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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Sanction of the Victim
A Publius Essay | 18 April 2009 | Publius

Posted on 04/18/2009 7:45:27 AM PDT by Publius

Part II: Either-Or

Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim

Synopsis

It’s Thanksgiving at the Rearden home, and Hank dines in the bosom of his family of moochers and vipers. Hank’s mother’s prayer describes a country where the people lack food and housing. The Reardens have been fortunate, and Mrs. Rearden thinks Hank should toast the American people who have given him so much.

Lillian is concerned that Hank might make a stand at his trial tomorrow. He says he intends to, which prompts remonstrance from his mother. Why can’t he play by the rules, like Orren Boyle? Lillian thinks that concepts like right and wrong are irrelevant, and Hank is conceited for trying to take a stand on principle. The men whom Hank will face at the trial are weak, and their only way of getting rich is to grab the fruits of Hank’s labors. So what? That’s the human condition. Hank should abandon the illusion of his perfection and go along to get along. Nobody is right or wrong; we are all in this together.

Hank has no thought about his going to jail or what it will do to his family. Philip damns him for taking advantage of the national emergency to make money for personal gain. Hank quietly tells Philip that if he opens his mouth again, he will throw him out in the street with nothing but the clothes on his back and the change in his pocket. Philip has been living off Hank’s charity and exhausted his credit long ago. Philip decides he wants to leave – but he needs money to maintain his social position. Hank tells him that money will not come from him. Philip now thinks he needs to stay to help their mother. Hank decides to go to New York. Lillian understands and forbids him to leave, but he leaves anyway.

Hank recalls that the Wet Nurse had failed to turn him in for the Danagger sale and couldn’t explain why. Hank had told him to murder somebody quickly before the reason he didn’t turn informant destroyed his career. Despite this, he now finds the Wet Nurse hanging around the plant and engaging in hero worship.

Dagny had been experiencing one train wreck after another as the rail wore out. Jim said the track would last another year, but that’s not how it worked out. Dagny couldn’t get Rearden Metal, so she had to settle for regular steel instead. Taggart revenues are collapsing.

At the office Dagny and Eddie Willers are working through Thanksgiving as Hank shows up. Hank tells Dagny that she is going to get Rearden Metal, not steel, for the money she has spent and more of it than she paid for. He intends to give Dagny plausible deniability by tangling up the bookkeeping to the point where no auditor could hope to figure it out, except possibly to blame it on Hank. The two raid the illicit bar of the traffic manager and down a pair of brandies to drink to Thanksgiving, the holiday established by productive people to celebrate the success of their work.

The trial of Hank Rearden is not conducted under the Constitution of the United States. It’s an administrative law panel presided over by three judges from the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources with no jury; however, this tribunal, empowered by the directives of Wesley Mouch issued under a state of emergency, has the power to send people to prison. One judge acts as prosecutor.

The observers in the courtroom are not necessarily on the government’s side. Although the Mainstream Media had characterized Hank as an enemy of the people, these same people are there to see the inventor of Rearden Metal. They are not there out of admiration – that emotion is something Americans can no longer feel in their tribulations – but curiosity and defiance.

In the intervening weeks, Danagger Coal had fallen apart after its owner’s disappearance, and Orren Boyle’s steel girders were collapsing in construction projects across the nation and killing people; everyone in the courtroom knows that the media is hiding Boyle’s responsibility.

Hank refuses to offer a defense after the charges are read; in fact, he doesn’t even recognize the right of this so-called court to try him, nor does he recognize his actions as criminal. Hank is complying with the law to the letter; his property may be disposed of without his consent. He does not wish to be a party to this farce. Told that he must defend himself, Hank tells the court that a defense is only possible if there are objective principles that bind him and the judges to the law; in the absence of such principles the court may do as it wishes.

The judge condemns Hank for opposing the public good. Hank tells him that “good” was once a concept determined by moral values, and no one had the right to violate the rights of another. If men may sacrifice Rearden and steal his property because they need it, how does this make them any different from a burglar? At least a burglar doesn’t ask for sanction. The judge asks if Hank holds his interests above those of society. Hank says that question can only arise in a society of cannibals. If people wish to decrease his profits, they should not buy his metal; anything else is the method of the looter. If the judges wish to impose punishment, then impose it. The judge says Hank’s only alternative is to throw himself on the mercy of the court. Hank refuses; he will not do anything to facilitate this farce.

A judge demands that Hank not make it look like he is being railroaded. Realizing his mistake, the judge stops cold, but someone in the audience whistles; the cat is out of the bag. Rearden explains that they are choosing to deal with men by means of compulsion. This court is only possible when the victim permits it to be possible. If the judges wish to levy punishment and seize his property, then let them do it publicly at the point of a gun. Hank makes it clear he is working for his own property and profit; he does not seek the sanction of others for his right to exist, nor does he recognize the good of others as a justification for the seizure of his property. When looters run out of victims, the result is universal devastation. “If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public be damned. I will have no part of it!” The crowd bursts into applause.

