizes that he has met the real Francisco dAnconia. But Francisco misjudges a throw, loses his balance, and Hank saves him from incineration. Once the breakout is contained, Francisco gives orders to the men at the plant, and Hank approves because every word is correct procedure.
But now Francisco is dejected. Hank believes that with the kind of joint effort he and Francisco have just shown, they can beat the looters. Hank offers Francisco a job as a furnace foreman and says that will get him to appreciate his copper company properly. Francisco says he would love to take the job but cant for personal reasons. Francisco looks tortured. He cant finish what he had to say to Hank because Hank isnt ready to hear it.
Divorce in the Fifties
Before the era of no-fault divorce, different states had widely different standards for ending a marriage. Some, like New York, had only grounds of adultery. To simplify this, a wife would pay detectives to barge into a cheating husbands love nest to take pictures of the adulterous couple in action. Sometimes, cheating husbands would pay detectives to do the same thing to expedite the process.
In other states, a divorce was impossible unless both partners to the marriage agreed to it. Lillians decision not to grant Hank a divorce gives her power over him. For the sake of persecuting him, she is willing to forego a significant divorce settlement. This is to lead to her downfall later.
A Speedy Trial
The Constitution grants the accused the right to a speedy trial. Today, trials may come years after the arrest. Back in the Fifties, this was not the case. For Hank and Ken Danagger to come to trial a month after their indictments was not unusual in that era. But the trial, when we see it, will look very strange to people who expect such things to follow the Constitution.
A Single Discussion Topic
Francisco has torn a gaping hole in the universe from which Hank can perceive the heart of darkness. This is the key topic of this chapter and one of the most important themes in the entire book. Franciscos attempted seduction of Hank gives a clue to what The Destroyer said to Ken Danagger and Midas Mulligan to make them both joyful at the prospect of disappearing and leaving their enterprises behind. Lets explore this in detail.
The next chapter contains two large, significant set pieces. The first is the Trial of Hank Rearden; the second is Franciscos Sex Speech.
The Trial of Hank Rearden is broken into question and answer, so it does not come across as one very long speech. It is best read linearly as part of the book.
Franciscos Sex Speech is another matter. Everything stops cold so that Francisco can lay out Ayn Rands philosophy of sexuality. You can read it linearly, but it works better if you skip it and then come back to it later.
Ping! The thread is up.
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
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Ain't it the truth
And that gives you an insight into everything from wetlands to controlled substances.
Probably more than any other quotation, this one summarizes where America is today, unfortunately. This transformation has been underway for years since Rand wrote the book, but here we are. Very depressing.... and scary.
Ayn needed to add runaway inflation to the mix-—she alluded to it, they used gold in Galt’s gulch, but she never said everyone else in America was devastated by fiat currency-—just collapsed industry.
Every BS law in the country is grounded on this principle. Zero tolerance, hate crimes, domestic violence, drug laws, and the whole slew of child endangerment/abuse laws are all aimed at this goal. First, they are felonies, which will deprive you of your right to possess a firearm. Second, as felonies, many states then deprive you of your right to vote. Third, the glorification of the single mother and vilification of the deadbeat dad gives rise to the power of the state to deprive men of their rightful place in society, evidenced by the levying of exorbitant child support, then withholding the mean by which men can earn their living to pay such support.
The whole prison complex is another example. Once convicted of such bogus crimes, you then become a parolee on release. The system is then gamed to make it difficult to succeed, guaranteeing your return to prison. this guarantees a steady job for corrections officers. I live in CA and the corrections union is the most powerful in the state. I see CDC personnel gaming the system on a routine bases.
I know a lot of the law and order and WOD FReepers aren’t going to like my opinion on this, but there it is. Flame me if you wish, hit the abuse button, even ban me. But it has to be said. BTW, in no way do I endorse the release of true criminals into society, junkies buy heroine OTC, or pedophiles living and working amongst children. My point is that the system that is supposed to protect the righteous and law abiding citizen has been turned inside out and perverted into a system to control sheeple.
Concerning gold, I have a bit on that when we meet Ragnar Dannkeskjøld later on.
Don't forget the private prison system. This adds more incentives to lock people up.
