Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, The Concerto of Deliverance
Posted on 07/11/2009 7:43:38 AM PDT by Publius
The union at Rearden Steel demands a raise without bothering to ask Hank, and the impetus comes from the new workers inserted by the Unification Board and spotted by the Wet Nurse. The Unification Board rejects the raise petition, but the Mainstream Media runs stories in favor of the union and against Hank. Then the workers attack managers and disable critical equipment. The IRS attaches Hanks assets due to a delinquency in paying income taxes that had never occurred. A bureaucrat calls Hank to apologize, claiming it was all a mistake. Then Tinky Holloway calls and asks Hank to attend an evening meeting in New York. Hank agrees to attend although Holloways insistence on a specific time has his guard up.
Holloway and Claude Slagenhop are working on intelligence provided by Philip Rearden, who is afraid that if Holloway pulls off a power play, Hank will desert. That would mean that Philip cant inherit the mills; they will be confiscated.
At home Hank takes a call from his mother; she wants to meet with him at his old home. Present are his mother, Philip and Lillian. They are there to beg for forgiveness and mercy; the money they have isnt enough to live on since Hanks assets were attached. Hank doesnt care. He perceives that his family is terrified that he will desert and that the government will come after them. Philip tells Hank that he cant desert without money and a piece of the puzzle falls into place. So that was what the attachment order was about! And his family were to be hostages! Enraged, Lillian tells Hank that she was bedded by Jim Taggart; she pauses in her tirade as Hank watches her deflate. Hank tells them he could have forgiven them had they urged him to desert.
Hank arrives at the Wayne-Falkland suite that had previously been occupied by Francisco. Present are Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, Jim Taggart, Dr. Floyd Ferris and Tinky Holloway. They want to know what policies Hank wants changed while Lawson checks his watch frequently. They have a plan that will give Hank a five percent price increase for steel; this will ripple on to price increases elsewhere. But there will be no pay raises. Jim tells Hank about the success of the Rail Unification Plan, and Mouch tells Hank there is now going to be a Steel Unification Plan. Every operator will be allowed to make as much steel as he can, but revenues will be pooled and distributed by the number of blast furnaces each company possesses. Hank quickly does the math and realizes that this is a plan to bail out Orren Boyle. Eugene Lawson says that its Hanks duty to comply and suffer because Boyle is simply too big to fail. Hank suggests that they junk all their regulations, let Boyle fail and let him buy Boyles assets; they balk. He suggests they simply expropriate his mills, and they recoil in horror. He asks how he can produce if he produces at a loss; Ferris says he will produce because he cant help himself. Jim says that Hank will do something to fix the problem and the last piece fits. Francisco was right he is the guiltiest man in the room because he had accepted the reality that these men had created. Hank walks out.
Hank arrives at his mill to find it on fire and hears gunshots; there is a mob storming the mill, and open war has broken out. Hank turns around to head for the east gate and discovers the Wet Nurse lying wounded in the dirt. Hed tried to stop the rioters; in return, they shot him and dumped him on the slag heap. The riot had been executed from Washington as grounds for introducing the Steel Unification Plan; the meeting in New York had been a decoy. Hank carries the dying Wet Nurse in his arms, but he dies along the way.
Hank enters via the east gate and heads for the infirmary still carrying the dead boy. His loyal employees are winning the war with the rioters, but the front gate is the scene of a major battle. A man on the roof of a building by the gate fires into the crowd and doesnt waste a bullet. Two rioters club Hank to the ground, and someone shoots and kills the attackers; Hank awakes on the couch in his office. The new furnace foreman, Frank Adams, had killed his attackers and was instrumental in organizing the battle for the mill and Frank Adams turns out to be Francisco dAnconia! Francisco now consummates the long-delayed recruitment of Hank Rearden.