A judge now tells Hank that the court wishes to approach him in the spirit of amity, but Hank isn’t having any of that. The judge tries to place the blame on the missing Danagger, but Hank isn’t having any of that either. The judge tries to get him to say he was working for the good of the people, but Hank shoots that one down too. Realizing that the government has badly misplayed its hand, the judges fine Hank five thousand dollars – but suspend the sentence. The crowd applauds Rearden and jeers the judges. The curtain comes down on the farce.

Dagny is elated, Lillian is noncommittal, and the Wet Nurse is sure that Hank has won. Hank explains to him that the thing that makes him sure is a moral premise. The Mainstream Media is silent, and businessmen are fearful, although some think that government controls are desirable.

Hank drops in unannounced at Francisco’s suite at the Wayne-Falkland. Francisco is thrilled to see him but hides the mechanical drawings he is working on. Hank wonders when Francisco is going to finish his talk, and Francisco tells Hank that he finished it brilliantly at his trial but three generations too late. Hank still thinks the world can be saved by fighting the looters, but Francisco tells him to read the transcript of the trial and see if he is practicing his philosophy fully. It’s too soon to finish the talk he and Hank had started at the mill.

Hank wants to know why a man like Francisco is spending his time running after loose women. Francisco asks Hank to check his premises, and he launches into his Sex Speech. Francisco admits that he has been creating a certain impression but has never slept with any of those women. He has been donning camouflage for purposes of his own; he can’t tell Hank what is going on, but he is becoming impatient with the rules he has sworn to observe. There is only one woman Francisco has ever loved, and he hopes he has not lost her.

Hank tells Francisco he is going to sell his metal to the customers of his choice, but Francisco warns him he is merely accepting the position of a criminal for the sake of keeping in place a system that can be kept going only by its victims. Hank says he is going to outlast the system, and he is one of Francisco’s best customers thanks to the work of front men. Francisco is horrified, reminding Hank that he had warned him to stay away from d’Anconia Copper. Francisco swears that Hank is his friend, no matter what he will think in the next few days. And three days later, Hank’s copper goes to the bottom of the Atlantic courtesy of Ragnar Danneskjøld.

Francisco’s Sex Speech

This is a moderately long set piece that encapsulates Rand’s philosophy of sexuality in one place. This is a blessing for the reader because her characters’ talk about sex gets tedious rather quickly, so it’s nice to get the lecture over with.

But this speech is worth a second read because it is so definitive. While Rand was no fan of the biblical sexual morality of the Fifties, one suspects she held little regard for the New Morality of the Sixties. Her standards were higher than that, if a bit odd. The Sex Speech shows that those who view Rand as a sexual libertine are wide of the mark.

Discussion Topics

Next Saturday: Account Overdrawn


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 04/18/2009 7:45:27 AM PDT by Publius
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To: ADemocratNoMore; Aggie Mama; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; Amityschild; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part II: Either-Or; Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim

Ping! The thread is up.

Earlier threads:
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 d’Anconias
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: Wyatt’s Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail

2 posted on 04/18/2009 7:46:45 AM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius

back later

Regards

alfa6 ;>}


3 posted on 04/18/2009 7:50:20 AM PDT by alfa6
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To: Publius

I just wanted to say thanks for the Atlas Shrugged threads. I’m a fan of Ayn Rand, have read Atlas twice now and have really been enjoying these threads and the questions. I’m going to have to pick up the book for a third time and start reading again. (I loved it in paperback so much I bought the hardbound version which has been the centerpiece of my formal room’s coffee table for 17 years now.)


4 posted on 04/18/2009 7:51:10 AM PDT by usconservative (Attention Homeland Security: Obama Is A Terrorist - Don't Let Him Back Into America!)
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To: Publius

Thanks much.


5 posted on 04/18/2009 8:13:26 AM PDT by Sundog (Glenn Beck says you won't recognize this country in a year, and you wouldn't believe it now.)
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To: Publius
Wow excellent thread. I'm reading it for the first time and I'm blown away by the similarities to current events. I started reading it years ago but maybe I wasn't quite ready for it or maybe I was just to lazy to get thru it. Anyway I restarted it again about a month ago and can't put it down. The synopsis you did help me see some of the points I may have missed or just didn't get. In any event kudos to you and I'm sure down the road I'll be rereading it. Its one of those rare books that you want to reread because you know there's always some new insight you'll find.
6 posted on 04/18/2009 8:19:03 AM PDT by YankeeReb
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To: usconservative
I just wanted to say thanks for the Atlas Shrugged threads

In our Freedom Fighters movement one of our stated goals is to put Atlas Shrugged on the top of The NYT Best Seller list. I have bought 3 copies as gifts so far this year.

7 posted on 04/18/2009 8:27:53 AM PDT by Zevonismymuse
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To: Publius

Thank you for the thread and excellent synopsis.

It’s been about 18 years since I read the book -last week I dusted it off and am about 170 pp into it.

As with many books I go back to after a number of years- it’s been “rewritten” :) So much I don’t remember; it’s like reading it for the first time.


