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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Utopia of Greed
A Publius Essay | 13 June 2009 | Publius

Posted on 06/13/2009 7:47:47 AM PDT by Publius

Part III: A is A

Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed

Synopsis

John finds Dagny awake and tells her he needs to re-calibrate the cloaking device. Dagny asks for her cane and tells him she will have his breakfast ready by the time he returns. While Dagny works in the kitchen, she is interrupted by a blonde Norseman, who upon John’s return, is introduced as Ragnar Danneskjøld.

Dagny serves breakfast, making sure that John does not help. She discovers that she is Francisco’s stand-in at the annual June 1st breakfast at Galt’s Gulch; Francisco hasn’t arrived, and no one knows why. Ragnar says he came very close to recruiting Hank Rearden, but John tells him to shut up in Dagny’s presence. She wants to know, but Ragnar follows orders. Ragnar tells of a flight carrying a huge amount of gold to the Mulligan Bank, to include gold credited to Dagny, and she hears a long lecture on the logic and methods used to calculate her golden refund. She is astonished to find that Ragnar is married to Kay Ludlow.

Upon Ragnar’s departure, Dagny decides not to accept the gold, but John tells her that a certain small portion of it will be deducted for her room and board. In staying for a month until her injuries heal, Dagny decides to work for her room and board by becoming John’s maid and cook.

Owen Kellogg arrives three days later and is shocked to see Dagny. He tells her that the world thinks her plane has crashed and that she is dead. He honored his pledge to find a job for Jeff Allen, who is now working for the railroad. He had also called Hank Rearden to give him the bad news.

Francisco arrives but says he has to leave almost immediately to search for Dagny. John suggests he go to the guestroom to meet a scab, and when he sees Dagny, he rushes to embrace her. He admits that he still loves her and that this valley should help her understand everything that was at stake. He tells her the story of the past twelve years, of pledging his life to John Galt, the disguise of the worthless playboy, and the plan to stop the motor of the world. He still loves her, even if she will only give herself to another. Returning to the living room, Francisco says he will not have to leave after all. The question arises of somehow letting people know that Dagny is alive, but John can’t permit it.

Visiting Francisco at his house, Dagny finds that he is anxious for the final collapse of d’Anconia Copper because then he can rebuild the company from the mine he has dug in the hills around Galt’s Gulch. Once she is healed, he will take her to see it. There is a momentary sense of desire, but they both let it lie.

Dagny discovers that John spends his evenings lecturing on physics. She tries to find where John spends the rest of the year, but he refuses to divulge. As he is out lecturing, Dagny finds herself wanting John to return; she yearns for his presence.

One night he comes home as she is resting and mentions the way she looked in her office. She wonders how he would have seen her there, but he still won’t talk about it. He admits he saw her for the first time ten years earlier in the underground warren of the Taggart Terminal. He had seen Dagny in formal evening dress giving orders in the tunnels, and he knew then that the abandonment of his motor was not the hardest price he would have to pay. Dagny remembers the event, a mess created by a new terminal manager. John admits that he had recruited the previous manager and every other critical person on the railroad; his goal was to make the railroad collapse.

As John goes to bed, Dagny tosses and turns. Francisco? Hank? No, she yearns for John Galt to come to her room and take her, but he doesn’t. However, she hears him pace the floor and light a cigarette. He can’t sleep either.

Richard Halley finishes a private recital for Dagny, and she is overcome with joy. Not many people have the same feeling for his music as Dagny, and that is payment enough for him. He appreciates the fact that she understands his music, that it is not simply a matter of feeling, but of feeling what he wanted her to feel. Dagny is sad that Halley’s music never leaves the valley, but Halley rejoices in the concerts he has played there; it is enough. Halley gives a profanity-laced lecture on why he is happier among businessmen than among other artists.

There is a reunion dinner of Hugh Akston’s star students, to include Ragnar’s wife Kay. Akston talks of their years at Patrick Henry University and how the penniless John Galt fit in with the other two men from the aristocracy. The first question that the young freshman John Galt had asked in a special class for postgraduates was one he would have been pleased to hear from a graduate student, a question Plato had forgotten to ask. They had majored in both physics and philosophy, and he and Robert Stadler had competed for them. Stadler had taken a fatal short cut in life by sanctioning the rule of the looters. Akston is proud that his “sons” made no concessions and that they became what they are.

Dagny and John explore Francisco’s mine in the hills above the valley. Becoming the consummate railroad professional, she suggests that Francisco stop using mule power and build a railroad to get his copper out. She asks for a pencil and paper and draws what she has in mind: a short narrow-gauge line with a tunnel and some trestles. But she stops in midstream as she realizes that she can’t give up her transcontinental railroad for this. John warns her that her commitment must be total; if she stays, she will have to hear about every wreck and disaster on her railroad as it dies. Dagny wonders how Francisco found her at her mountain cabin; he says that John had told him. Francisco asks Dagny to move in with him for her last week, but at Dagny’s request, John vetoes it; she has a job.

While shopping at Hammond’s, she and Hammond notice that a plane is trying to buzz the valley. Dagny runs to the airfield, looks into a telescope and discovers that the plane belongs to Hank Rearden. She runs onto the field and frantically signals to Hank, only to realize that he can’t see her.

Following dinner at Mulligan’s, Dagny is asked for her decision, but she asks for one more day. Mulligan says that only ten men are going back into the world, mostly to convert what they own and come back to Galt’s Gulch permanently. John shocks the men present when he says he may return to New York for one more year; the outside world is nearing open violence, and they don’t want John out there for the grand finale. Mulligan reminds him of failing infrastructure and of New York falling into starvation. When he mentions the coming collapse of the Taggart bridge over the Mississippi River, Dagny makes her decision: she is going back. She believes that men cannot be so blind as to abandon everything to destruction. The men think she’ll be back soon enough once she sees that her premises are faulty. John lists the conditions of her departure: secrecy as to the valley’s existence and no attempt to find it again.