Reading John Galts Objectivism Speech
The next chapter contains the long radio speech by John Galt that is Rands philosophical treatise on Objectivism. Its important because Rand regarded it as the centerpiece of her book, but it stops the action absolutely cold and constitutes a huge dead space. There is only one way to properly handle the speech.
A Note on Next Weeks Thread
Thus far, these threads have been posted by myself with Billthedrill coming in later in the day to add his piece. Next Saturday, however, the posted essay will be a joint production of Publius and Billthedrill, many weeks in preparation.
In the first draft of next weeks essay, I thought my discussion questions were difficult, but Billthedrill has sharpened those questions to a razors edge. (I almost cut myself reading them.) Its going to require a lot of thought and work on the part of our book club members. In reading the speech, you might want to take copious notes; youll need them.
I have tremendous faith in our members, and I know youll be up to the challenge.
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
Part III, Chapter I: Atlantis
Part III, Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed
Part III, Chapter III: Anti-Greed
Part III, Chapter IV: Anti-Life
Part III, Chapter V: Their Brothers Keepers
TBTF. It's the new "But it's for the chilllllllrun [whine]"
Thanks for the ping. After watching Ayn Rand in an interview, my estimation of the book has moved up.
This is about saving people with pull.
No, I meant that TBTF in 2009 performs the same role as IFTC has for a few years, a supposedly resistance-proof excuse for their latest exercise in unConstitutional power grabbery and liberty theft.
IOW, in 2009 TBTF is an excuse for something rotten that they want to do without revealing the true reason. In that sense, it’s similar to the AS Boyle bailout.
Obama may be on to something. Stanley Ann Durham's child definitely turned into a huge burden.
Thank you for telling us about the Kohler plant. I’m going to have to look into it.
It’s probably really banal for me to say this, and I don’t know recent American history as well as I should, but the firing of Gerald Walpin seemed violent to me. Also, coercing the GM CEO to step down was pure Chicago thuggery, such as I know it.
Sarah Palin and her family are certainly current victims of this.
“...he is the guiltiest man in the room because he had accepted the reality that these men had created.”
Wow! That can be said of a lot of us today.
Everyone is just accepting the Obama reality, but there are some signs of intelligence stirring. Every chapter is becoming more and more non-fiction! Very scary!
Thanks for the tips! I did some of those intuitively when I tackled that upcoming chapter a few months ago. I may go back and review...got a whole week! : )
Run a search on "Florida East Coast strike" in the early Sixties, and you'll read about trains being blown off the tracks by union members, with their bosses piously blaming the railroad for the violence.
Guilty also, I do not know enough recent history. Wilson was a hero in my American history class, he created the league of nations, but, those evil isolationists stopped his good work. You cannot find anything on Wilson’s bigoted thugocracy except for Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascists.” Rand, living through Wilson could have picked up much of Atlas from Wilson, not discounting Roosevelt.
I am going to guess the start of recent history begins with socialism, trace that and you see where we are headed. Twentieth century socialism’s forms of Fascism, Nazism and Soviet Communism failed, proving that we just did not do socialism right, so now we will get it right with ZerOism.
Down to brass tacks now for Hank Reardon in chapter 26, The Concerto of Deliverance, a reference to Richard Halleys Fifth, the theme of which opened the novel, whistled by a young brakeman on one of Taggart Transcontinentals trains. We know now where that young fellow ended up. Hank and Dagny, on the contrary, are still fighting a losing battle out in the real world and so is John Galt himself. Francisco has disappeared, presumably digging copper ore out of the side of a mountain in Colorado with a pick and shovel. He can do that; he can design an ultramodern smelter, he can run an enormous multinational firm, but the looters can do none of those things, and its starting to bite.
Hank has been given more than fair warning, no doubt about it. And now the mechanism of government takeover has begun to chew at his steel mills, the only productive ones left in the country and hence the ones most likely to be expropriated by a political class that still feels it is the material resources, and not the men, who create the wealth that will keep their game afloat.