8 posted on 04/18/2009 8:28:07 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet)
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To: Publius
Thanks once again Publius!

I found the Thanksgiving scene illuminating. Everyone avoided thanking Rearden, the only producer at the table!

I would like to add to the discussion the question of Rand's intent in using the phrase " Sanction of the victim." It seems that there are several ways to interpret the word. I found that...

sanction -

1. Authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid.

and...

5. A penalty, specified or in the form of moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance or conformity.

also...

Word History: Occasionally, a word can have contradictory meanings. Such a case is represented by sanction, which can mean both "to allow, encourage" and "to punish so as to deter."

(all found on the linked page)

As was discussed on an earlier thread, Rand does not always make clear her meaning with a single phrase. Perhaps that is why the monologues make the reader feel as if he had just exposed a gem from the earth and needs to turn it around to observe it from every facet in order to understand the whole. Rand used the trial to observe her meaning of the 'sanction of the victim'.

9 posted on 04/18/2009 8:28:26 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: whodathunkit
I found the Thanksgiving scene illuminating. Everyone avoided thanking Rearden, the only producer at the table!

Excellent! You got it!

Go back to the chapter where we first meet Hank, and he gives his brother some money for charity. Instead of thanks, what did Hank get?

10 posted on 04/18/2009 10:02:10 AM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius
Since the legal profession is my career, Hank's trial is my favorite part of the book. I would love to see a modern-day Hank stand up to some of the bonehead judges that are on the bench.

Thank you for your hard work on these threads. I look forward to them every weekend.

11 posted on 04/18/2009 10:29:11 AM PDT by Fast Moving Angel (There are no points for second place.)
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To: Fast Moving Angel
Back when Bill Gates and Microsoft went on trial, somoene posted Hank Rearden's trial as a thread to FR. It's gone, unfortunately, due to the inability to bring all the archives over to the latest server as part of the most recent migration.

It's a lot of typing, or I might have tried it myself.

12 posted on 04/18/2009 10:36:44 AM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius
Link to repost / Rearden's trial
13 posted on 04/18/2009 10:48:01 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: Fast Moving Angel
Since the legal profession is my career, Hank's trial is my favorite part of the book. I would love to see a modern-day Hank stand up to some of the bonehead judges that are on the bench.

I always think of the "show-trials" in the Congress - sometimes called "hearings" - at this point in the book. I, too, would love to see someone stand up in one of the hearings and "Hank" them.

14 posted on 04/18/2009 10:54:04 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 (The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it's a whole lot better than what we have now)
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To: whodathunkit
Tahnks for posting that link.

From the trial...

The newspapers had snarled that the cause of the country's troubles, as this case demonstrated, was the selfish greed of rich industrialists; that it was men like Hank Rearden who were to blame for the shrinking diet, the falling temperature and the cracking roofs in the homes of the nation; that if it had not been for men who broke regulations and hampered the government's plans, prosperity would have been achieved long ago; and that a man like Hank Rearden was prompted by nothing but the profit motive. This last was stated without explanation or elaboration, as if the words "profit motive" were the self-evident brand of ultimate evil.

If that isn't directly out of today's headlines, I'm not sure what could be.

15 posted on 04/18/2009 11:00:28 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 (The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it's a whole lot better than what we have now)
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To: Publius

I just want to say this is an excellent idea for a thread.


16 posted on 04/18/2009 11:25:56 AM PDT by Rob the Ugly Dude
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To: Publius
Morning Pub, it is a beautiful spring day here in CA. The trial of Hank Rearden is not conducted under the Constitution of the United States. It’s an administrative law panel presided over by three judges from the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources with no jury; however, this tribunal, empowered by the directives of Wesley Mouch issued under a state of emergency, has the power to send people to prison. One judge acts as prosecutor.

We currently have many such "trials", not by a jury and not under any presumption of innocence. All of the various regulatory boards and commissions, whose members are usually political appointees, preside over "hearings". It brings to mind the clause in the Declaration of Independence "He has sent swarms of officers, to eat out our sustaining."

Another such "trial" or "hearing" is in the realm of family law. Your children can be taken from you by cps, with only a subjective suspicion of abuse, place in foster care (ultimately for adoption) and you have no legal recourse. Both you and your child have been deprived of your constitutional rights. There is no court to appeal to, you can't sue the state or county agency that took them, even if it turns out you were innocent.

17 posted on 04/18/2009 11:28:09 AM PDT by gracie1
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To: Publius
There's no book-on-line anywhere? ;-)

PS: Did everyone see the large picture of Ayn Rand held up at the Atlanta tea party? Fox News has run that clip with her picture several times.

18 posted on 04/18/2009 11:33:38 AM PDT by Fast Moving Angel (There are no points for second place.)
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To: r-q-tek86

Yes, and senate “confirmation” hearings, which seem to be more of a stage for facilitating grandstanding and pontificating on the part of the senators than exploring the qualifications of the candidate. Wouldn’t you love to see Hank rip, say, Dianne Feinstein, Teddy Kennedy or Henry Waxman a new one?