At John’s house, Dagny confronts him about his decision. He is going back because Dagny will be there – and because he wants to be there when she decides to join the strikers. Dagny is not sure that day will ever come, but John is. She is to leave early the next morning.

Blindfolded, she rides in John’s plane as they depart Galt’s Gulch. They land on a deserted highway a mile outside a small town where there is a Taggart station. John tells her he’ll be the easiest man to find when she needs him. He takes off and flies away.

The Real Life Richard Halley

The model for Halley may have been the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, as suggested by some. But Halley’s profanity-laced lecture points more to the brilliant and irascible American composer Charles Ives, who had finally reached acclaim before his death in 1954 at age 79.

During the Thirties, Ives attended a concert of modern classical music in New York when he sat in front of a man who complained during the intermission that the music didn’t have any melodies he could hum. Ives turned around and hissed, “You goddamn sissy!” One can almost hear the voice of Richard Halley.

Discussion Topics



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub

1 posted on 06/13/2009 7:47:47 AM PDT by Publius
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To: ADemocratNoMore; Aggie Mama; alarm rider; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; ...
FReeper Book Club

Atlas Shrugged

Part III: A is A

Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed

Ping! The thread is up.

Prior 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
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
Part III, Chapter I: Atlantis

2 posted on 06/13/2009 7:48:51 AM PDT by Publius (Gresham's Law: Bad victims drive good victims out of the market.)
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To: Publius

Thanks


3 posted on 06/13/2009 8:23:44 AM PDT by Sundog (The government is spending two dollars for every one taken in. Why isn't that illegal?)
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To: Publius

I’m so enjoying this, even tho I never comment, and am gleaning more from these weekly lessons than just reading the book alone.

This is one of my favorite chapters because we finally get the mystery solved and get a tour of the secret capitalist commune (which, now that I think about it, that is a serious oxymoron, right? At best, a feeble joke on my part.)

Also because, for me anyway, you get a glimpse of what makes Dagny tick, what her true passion is. I could sense her excitement and was right alongside her as she hastily tried to figure out the logistics of building a light rail system for the mine on the fly. I actually felt joy. Yes! Do it, girl! This is what you love. Stay!!!
And then when her concept of reality, with it’s duties and obligations to others kicked in, and she “chickened out”, I nearly threw the book across the room! I felt utter disgust and disappointment with her.


4 posted on 06/13/2009 8:26:37 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Does this tagline make me look like a domestic terrorist?)
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To: ozark hilljilly
At best, a feeble joke on my part.

If it's a feeble joke, then you're in good company. Ayn Rand herself named the group of intellectuals who crowded around her as "The Collective". She meant it as just that kind of joke.

And then when her concept of reality, with it’s duties and obligations to others kicked in, and she “chickened out”, I nearly threw the book across the room! I felt utter disgust and disappointment with her.

Had she joined ths strikers at that point, Rand would not have needed another eight chapters for the remainder of the plot. That might have made a shorter book, but not necessarily a better one, at this point. There are some fascinating developments coming, and Dagny needs to be in New York to push the plot along. But, yes, Dagny is so damned stubborn sometimes you just want to turn her on your knee and spank her -- which she probably would have enjoyed.

5 posted on 06/13/2009 8:34:38 AM PDT by Publius (Gresham's Law: Bad victims drive good victims out of the market.)
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To: Publius
..."you just want to turn her on your knee and spank her -- which she probably would have enjoyed."

; )

6 posted on 06/13/2009 8:40:08 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Does this tagline make me look like a domestic terrorist?)
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To: Publius
Had she joined ths strikers at that point, Rand would not have needed another eight chapters for the remainder of the plot.

Oh, I know that,Pub, but as a woman I often get emotionally invested in whatever fiction I'm reading and Dag's behavior so far has been exasperating! Full disclosure: I also yell at the tv quite frequently.

7 posted on 06/13/2009 8:53:06 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Does this tagline make me look like a domestic terrorist?)
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To: Publius

I think this could have easily been the final chapter, having Dagny decide to stay and hear on the radio the final collapses of the nation intervals intertwined with the winders of the valley. The contrast would have been even more stark that way.

But Ayn Rand wasn’t going to let readers off that easily.


8 posted on 06/13/2009 9:07:15 AM PDT by GeronL (http://libertyfic.proboards.com <----go there now,----> tyrannysentinel.blogspot.com)
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To: ozark hilljilly

Have you been to http://libertyfic.proboards.com ?

Not many members but I do post some fiction there in the ‘storyboard’.


9 posted on 06/13/2009 9:09:33 AM PDT by GeronL (http://libertyfic.proboards.com <----go there now,----> tyrannysentinel.blogspot.com)
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To: Publius
Morning Pub.

I am struck by John's position of authority among this group. Everyone is an individual firmly in control of their own actions and destiny... as long as John gives his “ok” first. John even has veto powers.

I am fairly certain (from having read a nonfiction book about Rand many years ago) that Rand ran her group of intellectuals the same way... they were all free to think anything they wanted... as long as it met her approval.

I find that hypocritical in Galt’s Gulch as well as in Ayn's living room in Palm Springs. But John's dominance explains why Dagney can so easily dump Francisco and Hank. It also gives insight into Rand's ego.