"You, who've created abundance where there had been nothing but wastelands and helpless, starving men before you, have been called a robber".
This is exactly what is happening to capitalists today. People who equate more to Jim Taggert and Orren Boyle are held up as examples of "evil CEO's" as if they were the rule instead of the exception. It's easy to demonize all the producers by holding up the few real demons as examples.
Once we hear Francisco and Dagny in a future chapter having a similar conversation, we get the picture much more clearly.
Next week, at the trial of Hank Rearden, we see the effects of Fransicso's speech on Hank. It's almost as if the seduction were a prelude to Hank's taking a public stand. It connects the dots more easily.
Thanks — this book is much more potent for me this time through than last, seems in times of prosperity Ayn Rand’s wisdom isn’t so appreciated.
Currently, gun laws make criminals of law abiding citizens. It's all too easy to break a law unwittingly.
Of course, there's always the trite "Ignorance of the law is no defense."
The problem with that statement is the shear number of gun laws. There are so many it's almost impossible for the ordinary citizen to keep up with all the rules and regulations.
Section two, chapter three, or chapter 13 if that association is not overly tender in these days of bankruptcy and abandon. White Blackmail the title is a true oxymoron, incidentally, meaning not just any old contradiction in terms but one deliberately constructed for poetic or descriptive purposes is a chapter of significant conversations: Eddies with his blue-collar friend, Hanks with Francisco, Dr. Ferriss with Hank, and Ken Danaggers with well, with the fellow Dagny has come to think of as The Destroyer, whose calling card is a cigarette butt with a little gold dollar sign. Not of this earth if Dagnys newsstand expert is to be believed. One might find the chapter impossibly static but for a rather violent ending in which Francisco shows, at last, his true colors as a man. More of that when we get to it.
To our story. Hank is at last caught out by Lillian, although she still is too obtuse to recognize in Dagny a successful rival for the lionesss share of Hanks connubial bliss. She refuses divorce in favor of what is clearly important to her: my home, my name, my social position but considers that their relationship is altered. He knows better. In another sort of novel her body would have washed ashore somewhere by now and wed be rooting against the detective.
An author is always entreated write what you know, and I have come to question gently Rands ability to convey in authentic terms the relationship of man to man. In the previous chapter we learn that Francisco has changed his life on the basis of how much one man we now may be fairly certain its John Galt meant to me. In this one we learn that Danagger loves Rearden and that Rearden loves Francisco. Were this another form of literary criticism I might be able to garner some serious academic credibility by proposing this to be an expression of unrequited homosexual desire, proceeding from there to a chance at publication in the journal of the Modern Language Association or even dare I utter it? Vanity Fair. But, in my opinion, its simply a woman placing a mans sentiment into a mans mouth with a womans vocabulary and nothing more. Its evocative enough but it doesnt quite ring true.
These are manly men Im speaking of, naturally, men with stubble and sweat-stained shirts gazing unflinchingly into the maw of a superheated blast furnace, their bulging pectorals glistening stop it.
Argosy magazine is right out too.
But one cadence Rand seems to pick up with frightening fluency is that of evil. Dr. Floyd Ferris is clearly a major power broker now and is chosen by the powers that be to present their case to Rearden.
Now, would you care to be a martyr for an issue of principle, only in circumstances where nobody will know that thats what you are nobody but you and me where you wont be a hero, but a common criminal either you let us have the Metal or you go to jail for ten years and take your friend Danagger along, too.
Rearden said calmly, In my youth this was called blackmail.
Dr. Ferris grinned. Thats what it is, Mr. Rearden. Weve entered a much more realistic age.
It is an echo of what Orren Boyle has revealed to us in the preceding chapter:
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.
And Ferris clearly is in the business of trading men, and has become a man of considerable influence himself in view of what he now offers Rearden:
Dont bother with Jim Taggart, hes nothing want us to step on Orren Boyle for you? to keep Ken Danagger in line? Just let him understand that if he doesnt toe the line hell go to jail but you wont because youve got friends he hasnt got now thats the modern way of doing business.
But after all, I did break one of your laws.
What do you think theyre for?
A pause for a breath here. Because what Ferris says next is Rands central thesis about the relation of law and power in an age of decadence.