19 posted on 04/18/2009 11:37:17 AM PDT by Fast Moving Angel (There are no points for second place.)
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To: Publius
Good afternoon (in this time zone). Good work. I, and the First lady have enjoyed your series.

5.56mm

20 posted on 04/18/2009 11:41:44 AM PDT by M Kehoe
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To: Publius

Thanks for all the hard work put into this thread.

As usual you’ve done a fine job.


21 posted on 04/18/2009 11:46:53 AM PDT by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: r-q-tek86

Congressional hearings have 2 purposes.

1) To crucify and place blame on someone who may not bear partial responsibility, many times a flunky or even better to slant the facts to blame the opposition party.

2)To conceal the real truth.

Think back to the 9/11 hearings. Gorelic sat on the board of questioners when she should have been in the Dock.


22 posted on 04/18/2009 11:51:12 AM PDT by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius; whodathunkit
I was going to volunteer to scan the pages and OCR it, but I see whodathunkit's all over it.
23 posted on 04/18/2009 12:00:28 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Fast Moving Angel
PS: Did everyone see the large picture of Ayn Rand held up at the Atlanta tea party? Fox News has run that clip with her picture several times.

Ayn Rand: The Right's Helen Thomas. I'm not sure an actual picture of Rand is the way to win people to the cause. (Course, half of Helen's putrid ugliness is her soul showing through, so it's not entirely an apples-to-apples comparison.)

24 posted on 04/18/2009 12:04:20 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: whodathunkit

You found Noumenon’s repost! Thanks! I wish he’d spend more time at FR. He is an orthodox Randite, and he could add a whole lot to these threads.


25 posted on 04/18/2009 12:55:42 PM PDT by Publius
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To: Noumenon

Hey, Noumenon! Do you ever hang around here anymore? We could use your input in this project.


26 posted on 04/18/2009 1:04:51 PM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius
Noumenon's about page, worth reading.

Noumenon would be a very welcome addition to our discussion.

27 posted on 04/18/2009 1:23:42 PM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: whodathunkit

He’s someone who can explain Rand as well as Billthedrill. He hasn’t been around here for a while, unfortunately.


28 posted on 04/18/2009 1:25:16 PM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius
Howdy, Pub’!

An important chapter, number 14, entitled “The Sanction of the Victim.” In it are two set-piece speeches, Hank Rearden’s at his trial and Francisco’s five-page disquisition on Rand’s sexual theories. In between are the actual dramatic developments, and they’re really pretty interesting. But clearly Rand would rather lecture than entertain, which is one problem in a novel of ideas where occasionally the novel and the ideas diverge, at least for a time. One can almost feel Rand’s determined effort to reunite them in the ensuing chapters.

That said, I did enjoy the thing. It begins at a Thanksgiving dinner, at which celebratory occasion Hank experiences another of his continuing epiphanies about the nature of his family and acquaintances. Brother Philip chirps the customary progressive drivel about the evils of business:

“Businessmen are taking advantage of the national emergency in order to make money. They break the regulations which protect the common welfare of all…grow rich by defrauding the poor of their rightful share…they pursue a ruthless, grasping, grabbing anti-social policy…I think it’s contemptible.”

It is, to say the least, indiscreet to refer to one’s host in such a manner, especially when he is about to be put on trial for precisely those things. Hank calls him on it and Philip discovers very quickly that there are now, where there weren’t before, some distinct lines drawn with respect to Hank’s toleration. Hank is changing, hardening before their eyes, becoming less malleable, less capable of the crude manipulation they have been practicing on him for what Lillian describes as “the last 25 years.” Along the way Hank throws off this rather interesting statement:

“You concluded that I was the safest person in the world for you to spit on, precisely because I held you by the throat.”

It is a behavior common to those who are manipulating other people through a scheme of contrived obligation and guilt. (It also describes the five-decade-long relationship of the European Left with their despised, ruthless, and yes, anti-social, protectors across the water). This behavior requires the sanction of the victim. Without that sanction it has no power. And Hank is slowly coming to the realization that it is a crime and a betrayal, an act of immorality, for the victim to grant that sanction.

Lillian, who one might expect to be the most aware of this change in Hank, seems the least so, and attempts to play on the guilt she believes that Hank feels for having an extramarital affair. It is one more case of lead-like density from a woman who has little else going for her but her ability to pull the strings on a puppet who seems busily occupied in cutting them. Lillian’s stock in trade is her ability to “deliver” her own husband to other people. But Hank simply does not feel the guilt for his affair that she is counting on. The reason for this will become clearer later in the chapter when Rand spins her theory of the nature of human sexuality.

It is an uncomfortable scene, broken when Hank decides he’d be better off spending the balance of the last day before his trial at the factory. And lo and behold! – in an otherwise empty factory there is the young fellow sent to spy on him, the one Hank refers to derisively as the Wet Nurse. He is in the midst of his own existential crisis, and we learn two things: first, that he is a metallurgist by training and second, that he has a conscience, a real one.

Why didn’t you inform your friends about me?” he [Hank] asked.