It works through the goons who have infiltrated his plant, the ones the Wet Nurse stoutly refused to help import. An agitprop campaign against The Wealthy in the media has attempted to rally popular support for an end to the exploitation of labor at the Rearden facilities, such as it is. In truth the only labor that is actually producing anything there is firmly on Reardens side, but they have no microphone, no paid media shills, no voice.
Nor is it only his mills the looters are moving on. They attach his income, his savings, his assets on a pretext and then tell him theyll release it in time. Hank chuckles.
He had a few hundred dollars in cash, left in his wallet, nothing else. But the odd, glowing warmth in his mind, like the feel of a distant handshake, was the thought that in a secret safe of his bedroom there lay a bar of solid gold, given to him by a gold-haired pirate.
Theyre moving on Hank himself, and its he, and not his assets, that theyre hoping to freeze. His family is hostage, helpless even to purchase groceries without his signature. Brother Philips motives for seeking work at the mill are finally revealed he is trying to keep an eye on Hank for the government, as we suspected all along. His ex-wife Lillian has taken refuge with them in his own house, having nowhere else to go, her last value to the ruling class having disappeared in divorce. They speak in terms of starvation, of utter destitution. (One wonders what happened to the diamond bracelet Lillian got from Dagny for the chain of Rearden metal, but it is apparent that these people are not even capable of that sort of asset management).
We have questioned Rands understanding of her own heroes, which is a backhanded tribute to her power as a novelist. That wouldnt be possible if her characters werent drawn finely enough to be able to measure their observed behavior against Rands theoretical explanation of it. We cannot question her supreme understanding of her villains. This, for instance, concerning Lillian:
The lust that drives others to enslave an empire, had become, in her limits, a passion for power over him. She had set out to break him, as if, unable to equal his value, she could surpass it by destroying it, as if the measure of his greatness would thus become the measure of hers, as if he thought with a shudder as if the vandal who smashed a statue were greater than the artist who had made it
She set out to break Hank like a horse she intended to ride, just as the looters imagine all of society to be, a powerful but brute animal saddled for guidance by the clever. Theyre in charge because theyre clever, and the measure of that cleverness is the fact that theyre in charge. Its a nice, tidy, self-consistent world view untroubled by circularity, or, for that matter, by results. The media can spin results, after all, at least for a time, but they cant spin facts as fundamental as an empty granary.
Hank is summoned to a meeting at which absolutely nothing of substance is said except for his frank denial to play the game. He wonders at the uselessness of the whole thing until he arrives back at his steel plant to find it under siege. Union goons and government agents are attempting a takeover and it is being resisted by force of arms. We have come to the shooting at last.
And the first shot was into the body of the Wet Nurse, who was unceremoniously dumped onto a slag heap by the invaders. He wasnt quite finished, however, and Rearden finds him after he has dragged himself some one hundred vertical feet to the edge of a ravine near the roadway.
A scum of cotton was swimming against the moon, he could see the white of a hand and the shape of an arm lying stretched in the weeds, but the body was still
It might actually have been better to remain that way, for over the course of the next four pages we are treated to the bathos of an operatic death scene. The young man is at last conferred the dignity of a name it is Tony and a kiss from the belatedly paternal Rearden as he breathes his last. We are spared an aria but thats about all. Yes, of course the young man has achieved his moral epiphany but we knew that two chapters ago. He is, as Cherryl Taggart before him, an innocent playing a game far beyond his capacity, who pays for it with his life.
And the game is afoot. Gunfire in the background reminds us that we are at war, and as he drops the cooling corpse off at the dispensary Hank spies the lynchpin of the factorys defense.