I joke about my ego with my liberal friends... often saying something like “Things would be a lot better if everyone just did what *I* tell them too.” I'm usually making fun of their all too serious attempts to force their thinking on everyone else. I argue that the attempt to “force” one’s thinking on another is the base of the problems with our society today. Too many people trying to force their views on everyone else.

Last week we talked about the need for rules in the Gulch and perhaps John's dominance is Rand's way of providing that structure, but it seems flawed to me.

10 posted on 06/13/2009 9:53:40 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
But, yes, Dagny is so damned stubborn sometimes you just want to turn her on your knee and spank her -- which she probably would have enjoyed.

Correct on both counts. She's definitely got her kink on.

11 posted on 06/13/2009 10:07:18 AM PDT by Still Thinking (If ignorance is bliss, liberals must be ecstatic!)
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To: ozark hilljilly
Full disclosure: I also yell at the tv quite frequently.

I hope you never watch the news. After the last four administrations, I'd have no vocal cords if I yelled at the TV every time I got mad. (And in truth I even got mad at Ronnie once in a great while)

12 posted on 06/13/2009 10:09:18 AM PDT by Still Thinking (If ignorance is bliss, liberals must be ecstatic!)
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To: r-q-tek86
"I am struck by John's position of authority among this group. Everyone is an individual firmly in control of their own actions and destiny... as long as John gives his “ok” first. John even has veto powers."

There always needs to be a leader. I do believe they just "emerge", come "naturally". John fits that bill, IMHO.

13 posted on 06/13/2009 11:22:57 AM PDT by NoGrayZone (All aboard the 1st Annual Free Republic National Tea Party Convention 9/11-9/12. Be there!!!)
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To: NoGrayZone
There always needs to be a leader. I do believe they just "emerge", come "naturally". John fits that bill, IMHO.

Ivy Starns emerged as a leader, too. I just find it odd that these proud individualists have so easily submitted to John's rule.

14 posted on 06/13/2009 11:31:11 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: r-q-tek86
I am struck by John's position of authority among this group.

Perhaps John, as both owner of the valley and, demonstrably, the rightful leader of the group by virtue of his melding of the philosopher and the man of action, one who could translate academic principles into action, was perceived to have the innate right to be in a sense paterfamilias of their little family?

Moreover, I don't think Rand meant to imply that John necessarily needed give his 'okay' to everyone's actions, or had the unchallenged power to forbid them. Witness Ragnar - it's made clear that John strongly disapproves of Ragnar's chosen means of waging battle, but he does not forbid Ragnar from following his own Muse. When John makes executive decisions, as it were, my recollection (and it's been four years or so since I last re-read AS, so please forgive if I am wrong), he does so either at the request, or with the consent, of the people concerned.

I may have to re-read AS again soon - seems as though world events are quickly emulating this prescient novel! 0 might well be using AS as his blueprint. Perhaps we should have a thread about who in his administration most closely resembles which Randian character?

15 posted on 06/13/2009 11:33:05 AM PDT by TrueKnightGalahad (When you're racing...it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.)
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To: r-q-tek86
" I just find it odd that these proud individualists have so easily submitted to John's rule."

And just who created Galt's Gulch? You say "so easily submitted to", as if submission is a bad thing.

16 posted on 06/13/2009 11:56:38 AM PDT by NoGrayZone (All aboard the 1st Annual Free Republic National Tea Party Convention 9/11-9/12. Be there!!!)
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To: Publius
Howdy, Pub’! Chapter 22 is entitled “The Utopia of Greed,” Rand’s derisive reference to the erroneous premise that profit is greed. It is an easy enough accusation to make – as she pointed out in the previous chapter, the dollar sign is plastered on the ample waistcoats of sundry cartoon businessmen in order to connote an insatiable desire for more, a characterization that, repeated often enough, need not prove its case. Let’s take a moment to examine it.

What is greed, after all, but the desire for more of something than one needs? Naturally the question “needs as measured by whom?” arises immediately, generally being answered by “needs as defined by an onlooker with tender feelings and lofty moral pretenses, unlike that greedy fellow there,” a moral proposition perfect only in its circularity. You’d hear that a lot at one of Lillian Rearden’s cocktail parties. “Needs for what?” is another question that comes to mind. One of these “whats” might be the accumulation of surplus, profit, for the funding of other economic enterprises. Such surplus is termed “capital” and the system under which one successful economic enterprise is used for the springboard to another is called Capitalism. The objection socialists have to that system is the faulty premise that the accumulation of such surplus is morally reprehensible, “greed.” It’s one reason there are so few successful new businesses under socialism. Legal ones, anyway.

That whole line of reasoning won’t do, because in fact what has happened with that formulation of the term greed is to accept need as the arbiter of value. Rand regards this as a fundamental error and through Jeff Allen’s grim tale of two chapters ago, told us why, and it took precisely one sentence, one false premise, to fall into it.

And it is a fundamental error. For example, every time a gun control zealot sneers, “Why do you need a firearm?” he or she is trying to force a faulty premise, that the determinative factor in the sanctity of one’s personal possessions is some else’s perception of need. Why do you need a raise? Why a large, comfortable automobile? Why do you need anything at all when others have needs that may be judged more pressing? This is central to Rand’s philosophy – this criterion requires one to live for someone else, and empowers the judge of need with the power of life and death. It is a power that may only be granted by the victim, in the beginning. In the end it may be claimed by pure, brute force.

A Utopia, though, this place in which Dagny finds herself certainly is, this place we will come to refer to, as do all its inhabitants save one, as “Galt’s Gulch.” It is a place of the mind, constructed around a moral premise that is a social contract: Galt’s oath. Now we understand this oath a little better - “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.”

