Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, Miracle Metal
Posted on 05/02/2009 7:46:31 AM PDT by Publius
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FReeper Book Club: Introduction to Atlas Shrugged
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the dAnconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatts Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail
Part II, Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim
Part II, Chapter V: Account Overdrawn
Thanks once again.
Well done summary. Thanks for posting.
Kinnan is my favorite bastard. And today he would certainly add our corporate executives to his list of cowards. As I make my rounds of my compatriots and small businessmen and shop workers I can tell you all that these men remember they are men and Americans. All they need is a national voice.
Like I said on another AS thread, Going Galt is already starting. But it is beginning at the bottom. I had a man tell me yesterday about what is going on in Washington, "I don't want those pricks running my life". It ain't "Give me Liberty or give me Death", but it makes the same point.
I admire a man with eloquence.
This chapter was the first one to seem too far fetched for my taste, but perhaps it’s because I hadn’t known that so many real presidents had instituted wage and price controls.
I have to agree, and you stated it so eloquently! :)
Kinnan is a capitalist, he has investments in the form of productive workers that he uses to produce wealth for himself.
He understands that his capital is about to be looted and is trying to make the best deal. Truly an example of 'capitalism without conscience'. A computer would have derived the same strategy if the only goal to be calculated was short term personal profit.
Stroke of the pen, law of the land, kinda cool.
Chilling. And this is the first time ever that I have used the word.
Thanks for the education on the Merriam election.
You know, 'thunkit, I'm still thinking about your great line a few AS threads ago about doing the "limbo with Fico".....ie: "How low can you go" !!
It appeals to the anarchist in me....but the conservative keeps saying "don't go so far".....but then who knows how far these bums in DC and NY will go before that strategy will appear mainstream!
It sounded to me like he was making the point that there isn’t an adequate one.
It becomes clearer that way.
But it's also about power. All these men have power and seek more of it. For Kinnan, it's the power of the whip, with the willing acquiesence of his people.
This chapter always makes me think of “Anthem”. When you read “Anthem”, it is easy to say “this is too far... we could never get to this point.”
The “Miracle Metal” chapter shows how it could start.
With the way things are going in DC, I wonder if there is an Atlas Shrugged bookclub on the liberal side... except they are using it as a “how to”.
It appeals to the anarchist in me...
Anarchy is absolutely not the destination, as totalitarianism is not the destination of _most_ liberals. From my study of history I know that neither is a system that one is likely to survive. (an interesting observation- a cerebral person is at an advantage in the former system and at a disadvantage in the latter)
The FICO is based on averages and as "a rising tide lifts all boats" also implied is that the lowering of the FICO tide will not sink all ships. I intend the 'FICO Limbo' to be more of a release from the school of fish reaction that many people exhibit when threatened with the possibility of incurring a 'bad credit rating'.
In the discussion points, I’m trying to get people to compare what is going on now with the book, and find the parallels. Once hyperinflation breaks out in two years, this chapter will seem prophetic.
Others I would say are Mark Levin and Thomas Woods ( author of "Meltdown"). As far as politicians, the pickings are few. I am a personal supporter of Sarah Palin. More from the stand point that she is hated by the same people I hate. She must be doing something right. But I think she needs to flesh out her belief system. But I feel her instincts are right. And Governor Sanford from VA seems promising.
But it's also about power. All these men have power and seek more of it.
That I agree with. I have a question though.
In AS, power = money and money = power. Aren't these two terms interchangeable? There are many human elements lacking in Rands writing and this probably affects my ability to understand her point.
If we accept that money is power, the only difference between this group of looters and a similar group of capitalists is that one group is seeking wealth/power by producing while the other is seeking wealth/power by destroying. A basic element of AS.
Kinnan therefore is a capitalist accepting looting as his only viable option. The 'capitalist without conscience'.
In the book they are somewhat interchangeable.
Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle may speak disparingly of profit, but they have no problem sucking up government money and putting their profits in d'Anconia Copper if it suits their purposes.
However, Wesley Mouch has power but no money that we know of. Power is a pursuit in and of itself. Eugene Lawson was so uninterested in profit that he had his bank shot out from under him, but he has power and intends to use and keep it.
There is a difference between a genuine idealogue and a corrupt capitalist.
Sorry to say it, but right now I think the time is coming for the street fighters and bomb throwers a la old Sammy. Remember he mobilized the mob in Boston to push the Liberty Agenda. Unfortunately we have the left organizing the Acorn scum to do the same thing. It troubles me to say this because at my core I am a man of Faith and Reason.