We want them broken. Were after power and we mean it. Theres no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there arent enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws now, thats the system, Mr. Rearden, thats the game
That and selective enforcement compose an exercise of power that is the basis for every police state ever devised. It is the ability of those in power arbitrarily to designate a non-cooperative citizen a criminal, to silence, to imprison. It is raw, sanctioned coercion.
Here there are no rights, only privileges, and government attains its aims and maintains itself by granting or denying those privileges. For example, a citizen of California might consider the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights to mean that he or she is entitled as much as his or her fellow citizens to bear a concealed firearm. In the real world that is regarded, on the contrary, as a privilege to be conferred by the local police administration, to be withheld by default, to be granted for fame or favor or cold hard cash. As a right it is the basis of society; as a privilege it is the basis of corruption.
The French economist and political philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenel described this very thing in On Power:
the mounting flood of modern laws does not create Law. What do they mirror, these laws, but the pressure of interests, the fancifulness of opinions, the violence of passions? When they are the work of Power which has become, with its every growth, more enervated by the strife of factions, their confusion makes them ludicrous. When they issue from a Power which is in the grip of one brutal hand, their planned iniquity makes them hateful. The only respect which they either get or deserve is that which force procures them. Being founded on a conception of society which is both false and deadly, they are anti-social. [On Power, Ch. 16, pt 4]
That is law in these days of decay. And so Rearden has his loyal secretary Gwen show Dr. Ferris the door. Something has changed for him. Between what Francisco said and what Ferris said he is beginning to find his way.
He [Rearden] sat in a pose he had never permitted himself before, a pose he had resented as the most vulgar symbol of the businessman he sat leaning back in his chair, with his feet on his desk
I think Im discovering a new continent, Gwen, he answered cheerfully. A continent that should have been discovered along with America, but wasnt.
Eddie Willers appears entirely aware of what is going on, and refers the matter to his confidante in the Taggart cafeteria, the nameless and voiceless track worker to whom Eddie has come to pour out his heart.
I feel that someone is screaming in the middle of the streets but people are passing by and no sound can reach them and its not Hank Rearden or Ken Danagger or I whos screaming, and yet it seems as if its all three of us Rearden and Danagger were indicted this morning. Theyll go on trial next month. No no, Im not shaking, Im all right, Ill be all right in a moment Thats why I havent said a word to her, I was afraid Id explode and I didnt want to make it harder for her its not Hank Rearden that shes afraid for, its Ken Danagger she feels certain that Ken Danagger will be the next one to go hes a marked man she says theres a destroyer, that she wont let him get Ken Danagger
Those might be imprudent words in the wrong ears, perhaps, but then the fellow is only a track worker after all. And yet next we see Dagny cooling her heels in Danaggers office, and when finally she is allowed admittance, hes gone. The strongest pillar supporting her collapsing world. Oh, hes sitting in front of her, but hes gone.
He looked at her bowed head and said gently, Youre a brave person, Miss Taggart. I know what its costing you dont torture yourself. Let me go.
The Destroyer has come and departed, taking Danagger with him. And all hes left behind is a gold-stamped cigarette butt.
I wont say goodbye, he [Danagger] said, because Ill be seeing you again in the not too distant future.
Oh, she said eagerly, holding his hand clasped across the desk, are you going to return?
No. Youre going to join me.
Never! But the pillars of her world are now one fewer. At least she still has Hank Rearden. Oh, but there is a parallel conversation that would make Dagnys hair curl had she known it was going on. It is between Francisco and his new friend Rearden. It is a Destroyer speaking to receptive ears. Are there, then, two of them?
Mr. Rearden, said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders what would you tell him to do?
I dont know. What would you tell him?
We barely get a taste a three-page taste, but by Rands standards its a wet of the whistle of what the Destroyer must say to his victims. It is cut short by an industrial accident the side of a blast furnace has been breached and the white-hot metal is flowing out to consume everything in its path. And Francisco shows himself to have held at least one more honest job in his life he knows how to stem the flood with fire clay. He and Rearden save the day, and Rearden saves his life in doing so. And now Rearden knows what we have known all along Francisco is no playboy, but a player in a game as big as the world on Atlass shoulders.
