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FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, This is John Galt Speaking
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 18 July 2009 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 07/18/2009 7:32:31 AM PDT by Publius

Part III: A is A

Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”

Synopsis

A sleeping Dagny is awakened by Jim, who barges in with terrifying news. Having had his fill with the attempted takeover of his steel mill by murderous thugs, Hank has disappeared, taking his top people with him. In Jim Taggart’s panicked opinion, it is desertion, a fatal blow to the country’s morale, or at least to the ability of the ruling class to maintain control, which to him is one and the same. We know where Rearden has gone, and so does Dagny, who will not move to bring him back.

The Mainstream Media take a series of positions, all obviously directed by the government. First they declare Hank to be a traitor. Then they say that the loss of one person is unimportant because the individual is of no significance to society. Then the party line changes to Hank dying in a car crash.

A week after Hank’s disappearance, Dagny receives a letter with no return address mailed from a small town in Colorado. It is from Hank.

I have met him. I don’t blame you. H.R.

The reference is to Galt, of course. Dagny has avoided the terminal tunnels, but her examination of the payroll records shows that John Galt has in fact been working under her very nose for the past twelve years. She sees his home address in the records and struggles not to go to him. His presence in the tunnels had been her motor through those days, just as his presence in the city had been her motor through the months of that summer, just as his presence somewhere in the world had been her motor through the years before she ever heard his name. Now she feels as if her motor, too, has stopped.

America has degenerated into anarchy with each rebellion ending only in further destruction. Trains are attacked in four western states. There are rebellions where local officials are overthrown and tax collectors are murdered. There are warlords, chaos. States secede and collectivize everything in sight, only to fail within a week, and the Army has hardly been forced to fire a shot to restore order. The media refuse to report any of it. Orren Boyle suffers a nervous breakdown and goes into seclusion.

The only thing that can save them now is – a radio broadcast? Even if the Powers That Be no longer control the country, they do control the media, and it’s the best shot they have. Head of State Thompson decides to address the nation. Every radio and TV station and poster in America advises the people to listen to this most important speech on the national crisis.

Jim tells Dagny that Thompson wants her to go to the New York studio to attend a conference that will precede his speech. For the third time in the book, Dagny’s presence is commanded, this time accompanied by a large police officer to act as her “bodyguard.” Dagny, with Eddie and Jim in attendance, goes to the studio where she sees Thompson, Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, Chick Morrison, Tinky Holloway, Dr. Floyd Ferris, Dr. Simon Pritchett, Emma Chalmers, Fred Kinnan, Mr. Mowen and Dr. Robert Stadler. The old academic’s face now reflects his history, seamed with guilt that has congealed into hatred. In fact there is no conference. As the radio plays military marches, the attendees take their places for a propaganda photo to show the solidarity of science, business, labor and industry behind the government. Dagny tells Thompson she will not participate in this farce. They are at least bright enough not to stick a microphone in her face again.

A technician informs the men that something has gone horribly wrong; they are off the air all over the country. They are being jammed, and he can’t identify the source.

Precisely at 8 PM, the voice of John Galt takes over the nation’s airwaves as he begins The Speech. Dagny recognizes the voice, and so does a horrified Eddie Willers – he knows that voice all too well from his meals in the Taggart corporate cafeteria.

“For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking…I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing, I am the man who will now tell you.”

The Speech

We and the listening country -- Thompson, like our own detestable autocrats, has pre-empted regular programming -- are now the rapt audience for a 60 page rant against the sitting government and a disquisition on a new moral philosophy. It is decidedly not the general run of evening entertainment, and if the country had, as is likely, responded with a collective turn of the power switch, the novel would have ended rather abruptly. It did not, possibly out of curiosity, possibly out of desperation, possibly because there wasn’t a beer and a good book within handy reach. In any case, it is time to consider the contents of the speech.