The boy had answered brusquely, not looking at him, “Didn’t want to.”

“It could have made your career at the very top level. Don’t tell me you didn’t know it.”

“I knew it.”

“Then why didn’t you make use of it?”

“I didn’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t know.”

And on to the show trial, for that is what the hearing into Rearden’s and Danagger’s illegal business dealings really is. Here we have a necessary departure from reality in order to support Rearden’s expression of his current philosophical state, of which Rand, as a witness to the great Soviet show trials of the 30’s, was certainly aware. For one thing a refusal to enter a plea would most likely have resulted in a plea of “not guilty” being entered for him (in an American court, anyway), for another, no judge charged with the mission this sort of trial entails would allow the victim to make a defiant, three-page declamation. It is not a real courtroom, of course, it is a stage, and it is not a real trial, it is a dialectic, and the reader will be more comfortable simply accepting that.

I shall not belabor the specifics of the arguments – most have already been developed and are merely re-stated in Rearden’s words. (In fact, later he accuses Francisco of placing them in his head – “your stooge” – whereupon Francisco reminds him that they were, on the contrary, things Rearden had believed and acted on all his adult life). There is, however one additional development in the spirit of the chapter title, and that is that Rearden is refusing to grant sanction to the court’s proceedings and hence its sentence. He’s no longer playing the game. And the alternative to that is a naked use of force:

“If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary cooperation of your victims…[who] will discover that it is their own volition – which you cannot enforce – that makes you possible…Whatever you wish me to do, I will do it at the point of a gun…If you believe you have the right to force me – use your guns openly. I will not help you do disguise the nature of your action.”

And there is Rand’s case: that the ethical system under which looting is permissible requires the victim’s buy-in in order to masquerade as anything but naked coercion. In a cultural sense this is very powerful – to refuse to grant the moral standing of those who feel that “social justice” entitles them to expropriate your property is to expose them for the bullies and thieves that they are, once they do so. In Rand’s world they hesitate; in ours they will do so enthusiastically, self-righteously, and in the spirit of class vengeance. Rearden is let off with a minor fine, suspended, which he suspected he would be from the beginning. His counterparts in the great Moscow trials were shot, as they knew they would be from the beginning.

That is the nature of a show trial, after all, not a masquerade for power but an open expression of it. A real show trial is a public display that one side is triumphant and the other both disgraced and helpless. That is the reason certain activists of the Left are so insistent on holding such trials for former members of the Bush administration if they can find a means to effect them. Justice has absolutely nothing to do with it and political theater, everything.

And the truth is that, pace Rand, the state and the people behind it will not be in the least reluctant to resort to naked coercion, they revel in it, in fact, that’s the point of the exercise in the first place. Coercion is the nature of the state. Rand, a Russian expatriate, knew it better than most people of her time. Rearden’s triumph here – he walks, of course – will not and cannot be a final victory. He has refused to grant the sanction of the victim, and it leaves the state only with the resort to naked force. Is he naïve enough to think that the state will not use it? Perhaps he is, but Rand knows better, as we shall see.

Dagny misses the point.

“Hank, I’ll never think that it’s hopeless…I’ll never be tempted to quit. You’ve proved that the right always works and always wins…”

Does it, now? There are, of course, motivations for quitting other than hopelessness. It will take both Dagny and Hank a long time to realize that but realize it they will. One who has realized it is Francisco, whose own motivations are becoming clearer both to Rearden and to the reader. But first we finish our post-trial visit with the Wet Nurse, who is undergoing a push toward clarity all his own.

The Wet Nurse asked him at the mills, “Mr. Rearden, what’s a moral premise?” “What you’re going to have a lot of trouble with.” The boy frowned, then shrugged and said, laughing, “God, that was a wonderful show! What a beating you gave them, Mr. Rearden!...” “How do you know it was a beating?” “Well, it was, wasn’t it?” “Are you sure of it?” “Sure, I’m sure.” “The thing that makes you sure is a moral premise.”

One very minor note for writers of dialogue – I reproduced the form of the thing in the paragraph above; a rapid-fire exchange that eschews the normal paragraph-break-per-quote form found in the rest of the novel. It is a curious departure, and I’m not sure quite what to make of it. Perhaps at that point even Rand had had her fill of dialectic.

But this is Rand’s moral premise: a notion that to do one thing is right and another in its place, wrong, and that the principle does not change as a function of who is doing the doing. Special rules for special people need not apply. That may seem strange for one whose imagery is so heavily Nietzschean, and is one reason that Rand is not really Nietzschean at all. The moral premise applies to everyone, stock boy to stockbroker, policeman to politician. Were it otherwise the looters would always be in the right. And so that is all that stands in the way of a consensual victimhood, in the way of an outright use of force: a moral premise. And the reason that Atlas must shrug is that the moral premise now is held in contempt and will not serve to protect the victim.