Dagny is a prisoner in Galt’s Gulch courtesy of her arrival uninvited, which seems rather against the founding premise of the community – Galt has made up the rule on the spot and admits it, and its enforcement is simply the threat of coercion. Because of that I suspect that if put to it Galt would be incapable actually of chaining her to the wall, although that might not be altogether disagreeable to one of Dagny’s sexual predelictions. But in any case Dagny isn’t eager to leave the confines of this fascinating place and the company of this fascinating man. She’s in it for a month, that same set of dates that circumscribes the annual vacations of the founders. Galt wants her to be a guest at his expense. But that also seems to contradict the social contract, a point that Dagny realizes immediately. Her clever response takes Galt entirely by surprise.

“I propose to earn my room and board.”

“By what means?”

“By working.”

“In what capacity?”

“In the capacity of your cook and housemaid.”

She has him very neatly. After all, if Akston can sling hash and Daniels can sweep floors, (and, if she only knew it, Galt can repair her railroad tracks), why can’t she cook his breakfast and sew his buttons? She’ll be staying there at least until her ankle and ribs heal in any case. He surrenders, laughing. Room and board and ten dollars a month. In gold. He even gives her an advance on her salary.

She was startled to discover, as her hand reached for the gold piece, that she felt the eager, desperate, tremulous hope of a young girl on her first job: the hope that she would be able to deserve it.

They make coins differently in Galt’s Gulch, but the last U.S. denomination of the sort was the “half eagle,” a truly beautiful piece of work with an eagle on one side and a woman wearing what appears to be a French Revolutionary “Phrygian cap” on the obverse. The cap has “Liberty” printed on it. Five bucks worth of gold these days would be five nine-hundredths of a troy ounce. You could hold Dagny’s monthly wages on your thumbnail. We have come to that.

It is an interesting domestic arrangement. Prisoner, and then servant, and even that is a thin veneer under which a good deal more is going on.

That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared…it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body’s satisfaction had come from her. ..but what have they made of it, the preachers of woman’s duty? The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue – while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin…the work of dealing with grease, steam, and slimy peelings in a reeking kitchen was held to be a spiritual matter, an act of compliance with her moral duty – while the meeting of two bodies in a bedroom was held to be physical indulgence…

That’s actually a little harsh by Rand’s own standards. Whatever happened to “there is no such thing as a lousy job, only lousy men who don’t care to do it”? Her point is that it is irrational to consider the one a duty and the other mere animal pleasure, which is fine as far as it goes. One can, of course, consider both a duty – Lillian Rearden comes to mind here although it is doubtful that she has ever held a potato peeler in her life. Or both a pleasure if not quite of the same sort. Both propositions are equally rational and utterly beside the point. Nor, even in the 50’s, was sex within marriage considered a mere physical indulgence, especially by anyone who had actually tried it.

Because we actually are talking about marriage here. Somewhat later she has to admit it to herself.

His wife – she thought, letting herself hear consciously the word Dr. Akston had not pronounced, the word she had long since felt, but never named – for three weeks she had been his wife in every sense but one, and that final one was still to be earned…

Earned, how? What must she yet achieve in order to be worthy? We shall see.

The first visitor that pops in, a slender, golden-haired male of ethereal beauty, is none other than the ferocious pirate Ragnar Danneskjold, who is roughly as threatening as a schoolboy and far more interesting. We saw him once in a brief meeting with Hank Rearden but now we get to see him at home, as it were, in the valley that is the refuge and the home of his wife, another self-exile, the actress Kay Ludlow. His month’s vacation is a month with his beloved, and we begrudge them even the few minutes it took to take breakfast at Galt’s, a custom of some 12 years’ tenure. The third at that traditional breakfast, Francisco d’Anconia, is nowhere in sight for the first time in all that time, and no one really knows why until the next arrival, Owen Kellogg, breaks the news to them that Dagny’s disappearance has caused a sensation and that the mountains of Colorado are being combed for her, or her remains. We know before we’re told where Francisco is, and it comes as no surprise when we learn later that Hank is searching for her as well.

No communication with the outside is permitted, of course, although Galt will allow her at least to ask for an exception. It’s a test; practically everything that Dagny encounters for the next couple of weeks is a test, and if she strangled the lot of them for their presumption in that regard I wouldn’t vote to convict. Nevertheless, Francisco does show up and declares his love for her, suspecting but not knowing that love is fated to be unrequited, suspecting her preference to be Rearden and not knowing that it is now, inevitably, Galt. It is a love declared, a love undying, and we admire Francisco for his loyalty if not altogether for his common sense.

Galt drops a statement that indicates that he is fully aware of what is going on: that of all of them Francisco has given up more than any, meaning, we are to presume, not only his fortune and his reputation, but his love as well. And yet here he is, his love intact for the woman he declares he has deserted. It is she, in fact, who has deserted him.

“Francisco, I’ve hurt you in so many different ways – “

“No! No, you haven’t hurt me – and he [Rearden] hasn’t either, don’t say anything about it, it’s he who’s hurt, but we’ll save him and he’ll come here, too, where he belongs…Dagny, I didn’t expect you to wait…if it had to be anyone, I’m glad it’s he.”

She closed her eyes, pressing her lips together not to moan.

“Darling, don’t! Don’t you see that I’ve accepted it?”

But it isn’t – she thought – it isn’t he, and I can’t tell you the truth because it’s a man who might never hear it from me and whom I might never have…

It is Galt, of course, and Galt knows it. Yet Galt will not have her, for as a “scab,” an apostate, she and he have not yet reached that intellectual convergence which is Rand’s sine qua non for a lubricious roll in the hay. She is unworthy. We are exasperated.