It is certainly an odd thing to pop up in the middle of a novel, a gigantic boulder against which the dramatic flow breaks and ebbs, an enormous pothole into which the little train of the narrative descends with a crash, a joyless, aggravating, self-righteous, angry denunciation wherein the speaker informs his audience that it is starving because it is unworthy of his standards. We should forgive a station engineer for reaching in desperation for a re-run of “Hollywood Squares”.

It is also, however, a statement of first principles and an ethical manifesto. It is, at last, Galt’s turn before the proscenium. He’s waited long enough.

We are grateful to Dr. David Kelley for his invaluable outline of the speech, available for perusal on the Objectivist Center website (www.objectivistcenter.org). It is, frankly, not an easy thing to find the structure, and if certain critics have treated it as a stream-of-consciousness blast against the status quo, it isn’t entirely unjustified. That is not to say that Rand simply tossed it off in a single evening of passionate writing – far from it, she originally budgeted three months for the construction of Galt’s speech and it ended up taking her two years. That is an awfully long time in which to produce 60 pages of text, and the result is tight enough to offer considerable resistance to being pulled apart into its constituent components.

Galt speaks about moralities – what he terms the Morality of Death, which is, under various descriptions and interpretations, the moral code, ages old, that has led the country to disaster; the Morality of Life, which is that of free men and women interacting in transaction, value for given value, an approach that is equally old but has been ruthlessly suppressed for reasons that Galt will detail; and at last What Is To Come, life under a new moral code that will provide the structure under which the phoenix will rise from the ashes of a shattered and ruined society.

Each of these is worthy subject matter for an analysis far more reaching than the limitations of this medium will allow, and so we will not attempt any categorical criticism of the philosophy behind it but attempt to stick to principal themes and try to pin them to the shoulders of the giants that Rand disdained to stand upon. As we have complained in the past, none of these things, either the principles or the difficulties, are unprecedented in the annals of Western philosophy, and as one might expect, Rand is led down a few false paths in her machete-work through the jungle in search of a clearing.

It’s a manifesto, to begin with. Karl Marx began his with “A specter is haunting Europe,” and the specter that is haunting America in Atlas Shrugged is along those same lines: starvation, exploitation, a breakdown of a societal model that has run its course, those in charge of it having subverted it to their own ends and now clutching at the disintegrating fabric with an iron hand. And from its wreckage a new one is to be born, predicated on new moral propositions, a new ideology. Rand is not a conservative in any real sense, she is a revolutionary, utopian radical and the difference between her and Marx and Engels, whom she despised, is the nature of the moral code that is to build her new society. Let us first examine the Morality of Life.

The Morality of Life

Galt presents the foundational philosophical propositions for this moral code. These, as we have seen in the titles of the main sections of Atlas Shrugged, are taken from Aristotle: non-contradiction, the exclusion of the middle (“either-or”), and identity (“A is A”). Rand’s philosophical foundation rests on an objective reality, a “something” that is out there and that it is the function of man’s mind to apprehend. “Existence exists,” is her pungent summation. In fact, Leonard Peikoff stated that she would have preferred “existentialism” to “objectivism” as a descriptive term but that it was “already taken.” Rand’s moral code, then, rests on the propositions that (1) there is something independent of man’s existence that it is the function of his mind to apprehend and order, and that (2) it is reason that is the specific function of the mind that offers a provable, consensual view of the universe, and that (3) the rules of relations between people – morality – depend on an agreement on facts that is only attainable by reason; morality is therefore dependent on man’s mind, and that any system that denies that mind is either falsely moral or openly immoral.

Galt states, “You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social,” i.e., Church and State, respectively, and his is a third way, Reason. Each of the two former is based on the concept of sacrifice, the notion that an individual life is not only measurable merely in the context of its relation with God or fellow men, but necessarily subordinate to them and ultimately to be discarded in their favor. That it is to be discarded at all – sacrificed – is the proposition Rand challenges.