Hank seeks out Francisco – they’re pals now, at least for the balance of the chapter, and Rand uses this particular sounding board both to suggest very broadly what Francisco’s real game is and second to present, in his mouth, her theory on human sexuality. The latter isn’t anything we haven’t figured out by now, but briefly it consists of the idea that sexual attraction is perfectly normal and is one manifestation of intellectual admiration; that to the virtuous the ultimate aphrodisiac is virtue. It is a completely logical extension of her idealized human condition and in my opinion it is false, or at best, incomplete. Francisco informs us – at length, one unbroken stream of pop psychology running to 618 words (good Lord, doesn’t the fellow ever pause for breath?) that to Rand the reason for imperfect coupling is an imperfect view of self, low self-esteem, and a lack of personal actualization. As those improve so, apparently, does one’s focus on the ideal mate. It’s a beautiful idea, one supposes, but not one held in much favor by anyone who has actually observed the maddening, contradictory, baffling complexities of human sexuality in action in the real world.

If the frequent visitation of this particular issue seems a bit too insistent to the modern reader we must remember that the 50’s, although not quite as sexually repressed as certain contemporary commentators like to think, still were quite repressed in terms of public expression of matters sexual. “Pregnant,” for example, was not a word uttered on the public airwaves. At the time of writing, Rand’s philosophy of sexual liberation was just as radical as her philosophy of economic liberation. And presumably the same philosophical considerations that free a person from guilt over making money, free her or him from guilt over making love. Not, presumably, from the responsibility of making babies – reliable chemical birth control was still in the future as of the writing of the novel (the FDA approved the first hormonal contraceptive in 1960) and one notices that the complication never arises within its sexually liberated main characters.

I would be the last to deny that admiration of the character and achievement of a partner act as a sexual attractant, but there is rather a bit more to it than that. I admire Mother Teresa’s character and achievements, for example, but that’s as far as it goes. I swear.

Francisco is still carrying a torch for Dagny based on that premise, and so is Hank, her current partner in the making of the two-backed beast, and so, one suspects, is that mystery admirer who has haunted Dagny’s surroundings from time to time. Three – at least – worthy admirers, and only one will be chosen. One sees Rand projecting herself into Dagny here after the manner of a medieval romance: the woman is the transcendent, the desired, the unattainable. It isn’t, in my view, one of her more admirable moments. “Love pure and chaste from afar” is a nice turn of phrase but a feller can get awfully lonely occupying a permanent and hopeless second place on Superwoman’s list of finalists. And he can, in this system, desire no other. It doesn’t strike me much as how people really behave and I thank God for it.

We leave the chapter with a triumphant Rearden determined to defy all the looters and sorely tempted to kick the moochers out of his house. He’ll make as much metal as he likes and sell it to whomever he pleases and keep the country running despite the worst efforts of those who are trying to tear it down. Well, he intends to, anyway. His pal’s copper, on which he had based these hubristic plans, resides at the bottom of the ocean courtesy of one Ragnar Danneskjold and very obviously with Francisco’s collusion. Hank is furious, of course, but the reader is unmoved. He was warned, after all.

Have a great week, Publius!

29 posted on 04/18/2009 1:37:29 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: gracie1

Also, tax law.


30 posted on 04/18/2009 1:54:10 PM PDT by patton (I hope that they fight to the death and both sides win.)
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To: Billthedrill
.....briefly it consists of the idea that sexual attraction is perfectly normal and is one manifestation of intellectual admiration; that to the virtuous the ultimate aphrodisiac is virtue. It is a completely logical extension of her idealized human condition and in my opinion it is false, or at best, incomplete.

I agree. As anyone who has lived life can verify.

I am reminded of the incident in Rand's own life when she made a play for her close associate Nathanial Brandon, who was, I believe, married and considerably younger. He turned her down, basically because, for all her brilliance and intellect, she was just too old for him. He didn't find her sexually attractive!

Made her crazy and she banished him from her circle. And one of the reasons she said the banishment was necessary was because Brandon obviously was morally corrupt because he didn't find a superior woman like her a turn on.

Those of us who subscribed to the "Objectivist Newsletter" in the 1970's got a front row seat to the somewhat tawdry battle. It was not her finest moment.

31 posted on 04/18/2009 5:12:07 PM PDT by mick (Central Banker Capitalism is NOT Free Enterprise)
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To: Publius

Haven’t had much time for discussion of late. Most of my efforts have been going into making a living and training for the inevitable. For example, I shot a poor 160 on the AQT today. I am not in the best shape and it shows. When I can get it all to click, I’m making head shots at 250 yards from prone and standing positions, but sitting is a real problem. Aside from my eyes (bifocals), strength and flexibility, I’m just fine.

So wife and I are training and bringing our skills back to and beyond what they were. That’s the trouble with getting old, preoccupied and lazy, I guess.

I may not make the AQT tomorrow, but I’m back to a damn good start.

As for Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, hey - we’re living it. She and Orwell were just a generation or so off.


32 posted on 04/18/2009 7:48:46 PM PDT by Noumenon (Time for Atlas to shrug - and to pick up a gun)
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To: Noumenon
As for Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, hey - we’re living it. She and Orwell were just a generation or so off.

Which is why I started the book club. Not enough people have read the book because they were daunted by its size.