It is, after all, a rather exacting and impossible standard that Rand has set for her mating of the thoroughbreds. This business of “only the ultimate may be chosen” is not one she followed in her own personal life; apparently the rules applying to Rearden, Francisco, Galt and Dagny did not apply to Ayn Rand, Frank O’Connor, and Barbara and Nathaniel Branden. Nor did they apply to Branden when later he threw both Rand and Barbara over for a young actress and was tossed from Rand’s circle as a consequence. If I seem impatient with this patent silliness that’s part of the reason.

The romance in the novel is nearly as painful for the principals as it is for the reader. Galt won’t make a move until he is certain that his best friend Francisco has had every chance, but both he and Dagny acknowledge that were she to favor Francisco as a consequence of that chance, they would be living a lie. Rearden hovers over that calculus like an orphaned cherub. Maddening.

We are on much firmer ground (which the reader is tempted to kiss having attained it) when we leave the romantic entanglements for the expositional phase of the chapter. Each of a succession of persons who Dagny meets explains to her the reasons why he or she chose the refuge of Galt’s Gulch. First is the composer Richard Halley:

“There’s only one passion in most artists more violent than their desire for admiration: their fear of identifying the nature of such admiration as they do receive.”

That’s actually pretty good, but I feel it safe to say that many of our own artists are not quite so discriminating in taste as he. Fame is its own intoxicant, after all. But Halley is refreshingly old school about art – it is as much a pursuit of truth as any philosopher’s.

“The sacred fire which is said to burn within musicians and poets…An intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth, Miss Taggart? Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist’s intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth?”

Not lately, to be honest. Where art consists of lumps of shit thrown upon a canvas one suspects that the truth thereby illuminated is of the same nature as the medium. The debasement of art in our age is that it no longer seeks truth, but celebrity. Those artists still in it for the truth had better have another gig for the rent or they’ll starve; they’ve always starved, and yet their art, and the truth it describes, remains inviolate. Halley knows this, and he knows, as well, that the same pursuit of truth drives scientist and yes, businessman.

“Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn…who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, that it IS and DOES – and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind!”

Here is a musician who writes with mathematical precision, a firm grasp of tonal relationships, statement, recursion, and within that rule set a desperate and successful drive to express the lyrical, and he is doomed to disappointment when his listener feels he has grasped the whole thing merely by feeling. That’s not what Halley wants. That’s the reason he has fled to the valley.

The actress Kay Ludlow gives her testimony, a somewhat peculiar one, truth be told. She is tired of acting in films where her beauty (and her acting ability, this much is left unsaid) make her out to be the eternal villain, forever losing out to the mediocrity of the girl next door. One might understand that frustration if one could recall a single movie of that type, actually, but this is fiction, after all. Ludlow then walks off with her Ragnar, two paragons of physical beauty and moral clarity. One wonders what their children will be like.

A young woman with children, two little boys, is next to explain herself.

“They represent my particular career, Miss Taggart…you know, of course, that there can be no collective commitments in this valley and that families or relatives are not allowed to come here, unless each person takes the striker’s oath by his own independent conviction…I came here to bring up my sons as human beings…”

In this it is a perfectly formed community in the sense that the inhabitants are actually able to assent to or reject the social contract personally. For their children, as Edmund Burke pointed out, there are difficulties. The boys, of course, have taken no such oath, nor are they yet capable of comprehending it. Rand does not explain at what point they will have to, but it is a seminal matter in the formation of this new society, this utopia, because once it attempts to reform the ruins of the outside world there will need to be continuity if it isn’t to be only one generation long. I have complained elsewhere that certain details of how the phoenix will be made to rise from the ashes were left unattended in the dramatic narrative. This is one of them. Rand seems to feel that children raised under a strict regimen of rationality will be incapable of behaving otherwise. It is a notion not borne out by the actual history of any utopian revolution.

We now attend a dinner party thrown by Dr. Akston to which only the elite of the elite are invited – Galt, of course, Francisco, Ragnar and his wife, and Dagny. She is now explicitly one of the group and yet has not joined them, a daughter in the sense that the three men are Akston’s sons. It is not clear that her own personal achievements, however prodigious, are the entire explanation. There is obviously a paternal relationship between Akston and his former pupils. In one charming moment he barks at Ragnar for the “danger” he subjects himself to by sitting on the bare ground. This is a fellow who dodges the world’s navies on a daily basis. It is a rather sweet touch, actually, one indication that despite her Spartan devotion to her moral argument and her attempt to paint a novel onto a billboard with a giant brush, Rand is striving to draw her main characters as people.

The outside world intrudes once again the next day in the form of Hank Rearden’s plane nearly touching down in the valley but departing. It is a metaphor for his life, and a reminder to Dagny that the outside world will not be easy to discard. And yet it is Francisco who wishes to communicate with Rearden that she is alive. They deride it as “pity” but it is, in fact, compassion, not, I think, necessarily an indicator of lack of intellectual discipline, but a check against proceeding according to the dictates of a reason that is based on faulty premises. When one deifies Reason one had better be sure that his – or her – idol doesn’t have feet of clay.

And so we have reached Dagny’s crisis of conscience. Will she renounce the decaying world and stay in the valley? She has two days to decide. To return will be to become their acknowledged enemy, for her abilities are what stand between the strikers and their victory. It is clear that Rand understands just how very difficult that will be, for opposed to the undeniable moral rectitude of the strikers is Dagny’s veneration for the achievements of her predecessors and the price they paid to achieve them. She is caught between two betrayals, and our hearts go out to her. Galt, for his part, has not committed to staying either, but if they catch him and find out who he is and what he means, his death is a certainty. It is Midas Mulligan who tries to make him aware of the danger.