A moment for an important point – it is, in theory, the God of Adam or the god of Marx, the Collective, that makes this demand, but in fact it is men who make that demand in their names, and in doing so spread the corruption that has plagued the world. The underlying morality is of Death, and its proponents are murderers.

Underneath this flow of verbiage is an attempt to reprise a good deal of Western philosophy, and the result is dense enough to make for difficult reading. Rand’s definitions now pelt us like hail, terms are tossed about like straws in a tornado -- and are just about as easy to catch -- and the real-world reader becomes as impatient as the fictional radio listener must have been. Within the short space of ten pages we are told that reason, purpose and self-esteem are three fundamental values that imply the virtues of rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride. All of these abstractions are so heavily dependent on definition that they become nonsense in its absence and obsessive in its presence. What, for example, are we to make of such over-polished gems as ”the law of causality is the law of identity applied to action”? That sort of thing is more at home in a graduate philosophical seminar than on a radio broadcast to a seething nation.

There are two classic requirements of any logical system – first, that it is self-consistent or free of internal contradiction; and second, that it succeeds in mapping its logical propositions to observed reality, that it fits the evidence. Rand’s ethical system here is long on internal consistency, and depends strictly on her narrative to represent its mapping to the real world; that is the consequence of attempting to present a philosophy in novel form. What is most fascinating about Atlas Shrugged is that there are times when the narrative, finely developed as it is, isn’t particularly cooperative. It is no act of postmodern textual deconstruction, but of simple observation, to point out once more that there is a distinct tension between narrative and philosophical system, and that any serious consideration of Rand’s opus either must resolve these or conclude that by her own standards that one or the other of these, her premises, is in error.

We will delve a little deeper into the Morality of Life when we come to consider Galt’s way forward out of all of this mess. Let us now consider his characterization of the morality that gave rise to the Twentieth Century Motor Company debacle and to the looters rioting at Rearden’s gates: the Morality of Death.

The Morality of Death

This consists of two parts, which we shall consider separately – that of the social, the State, and that of the mystical, the Church, exemplified by Marxist socialism and Christian theology respectively. In brief we suggest that her understanding of the former was exquisitely precise, both from theoretical study and up-close observation of a Marxist revolution; and that her appreciation of the latter is somewhat less so for similar reasons, lack of close observation. Let us attempt to show why.

”…there are two kinds of teachers of the Morality of Death: the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle ... The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he beyond man’s power to conceive – definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society – a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself. Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God. Man’s mind, say the mystics of muscle, must be subordinated to the will of Society.”

The Mystics of Muscle

Galt’s, and Rand’s, objections to the socialist approach are illustrated in the story of the Twentieth Century Motor Company’s fall from a state of capitalist grace to the depths of envy-soaked socialist hell, through the precept of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” a precept that even practicing Marxists gave up after Lenin nearly lost control of the nascent Soviet Union by attempting its practice. As we have cited elsewhere, Trotsky evaded the issue by explaining that the people simply weren’t ready for that yet, not in an advanced enough state of class consciousness, his form of a state of grace. That would require a New Soviet Man, raised in a state of superior education toward class consciousness. It is a signature problem of utopian systems, Plato’s to Marx’s, and Rand’s itself is no exception: the system turns out to be a fairyland that may only be populated by fairies, the existence of either being contingent on the existence of the other. We may wish to recall this stipulation when we come to consider the world as Galt’s Gulch writ large.

The moral foundation of collectivism means this to Galt:

”…your code hands out, as its version of the absolute, the following rule of moral conduct: If you wish it, it’s evil; of others wish it, it’s good…this double-jointed, double-standard morality…splits mankind into two enemy camps: one is you, the other is all the rest of humanity. You are the only outcast who has no right to wish or live. You are the only servant, the rest are the masters, you are the only giver, the rest are the takers, you are the eternal debtor, the rest are the creditors never to be paid off. Their right is conferred upon them by a negative, by the fact that they are non-you.”