Forewarned is forearmed.

33 posted on 04/18/2009 7:50:47 PM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius

I still recommend and give away at least a dozen or copies of that book ever year. That’s gotten more expensive of late - I used to be able to buy a used paperback for $4-$5. Now it’s more like $8-$12.

I’m beat - going for a hot shower and bed...


34 posted on 04/18/2009 7:56:36 PM PDT by Noumenon (Time for Atlas to shrug - and to pick up a gun)
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To: gracie1

Yeah, here in CA we have the unelected “Coastal Commission.”

I’ve snickered more than a few times when some poor liberal businessman has had a run in with those people. The CA Coastal Commission is slowly creating more and more Conservatives, due to their arrogance.


35 posted on 04/18/2009 8:39:35 PM PDT by stylin_geek (Senators and Representatives : They govern like Calvin Ball is played, making it up as they go along)
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To: whodathunkit

bump


36 posted on 04/19/2009 1:09:21 AM PDT by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: r-q-tek86

As to the trial being out of today’s headlines, I think we’ve actually gone beyond this by now. The bankers who I would normally have put as the “victim” recently were actually well in cahoots with the government in terms of taking advantage of items such as the Community Reinvestment Act and securitization to make profits, but I wouldn’t call that productive. Same with the automakers. They have gone along with all the government regulations in order to make money in the short term, but I’d feel better about them if they didn’t take government money and made the cars that made them money, rather than those that allowed them to be in compliance of CAFE standards.

A Reardon-like action on the part of the car companies would be to push the high-profit vehicles like SUVs and Pickup Trucks (the cars that Americans REALLY want) and tell the government to shove it when they are forced to make the cars the government wants them to make. Go ahead and fine us if you must, but we’re going to build what the market says we must build.

On the banker side of things, it’s hard to see much difference between government and bankers these days since they move back and forth between private and public sectors so freely.

I know it’s much easier to draw a clear distinction in fiction, but I’m not seeing a lot of clear-cut distinction in real life these days. Maybe it’s because our companies have gotten so big that there are too many stockholders which have to be answered to on a quarterly basis, not allowing for a strong executive to behave like Reardon here. If I see a company run by someone like him, I’ll buy their products.


37 posted on 04/19/2009 8:42:50 AM PDT by tstarr
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To: tstarr
On the banker side of things, it’s hard to see much difference between government and bankers these days since they move back and forth between private and public sectors so freely.

The wife works for JP Morgan so I get some behind the scenes glimpses. Jamie Dimon has had a few Reardonesque moments in the past few months.

There is no question that there were a number of bankers, automakers and wall streeters who acted more like Jim Taggert than like Hank Reardon, but there are good ones out there that are getting blame for the misdeeds of others. Of course, that is the goal of the current administration... isn't it?

38 posted on 04/19/2009 9:25:00 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 (The U.S. Constitution may be flawed, but it's a whole lot better than what we have now)
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To: Publius

I could have sworn that there was a scene where Francisco is talking to Hank and says that the progress of the world has depended on just a small handful of men. I’m wondering if I have the wrong characters or even the wrong book. Can anyone help me with this?


39 posted on 04/19/2009 10:05:21 AM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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To: Billthedrill
As far as Rands view of sexuality, it really doesn't reflect how normal people are attractive to each other. I think she was looking at from the female perspective, where attraction can be intellectual and emotional as well as physical. Hey, how else do you explain May-December match ups, Hefner's many “girlfriends” and so many instances where young women are involved with much older men. If you look at these relationships, the men are frequently rich, powerful, successful men. It's an irksomely strong aphrodisiac.

Men, on the other hand, respond primarily to visual stimulation. Just look at advertising if you need proof. Now deep, emotional affection and attraction that makes a marriage last over the decades can be founded on shared admiration of each others virtue and values, but the initial attraction in youth many times is a physical attraction. Plus a man who has an affair on his wife, frequently does so because of physical attraction, “the thrill of the hunt” or just because some men see no connection between sex and true love and affection. A woman who has an affair does so frequently because of an emotional attachment she has formed with the other man that does not exist between her and her husband.

It's hard wired into our brains, no matter how much we like or dislike it. Call it an evolutionary adaptation, or the way we were created. It serves the purpose of the continuation of the species.

40 posted on 04/19/2009 10:14:39 AM PDT by gracie1
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To: r-q-tek86

John Allison (former CEO) current Chairman of BB&T Bank, is not only a Rearden type, but, when BB&T gives money to a University, they have to agree to have a course on Objectivism...and Ayn Rand. He is now teaching some at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC.


41 posted on 04/19/2009 10:21:00 AM PDT by Cottonbay
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To: Publius

I found these AS downloads

word file
http://ifile.it/8umstc/rand_ayn_-_atlas_sh_rugged_v0.9.rar

or

pdf file
http://ifile.it/jqhr18b/rand__ayn_-_atlas_shrugged.pdf


42 posted on 04/19/2009 10:27:39 AM PDT by skooldayz
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To: gracie1; Billthedrill
As far as Rands view of sexuality...
...Call it an evolutionary adaptation, or the way we were created. It serves the purpose...

