Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, Atlantis
Posted on 06/06/2009 7:23:17 AM PDT by Publius
Dagny awakens to the face of John Galt! He is surprised that Dagny braved his cloaking device to reach the valley. It is too painful for her to walk, so John picks her up and carries her. She hears the strains of Halleys Fifth Concerto, played by the composer himself, coming from his house. She spots a three-foot statue of a dollar sign cast out of solid gold seated on a stone column Franciscos private joke, says John.
A car arrives, driven by Midas Mulligan, with Hugh Akston as his passenger. Akston is stunned by her arrival, having previously told her that she would never find the designer of the motor and now finding her in his arms. Mulligan profanely gives her a rich tongue lashing for having endangered her life by crashing into the valley rather than entering by the front door; he is flummoxed by the arrival of the first scab. John takes responsibility for Dagny and thanks her for hiring Quentin Daniels.
As they drive along, Dagny finds that Mulligan owns the valley, John works there, and Akston is one of Johns two fathers. The final penny drops. John Galt was the mysterious third student of Akston and Stadler, the second assistant bookkeeper, the designer of the motor and The Destroyer.
At his house, John admits he has been watching her for years. The famous Dr. Hendricks, who had disappeared six years before, tends to Dagnys injuries. As John cooks and serves breakfast, Dagny finds that Lawrence Hammond runs a grocery store, Dwight Sanders a pig farm, and Judge Narragansett a dairy farm. John Galt is merely the handyman. Dagny realizes that Johns motor is the power source for the valley and badly desires to see it in action. But she is astonished that Mulligan is charging John twenty-five cents to rent his car; she quickly learns that the word give is banned in the valley.
Quentin Daniels delivers the car. He apologizes to Dagny for skipping out without notice and tells her how John had come to his lab, erased his work and written down one simple equation. After that, he would have happily followed John Galt to the ends of the earth. With pride, he tells her that he is now a janitor and hopes to rise to the position of electrician!
The first stop on the grand tour is Dwight Sanders, who agrees to fix her plane for a mere $200 in gold. But she cant buy the gold, and all her cash and stock is worthless in the valley.
The second stop is Dick McNamara, the former rail contractor, who is in charge of the valleys utilities. He now has three helpers: a former professor of economics who taught that one cant produce more than one consumes, a former professor of history who taught that the poor of the slums did not build America, and a former professor of psychology who taught that men are capable of rational thought. Dagny understands that John is taking her on a tour of the men he had taken from her. The fourth stop is Ellis Wyatts oil shale facility. One of Wyatts two employees is the young brakeman caught by Dagny in the first chapter whistling the theme from Halleys Fifth Concerto; he is now Halleys best student. Wyatt is producing two hundred barrels of oil a day from shale.
Along the way she discovers that Ted Nielsen runs the lumber yard and Roger Marsh grows vegetables. The fifth stop is at Andrew Stocktons foundry; he had to ruin a competitor, who is now his employee, to run it. Stockton says he would be happy to be ruined by Hank Rearden, who would revolutionize life in the valley. Ken Danagger turns out to be his foreman.
The sixth stop is the valleys Main Street, home to Hammond Grocery, Mulligan General Store, Nielsen Lumber, and Mulligan & Akston Tobacco. Actress Kay Ludlow, who had disappeared five years earlier, now runs a cafeteria. Down the street is Mulligan Bank and Mulligan Mint, which produces coins of gold and silver like those from Americas past.
The seventh stop is the house of Francisco dAnconia. Dagny now has figured out that John was the man to whom Francisco had pledged his life twelve years ago.
The eighth stop is the powerhouse. On the building is the inscription, I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine. As John pronounces the oath, the door to the powerhouse swings open, but he closes it quickly. When Dagny is ready to say those words and accept the consequences, he will show her the motor.
At dinner at Mulligans house, Midas introduces her in the US Navy manner as Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny dines with Ellis Wyatt, Ken Danagger, Hugh Akston, Dr. Hendricks, Quentin Daniels, Richard Halley and Judge Narragansett. To Dagny it is like going to heaven, meeting again the great people of ones past. Danagger tells her what John had told him: Well done. Perhaps too well, in Dagnys case.
Halley has composed more in the past decade than in all the previous years of his life. He appreciates Dagnys recognizing his new piece from hearing just a few notes whistled by a brakeman, and he wants her to come over to his house for a private recital. Dr. Hendricks has made a breakthrough in treating strokes, the judge is writing a treatise on the philosophy of law, Mulligan is financing everything in the valley, and Akston is writing a book on moral philosophy. But no product of this work will ever be seen outside the valley; these men are on strike. John Galt launches into a speech about the mind, reason and how these men are on strike against the moral code that demands their martyrdom.
Each man at the table each went on strike for his own reason: Akston because he could no longer share his profession with those who denied the existence of the intellect; Mulligan because of the appeals court decision in the Hunsacker case, likewise Judge Narragansett; Halley because he could not forgive the publics view of his success, seeing themselves as Halleys compositional goal; Dr. Hendricks because the government took over the health care system; Wyatt because he decided not to be a meal for the cannibals; Danagger because he discovered that the men who wished to rule over him were impotent; Daniels because he did not wish to place his mind at the service of brute force; Galt because he refused to feel guilty about his abilities. After leaving Twentieth Century, John looked for any sign of talent in the world and pulled that man out of the world and into his. The men whom he recruited took an oath to deny their talents by withdrawing from the world or taking menial jobs. They would pursue their true interests in Mulligans valley Galts Gulch but share nothing with the world. Once a year they would come to the valley and meet for a month. Now things in the world are collapsing at a rate they had not foreseen. Soon they will be ready to return to rebuild the world.