“You know the cities will be hit worst of all. The cities were made by the railroads and will go with them.”

“That’s right.”

“When the rails are cut, the city of New York will starve in two days. That’s all the supply of food they’ve got…they’ll go through the whole of the agony – through the shrinking, the shortages, the hunger riots, the stampeding violence in the midst of the growing stillness.”

“They will.”

“They’ll lose their airplanes first, then their automobiles, then their trucks, then their horsecarts…their factories will stop, then their furnaces and their radios. Then their electric system will go…There’s only a worn thread holding that continent together. There will be one train a day, then one train a week – then the Taggart Bridge will collapse and – “

“No, it won’t!”

It was her voice and they whirled to her. Her face was white... Slowly, Galt rose to his feet and inclined his head, as in acceptance of a verdict. “You’ve made your decision,” he said.

Yes, she has. It is for all the achievers who have gone before her that she’ll fight, not necessarily all the people who will suffer if she doesn’t. It was the railroad tunnel, after all, and not the people who perished in it for which Dagny returned to the world after her last abortive exile. Dagny honors the achievement – the Taggart Bridge – and ignores the purpose that it now serves. Rand has led us carefully to this moment, and it is critical in the novel. The strikers aren’t simply walking away from their tools, they are giving up that which is most precious to them except for their own souls. It is a wrenching, agonizing commitment. Francisco has made it and we see what it has cost him. What will it cost Dagny if in the end she does summon the courage to make it?

Galt leaves her with a souvenir, the balance of her month’s wages, a single five-dollar gold piece. And she knows that it is she whom he will be following, and why.

“Don’t look for me out there,” he said. “You will not find me – until you want me for what I am. And when you’ll want me, I’ll be the easiest man to find.”

She watched [his plane] like a star in the process of extinction, while it shrank from cross to dot to a burning spark which she was no longer certain of seeing. When she saw that the spread of the sky was strewn with such sparks all over, she knew that the plane was gone.

The road to Atlantis, as I have stated, is paved with human bones, and they hurt the feet when they’re trodden upon. Perhaps Dagny will walk it despite that. Perhaps not.

Have a great week, Publius!

17 posted on 06/13/2009 12:02:00 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: NoGrayZone; TrueKnightGalahad
And just who created Galt's Gulch?

Midas Mulligan actually owns the gulch

18 posted on 06/13/2009 1:14:33 PM 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: GeronL
But Ayn Rand wasn’t going to let readers off that easily.

You got that right. We got a big lecture coming soon in what will seem like the longest chapter in the book.

19 posted on 06/13/2009 1:27:45 PM PDT by Mad-Margaret
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To: Mad-Margaret

THE SPEECH


20 posted on 06/13/2009 1:30:31 PM PDT by GeronL (http://libertyfic.proboards.com <----go there now,----> tyrannysentinel.blogspot.com)
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To: GeronL; Mad-Margaret

And Billthedrill have been breaking our backs on that chapter.


21 posted on 06/13/2009 1:32:26 PM PDT by Publius (Gresham's Law: Bad victims drive good victims out of the market.)
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To: Publius

Oh, yeah. The Speech. I can’t wait to find out what the Book Club thinks of our takes on it. I threw out at least twice what I sent you, probably more. If I get a collective razzing over it I’ll take it like a man... ;-)


22 posted on 06/13/2009 1:43:20 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: r-q-tek86

Midas owns it, or created it?


23 posted on 06/13/2009 2:16:54 PM PDT by NoGrayZone (All aboard the 1st Annual Free Republic National Tea Party Convention 9/11-9/12. Be there!!!)
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To: Publius

I’ll bet you have. I can’t wait to see what you two come up with. Didn’t it take Rand two years to write it? And you guys have only a few weeks.

And there is no sex in it.

When I first read AS I was a young woman still in my teens, and I could not understand how Dagny could drop Reardon for Galt. He left me cold. Now that I’m a middle aged woman, I still can’t understand it.

Francisco has made more of an impression on me this reading, and I can certainly understand why Dagny might have returned to him. But we can’t recapture our youth. And their relationship really is history. Francisco outgrew Dagny. As much as he still loves her (and to some degree, she still loves him), I fully understand why they can’t go back. And it’s bittersweet.

But Reardon? He’s been with her through the long haul, through the hardships, through the triumphs. They have unwittingly built a life together. As a woman, I cannot understand how Dagny can toss Reardon aside for some Johnny (Galt) Come Lately.

As for earning the right to love and be loved by someone, I think Dagny did that long ago. Yet in her time of need (oh, what a nasty word), all Galt could offer her was the desperate patter of footsteps outside her window. Reardon, on the other hand, was there for her. They have a shared, ongoing give-and-take relationship. Doesn’t that count for anything?

Maybe I will enjoy THE SPEECH this time around because it spares the reader of Rand’s very strange thoughts of love and romance.


24 posted on 06/13/2009 2:21:52 PM PDT by Mad-Margaret
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To: Billthedrill
The debasement of art in our age is that it no longer seeks truth, but celebrity.

Wow. Potent and dead on, Bill. I was just talking about how the vapid Dixie upChucks whine about being "censored" when people stop buying their dreck in response to their outrageous statements. They had the right to speak their mind, as well they should, but they're more worried about whether or not people buy their "art" than the possession of the right they just used! Maddening.

25 posted on 06/13/2009 2:31:41 PM PDT by Still Thinking (If ignorance is bliss, liberals must be ecstatic!)
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To: NoGrayZone

I don’t have my copy of AS here, but I’m pretty sure that he bought the land and sells portions to the newcomers.