The answer of the classical socialist, that it’s all right because everyone is in this position, does not resolve the objection at all. It is in this sense that collectivism cannot allow the individual; Rand is very clear and very persuasive on this point. She is a radical individualist. The demand on the part of others that one live one’s life for their benefit does, in every final analysis, demand the death of the individual, and that is why Rand thunderously rejects it.

And, in practice, the Collective, the State, always turns out to be an abstract concept populated by concrete individuals – the elite, the cadre, the New Class – who are in it for themselves despite whatever rhetoric they employ to the contrary. So it was at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, so it is under socialism – the individual does not die, he simply becomes crippled, paranoid, petty, and eventually destructive of everyone’s interests including his own. He does not die; he simply turns into something contemptible.

”A morality that holds need as a claim, holds emptiness – non-existence – as its standard of value; it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness, inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster, the lack, the fault, the flaw – the zero.”

The less than zero, technically, although we’ll cede Rand the point. It is the social manifestation of the Morality of Death. Let us now examine the second one, the Church, or rather Rand’s conception of it.

The Mystics of Spirit

Rand was a celebrated atheist, having set the terms of reality such that to be considered real, any of its manifestations, whether a pebble or God, must be observable by multiple individuals and logically testable in the sense that the earlier Logical Positivists had termed “falsifiability”. God fails to meet these standards. As someone positing that the highest standard of life is an individual’s own reason, this for Rand was conclusive. That there might be tests outside reason was an argument she spent a great deal of energy refuting – true or not, it led to observable abuses that meant that the manipulative non-producers, the clergy, could deny reason altogether and consolidate power in the pursuit of the mystical. It was her conception of the Church. In some important respects it was John Calvin’s as well: that its undeniable spiritual virtues had been subordinated to the demands of temporal power by men unworthy of them. It is Calvin’s view of Original Sin that Rand has appeared to adopt as categorical, a topic we will address momentarily.

But from there their paths diverged sharply – Calvin’s path toward predestination, Rand’s toward free will, and to maintain the supremacy of free will she was willing to discard God Himself. Rand must have free will; it is a basic Objectivist axiom without which her system does not work. And so she must present fate as a construct, an illusion.

”That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character…thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think – not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance but the refusal to know…”

But where from there? For this does not disprove, but merely denies, the proposition that all acts of men are fated, that we all are trapped into a fabric previously woven and only think that we have the ability to move, warp to weft. It is in that context that Rand expresses Atlas Shrugged’s single instance of what she conceives of as formal Christian doctrine:

”Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demanding that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof… The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin. A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man’s nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice, and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.”

A masterly summary, that, of one of the great and earliest schisms of the Christian church, one that is pivotal in Western history for nearly fifteen hundred years. Rand is walking in the pathway trod by the great before her. Her words could have been spoken, and something very like them were, by an individual named Pelagius in the Fourth Century AD, an early Church father whose most influential rival in theory was Augustine of Hippo, a converted Gnostic who insisted that Original Sin meant that man was inherently imperfectible (in this life) due to the transmission of the sin of Adam – the partaking of the knowledge of good and evil – through his descendants. Rand, and everyone else who reads that passage, considers what was gained through that act of disobedience to describe the very essence of man. Galt continues:

”The evils for which they damn [man] are reason, morality, creativeness, joy – all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was – that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love – he was not man.”

One might think from this that Rand has refuted Genesis; in fact, it is only an indication that she appreciates the issues therein. She isn’t the first by far. Is this idea of Original Sin a condemnation of man, or merely a description? An image, or an act of justice? The key is what she terms volition – free will. And the degree to which it is instrumental in the description of man is the topic that set Pelagius and Augustine at one another’s throats.