At the Galt house, there is momentary pause at Johns bedroom, but the moment passes. Instead, Dagny is placed in the guest bedroom bearing the inscriptions of the men who had spent their first night at Galts Gulch there, each in his own private purgatory.
Rand and Technology
The first operational laser dates from 1960. Rands refractory ray and its magnetic effect on motors is interesting, but wide of the mark. The hologram that hides Galts Gulch is more on the order of the technology in the later Star Trek universe. For Fifties science fiction, however, its not bad.
The idea of extracting oil from shale was barely a glimmer in an oil mans eye in the Fifties; not until the Seventies did the price of oil rise to the point where recovery from oil shale might be profitable. Here Rand was far ahead of the curve.
Rand never saw the possibilities of a global positioning system and spy satellites as a means of making it truly impossible to hide a site like Galts Gulch from the all-pervading eyes of government. The surveillance states technology was not on her horizon.
Americas Mixed Relationship With Gold
After of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, tensions with Britain eased, and the country got around to governing itself under the Articles of Confederation. But the war debt caused major problems, not the least of which was a deflationary depression. A few states took their debts seriously, but others engaged in partial or total repudiation. At the same time, the Continental Dollar, supposedly backed by one Spanish Milled Dollar each, was collapsing in value because there was no real backing except for a nebulous promise to pay. Enlisted men in the Continental Army had been paid in paper dollars, and they expected those dollars to be honored at full value.
There were only three banks in the entire country; these banks didnt care about the farmer, the shopkeeper, or the wage slave, but only the owner of the textile mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the import-export business in Manhattan, or the iron foundry in Batsto, New Jersey. Ordinary Americans held their wealth in their mattresses and under their floorboards. Without a genuine coin of the realm, people relied on coins of gold and silver minted in Spain, England and France, along with base metal coins minted by the states. Coins of precious metal were often clipped, so merchants weighed them to see just how much gold and silver were really present.
While farmers and shopkeepers could survive without a coin of the realm, the owners of the banks and large businesses could not. How could a capitalist perform the Italian art of accounting if there is no coin of the realm? How can he construct a balance sheet or income and expense statement if there is no standard by which to measure value?
The states that wanted to treat their war debts honorably had a problem. The basic unit of governance in America was the county. The county collected the property tax, and a voter had to show his tax receipt at election time to the county clerk in order to vote. The county built the roads and maintained the poorhouse for indigents. States collected taxes for their own purposes, but repaying war debts would require a major hike in taxes, and a war had just been fought over that.
There is an old saying in the word of taxation: Dont tax him, dont tax me, tax the guy behind the tree. The states that wanted to retire their war debts found a way of taxing the guy behind the tree they taxed the residents of other states. After all, residents of other states could not vote in state elections, so the states charged tariffs on goods crossing state lines. The Connecticut farmer who loaded his wagon and took his produce to New York to sell now found himself confronted at the state line by a New York customs agent who slapped taxes on his produce. Quickly other states took up the idea, and a full scale trade war erupted.
Then the issue of the legality of the Continental Dollar came to a head when Massachusetts refused to accept it in payment of taxes in spite of the words legal tender. And that led to Shays Rebellion, which led to the Constitutional Convention.
In 1790, Alexander Hamilton, now Secretary of the Treasury under Washington, pushed for assumption, the act of taking the debts of the states and nationalizing them. What Hamilton wanted was financial ballast. A ship without ballast is gyroscopically unstable and tosses and turns on the sea. Hamilton believed that a properly managed national debt would act as ballast and be a blessing. Hamilton didnt figure this out on his own but copied Sir Robert Walpole who established the Bank of England in 1694. The key was properly managed. Hamilton saw a national debt as a way of encouraging a basic conservatism in American finance. By rolling the state debts into a national debt, Hamilton effectively monetized all those Continental Dollars whose value had dropped almost to zero. On a weekly basis, Hamiltons clerk at Treasury went down to the New York Stock Exchange and either bought or sold Treasury bills, thus managing the money supply; this is similar to what the Federal Reserve does today. Was each new American dollar backed by the proper amount of gold or silver as mandated by the Constitution? No. And that is one of our lesser known financial secrets: the US Dollar started out as a fiat currency in violation of the Constitutions Gold and Silver Clause.
It should be noted that the Gold and Silver Clause has been honored more in the breach than in the observance.
Hamilton intended the US Mint in Philadelphia to fix the gold and silver problem. Congress established gold and silver coins of different denominations, and people who owned foreign coins or bars of gold and silver could take them to the Mint, which would smelt them to the correct purity and mint coins of the realm, which would in turn be handed back to the owner to be placed in circulation.
Hamiltons consolidated war debt was paid off by James Monroes first term, and the new debt accrued during the War of 1812 came close to being paid off by the end of Andrew Jacksons first term. That led to a problem. Under Nicholas Biddle, the Bank of the United States had put aside its function of neutral arbiter of capital allocation and had played favorites. Biddle saw this as a prudent form of industrial planning, making him the father of Japans MITI, Max Palevsky, Felix Rohatyn and Jimmy Carter.