I gave up on trying to figure out Rands motivation for the scenes and monologues dealing with sex. In my opinion she is off the mark but that doesn't invalidate the novel as a whole.
The book was ten years in the making and who among us have remained static in our opinions over such a span?

The latter may also help explain what Billthedrill points out here...

...a rapid-fire exchange that eschews the normal paragraph-break-per-quote form found in the rest of the novel. It is a curious departure, and I’m not sure quite what to make of it...

Postscript: Mrs. Thunkit and I agree - Sex is the manifestation of Gods wicked sense of humor.

43 posted on 04/19/2009 11:01:01 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: tstarr
On the banker side of things, it’s hard to see much difference between government and bankers these days since they move back and forth between private and public sectors so freely.

The same goes for elected leaders and lobbyists.

And in a previous chapter, Wesley Mouch made the move between lobbying and regulating.

Rand saw all this corruption coming some 50 years ago.

44 posted on 04/19/2009 11:02:01 AM PDT by Publius
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To: TradicalRC
I could have sworn that there was a scene where Francisco is talking to Hank and says that the progress of the world has depended on just a small handful of men.

I don't think I've run across those exact words, but the sentiment is there throughout the book.

45 posted on 04/19/2009 11:05:17 AM PDT by Publius
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To: whodathunkit
Sex is the manifestation of Gods wicked sense of humor.

Great tag line. Thanks.

46 posted on 04/19/2009 11:08:06 AM PDT by Publius (Sex is the manifestation of God's wicked sense of humor.)
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To: Publius
Great tag line. Thanks.

You're very welcome Publius.

47 posted on 04/19/2009 2:40:48 PM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: Publius

The threads seems to be getting shorter as the weeks drag on. I think it is a function of the way Rand keeps reiterating the same themes, and we’ve drawn the parallels to current events already. I always hope to find some insight that has been overlooked.....alas.

This morning at mass, the first reading was from Acts of the Apostles, and the disciples were exhorted to sell their belongings, come up with a communal bank account, and give “each according to need”. I gave a mental hiss. No wonder religion is held in such contempt by Rand. Then, on the way out, I promptly donated to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who take care of the elderly and disabled. I applaud their work, so I guess I wouldn’t be welcome in that spoiler-place. But I do detest the idea of “each according to need” as a general way of living....why would anyone bother getting up to go to work if you got what you needed anyway?

I digress from the chapter. I think life would be far more interesting if more people told the Congressional hearings to “stuff it”, since by participating, they are lending credibility to pure political grandstanding. I applauded Hank Rearden, but where are those heroes today?

Francisco’s speech? I agree that it works in a perfect world. And to an extent, you check out people’s spouses to see how well they did. It can be an outward manifestation of their own opinion of themselves. I don’t like Francisco’s implied monasticism if you don’t obtain your ideal.


48 posted on 04/19/2009 4:29:58 PM PDT by Explorer89 (Could you direct me to the Coachella Valley, and the carrot festival, therein?)
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To: Explorer89
The threads seems to be getting shorter as the weeks drag on.

I noticed this as well. As long as the salient points are addressed the final result will still be a benefit to any freeper who reads AS in the future.

I always hope to find some insight that has been overlooked.....alas.

Sometimes the story leads us into otherwise unexplored areas apart from the story. One example is this quote that I happened to find while doing research on philosophy -

"don't express your ideas too clearly. most people think little of what they understand, and venerate what they do not. to be valued, things must be difficult: if they can't understand you, people will think more highly of you. ...keep them guessing at your meaning, and don't give them a chance to criticize you. many praise without being able to say why. they venerate anything hidden or mysterious, and they praise it because they heard it praised."
-- balthasar gracian, the art of worldy wisdom
(trans. christopher maurer)

I find in the above a partial answer to the question that I have about the vaporous qualities of the liberal politicians answers. It always bothered me that they never answered a question concretely as I expected them to. Now I understand that this is a lack of understanding on my part. They never will give a satisfactory answer and the more that I try to extract an answer, the farther into the hole I go.

...I promptly donated to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who take care of the elderly and disabled. I applaud their work, so I guess I wouldn’t be welcome in...

Don't be at all critical of this donation. The fact is that _You_ wanted to donate the money. This is entirely compatible with Rands philosophy. If you hold a door open for someone, is it because you are told to do it or because you want to do it? I submit that you donated the money because you like the feeling it gives you, such is Rands definition of selfishness.

49 posted on 04/19/2009 5:53:24 PM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: whodathunkit
Don't be at all critical of this donation. The fact is that _You_ wanted to donate the money. This is entirely compatible with Rands philosophy. If you hold a door open for someone, is it because you are told to do it or because you want to do it? I submit that you donated the money because you like the feeling it gives you, such is Rands definition of selfishness.

Wow, That pretty much explains my outlook on "charity." Rands whole point is compulsory charity, which is no charity at all.

50 posted on 04/19/2009 8:45:24 PM PDT by gracie1
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