But in the end somebody has to throw ice at the redcoats, tar and feather the tax collectors and man the Alamo. And like my friend said, "I don't want these pricks running my life". And when they mean to, and have the power of the State behind them, your choices become few and dangerous
I'm otta here until tonight. Later
In my estimation, that’s the raison d’etre of all liberals, especially the wealthy and sanctimonious ones.
And now Chapter 16, Miracle Metal. The meaning of the title wont be apparent until the end of the chapter when the dust has settled. We are at the halfway point through Atlas Shrugged, and at last we see the bad guys, the Aristocracy of Pull, make their move. And what a move it is!
But can we get away with it? asked Wesley Mouch. No one answers him right away, and at last the only one with the courage to do so is one Mr. Thompson, in whom Rand personifies the legitimate government for whatever that term is worth. Thompson is the Head Of The State one notices that Rand does not use the term President, largely after the pattern of the sketchy European countries who are all now Peoples States. Its all the structure we need for the moment it is apparent that the true power lies elsewhere.
In fact, most of it is sitting in the room with them. We have the industrialists, a beaten and subservient crowd at the beck and call of the bureaucrats, traded like cattle. We have the unions, represented by their capo de tutti capi Fred Kinnan, their own membership traded in exactly the same manner. And lastly we have the bureaucrats themselves, the ruling class, the cadre. It is their moment.
Why the trepidation? They have the official if tacit support of the sitting government, the media, the academics, and in another bit of Randian prescience, the popular entertainers. It is a combination that seems bitterly familiar to contemporary conservatives. What could they have to worry about?
Well, responsibility, for one thing. There is a truism of command that one can delegate authority, but never responsibility. That stays with the delegator. But not in the Aristocracy of Pull, whose residents are adepts in the opposite: maintaining authority while passing responsibility. It is the ladder to the top of a very unstable structure.
Theyre going to take over the economy, and hence the country itself. And theyre going to establish a fully centrally-planned and centrally-directed economy by simple fiat. This is Directive 10-289. A lesser author might have preferred to be vague about it, but Rand gives the specifics. This is how a country is taken over by a gang of thieves:
Point One workers cant quit. Non-workers over 21 will report to the Unification Board and work where it tells them. Point Two companies and their owners cant quit or theyll be nationalized or imprisoned respectively. Point Three no more patents, trademarks, or brand names. Patented objects and their income will be ceded to the government, by force if necessary. Point Four no new inventions. Point Five no changes in production. Point Six no changes in consumption. Point Seven wage and price freeze. Point Eight any problems go to the Unification Board, whose decisions are final.
It is, in essence, an economy built after the Fascist model the means of production remain nominally in private hands but their control and their product are strictly in the hands of the State. It is a frantic attempt to freeze a collapsing economy in a state of pre-collapse. It is also an outright coup detat on behalf of this Unification Board, whose membership will wield an arbitrary, dictatorial control over the country from which there is no appeal. Membership on this board is the acme of power, and the bureaucrats consider that to be reserved for themselves.
Not so fast. First the program has to be sold to the unwilling, or at least enough of them to force the remaining unwilling to play along. And thats where union boss Fred Kinnan comes in.
All Ive got to say is that youd better staff that Unification Board with my men, he said. Or Ill blast your Point One to hell.
(Point One states that nobody can quit).
I intend, of course, to have a representative of labor on that board, said Mouch dryly
No cross-sections, said Fred Kinnan evenly. Just representatives of labor. Period.
But that will give you a stranglehold on every business in the country! [objects Orren Boyle]
What do you think Im after?
Thats unfair! yelled Boyle. I wont stand for it! You have no right!
Right? said Kinnan innocently. Are we talking about rights?
But, I mean, after all, there are certain fundamental property rights which
Listen, pal, you want Point Three, dont you?
(Point Three deals with the government expropriating all patents and copyrights).
Then youd better keep your trap shut about property rights from now on.
Kinnan is forcing the gaggle of self-deluders to face what they really are doing. He certainly knows what he is doing.
Only Im not going to say that Im working for the welfare of my public, because I know Im not. I know that Im delivering the poor bastards into slavery and they know it, too. But they know that Ill have to throw them a crumb once in a while if I want to keep my racket, while with the rest of you they wouldnt have a chance in hell Im a racketeer but I know it and my boys know it, and they know that Ill pay off. Not out of the kindness of my heart, either, and not a cent more than I can get away with, but at least they can count on that much. Sure, it makes me sick sometimes, but its not me whos built this kind of world YOU did so Im playing the game as youve set it up and Im going to play it for as long as it lasts which isnt going to be long for any of us!