When Jackson ran for reelection in 1832, his campaign slogan was Jackson and No Bank. Jackson referred to the Bank as The Monster and made its abolition the cornerstone of his second term. Biddle inadvertently helped Jackson when he fought the president in Congress by allocating capital to congressmen who were the Banks friends and punishing its enemies via foreclosure. It was a fatal mistake. With the end of the Bank, the national debt was gone and so was the financial ballast. And the sharp practitioners of Wall Street were ready for a world under a gold exchange standard.
In the world of finance, there is Smart Money, Stupid Money, and Widows and Orphans Money.
With the end of good, safe government bonds, an asset bubble began to form on Wall Street in stocks. The Smart Money had already staked a claim, and the Stupid Money followed; next came the Widows and Orphans. It should be noted that the primary business of Wall Street is to fleece investors by inflating and bursting bubbles, known as pump and dump in the trade.
The bubble in stocks created the illusion of prosperity, and Jackson never understood what he had wrought. With the luck of the Scots-Irish, Jackson left the presidency to Martin van Buren before the Panic of 1837 erupted. People lost their savings, their homes, their farms, and froze to death in the cities. The road back was slow, arduous, and interrupted by other financial calamities, such as the Panic of 1857, when a ship full of gold coins minted in San Francisco was lost at sea in a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. That hole in the money supply launched a panic from which the Cotton South recovered more rapidly than the industrialized North. In 1860, that led to a fatal miscalculation by the southern states.
To avoid usurious interest rates from the House of Morgan, Abraham Lincoln issued a paper fiat currency known as the greenback, which was to finance the War Between the States and then get mopped up via federal tax collections afterward. Upon being withdrawn from circulation, the disappearing fiat money triggered deflation and the Panic of 1873, which set off a depression.
In 1913, America established the Federal Reserve, which was not exactly a national bank because it was owned by a cartel of private banks. But the country was still on the gold standard. The calamity of October 1929 and the events that followed inadvertently made the dollar stronger with respect to European currencies. To permit expansion of the money supply via inflation, Franklin Roosevelt closed the gold window for domestic payments and made the possession of gold by Americans illegal. This permitted America to fight a deflationary depression and a world war by printing massive amounts of money.
The Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 made the US Dollar the worlds reserve currency linked to gold at the 1934 price. This functioned well until Lyndon Johnsons disastrous guns and butter decision of 1965, which led to the London Gold Pool as an attempt to support the dollar by suppressing the gold price. Charles de Gaulle put an end to that by demanding payment in gold for France, which prompted Richard Nixon to close the gold window to foreign payments, which in turn set off the double-digit inflation of the Seventies. In 1975 Americans again were permitted to possess gold as a result. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker pushed interest rates above 20%, thus ending the inflation of consumer prices, but the liquidity spigot was never turned off, which led to the inflation of asset prices in the 1982-2007 bull market in stocks and real estate.
Fiat currencies can be very messy and full of unintended consequences. But so can gold.
Ping! The thread is up.
FReeper Book Club: Introduction to Atlas Shrugged
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the dAnconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatts Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail
Part II, Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim
Part II, Chapter V: Account Overdrawn
Part II, Chapter VI: Miracle Metal
Part II, Chapter VII: The Moratorium on Brains
Part II, Chapter VIII: By Our Love
Part II, Chapter IX: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
Part II, Chapter X: The Sign of the Dollar
A note to our members. Billthedrill and I are in the process of marrying up our separate contributions, which we intend to publish. We have an agent, and he is shopping our work around to some publishers. We are grateful to our fellow FReepers for taking on the peer review function and keeping us on our toes. FReepers rock!
Thanks for this ongoing thread, I have tried to read Atlas at least 3 times and could not get thru it. This thread helps.
That’s awesome news! Best of luck to you both! :D
I believe Ayn had no problem with charity. What she did have a problem with, though, were those who expected charity, without “even the coin of thanks.”
In Ayn’s view, charity is fine, as long as it is done willingly. Rand did not believe government should be in the business of collecting money for charity..that it was not the proper purview of government.
Thank you for the lucid, succinct explanation of the true function of Wall Street.
Congrats, guys! You both deserve it. You guys can write five coherent pages while I’m still standing around going “Well I, um, uh...”
This is going to pop up again in 3 weeks when we examine the very first event in that chapter. I expect you to be the first to address a discussion topic aimed at dissecting that event.
Ah, drat, I got ahead of myself and am now thrust into the topic breach...
Anyway, I’ll do my best. ;)
Hmm, you two are going to do a “Cliff Notes meets study guide” of Atlas Shrugged are you?
Should be a great project and good luck to both of you.
“Weve seen Rands ideal Objectivist society operating in Galts Gulch. How well would it work in the real world?”
The problem with Objectivitism in regards to humanity is human emotion and frailty. Leaving aside the atheism of Ms. Rand, Objectivism cannot work in the real world.
Rand appears to assume that people can be raised to be objective in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Humans are fallible and venal along with some being outright evil.
No matter how objective one would like to be, emotion gets in the way.
In Atlas Shrugged, Rand does an excellent job of portraying just how much government can screw up business and screw up a country.
Unfortunately, she also shows her limitations when it comes to people and emotion.
I expect this chapters thread may be longer than most others because there is so many details to discuss!
I'll comment on your paragraph heading "Rand and Technology" with this post.
I have had discussions with others about 'Galts Gulch' and what it really symbolized and the one thing that I feel needs to be clarified is that the Gulch is not a 60's or 70's era 'back to the land' movement. I don't know that Rand was ever given the opportunity to explain this detail, the movement starting after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. I remember the era and the general feeling that technology was creating more problems than it was solving and that if somehow people could be convinced to shun technological advances, 'things' would get better. The more vague the description of the problem, the more convincing the argument to shun technology.
