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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, White Blackmail
A Publius Essay | 11 April 2009 | Publius

Posted on 04/11/2009 7:40:36 AM PDT by Publius

Part II: Either-Or

Chapter III: White Blackmail


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 Dagny’s apartment.

Hank is sorrowful that Dagny had to see him with his wife, but Dagny is more sorrowful that she had to witness Hank’s 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 Dagny’s 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 can’t figure out why. She ought to feel that Francisco is depraved, but for some reason she can’t. 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 won’t give up his paramour. Lillian won’t 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 Institute’s orders or go to jail with Danagger for ten years. Hank says this is blackmail; Ferris says we’re in a more realistic age now, and it’s 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. “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t 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 doesn’t 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 Danagger’s 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. Danagger’s 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 visitor’s words. She tries to penetrate Danagger’s reasoning but can’t 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 Danagger’s 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 Hank’s labors are those who proclaim a right to another man’s 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 d’Anconia’s 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 d’Anconia. 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 can’t for personal reasons. Francisco looks tortured. He can’t finish what he had to say to Hank because Hank isn’t 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 husband’s 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. Lillian’s 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. Francisco’s 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. Let’s explore this in detail.

Next Saturday: The Sanction of the Victim

The next chapter contains two large, significant set pieces. The first is the Trial of Hank Rearden; the second is Francisco’s 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.

Francisco’s Sex Speech is another matter. Everything stops cold so that Francisco can lay out Ayn Rand’s philosophy of sexuality. You can read it linearly, but it works better if you skip it and then come back to it later.

TOPICS: Philosophy
KEYWORDS: bob152; freeperbookclub
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To: Cymbaline

Nah, it’d get shot down by the black helicopters! Person to person is better. Viral so it’s hard to wipe out plus you can wait till you see the individual is ready. — The Destroyer ;-)

41 posted on 04/11/2009 5:57:01 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius
She could have cut the book by a third.

Which third would that be?

42 posted on 04/11/2009 6:35:47 PM PDT by Lurker (The avalanche has begun. The pebbles no longer have a vote.)
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To: demsux

One of my very favorite Rand quotes.

43 posted on 04/11/2009 7:02:16 PM PDT 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
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.

For many of Rand's fans, this book seems to have led them to a turning point in their lives. Although I already was on-board with many of her views (on private industry and the free market), and even though I disagree with her on at least one issue (adultery), there were other points she made in this book that led me to stop and think and come to a realization...

One of those points was that, if a man's enemies can bring him down using his morality against him, that man must be a moral person. (I'm using the term "man" here in a general sense. That statement applies to everyone, both man and woman.)

Looking forward to next week's chapter.

44 posted on 04/11/2009 9:01:30 PM PDT by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: Lurker
Which third would that be?

That is a really tough question. I'll speculate but it isn't much more than that. The difficulty is that Rand tends to make the same point several different ways, each of which is pretty good. From the point of view of the author, for whom each of the different ways might be the only one that turns a light bulb on for the reader, there is a resistance to cutting any of them. For the editor, who has to sell the thing in a package that book stores will buy, it simply has to be smaller. In fact, AS almost didn't get published for that very reason - the editor who finally bought it had to threaten to quit in order to convince his superiors to go through with it. And for the reader contemplating an 1100-page brick it's pretty intimidating.

What I'd cut at this point might be some of the unneccessarily (IMHO) repetitive descriptions of Hank and Lillian's married life and perhaps the irritatingly theoretical explanations for why Dagny and Hank wind up sharing a bed. And some of the speeches seem artificially long - did Francisco really need upwards of five pages to make his Root Of Money point? And does anyone really think that a crowd at a wedding party would listen to it?

The real problem, I think, is that Rand was trying to balance a flow of logic with a flow of narrative and the two aren't always compatible. What the heck, I might change my mind a few chapters hence...

45 posted on 04/11/2009 9:13:56 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Publius


46 posted on 04/11/2009 9:17:22 PM PDT by annieokie (i)
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To: Billthedrill
And for the reader contemplating an 1100-page brick it's pretty intimidating.

Especially if the class bully hits you over the head with it.

47 posted on 04/11/2009 9:25:36 PM PDT by Publius
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To: Still Thinking
...that doesn't mean that logic cannot demonstrate the truth of God's existence.

Deep waters indeed. I am inclined to hold that it cannot, although it certainly can strongly suggest it, contingent on the strength of the logical system. A lot of folks smarter than I am have tried it (Leibniz and Godel to name only two). But I don't think that faith would be necessary if it were actually possible to nail the thing down with human logic. A lot of folks smarter than I am disagree... ;-)

48 posted on 04/11/2009 9:48:07 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

I guess we’re sort of saying the same thing from different perspectives. The Bible says that God has concealed himself from those considered wise in a worldly way. Now I think that in part He does this in exactly the way you allude to, that logic, pursued honestly, strongly suggests His existence, but it’s equivocal enough so that if you want to deny it, you can. So that’s one way he calls humble ones. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

49 posted on 04/11/2009 10:49:43 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Billthedrill
Fransisco’s speech was long, but very meaningful to this capitalist. I am several chapters ahead now (”This is John Galt Speaking”) and am finding that Galt’s speech is much longer and drawn out. I usually read a full chapter in one sitting but have been trying to get through this speech on-and-off throughout the weekend.
50 posted on 04/12/2009 7:02:19 AM PDT by DownwardSpiral (Downward Spiral is where the (socialist) liberals are taking us!)
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To: Publius

Please add me to list. Thanks!