On the roof of a structure above the gate, he saw, as he came closer, the slim silhouette of a man who held a gun in each hand and, from behind the protection of a chimney, kept firing at intervals down into the mob, firing swiftly and, it seemed, in two directions at once, like a sentinel protecting the approaches to the gate. The confident skill of his movements, his manner of firing, with no time wasted to take aim, but with the kind of casual abruptness that never misses a target, made him look like a hero of Western legend
We wince. Rand, who has taken the trouble to inform herself of the minutiae of railroad and steel plant, is on considerably less firm ground with regard to firearms, unfortunately, and this wont be the only time. While it is conceivable that two-gun heroes of the silver screen might attempt to hipshoot from an elevated position into an oncoming mob in two separate directions at once it is not recommended combat procedure. Even an infallible paragon of accuracy must encounter the inconvenient necessity to reload, a two-handed process which in real life tends to happen at the most awkward moments.
But this fellow, whoever he is, is also good enough to intercept a direct attempt on Reardens life some moments later and carry him from the fray.
Who was it that saved my life? Somebody grabbed me as I fell and fired at the thugs.
Did he! Straight at their faces. Blew their heads off. That was that new furnace foreman of ours. Been here two months. Best man Ive ever had. Hes the one who got wise to what the gravy boys were planning Told me to arm our men Frank Adams is his name who organized our defense, ran the whole battle, and stood on a roof, picking off the scum who came too close to the gate. Boy, what a marksman!
Frank Adams. Francisco dAnconia, of course, and we learn here that in fact he did not spend the intervening time making the unoffending Colorado mountainside pay for his sexual frustrations at the point of a pick and shovel, but instead sought out the man he described as his greatest conquest. And so Hank is, as at last they sit down for the conversation that is the final one that all of the other industrial magnates had before they disappeared into the protective rustic arms of Galts Gulch.
All but one, that is. Dagny is still out there.
Have a great week, Publius!
Recent history has the “protesters” showing up at the homes of AIG execs. If memory serves, while the so-called protesters weren’t necessarily coordinated out of the White House, they might as well have been, because Acorn was the hand behind the people brought in.
While there was no violence at these protests, there very well could have been, due to the rhetoric coming from the President.
This is the root of the dimocrats philosophy. Every leader on the left is portrayed as being very intelligent and every leader on the right portrayed as a simple boob. We have seen it in the attacks on Sarah and GWB, but it goes back to Reagan and probably beyond.
I've had lib friends tell me that they trust government because they are the best and brightest and know what is best. I continue to pound my head on that wall and try to convince them that these people are only in it for the power, but it is impossible to argue logic with illogical people.
A couple of years ago I had a conversation about Unions with someone who is a very smart engineer and conservative.
Yet, even he had bought into the canard that Unions were necessary, at one time, due to employer malfeasance.
I pointed out the labor problems were exacerbated because government was openly in bed with business. That a lot of the labor violence came about, because government allowed businesses to hire strike breakers, who were nothing more than thugs.
One of the best parts of the home scene was Lillian begging Hank to use his signature to buy goods so the household wouldn’t starve.
Hank refused, due to his morals. Hank couldn’t ask for credit because he was unsure if he’d ever be able to repay what he borrowed.
That particular scene left a deep impression on me.
“He suggests they simply expropriate his mills, and they recoil in horror. He asks how he can produce if he produces at a loss; Ferris says he will produce because he cant help himself. Jim says that Hank will do something to fix the problem and the last piece fits. Francisco was right he is the guiltiest man in the room because he had accepted the reality that these men had created.”
My co-workers (colleagues and management) are fully aware of my world view as I make no effort to hide it (monogamous heterosexual evangelical Christian). I dont smack them in the face with sanctimonious ravings, but they have no doubt where I stand. As for my work product, they are counting on the fact that I simply cannot coast; I have be engaged and productive even if they do not value my contributions I will continue to produce as they withdraw their support.
But more interesting is their behavior regarding things outside my work product. They think of me (and have told me to my face) that my orthodox Christianity is creepy and intolerant, and that anyone who does not abide by an existentialist, hedonistic lifestyle or is a Darwin skeptic is retarded. Yet I have encountered numerous instances when one of them softly knocks on my office door, asking to come in and receive my counsel when they need someone honest and genuinely caring to listen and help them solve a problem in their lives.