The looters are doing the same with Directive 10-289, hoping to stop any changes created by new inventions, hoping to secure their positions of power.
It's interesting to read about the Luddite movement and the consequences. A Luddite couldn't exist in Galts world ( and certainly not the Gulch! ) other than perhaps as a subsistence farmer. At this point we can ask ourselves who are most like the Luddites? The moochers are stopping the the motor of the world with their directive (tossing their shoe into the machine). They have no choice because they cannot produce, they have painted themselves into a corner. The Gulchers are embracing technology and making it work for them. They are only limiting their efforts to prevent their product from being taken and used against them.
Rands take on technology was that it should be used when appropriate for the benefit of the individual. When used collectively ( as in the camouflage of the valley ) the use of the technology is appropriate and I believe the expense and rewards would have been borne the same as our founding Fathers had intended for our national defense.
“But she is astonished that Mulligan is charging John twenty-five cents to rent his car; she quickly learns that the word give is banned in the valley.’
That’s why I can’t stand this philosophy/book. The atheism! You’re politically incorrect if you “give” someone a ride.
In the science fiction of Robert Heinlein, people actually pay others to use their air once an emergency situation is stabilized. That hardly qualifies as atheism.
I think this is exactly the problem today. Philanthropic societies were created by those "with' to help those without. It was understood that there was a benefactor-beneficiary relationship. If you found yourself without - in deep need - you went with your hat in your hand - a humbling event - and requested aid.
I think this attitude was best portrayed in the movie "Cinderella Man" where the lead - with nowhere else to turn - finally went to get "relief". Now granted it was govt. relief, but his attitude was one of humility - not expectation.
Today the attitude is exactly reversed. There seems to be a righteous expectation of the handout. Instead of humbly going down for relief, we now hear only complaints when "my check" is late.
I think a return to more localized charity is the only solution to our broken system. The abolition of income tax and the welfare state would create a booming business environment. The resulting wealth would then be available to help those truly in need - at the local level. With the end of the welfare state, local charity would then manage/evaluate true need - on an individual basis - for those who humbly submit to the scrutiny of the benefactor.
Amity Shales had a column out last week that if I recall what she wrote correctly she she said the Atlas Shrugged sold 200,000 copies in 2008. I geuss this book might serve as the anti-Obama of literature.
It’s one thing to help those who cannot help themselves; it’s another to help those who will not help themselves. I have a big problem with the latter, and suspect Rand did as well.
I also agree that charity should not be compulsory.
“That hardly qualifies as atheism. “
I think hard nosed unwillingness to give a person some air is a fruit of atheism. It’s like a symptom.
I made some extra banana bread today. I had a lot of bad bananas. I’m giving it away. I’m not charging anybody.
Weve seen Rands ideal Objectivist society operating in Galts Gulch. How well would it work in the real world?
I have always found the Gulch as one of the problems in the book. It suffers from the same (although opposite structure) sort of utopian vision that we make fun of when it comes from the left. If everyone plays their role it all works perfect.
The inevitable honest disagreements would arise and the competitive nature of the people in the Gulch make it hard to believe that any of them would happily go out of business when a stronger competitor moves in.
So, to your question. I don't believe that it would work any better than a socialist utopia.
20th Century Motors was that other utopia and Rand showed it running itself to ruin because it was founded on the wrong principle... from ability to need. Galt's Gulch is founded on the right principle of reward for effort but it leaves out the problems that would come when the scale expands beyond this core group of exceptional people. Fully half of the people in the world are below average. Mix them into a pure world like the Gulch and things become much more difficult.
The trick is to keep the core principles while devising appropriate rules of the game.
<But she is astonished that Mulligan is charging John twenty-five cents to rent his car; she quickly learns that the word give is banned in the valley.
Thats why I cant stand this philosophy/book. The atheism! Youre politically incorrect if you give someone a ride.>
I’m afraid I don’t see what this has to do with not believing in a god. She is making the point that transfers of goods or services among free and independent individuals must be in the form of trades, either by barter, or through an intermediary such as a medium of exchange, in this case, gold. This can also, of course, involve a charitable emotion for one of the parties. Without that trade, and a coerced charity is not trade, the exchange can in effect only take place as a result of force.
Only if you have no right to your property can a coerced, uncompensated charity exist. I’ve often thought that the worst distortion of our moral education begins when we are admonished to share our toys in kindergarten, thereby teaching us that we have no property rights.
” a former professor of economics who taught that one cant produce more than one consumes”
Didn’t you mean “consume more than one produces”?
Sorry to pick a nit, and best of luck on your project.
I am fascinated each week by both of your contributions.
BTW, the CliffNotes on AS is surprisingly sympathetic. I’m reading that each week as well as this forum.
“I made some extra banana bread today. I had a lot of bad bananas. Im giving it away. Im not charging anybody.”
But it makes you feel good, as well as getting rid of some unneeded bananas. And it is voluntary. And it doesn’t reward looting. THAT is the difference.
To return to Heinlein's science fiction, prospectors on asteroids had no hesitation in giving air to someone in an emergency situation. However, once things were stabilized, it was customary to pay for the consumption of that air.
It has nothing to do with atheism.
And yet capitalism, based on the twin fuels of greed and envy, works just fine. Those twin fuels are two of the seven deadly sins, so human emotion and frailty are a part of what makes it work.
Thank you for catching that. Better to catch it now before a publisher does. FReepers rock!