51 posted on 04/12/2009 8:18:54 AM PDT by kayemmbee
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To: Billthedrill

I guess I shouldn’t have said “demonstrate”. From another perspective, how about the fact the the very existence and beauty of logic leave imply an awesome God, just like a beautiful field of flowers or a starry night sky? Not persuasive, I know, to someone who doesn’t want to be persuaded, but it was another slightly related facet of our discussion that occurred to me.

52 posted on 04/12/2009 8:44:12 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Still Thinking
beauty of logic leave imply an awesome God

Erps. I are a typerist.

53 posted on 04/12/2009 8:45:47 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Still Thinking
Oh, no, your meaning was beautifully clear. And I do think we agree.

It gets back to the theme I'm working on concerning Rand running into what appear to be more or less universal problems in philosophy. Rand is attempting something bold and ambitious (some would say arrogant as well) by literally rewriting philosophy from first principles. None of what she says or does is unprecedented but it does seem to be largely original. And the difficulty with the refusal to "stand on the shoulders of giants" is that you end up having to climb up all that way by yourself, avoiding false paths that have already been identified, wasting time and effort re-inventing the philosophical wheel.

I think that she finds the arguments for the existence of God unsatisfying because they do not seem to follow those laws of the universe - nothing palpable, falsifiable, no experimental situation one might set up that will break one way if God exists and the other if He does not. It's a perfectly legitimate objection. Aristotle's conclusion was that those laws are necessarily subordinate to their source; Rand's was that those laws cannot be incompatible with their source and that compatibility must be proven for the source to be considered legitimate. Philosophy has been here before, many times.

You can certainly work an agnostic position out of it. Not an atheistic one, however, for exactly the same reason you can't work out a theistic one. This is precisely the reason that an atheistic position is essentially a matter of faith. If you can't prove that God is compatible with the laws of the universe, neither can you prove that He isn't. It's a false path.

A thing I'll be thinking about on this beautiful Easter Sunday. My best to all here!

54 posted on 04/12/2009 9:46:11 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Publius
She is going to make his life hell by being the judge of his morality.

Lillian has accomplished her goal, that of being a victim of an unfaithful husband. A comeuppance for both but having different values for each. Lillian now has a pile of bargaining chips ( or so she thinks ) and Hank begins to understand what medium of exchange Lillian uses.

it’s time for Rearden to become a team player.

It's an interesting take since Rearden has been a team player all along. He successfully runs his business after all. What is really being asked of him is to change his goal, not his ability to lead his team.

Some of our representatives in Washington (and elsewhere) seem to have the problem of wishing to be known as 'team players' but not understanding that when you join a team, you are committed to accomplishing their goals which may be detrimental to your constituents.

“There’s no way to rule innocent men."

In my own observation, this strategy is also effectively employed by the powers that be through the _implied threat_ that one will be prosecuted for an action. Slap suits come to mind as well as unenforceable regulations. Both are designed to coerce the victim through intimidation and the possibility of large legal expenses. How many times have you heard someone say that 'you can't fight city hall?' Thus the ruling of innocent men can occur at even lower levels than Rand implies. This distinction may be splitting hairs but I see a much larger net cast with my interepretation than Rands. Consider the difference if every instance of coercion is considered a vote won or lost !

55 posted on 04/12/2009 10:04:18 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: MayflowerMadam
showing a movie, “The Passion Of Ayn Rand”. If the story line was true....

Click Here For Barbara Branden interview

I saw the movie as well and the above site will help to clarify what was going on at the time with the people around her. I'm sure there are others but I found this one interesting.

56 posted on 04/12/2009 10:57:13 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: whodathunkit
What is really being asked of him is to change his goal, not his ability to lead his team.

Good point. I should have phrased it something like, "Dr. Ferris asks Hank to change teams and join the winning side."

57 posted on 04/12/2009 11:14:56 AM PDT by Publius
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To: whodathunkit

Great website! Thanks so much for passing on the info.

58 posted on 04/12/2009 4:44:23 PM PDT by MayflowerMadam
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To: Publius
Dr. Ferris asks Hank to change teams and join the winning side.

That's true! Ferris is of the opinion that he is on the winning side. Does Dr. Ferris understand that he is a destroyer ? Do any of the looters understand where they are headed ? At this point it seems to Ferris that he is on the winning side, given his myopic view.

Quoting Sun Tzu ( The Art of War )...

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

59 posted on 04/13/2009 8:09:50 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: Sundog; Publius

I know it is difficult, but please try not to be a spoiler.
To this point I have read nothing about gold and nothing about Galt’s Gulch.

Now I can guess way more than I wanted to.

60 posted on 04/13/2009 8:29:30 AM PDT by NonLinear ( If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.)
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