Further, my coworkers know that I am a 2nd Amendment absolutist, I own and shoot guns, and even worse, Im a preparedness end of the world nut!
Here comes the truly fascinating part: they expect my own faith and honor to be their ace in the hole! Of course my preparations for coming hard times is nutty and proof of my paranoia. But, they have also made it known (quietly) that when the Schumer Hits the Fan, they will come to my house and expect me to take them in and care for them because in their demented minds how could I do anything else as a Christian ? Implicit is their idea that You have to do the right thing. Your beliefs command you to take care of me.
Wow, are they in for a surprise. As I told one of them, “So you ridicule my beliefs even as you expect them to cause me to bail your behind out?”
I remember being at a Winter Party (pagans do not celebrate Christmas and have no difficulty insulting or offending those who do) in December 1999. One of the higher-ups breezed into the room and invaded my conversational group, kvetching about Y2K. She asked me if I was ready. Since as a matter of practice we have a freezer and larder full of food, my generator is in working order with a good supply of fuel, and my security devices are nearby and ready to employ, sure I was ready for a couple months if necessary.
Oh, if things get really bad, can I come to your house? she asked breathlessly.
Sweetly I replied that if she was unprepared for disruption, she would be on her own out in the street with everyone else.
I suspect the look on her face was similar to that on the looters in the Wayne Falkland Hotel that evening with Hank.
There was a labor confernce recently where SEIU crashed the gate and attacked the attendees. People were injured and one person suffered a heart attack. And this was against their “union bretheran”! The local county home care workers held an election here in Fresno to decide if SEIU or a breakaway union would reperesent the workers. There were accusations of intimidation and threats of violence made by SEIU against workers.
Your mistake is in letting people who you have no intention of saving from their own stupidity know you have adequate SHTF resources. Loose lips sink ships. It’s best to let them think you’ll be just as up a creek as them. It’ll be bad enough to help your loved ones out.
This is again an example of the trap Rand set for herself. Of all the industries taken over by government, steel is treated as the first one in which physical violence was needed. Considering the animosity expressed by Jeff Allen, the tramp from Twentieth Century Motors, one expects some serious violence in such a situation. Greed was the motive for the Starnes’ actions. They suffered no losses when they wrecked the wages of their employees. Iris Starnes, in particular, got to personally destroy anyone she didn’t like, which was everyone.
So where were the riots? Rearden suspects that something strange is happening when he is confronted by his family and by the various looters, but he can’t see what it is. This is hard to believe. With all of the companies and industries that failed around the world, no one expressed his anger with violence after a Paul Larkin ended thier careers.
Rand also demonstrates that while she spent plenty of hours researching steel and railroads, she learned whatever she knew about firearms from watching silly cowboy movies. Francisco D’Anconia seems not to have mastered rifles. Odd.
The story in this part is the predictable outcome of the events. Rand is using the characters she created to illustrate between good intentions and Hell. Her focus is on a single story arc, which defines good story telling, but it opens itself to criticism for the appearance of deus ex machina.
Exactly. My dad, while not exactly a government-o-phile, thinks that business will screw everyone all the time if not adequately regulated, and that government should be regulating them more, but are too corrupt to do so (I guess you could call this the "RIAA Paradigm"). I ask him if it makes sense to him that people in government, many of whom have never worked in a given industry, would be the most likely to make the best decisions about how that industry should be run, but I don't seem to be making any headway. I mean, if you were really good at something, wouldn't you go do that thing, rather than look for a position where you have to try to tell others less talented and intelligent than yourself, how to do it??? If I were in a position like that I'd be bald in a day, and quit in frustrated rage in a week.
Thanks for all the work on these threads.
Thanks for all your work on these threads!
I was driving south on I-95 this afternoon between Savannah and Brunswick, GA (didn’t note the mile marker, unfortunately), and saw a very visible billboard asking this question:
“WHO IS JOHN GALT?”