I hope no one considers me overly cynical for observing that this arrangement is essentially indistinguishable from that between employer and employee in Rands ethical world, although the latter is expressed in somewhat more idealistic terms. Franciscos Mexican employees, for example. And these are the terms under which Rearden is purchasing black-market coal. Kinnan is a brute observing an ineluctable law of the universe; Rearden and dAnconia are refined intellects observing that law as well, and the law remains the same. Kinnan knows he must keep his word. From this I suggest that Rand may have considered Kinnan a more moral individual than the bureaucrats who were trying to disguise the fact that they were jobbing the system for their own good on behalf of the People. Certainly he gets the best lines. Like this:
Well, this, I guess, said Fred Kinnan, is the anti-industrial revolution.
Thats a damn funny thing for you to say! snapped Wesley Mouch. We cant be permitted to say that to the public.
Dont worry, brother. I wont say it to the public.
Its a total fallacy, said Dr. Ferris. Every expert has conceded long ago that a planned economy achieves the maximum of productive efficiency and that centralization leads to super-industrialization.
Centralization destroys the blight of monopoly, said Boyle.
Hows that again? drawled Kinnan.
For a brute he isnt doing badly, is he? Theyre playing under two sets of rules. For Kinnan words have meaning and for the others, they dont. But the latter is only an intellectual fantasy, and it comes at a price. Where words have no meaning, evil becomes very difficult to recognize as it sits down to dine.
Im inclined to think, said Dr. Ferris hastily, that Point Two is the most essential one we must put an end to that peculiar business of industrialists retiring and vanishing. We must stop them in times of crisis, economic service to the nation is just as much of a duty as military service. Anyone who abandons it should be regarded as a deserter. I have recommended that we introduce the death penalty for those men, but Wesley wouldnt agree to it.
Take it easy, boy, said Fred Kinnan in an odd, slow voice. He sat suddenly and perfectly still, his arms crossed, looking at Ferris in a manner that made it suddenly real to the room that Ferris had proposed murder. Dont let me hear you talk about any death penalties in industry.
They werent quite that reluctant in Soviet Russia, which is where Rand learned most of this process. And once it started they werent reluctant in the least. For those for whom words have no meaning, death is one of them as long as it happens to somebody else. For the soft-handed discussing it in a boardroom or salon, death is simply another of those abstractions that may be played with like counters on a board, an unfortunate necessity no, not always that, but a necessity for the building of an imagined world whose inhabitants are as abstract as the words that denote them: bourgeoisie, capitalist, counter-revolutionary, wrecker, spy. Kulak. Jew. Not real people, merely abstractions.
This is a culture of death, and Rand calls it by name.
Dagnys reaction to this systematic outrage is predictable, so much so that both Francisco and Eddie make sure theyre on hand when somebody it turns out to be Eddie, who gets most of the dirty jobs around there has to tell her. She quits. Oh, it isnt legal, of course, and had Ferris his way she might end up at the business end of a firing squad for it, but nobody stops her. Its off to a remote cabin where she can transition to a new life. Not at the hand of any Destroyer, not because shes given up, but because of what Francisco terms, derisively and accurately, the moratorium on brains.
Reardens trusted foreman Tom Colby quits as well, and for the same reason. The sides are lining up now, and Reardens minder the Wet Nurse has made up his mind which one hes on.
Mr. Rearden, he said, I wanted to tell you that if you want to pour ten times the quota of Rearden Metal or steel or pig iron or anything, and bootleg it all over the place to anybody at any price Ill fix it up. Ill juggle the books, Ill fake the reports, Ill get phony witnesses, Ill forge affidavits
Now why would you want to do that? asked Rearden, smiling, but his smile vanished when he heard the boy answer earnestly:
Because I want, for once, to do something moral.
Thats not the way to be moral Rearden started, and stopped abruptly, realizing that it was the way, the only way left, realizing through how many twists of intellectual corruption this boy had to struggle toward his momentous discovery.
The Wet Nurse begs Rearden not to sign over his ownership of Rearden Metal to the government. He knows it isnt right. He thinks there is no right or wrong, and yet he knows it isnt right. That is a contradiction. Check your premises, young man.
And yet, when Rearden is closeted with the representative of the Unification Board, Dr. Ferris, that is precisely what Rearden does do. It is the Orren Boyle school of management - they have the goods on him, courtesy of James Taggart, who has those goods from Lillian Rearden. She has closed her transaction with the Aristocracy of Pull and has delivered her husband to them.
Hank hasnt the least concern that a scandal will damage him, but he knows who the one Ferris proposes to stir up will damage. It is a vulnerability he has handed them. They are threatening Dagny. And so Rearden has to decide which he cares for more, his lifes work, or the woman who represents the ideals under which it was achieved.