To put it in a vernacular phrase, Galt’s Gulch always struck me as a situation of ‘too many Chiefs, not enough Indians’.
These are all world-class alpha dogs, and there are always disagreements about getting your own way in such a group.
Agreed. I think the answer is the return to a meritocracy.
Scrap affirmative action, return self-esteem to the realm of achievement rather than the current feelings-based "everyone is a winner" system. Yes, we should stress - even celebrate - good sportsmanship, but not at the expense of the winners.
Eddie Willers would have also been at home in Galt's Gulch. Not because he was a giant in his field, but because he understood how the game should be played. He applauded - without resentment - the winners.
Two sections down of three, and now we commence the final one, A is A, which title, as we have seen, is Aristotles identity axiom, one of three borrowed from his Metaphysics. This, the first chapter in the final section, is entitled Atlantis inasmuch as its activities take place in a remote, semi-mythical Colorado valley in which Dagny has crashed. Francisco had told Dagny that her road would lead her to Atlantis, and he meant it literally, but he did not mean as a result of an air pursuit. She is there, she is welcome, but because she has not reached it by virtue of intellectual and moral conviction she is profoundly an outsider, a scab.
Parallels to the versions of Paradise described by various religions are, in my opinion, quite deliberate, and were Rand not quite so deadly serious about the thing one might almost say satirical. Dagny has a near-death experience and wakes up in a perfect world, in the arms of a perfect man, in the company only of good people, the bad ones being banished. Heaven, of course. Or Valhalla.
Not to belabor the point, John Galt turns out to have some remarkably Christ-like characteristics, being, after all, the man without pain or fear or guilt, stepping completely formed from the unknown as Akston (who, we are told, is Galts father who did not conceive him) describes it later, like Minerva from Zeuss head, which is as near as Rand could get to virgin birth without being named in a plagiarism lawsuit by the ghost of Saint Matthew.
Nor are we spared a description of his physical perfection that might have been culled from a Danielle Steele novel:
The light cloth of his shirt seemed to stress, rather than hide, the structure of his figure, his skin was suntanned, his body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy, the color of his skin blending with the chestnut-brown of his hair, the loose strands of the hair shading from brown to gold in the sun, and his eyes completing the colors, as the one part of the casting left undimmed and harshly lustrous; his eyes were the deep, dark green of light glinting on metal.
That is a single sentence. Dear God.
When we finally get to dialogue its actually quite good, every sentence holding a double meaning, an allusion to what came before.
Dont move, Miss Taggart. Youre hurt.
You know me? Her voice was impersonal and hard.
Ive known you for many years.
Have I known you?
Yes, I think so.
What is your name?
She looked at him, not moving.
Why are you frightened? he asked.
Because I believe it.
And through the chapter we actually discover that so long as we can keep from drowning in Rands schoolgirl gushing he is rather a likable fellow after all. All right, well, just one more:
Aware with abnormal intensity of the pressure of his hands against her body, of the gold and copper threads of his hair, the shadows of his lashes on the skin of his face a few inches away from hers
Were not quite two pages into the chapter. Hank Somebodyorother has become a distant memory. Hasnt he? One touch of Randian weirdness:
but she had always known that an emotion was a sum totaled by an adding machine of the mind
Stop the pain, please. No, it isnt, although that grotesque metaphor does explain a good deal about Dagnys love life one more, I cant help myself:
The sole suggestion of luxury was the color of his hair the strands stirring in the wind like liquid gold and copper
OK, Ill stop now. We get the point. Galts an android.
On a granite column at the entrance to Atlantis is a three-foot dollar sign made of solid gold, Franciscos gently mocking tribute to its foundation. It is the logo on the cigarettes and their package, the totem of a world that is formed around moral propositions that are the opposite of those of the looters. In the year 1982 there was another huge dollar sign, a floral arrangement twice that size that was laid on the grave of Ayn Rand. In what is likely an accidental irony, she and her beloved Frank OConnor are buried in Valhalla, NY.
The valley itself is protected by the illusion of a nearby mountaintop projected overhead that was, as Galt puts it:
calculated against everything except a courage such as yours you hit the ray screen. Some of the rays are the kind that kill magnetic motors
Courage or more likely suicidal stupidity, actually, but Galt is too polite (or smitten) to make the point. Midas Mulligan, however, is not, and delivers a bluntly outspoken rebuke to Dagnys recklessness when he suddenly appears, the true owner of the valley. Galt? He just works here.
It is, incidentally, one of the few dated moments in this 50-year-old novel, this ray screen business that kills magnetic, by which one hopes Rand means reciprocating engines. In this Atlantis philosophers are also competent engineers and fry cooks; in the real world sometimes they only think they are. (One is struck by the similarity of Akston behind a short-order grill and his successors chanting the tragic mantra of the liberal arts major, You want fries with that?) Later there will be similarly dated allusions to technologies that our contemporary perspective may make us a little too ready to mock, as well as to ones we cannot mock because they have become reality.
At last Dagny makes the connection the reader made some chapters ago Galt is the inventor of the miracle motor, and a similar generator powers the valley. Quentin Daniels is delighted giddy, even to be Galts understudy, and we learn that a number of the valleys inhabitants are the happy subordinates to geniuses in their field. Others have excelled in fields quite outside their nominal areas of expertise in the other world Hammond, the master mechanic, runs a grocery store, Dwight Sanders (who constructed Dagnys wrecked aircraft) is a pig farmer, Judge Narragansett, who ruled in Mulligans favor in the long-forgotten disposition of the Twentieth Century Motor Company, raises dairy cows and chickens. Rands case is that those characteristics which allow an individual to excel in complex industrial or intellectual fields lend themselves well to agriculture and low-level infrastructure maintenance (Dick McNamara turns up as a lineman), but that the reverse is not true. It is the case of an idealist. Sometimes perhaps more often than not, but not always its true.