There were no other words visible on the billboard.
Offhand, I’d say that the word is getting out.
Relatively speaking, it won’t be long now before the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress pi$$ off enough people to force a “shift,” shall we say, in the direction of the US government.
Obozo is at -8 on the approval/disapproval scale now. I wonder what the tipping point will be?
I cannardly wait! For the tipping point, that is.
It will be interesting!
Wish you had a camera with you for that billboard!
A glaring parallel with Jim Taggert's outburst with the violent destruction of an antique vase (the value of which could have fed a family for a year) in the previous chapter is enlightening. Jim and Lillian are mental twins.
Oh, nice observation! I wouldn’t steal it, of course, but that Publius feller, why, you never know... ;-)
This is a concrete action by Rearden that demonstrates Rands 'check your premises' advice. I am aware there are many other such instances in the book but this one stands out in my opinion. Perhaps because it took him such a long time to come to the realization of his true situation.
Thanks for bringing this up as a topic of discussion. It begs a deeper question that has bothered me from the beginning of the novel.
Rand seems to imply that only the top producers are capable of 'finding a way' to produce under adverse circumstances. From my observations, this is way off the mark, there are many people who, while not being a top producer, will find a way to be productive in an adverse environment.
The importance of this is most obvious when viewing the world of Atlas Shrugged with our present world conjointly.
The meeting in which this conversation takes place is toward the end of a long destructive feeding frenzy hosted by the looters. There are few crumbs left (not that Rearden is a crumb, mind you :) and Rearden is one of the last to be targeted. In our world, however, the people who can be productive in adverse situations is seemingly unlimited. This changes the dynamics and the toughest crumbs will never be sought out. There are far too many easy targets. Though I agree with Rands take on 'the guiltiest man in the room' idea, I submit that those who would provide sustenance to the Looters are 'the guiltiest people in the nation'. As to the problem of the latter group having a simultaneous epiphany, well, it just won't happen.
Went by so fast I didn’t have a chance. Next time, I’ll get a picture.
Ruby Ridge, Waco, MOVE in Philadelphia, and recent headlines read - 'More than 400 children have been rescued from a polygamist sect on a remote Texas ranch'.
While not necessarily complicit, the willingness of some law enforcement to endanger entire families in order to go after criminals is obvious. No knock warrants undeniably endanger immediate family members.
Is the movie scheduled to come out soon? This is exactly how Hollywood would hype a movie in advance.
(Private FReepmail on the way to whodathunkit.)
On that note, we can look at history. Even in harsh systems with slavery, humans built the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Notre Dame. How did it work? IMHO, it worked because people still believed in a God or Gods, in allegiance to a King (who was God on Earth). In other words, there was some motivation for them to continue. Those who design such creations, were often members of a noble class, thus they had greater freedom.
What I think Rand is describing the world of the old Soviet Union, or China during Mao. Or the more modern society of North Korea. In those times, the "Group" was all, and those societies produced nothing that they didn't steal first.
What Rand is saying is that when the "People" become predominant in a person's mind, the motivation of the human spirit dies. The drive to be creative is squashed by the overwhelming power of the group mind. You will do as you are told and what has been planned for you. As this death of motivation spreads, all progress will stop.
This is the danger our current society faces. From our leaders (you know the names) who extol us to "give back to the community", who plan how to control every aspect of your life from what temperature you can keep your home to what food you are allowed to eat, to when you allowed to have children. Progress may not stop entirely, but it could slow to an imperceptible level. A new Dark Age is never out of the question. That is what Rand is warning us about.
I agree that...
Our real world will never follow AS exactly, but parts might.
There are many people commenting on the similarities of AS with current events. I find myself trying to discover a practicable solution in Rand's writing but so far I have come up short. The only option I can see so far is to practice Objectivism on a personal level and demonstrate to others that it is possible to live an enjoyable, moral life.