The chapter ends there, and so, I suppose, should these notes, except for one very special image that has implications as large as the novel itself. Ill explore it in detail once the novel is complete but here is a start, for better or worse. The topic is morality, the voice Franciscos, speaking to Rearden:
Francisco pointed to the mill If you want to see an abstract principle, such as moral action, in material form there it is. Look at it, Mr. Reardon. Every girder of it, every pipe
A girder as a moral statement? Yes. What Francisco meant by it is that the girder is a product that is designed in accordance with the laws of the universe the laws of gravity, of material science, of tensile strength and chemical formulation, of the mathematics of the distribution of forces, and it is the recognition of those laws by men that make the girder possible. They are not opinions, they are not negotiable. They simply are, and to Rand, and to Aristotle, to acknowledge that is the first act of philosophical clarity and to deny it, intellectual death. A Dr. Ferris, for whom no knowledge is possible, could not have made the girder.
It is objective reality, the grudging acknowledgment that the world is not simply the artifact of human perception, that there is something there to be perceived independent of human existence. That is the basis of Aristotles philosophy and Rands view of morality. The girders very existence is an acknowledgment of law.
Whose law? Human law? No, for then it would be subject to the approval of such creatures as Dr. Ferris. The law of the universe? Well, then, who put it there? Are we to believe that it simply is, and that although we may discover it we may not inquire as to its origin? Those laws are the structure of the universe and they do not depend on human approval. Why are they, then?
Whose law? Rand simply cannot bring herself to say Gods but Aristotle did. That is the reason for his unmoved mover. For Aristotle God is simply the unavoidable and logical consequence of his system of modeling the world.
Recall that Rand, along the lines of Nietszche, attempted to relocate godhead into the person of man. Her industrialists are her immovable movers. There is no God. But she hasnt avoided the problem of the origin of the laws of the universe in doing so, and these are the very basis of her own system of moral judgment. What are we to make of this?
Aristotles is not, actually, the proof of the existence of God if it were, Gods existence would be contingent on a system of reason. In my personal view its the other way around reason is the gift of God, God is not the gift of reason. But in order to dispense with God you have to dispense with the logical system under which His existence is a necessary consequence. It can be done, of course. There are any number of non-Aristotlean logical systems from which to choose. But you cant embrace his without acknowledging its consequence, and thats what Rand is trying to do. You cant have it both ways. Either-Or.
This is a rather fundamental philosophical problem, and throughout the rest of the novel well try to see how Rand deals with it, and if she does, whether were satisfied with her solution.
Have a great week, Publius!
Lets look at the bailout in a nutshell. Banks and financial institutions were given (coerced is probably more apt) bailout money to head off a more dangerous meltdown. Hidden in the monstrous bill are time bombs just waiting to go off. The “scandal” over the AIG bonus’ is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Then the MSM whips the populace into a frenzy over the bonuses. All in an attempt to gain control the financial sector. A manufactured scandal is a good description. Then other institutions start scrambling to give back bailout money, only to be told they cannot do so.
The auto industry is the next example. GM took bailout money. Now the administration exerts its power over GM by ordering the firing of the CEO and ordering what type of vehicles will be produced. I don’t even remember the government throwing it weight around in such a heavy handed manner when Chrysler was bailed out in the late 70’s.
This seems to be the formula for this administration:
Target an industry as at risk of failing
Provide a huge, ponderous bailout no one can decipher (full of gotcha regs)
Let the industry step into the piles of dog doo buried in the bailout bill
Whip the populace into a class-warfare frenzy, demanding the government to take action to control said industry
Yes, this administration does seem intent on criminalizing the producing sector of the population, in its attempt to control all.
I’m looking forward to Rands discussion of religion. For many years I did not wish to read AS because, as a Christian, I felt there was nothing to gain from her. But I have read many books by non-believers, and came to feel my faith was strong enough to grasp what she was trying to espouse.
Rand’s opinion re religion would be interesting. A week or so ago, Showtime was showing a movie, “The Passion Of Ayn Rand”. If the story line was true (an affair with a much younger married man while she herself was married) this was one weird, self-absorbed chick.