26 posted on 06/13/2009 2:42:52 PM 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: r-q-tek86
And he also gets the business owners to come as well. He is a leader, probably realized it, and took ownership of it.

If not for him, would Galt’s Gulch even exist?

27 posted on 06/13/2009 2:47:59 PM PDT by NoGrayZone (All aboard the 1st Annual Free Republic National Tea Party Convention 9/11-9/12. Be there!!!)
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To: Mad-Margaret; Publius; Billthedrill

I feel oddly disinclined to read this next chapter. It can’t be it’s length - all 50 pgs. or whatever it is of his radio address. I am very much looking forward to the distinguished gentlemen’s work on this and am flirting with the possibility of skipping the speech altogether.


28 posted on 06/13/2009 2:54:14 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal
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To: definitelynotaliberal

The next chapter doesn’t contain The Speech. That’s Chapter 7 of Part 3.


29 posted on 06/13/2009 3:32:16 PM PDT by Publius (Gresham's Law: Bad victims drive good victims out of the market.)
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To: Mad-Margaret

I agree with your take here. This is my second reading and I like Francisco much better this time around. I also think that Hank Reardon has earned the right to better treatment than he is getting from Dagny. I understand that, for all intents and purposes, they are “Friends with Benefits” but a bit more than that. I think from a real person’s point of view, Hank would be by far the better choice for a lifetime together than either Francisco or Galt.

Francisco gave her up and I’ve found that it’s really hard to revisit a relationship like that after one or both of the parties have moved on for any length of time.

I’m guessing that if we fast forward, Hank and Francisco will eventually move on and find people who are not quite so rigid in terms of being “selfish”. And my sense is that with Galt and Dagny, the wanting might be much better than the ultimate having. I don’t recall if this is dealt with in the book or not. My guess is it isn’t.


30 posted on 06/13/2009 3:57:06 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: NoGrayZone

For all the talk of individuality here, Galt’s Gulch was certainly a group endeavor. Midas Mulligan buying the land and Galt having a great deal to do with setting it up. I’m a bit perplexed with Galt, however. I understand that he invented the motor and had the dramatic walkout at 20th Century Motors, but the others have actually built up businesses and succeeded at enterprises in the real world, such as it is. All except for Galt and Danneskold among the main characters, I suppose.

Maybe that’s why I think more highly of Reardon than I do of Galt, at least at this juncture. Reardon invented his metal which, although maybe not as spectacular as Galt’s motor, was done while building and running his businesses.

I view Reardon as more of a leader, but then I fall back on the first thing a good leader does is get the best people as part of his endeavor. And Galt has certainly done that! I’m feeling right now that the near Galt worship is a bit overdone.


31 posted on 06/13/2009 4:03:42 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: tstarr

“ultimate having”? I’m not going near that spoiler! I’ll bet it doesn’t give BilltheDrill as much trouble as the speech.

I think Dagny and Reardon were much more than “Friends with Benefits.” Theirs is the love story of Atlas Shrugged. He gave her jewels (not just that industrial strength bracelet) and that awesome fur coat. He gave up his metal for her. They survived a road trip together. He divorced his wife. They brought joy to each others’ dreary lives, and they shared the same values. They comforted each other. They had hot sex. This be love — not friendship. And it was mutual.

Dagny could relax with Reardon. But Galt? My gosh! That would be an exhausting relationship! I mean, when could you kick back in sweats with dirty hair and without makeup with this guy? You’d have to always be ON. No “honey, let’s just order a pizza tonight” in their home. Didn’t you notice there wasn’t a pizza place in Galt’s Gulch?

Reardon would let her have a pizza.


32 posted on 06/13/2009 4:23:14 PM PDT by Mad-Margaret
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To: Publius

Civilization collapsing will create two classes of citizens: Those who go on about the business of living, even if only in survival mode, and those who sit around waiting for help from someone else.

If government collapses, all of those who depend on government for survival will have it the toughest. Once people are taught to depend on government, it creates a whole swath of society doomed to death, should government fail, because they’ve never learned how to take care of themselves.


33 posted on 06/13/2009 4:49:52 PM PDT by stylin_geek (Greed and envy is used by our political class to exploit the rich and poor.)
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To: stylin_geek

Sounds like New Orleans and Katrina.


34 posted on 06/13/2009 4:53:05 PM PDT by Publius (Gresham's Law: Bad victims drive good victims out of the market.)
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To: Publius

Good example, yes, nothing like a little recent history to provide an example of just how badly government can muck things up.

What I find frustrating about those who think government is wonderful is that they conveniently ignore the collapse of the USSR.

Government ran everything in the USSR, killed 20 million plus of it’s citizens, and collapsed after a mere seventy years of existence.

Yet, rather than the USSR being a cautionary tale about government run amok, instead, they say “Oh, it will never happen here.”

Yeah, okay, so, what came after the Weimar Republic in Germany?


35 posted on 06/13/2009 5:05:28 PM PDT by stylin_geek (Greed and envy is used by our political class to exploit the rich and poor.)
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To: Mad-Margaret

OK - more than FWB, but Dagny always wanted to meet the man who invented the motor and was looking for her ultimate love while still bedding Reardon. I think the relationship meant much more to him than it did to her.

And, yes, you said what I was thinking. I could see Dagny and Reardon hanging around, downing a pizza, maybe even watching a ball game. If Galt and Reardon’s situations were reversed, I can’t see Galt flying over the Rockies for a month looking for her. I can see both Francisco and Hank doing that.