Progress may not stop entirely, but it could slow to an imperceptible level. A new Dark Age is never out of the question. That is what Rand is warning us about.
Again I agree, that is why I wanted to compare AS with the real world. For us, unfortunately, there is no end in sight, be it Looters or Gulchers, just a never ending slug fest. I fear we will easily go beyond 1100 pages!
We see this happening in banana republics regularly. Zimbabwe & Venezuela come to mind most quickly. Leftists simply cannot comprehend the concept that a nations wealth comes only partially from the natural resources. The second piece of the puzzle is the people who manage what resources they have at their disposal. No, they seize the resources, run out the successful people who they don't outright kill, then divid the spoils to their supporters. But the supporters didn't work for the wealth, didn't develop it, don't appreciate the value of it, and so they squander it.
At this point, they had been married for 10 years. I could easily see Lillian, being the manipulative creature she is, likely would have let herself get pregnant as another means of control on Hank. Being wealthy, she knows or anticipates she doesn't have to deal with the nasty realities of runny noses or little bottoms.
But Hank is the real issue: would he have left? Would he have taken the child with him? In the real world, I'm pretty confident Hank would take the child with him. I can't see even the character of Hank Reardon of AS leaving his child behind to face destitution and starvation, esp since the child would be very young (< 10 yo). IMHO, Rand doesn't deal with the issue of children because a) her characters are ideal people, and she wants to focus on them. b) she had no real world experience herself and couldn't fit it into her philosophy. Which is too bad. How she would have dealt with the unearned, unconditional love, of a parent for their child would be interesting.
We brought it up in the discussion of Galt's Gulch (Chapter 22?) - one of the speakers is very specific that children and family aren't invited along, and we recall that Galt's first boss, the engineer at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, took his annual month there without his wife until he died. And yet there were two children in the Gulch, two little boys far too young to have acceded to the social contract that was Galt's oath, or even to have understood it. Were Hank in extremis maybe the kid, if he wasn't a little monster spoiled by public education into thinking that he was (as a Rearden scion) entitled to the world, might have been admitted. Or Rearden would find somewhere else. It isn't as if the Gulch is the only safe haven.
Could Hank have abandoned him? We're getting into spoiler territory here; suffice it to say that some of Rand's main characters seem to make more of an effort to protect their subordinates and dependents than do others, when at last their shoulders shrug. Whether a child would have come under that category is difficult to say.
One complication within Objectivist theory is that it presupposes independence on the part of persons who intend to follow its precepts. Children are a difficulty and an exception - Rand said so herself outside the novel - but what I envision is a sort of Heinlein-like moment at which the young person may either elect to become a citizen by invoking the Oath or...well, that's a difficulty. Live somewhere else? Accept some sort of non-citizen dependency such as a slave in ancient Greece? Starve? Suicide? The individual's freedom of choice there is limited by those choices available, and unless others are silly enough willingly to submit to the yoke of socialism that option might not be available. OTOH, judging by current society there might be no shortage of such earnest sheep. Best of luck to them, as long as it isn't on my back.
The Utopia of Greed
'The recaptured sense of her own childhood kept coming back to her whenever she met the two sons of the young woman who owned the bakery shop. She often saw them wandering down the trails of the valley - two fearless beings, aged seven and four.'
..."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 strikers oath by his own independent conviction... ...I came here to bring up my sons as human beings."
Seven and four, well within the timeline of the valley. Running her bakery was not the only thing she was doing.
As a contrast to the Bakers story, the testimony of the tramp to Dagny -
"...Now, if a baby was born we didn't speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts are to farmers."
Since the Starnes choice was the antithesis of the Gulchers I think that children were indeed welcome in the valley. Those who had been corrupted through exposure to the outside world would have had to wait until they were able to make the choice on their own. Naturally occurring births and deaths along with disability are rare in Atlas Shrugged, possibly in an attempt to keep the novel at a reasonable length :-)