He thinks back to their first encounter. Even then she was brave and free and admirable; now she is his lotus floating spotless in a pool of filth. The decision is not a difficult one.
Well, Mr. Rearden? Are you going to sign? asked Dr. Ferris.
Oh, that? said Rearden.
He picked up a pen and with no second glance, he signed his name at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and pushed the Gift Certificate across the desk.
And so Rearden Metal becomes Miracle Metal with the sweep of a pen, and we have an explanation for the chapter title. No more trademarks, remember? Its Point Three of Directive 10-289. Stroke of the pen, law of the land.
Have a great week, Publius!
If we accept that money is power, the only difference between this group of looters and a similar group of capitalists is that one group is seeking wealth/power by producing while the other is seeking wealth/power by destroying.
The difference is in Francisco's Money Speech from a few chapters back. The capitalists are producing value. Money is the representation of that value. The looters such as Kinnan are trying to grab the money thinking that they will grab the value with it. But they cannot grab that value because they do not trade in values.
The power that the producers gain through their money is a by-product of their production, not the goal of it. Look at the composer... can't remember his name... who produces value in his music.
I agree with that statement and do not find it contradictory to the money/power relationship.
The power that the producers gain through their money is a by-product of their production, not the goal of it.
I'm not quite following you here. You say that 'power is gained through money'. Could this be rephrased as 'power is gained using money'? If so, this would be an indication of capitalism, reinvesting and using the accumulated wealth to continue growing.
If power(to reinvest and grow)is not a goal wouldn't the producers just do enough to subsist?
The looters such as Kinnan are trying to grab the money thinking that they will grab the value with it. But they cannot grab that value because they do not trade in values.
What indication is there that the looters are aware of value? They are aware of money and power and they need to steal it from someone who has it, be it a producer or one of their own, it doesn't matter to them.
Your post also opens up the concept of an economy based on manufacturing versus an economy based on moving pieces of paper from one pile to another (the financial industry). Is one a real economy and the other a mirage?
.The point is that they are not aware of the value. They think that the piece of paper holds the value not the production that piece of paper represents.
As for the power question, I think we are defining terms differently. I was reading the looter's grabs for power as power over others. The producers are not interested in power over others but rather a fair trade with others.
It's all about trading value for value. If I need someone to move paper from one pile to another, I trade something I value to compensate them for their effort.
I am in a service industry... architecture. People pay me for my ideas and experience. I don't produce an object, I produce the means for making that object (a building). I pay accountants to keep track of the piles of paper because it is more valuable for me to spend my efforts on the architecture side of the business.
For that matter, I pay the people who work for me to produce the drawings... not because I cannot, but because I am more valuable to my business in the client/public relations end of the business. Now that I think about it, the drawings that I do produce are presentation renderings. I do that myself becuase I can do it better and for less money than hiring it out or delegating it to an employee.
And this is where it gets messy. Is "value" defined in fiat currency the same as "value" defined in gold? It's messy because that is next week's major topic. Some economists would agree, but others would not.
(I'm already getting heat for spoilers, so I guess I should quit while I'm ahead.)
I don’t think we have to be spoilers to answer this. Fransico, in the money speech, pretty clearly says that currency is not an appropriate representation of value because it has nothing of real value behind it as gold does.
I would have to agree with that... especially as Dear Leader cranks the printing presses to warp speed 4.
I see, that clears it up for me.
I was thinking in terms of power in a more encompassing sense.
The power to control others is indeed their desire and does distinguish them from the producers.
Publius, at the risk of making things even messier, how would a gold standard compare to a barter system?
Isn't the fact that some nations are richer in gold deposits an arbitrary selector of wealth?
Barter is perfectly fine. But the strengths and weaknesses of a polity created a need for a medium of exchange. In some places that was seashells. In others, precious metals came to the fore.
Isn't the fact that some nations are richer in gold deposits an arbitrary selector of wealth?
True. But the concept of the nation-state is fairly recent in Western civilization, dating from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the Teaty of Versailles in 1919. Is the nation-state still relevant? (Just trying to make trouble.)
Rand pictures producers as internally motivated. Produce, and produce well, is just what they do; it's who they are. I know a lot of people like this. Many of the producer characters continue to produce long after the government starts taking from them the external rewards of doing so. Rand/Galt have the difficult task of telling producers not to do the only thing they care about, in order in the long run to restore the kind of system that values them for doing so.