36 posted on 06/13/2009 5:26:04 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: TrueKnightGalahad; r-q-tek86

One correction, John doesn’t own the valley; Midas Mulligan does. As Midas put it, “...he just works here.” I don’t suspect Midas would be the type of man who would submit to anybody. And certainly not Judge Narragansett. Ragnar probably listens to John because he’s known John far longer than Dagney, whom he just met. You’re right, John would never force his will on anybody. The Strikers listen to him because he is the first person to speak truth to them.


37 posted on 06/13/2009 5:43:09 PM PDT by Clock King
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To: stylin_geek

I was about to say — Hitler outdid the USSR, and it only took 12 years.

“Oh, it will never happen here.”

Indeed?

Obozo seems to be following the LIEberal/Socialist/Marxist playbook quickly and with no little success, at this juncture.


38 posted on 06/13/2009 6:44:39 PM PDT by Taxman (So that the beautiful pressure does not diminish!)
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To: stylin_geek
Yet, rather than the USSR being a cautionary tale about government run amok, instead, they say “Oh, it will never happen here.”

Even worse, they point to faults of our own, such as slavery, and claim that therefore we have no right to criticize the Marxists for their "excesses".

Kirk

39 posted on 06/14/2009 7:59:02 AM PDT by woodnboats (Help stimulate the economy: Buy guns NOW, while you still can!)
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To: Billthedrill
Excellent post Billthedrill.

This paragraph is noteworthy...

And it is a fundamental error. For example, every time a gun control zealot sneers, “Why do you need a firearm?” he or she is trying to force a faulty premise, that the determinative factor in the sanctity of one’s personal possessions is some else’s perception of need.

I would suggest, for use in an actual conversation, an answer of "why do you need to ask?"


But in any case Dagny isn’t eager to leave the confines of this fascinating place and the company of this fascinating man. She’s in it for a month, that same set of dates that circumscribes the annual vacations of the founders.

Dagny's stay would have occurred even if Galt had not been present. I recall how she spent time in her youth working at a remote train station in order to learn how the business operated. She may, at first, consider it an opportunity to 'know your enemy'. As readers we want to think otherwise due to having knowledge of what is coming but at this point, she is in the midst of the destroyers.


These two sentences viewed together...

What is greed, after all, but the desire for more of something than one needs?
and
The debasement of art in our age is that it no longer seeks truth, but celebrity.

...Seem at first to be similar and upon further thought I see that “needs as measured by whom?”turns the whole idea into a pretzel. If an artist creates art, is it really art if it isn't experienced by others, thus an artist 'needs' others? Would an artist be greedy if they create art for enjoyment of others? Is a mere thought in an artists mind art before it is made into something to be experienced by others? Your post has made me consider the needs aspect beyond the monetary association. It will take time to unwind this pretzel.

40 posted on 06/14/2009 8:41:47 AM PDT by whodathunkit (Shrugging as I leave for the Gulch)
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To: Taxman
Obozo seems to be following the LIEberal/Socialist/Marxist playbook quickly and with no little success, at this juncture.

Last Spring, I was rooting for Obama to beat Hillary in the Primaries, because I figured that SHE was the one that would come in with guns blazing and turn us into a Socialist State. I thought that he was too much of a green-horn to be able to do much at all. I imagined that he would just keep the status quo going. Geez, was I wrong!

41 posted on 06/14/2009 11:56:20 AM PDT by Explorer89 (Could you direct me to the Coachella Valley, and the carrot festival, therein?)
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To: Explorer89

Actually, I firmly believe that if Hitlery were President, we’d be in much worse shape.

What we have to do is slow Obozo down, and then ensure that the LIEberal/Socialist/Marxist Bastards (and, some of them are Republican) lose big-time in 2010.

In the meantime, I sure hope there are a large number of smart Conservative thinkers/strategists plotting right now to undo everything Obozo has/is doing to destroy the USA.


42 posted on 06/14/2009 5:19:48 PM PDT by Taxman (So that the beautiful pressure does not diminish!)
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To: Taxman
My post from the state board on Oregon's passage two days ago of the "success tax":

No doubt, plenty of big government spenders & regulators all the way from the statist in chief down to dogcatcher. Charged with the mission of expanding their power base no matter what.

And y’know it goes back to the roots of the modern conservative movement in the immediate post-LBJ era. While the socialist left is ever expansive, the Republican answer for the 40+ years of the movement has been only to slow it. So at the core of the platform remains expansion of government. The last 12 years or so makes that clear enough.

I have been yelling at the television for 30 years, and especially the ‘93-’06 period when Republicans held significant power, that 99% of what they accomplish is borrowing or taxing to pay for pure unadulterated crap.

Ike was in the WH when I was born, and Reagan is the best man we’ve had there in my lifetime, but he shouldn’t have accepted even 25% of what he signed into law. That’s the bottom line </rant>.

So looking forward, I remain seeking honest devolution of government to it’s constitutional powers, and the expansion of personal opportunity that would naturally bring.

Who in the Republican (or any) party is running on that platform?

Not arguing for a Randian "Utopia of Greed" in the literal sense. Indeed, her writing seems to display an ignorance of our constitution, the enumerated powers, and the reasons we allow the government to have them - and simply argues her personal philosophy in a vacuum as a magical end to all that is wrong with society and government.

We know one size doesn't fit all or even most. Reading this book it's not evident that she does. It displays many of the problems we face today with remarkable foresight, but offers nothing to solve them that would actually work.

43 posted on 06/14/2009 8:27:58 PM PDT by Clinging Bitterly (He must fail.)
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To: r-q-tek86
Part III, Chapter III: Anti-Greed
44 posted on 08/14/2009 5:37:39 PM PDT by r-q-tek86 ("A building has integrity just like a man. And just as seldom." - Ayn Rand)
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