Oilman Ellis Wyatt is there, having solved the problem of the extraction of oil from shale. (Thats what I meant by that caution against snickering at Rands rays.) He has hired Dagnys brakeman, the young fellow who whistled Richard Halleys (also a valley inhabitant) Fifth Concerto lo those many months ago. Owen Kellogg is a resident. And yes, so is Francisco dAnconia.
Wyatt tosses off a sentence that has since become an Objectivist aphorism: theres no such thing as a lousy job only lousy men who dont care to do it. Like many of Rands asseverations its true to a point, but not always. I once met a distinguished Japanese gentleman who was in the business of high-tolerance machining, who had spent World War II in the very building we were in at the time, an old torpedo factory. His job had been to smack test fuzes with a hammer to ensure they didnt go off prematurely. That, my friends, was a lousy job.
Galt provides an insouciant contrast to Dagnys occasionally overdramatic personality:
[Galt] How did you happen to be following me?
I landed at the Afton airport just as you were taking off. The man there told me that Quentin Daniels had gone with you.
I remember your plane circling to land. But that was the one and only time when I didnt think of you. I thought you were coming by train. How do you want me to understand that?
The one and only time when you didnt think of me.
He held her glance. Any way you wish, he answered.
She asked coldly, in the tone of an enemys accusation, You knew that I was coming for Quentin Daniels?
You got him first and fast, in order not to let me reach him? In order to beat me knowing fully what sort of beating that would mean for me?
A nice choice of rejoinder, I think. One almost sees his shrug and her fury. And later:
As they drove on along the edge of the lake, she asked, Youve mapped this route deliberately, havent you? Youre showing me all the men whom she stopped, feeling inexplicably reluctant to say it, and said, instead whom I have lost?
Im showing all the men whom I have taken away from you, he answered firmly.
Speaking only of first impressions and only for myself, I should say that Rand, and Dagny, worship Galt for his perfection and that I like him despite it. That is apparently the minority opinion. We meet for a moment a nameless, beautiful young woman who is fishing for a living. She is, tellingly, a novelist.
Dagny jerked her head to look back and saw the glance with which the young woman stood looking after Galt. And even though hopelessness, serenely accepted, was part of the worship in the glance, she experienced a feeling she had never known before: a stab of jealousy.
Hank who? Francisco who? Well, here we see their fate, and the upshot of Rands flawed conception of human sexuality: it is hopelessness, serenely accepted. In no other aspect of human life would Rand permit this sort of inert fatalism.
So is this valley Galt calls it Mulligans Valley really heaven? Mulligan invites all of Dagnys old friends to dinner at his place to honor her arrival. Let Dagny speak for herself:
She laughed suddenly This looks like you know, I had never hoped to see any of you again, I wondered at times how much Id give for just one more glimpse or one more word now this is like that dream you imagine in childhood, when you think that someday, in heaven, you will see those great departed from all the past centuries, the great men you would like to meet
And thats one clue to the nature of our secret, said Akston. Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves or whether it should be ours here and now on this earth.
And there we have it. It is a highly significant statement, the reason that Rand may rightfully claim her philosophy to be life-affirming. There are difficulties, of course I should give a good deal for an afternoon drinking with the likes of Franklin, Washington, Montaigne, Alcibiades, Edmund Burke, Oda Nobunaga. That is quite outside the confines of the here and now - that is the point of Paradise, after all, to transcend the here and now. But it is heaven on this earth that is Rands aim, a heaven she clearly feels is within the capacities of men, a heaven denied by the profound moral error that is the credo of the parasites, the looters, the moochers, that has so twisted and warped its host society that no remedy less than the latters dissolution will suffice. Atlas shrugging is that dissolution.
Given up? said Hugh Akston. Check your premises, Miss Taggart. None of us has given up. It is the world that has... All work is an act of philosophy. And when men will learn to consider productive work and that which is its source as the standard of their moral values, they will reach that state of perfection which is the birthright they lost.
Each of the men at dinner and they are all men, for Dagny moves in a world of men, and it is revealing that of the women she has met in the valley so far her only real reaction is a fleeting moment of jealousy each of these gives a brief disquisition on the reasons for his going on strike, for at last we realize courtesy of a three-page paragraph from Galts mouth that they are, in fact, on strike. Last of all,
She turned to Galt. And you? she asked. You were first. What made you come to it?
He chuckled. My refusal to be born with any original sin That night, at the Twentieth Century meeting, when I heard an unspeakable evil being spoken in a tone of moral righteousness, I saw the root of the worlds tragedy, the key to it, and the solution. I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.
What did you do when you walked out of the Twentieth Century? she asked.
I went out to become a flame-spotter. I made it my job to watch out for those bright flares in the growing night of savagery, which were the men of ability, the men of the mind to watch their course and to pull them out, when I knew that they had seen enough.
A lonely life, that of the outcast. How many of them are there, even now, in todays America?
Our sole relief were the rare occasions when we could see one another. We found that we liked to meet in order to be reminded that human beings still existed. So we came to set aside one month a year to spend in this valley to rest, to live in a rational world, to bring our real work out of hiding, to trade our achievements Each of us built his own house here, at his own expense for one month of life out of twelve. It made the other eleven easier to bear.