Physical violence, for one thing. The public seem for the most part to react to stupidity and privation passively, but not always, and if they ever decided to literally fight back, these boys without meaning would be in serious trouble. I'd probably set the population of AS's America at 80-100 million, against maybe a few hundred thousand of the looting class.
Only Im not going to say that Im working for the welfare of my public, because I know Im not. I know that Im delivering the poor bastards into slavery and they know it, too. But they know that Ill have to throw them a crumb once in a while if I want to keep my racket, while with the rest of you they wouldnt have a chance in hell Im a racketeer but I know it and my boys know it, and they know that Ill pay off. Not out of the kindness of my heart, either, and not a cent more than I can get away with, but at least they can count on that much.
I actually kind of like Kinnan. He's a crook, but he's an "honest crook" so to speak. I wouldn't cooperate with the guy, I'd do everything I could to defeat him, but he's not pathetic and he doesn't arouse the sense of disgust the others do.
Oh, r-q-tek, get it.
I can truly say that this describes the majority of the people that I've worked with.
The water keeps getting warmer but to them it's not time to hop out yet.
For the record... 86 is for Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 1986.
I figured 86 for either your graduating class or the year you got your license. Nice work, by the way. I used to do the ME for a lot of stores and tenant improvements. BTW, are you related to Jack, of fast food fame?
Superbly insightful as usual, Bill. The "principles" of Directive 10-289 are absolutely essential to the implementation of a socialist system, since no one, even one so enlightened as Obama or Hillary Clinton could possibly manage a dynamic economy against real time. Although Hillary claimed that McCain couldn't, and by implication that she could. I guess she never noticed that most start-up businesses, and ultimately even large successful ones, fail for lack of their managers' ability to manage even that small part of the economy where they have expertise.
Note please that all of the points of the Directive have been put in place somewhere at some time in the real world (some even now), and all have failed in their objectives. Perhaps if they were all in place, and there were a means of enforcing them...hmm, might take some kind of new enforcement tool. Sonic beams spring to mind, no need for Zyklon B, which renders it's "subjects" so distressingly in need of a period of decontamination; much neater this way.
And the key difference between the "capitalist without conscience" and what Rand proposes is the concept of enlightened self-interest. You don't screw the person with whom you trade, because you need his trust and integrity to enforce the agreement.
BTW, could someone explain how to install a tag-line? I can't seem to figure it out. I'd like to use: "Stimulate the economy: Buy guns NOW, while you still can!" That ought to get me on the OHS radar. Oh, well, the FBI still has my license plate numbers from the '60's.
When you post, right below the window where you type, is another that says “Tagline”. Fill it in. Next time you post it will be prefilled with the last tagline you used, and will stay that way till you type something else.
No... but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.
And as for relatives...The Wife...
I will have to send more family photos when I get back to the office
You can't eat gold, or wear it for clothing, etc. But you can trade that gold to another nation that can grow ample food. That nation can pay others to ship the food to you. That is how western civilization grew and flourished in the renaissance.
Now look at the anomaly that is Saudi Arabia. If it weren't for their oil reserves they'd still be desert nomads.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I am enjoying this thread!
Please keep up the good work!
BTW, I recall reading somewhere that Hitlery read AS. Is it possible that she and the other LIEberal/Socialist/Marxist Bastards who are trying to destroy America are using it as a blueprint?
So why isn’t she smiling like you are in your photo ??
you can trade that gold to another nation that can grow ample food. That nation can pay others to ship the food to you.
But the fact remains that gold deposits are not distributed evenly around our planet.
You make the point also that an oil rich country has a great advantage now due to the human desire for cheap and easy energy.
Oil is a natural resource and, like gold, has value due to its limited supply.
This value is the same as the value derived from mans efforts to produce goods and services. However, it's origin is distinguished by the random nature of the natural occurrence around the globe and the minimal that effort is required to exploit it as a resource (do the oil rich nations produce or have it produced?). The source of the value is due to the desire by others to obtain the resource.
In Pennsylvania we are going through a natural gas boom due to a deposit of gas greater than a mile below the surface. Recent technology has enabled the resource to be extracted through a new form of horizontal drilling (currently the boom hit a bump with the latest fiscal hiccup so it's temporarily on hold). There are many people in the state who have signed leases and have gotten a nice sign up bonus for the sole effort of writing their signature.
To relate AS shrugged to today's events, Fast Eddie Rendell is leading the fight for an 'extraction tax' claiming that it will benefit Pennsylvanians overall because the gas reserve is considered large enough to satisfy all the northeastern states for years to come. The one thing that he isn't saying is that the gas belongs to the landowners to begin with and they would be the recipients of the profit otherwise.