It does explain the persistent references to one months vacation at a mystery location. And thats all it was in the beginning, when the valley was a resort in the precise meaning of the word. It is now a nearly self-sufficient community courtesy of the industrialists who made their last stand in Colorado and now need somewhere to hide, literally, for they face imprisonment for the crime of striking deserting, as Dr. Ferris put it. And who, we are to remember, wished to have them shot for it.
We started with no time limit in view, said Galt. We did not know whether wed live to see the liberation of the world or whether wed have to leave our battle and our secret to the next generations But now we think that we will see, and soon, the day of our victory and our return.
when men see that neither their hearts nor their muscles can save them, but the mind they damned is not there to answer their screams for help when they have no pretense of authority left, no remnant of law, no trace of morality, no hope, no food, and no way to obtain it when they collapse and the road is clear then well come back to rebuild the world.
Well, thats the plan, anyway. Like most utopian schemes it is far more specific on how the present is to be broken down than it is on how the future is going to be built. The former is by far the easier of the two, as many a socialist revolutionary has found to his eventual dismay. But at least here we have the possibility inasmuch as these men and women already have built something in their lives. Che Guevara never did anything but destroy.
The dinner ends, and Dagny is escorted back to her hosts house for the evening. The guest room is a curious one it is the place where each of the strikers spent his or her first night after severing ties with the outside world. It is a place of sleepless pain, of renunciation, with the graffiti on the walls to prove it. And mirabile dictu! - the two of them do not wind up in Galts bedroom after all, although she contemplates his door and he contemplates her body. Sexual self-denial, in Rand? Yes, of course sex is the consummation of intellectual convergence and Dagny is still not ready to put out on that level. It isnt a case of a monastic renunciation of the world and the flesh, it turns out to be a choice between the one or the other. Saint Francis would have laughed to tears, and like his, Dagnys plea is but not yet. Oh, and the valley?
I call it Mulligans Valley, he said. The others call it Galts Gulch.
Have a great week, Publius!
I argue with a lib friend on a regular basis. We came to the role of government to be like football. The rules committee is the legislature, the referees are the executive branch and instant replay is judicial. I pointed out to him that, unlike what government is doing these days, the rules set the boundaries within which the game is played but are not devised to favor one team over another. The referees are on the field, but are not players.
We found about 30 parallels... I will spare you a recitation. Bottom line, you comparison to sport is right on.
Weve seen Rands ideal Objectivist society operating in Galts Gulch. How well would it work in the real world?
This wouldn't work for the same reason Communism doesn't work. And for the same reason that there will never be "Peace on Earth". 99% of people may go along with the premise, but there will always be one person, one dictator, one crazy SOB that doesn't want to follow the rules.
In the case of Galt's Gulch, if you don't follow the rules, you essentially get left on the side of the road to starve. That is a good thing, I think.
Another problem is that these people are all 3-sigma on the bell-curve. What happens when you get the WHOLE bell-curve? I'm a fairly bright girl (I like to think), but I don't think I'd be able to just instinctively know how to fish (the novelist on the dock) or how to run a cafeteria, or how to even make the perfect burger. I make a decent burger.....but because I only make ok-ish food, does that make me a slacker? Every darned thing that these people do, they do well. That strikes me as JUST a bit ludicrous. Usually people have their one or two gifts. Every once in a while, you come across someone that seems to be able to do everything, but they are rare.
Rand seems to imply that ANYTHING you do should be done to perfection.
Everyone seems to find Galt pleasant. He makes my teeth hurt. He's way to sanctimonious for my taste. This is where I get annoyed with Dagny, as well. Hello? Paging Hank Rearden? Hank Rearden to the courtesy phone......
I'm a way bigger Hank Rearden fan.
Oh, congrats on the potential book deal. You and Bill are deserving of hero-worship. I promise to buy it when it gets published! (publiushed?)
Excellent and congratulations.
Billthedrill somewhat agrees on John Galt. His contirbution this week is hilarious and right on the money.
If we sell the book, I'll jump up and down then.
That's terrific! I wish you both success in this endeavor. Looking forward to the publication.
I'm going to remind you of that statement in two weeks when we dissect Project X.
Interesting comparison: government to football. The rules would be the constitution. And if liberals ran football, the rules would be a “living, breathing document” to be interpreted any which way you choose...by instant replay? You can immediately see the fallacy of trying to operate this way....
Many thanks to all for the encouragement both public and private. Long way to go yet, long way. For those who haven't figured it out yet, we are working ahead, and having just spent two solid weeks hammering on Galt's speech I'm beat. Pub' feels the same way.
I don't think, frankly, that I possess quite the human perfection to be invited to Galt's Gulch, and I'm not sure I'd be very happy there if I were. But if I were, and if I were, I'm not sure I'd want to leave. Rand's characters seem champing at the bit to return to the world that has taken everything they had, and only those for whom that sort of construction presents their source of self-actualization are likely to react that way. They are driven to create because they're creators, or something like that, but it is a little bit circular, like saying that I'm driven to drink beer because I'm a beer-drinker. There may be something to that, however, because suddenly it sounds like an awfully good idea... ;-)
But I'm more the Eddie Willers type, so I'm not sure I'll get an invitation. If you haven't started a steel mill by the time you're my age, then it's too late.
OK... I said I would spare everyone the comparisons... but I changed my mind. Some of my observations on the allegory from one of our email exchanges (my lib friend played for Arkansas in the 70’s, hence the SWC/Big 12 refences)...
Just as the rules committee would not call plays for a team, neither should the legislature dictate how a business operates.
The rules committee does not determine that one team has more talent than the other and enacts rules that only apply to the stronger team so the game is more fair.
Teams don’t lobby the rules committee to give them five downs and the other team three.
Teams are not required to recruit to match a defined racial mix. Players are not kept as starters if they don’t perform. The quarterback is not required to throw equally to each receiver. The team is not required to run an even mix of run and pass plays so that every player gets an equal chance to play.
Players play with pain and overcome all manner of setbacks.
The goal posts don’t move.
Sometimes the ball bounces funny... that does not call for a “do-over”
The referees are not free to change the rules.
There are players with more God given talent that excel and there are players that work harder than others who also excel. Not every player gets to play quarterback. Some don’t get to play at all. Players who were starters in 8th grade, sat on the bench in high school and didn’t play beyond high school have to find something else they are good at... and may end up designing a football stadium. (me, btw)
The rules of football are designed to provide boundaries in which the game is played but they do not micro manage play. Each rule is designed to answer a specific need.
The rules committee, the commissioner and the referees do not “play”. Adding another 250 referees on the field might get you better calls, but mostly they would just be in the way.
The fat, balding guys on the rules committee may be able to play the game, but not nearly as well as the players on the field. They should not even try.
Coaches are given a great deal of freedom within the rules to do things that are inventive... i.e. trick plays, the run and shoot, no huddle, the 3-4, the nickel. The old days of the ends next to the tackles and a full back and two running backs in the backfield have given way to all sorts of alignments and positions. In 93, Oklahoma came out in a set against A&M where the tackles were spread out wide. A&M got destroyed. They didn’t know what to do. Was that fair? I didn’t like watching it, but I have to admit that it was fair and we simply got out coached.
Everyone has the opportunity to start for a division one team... if they work hard and have the talent. If they don’t do both, they either play for a division II team or even lower... or they play in the band or sit in the stands.
You might bitch about them in the bar after the game, but when the team takes the field, you cheer for them with all your might. You NEVER hope that they lose... even if you do want a new head coach.
When a running back like L.T. comes along, you don’t add extra weight to his pads so he will be more equal to the other team’s running back. In fact, your second string running back will be better for the competition.
Players that have more impact - through a strong work ethic or raw talent or good luck - get paid more because they are worth more to a successful team. If the team is successful and draws fans to the stands and viewers to the set, the team makes more money and can afford to pay the third string guy more than if they were not successful. The stadium vendors and the tv crews and the parking lot attendants and the sportswear company and the training staff and everyone else involved in the game makes more, too.
When the game is over, you can still raise a beer with a fan from the other team... even t.u.
It's never too late... I hope your book deal proves it.
Beer and chocolate.
You can't have a civilization without beer and chocolate any more than you can have one without, um, baseball. Scratch that, you don't need baseball, I ought to know, I'm a Mariners fan. But beer and chocolate - whoa, think Mulligan would float me a loan to build a brewery? I could get the copper kettle from Francisco, the barley from some retired tractor tycoon, and send my minions - I'd have to get some minions - to the outside world for the hops. Ragnar Danneskjold would have to bring me the cocoa beans but he'd do it...for a price. Let's see, what else? Butter we got, maybe some aluminum for the little foil wrappers.
I'm gonna be rich. Rich, I tellya...
As long as I can be paid in gold.
giving something to someone who can afford to pay what its worth is not charity, its an insult. the point is that it is not immoral to charge a fair price for a good or service.
“Thank you for catching that. Better to catch it now before a publisher does. FReepers rock!”
Just tryin’ to help;-)
BTW, here’s another one: I think the “air money” you are referring to is found in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, which takes place on Luna, and is one of RAH’s real masterpieces, at least among his later works. It is either the source of or recalls Greenspan’s famous dictum “TANSTAAFL!”
Every FReeper should read it.
TANSTAAFL does in fact come from "Moon", and I've used it quite a bit in speeches about transportation policy.
“But I’m more the Eddie Willers type, so I’m not sure I’ll get an invitation. If you haven’t started a steel mill by the time you’re my age, then it’s too late.”
If I understand Rand correctly, it is not that your ability must be of the highest order in order to live in the Gulch, but that you must ascribe to and live by the principles represented by its inhabitants. Most especially “I swear by my life and my love of it... etc.”
I don’t think AR intended to foster elitism, it’s just that only the most acute thinkers and creators would grasp Galt’s point, at least in the beginning. After all, we have all had to be conditioned OUT of our natural self-interest, and it takes a powerful ego to swim against that stream. That’s why I’m glad I was spared the corrupting influence of kindergarten socializing;-)
Although I’m sure I’m not much fun to live with as a result.
“Heinlein worked his libertarian and objectivist ideas out the fullest in The Moon is a Harsh MIstress. But they also pop up in some of the Future History short stories, to include the last books he wrote. I think the “air money” concept was something that gestated over a period of decades.”
Right you are, but I’m hard pressed at the moment to think of any other references to “air money”. I re-read all his stuff (and re-re-read, and re-re-re-read... well, you get the idea), except for everything after “Time Enough For Love”. I think in his later years he begame almost Randian in his style, although not as good and with less to say. Having written an essay on how to write science fiction, he forgot what he had written.
I’ll pay closer attention now, just to satisfy myself;-)
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