The two men did not settle it between them, although Augustine came out on top for a time. And yet by the time of the Reformation there had slowly evolved a general consensus within the Church that, in fact, the doctrine of Original Sin meant not that man was inherently sinful but that he was inclined that way, not that he was guilty of anything by the mere act of being born, but that the possibility of sin was open to him. Certain of the Church fathers – Origen, Ignatius, Justin Martyr – came to a position perfectly compatible with Rand’s, if only her philosophical studies had brought her to that realization.

Certain others did not. The interpretation that Galt identifies as “yours” is, in fact, that of Calvin, who embraced the doctrine of Original Sin after what to him seemed centuries of desuetude. For him it is that inherent nature that required the redemption of Christ. But it is, for Rand, an offense against free will, impermissible because it implies that volition is illusory, that man is, in fact, what she termed derisively a robot.

Here Rand is retracing a truly critical path in Western philosophy. Did she realize it? Certainly the classes she took in Petrograd under N.O. Lossky should have given her the necessary background. She graduated from her studies in 1924, which places her in a front-row seat to observe the advent of Soviet communism and its immediate effects, which she painted for us in miniature in Starnesville, Wisconsin. But possibly she did not – most philosophy curricula then and today avoid a thorough assessment of ground covered by the Church fathers mentioned here who are known collectively as the Medieval Schoolmen, a complaint made most loudly by, of all people, that unrepentant old atheist Bertrand Russell, for whose guidance in the matter we are profoundly grateful. It is very fertile ground indeed. Aristotle reached us through these men, and one wonders if Rand completely appreciated that. Perhaps not – there are indications that Rand’s grasp on history was not quite up to her grasp on philosophy. For example:

”The infamous times you call the Dark Ages were an era of intelligence on strike, when men of ability went underground and lived undiscovered, studying in secret, and died, destroying the works of their mind, when only the bravest of martyrs remained to keep the human race alive.”

This is, actually, nonsense. The giants of intellect that were the Schoolmen struggled over the same issues that outrage Rand during this specific period, men whom she disparaged as “mystics” for their faith in a God she cannot reach by reason. One reason the formal philosophical community has offered Objectivism less respect than perhaps it might deserve is Rand’s dismissal of this monumental intellectual progress without understanding it. It cost her a great deal of time, effort and credibility.

Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Sixteenth Century Europe seethed with this controversy. Seventeenth Century Europe burnt nearly to the ground over it. Then came the Enlightenment and a fellow named Immanuel Kant who bears a considerable resemblance to Rand in terms of the philosophical issues with which he came to grips, and with whose work she was very familiar and whose conclusions she rejected. If one wishes to place Rand’s philosophy in real-world chronological terms, this might not be a bad place for it. It is at the birth of capitalism, the emergence of the individual – new economies, new political philosophies are about to create a New World. The only sense in which we may call Rand a conservative is that these precepts are hers, and the social revolution she advocates will, she hopes, bring us back into accordance with them.

She takes her place in the rise of individualist thought that has continued to this day. Enlightenment political philosopher John Locke’s basic premise is that the proper repository of political rights is within the individual, which is, for Rand, the proper repository of morality also. Economist Ludwig Von Mises later proposed that the individual is the proper repository of economic activity as well. These three facets of individualism constitute the core of Rand’s approach to her new society. This is very serious business, and despite the length of Galt’s speech, Rand touches on it fairly lightly. Those seemingly interminable 60 pages turn out to be too short for the subject.

Did this foundation of Objectivism really belong here in a work of fiction? One is tempted to state that the novel could have done very well without it – most of the principles have already been stated in one form or another by one or another of her characters, hero and villain. The narrative flows around it quite satisfactorily. It is there because without it the rest of the novel wouldn’t have existed.

What is to Come

To finish Galt’s speech – What is to Come, the necessary conclusion of any political manifesto. Lenin’s What is to be Done? finishes Marx’s – it delineates the steps by which a core of ideological leaders must take control of the inchoate and unshaped forces of revolution. Rand could have slipped so very easily into this model – after all, she has an elite, already fiery-eyed with moral certitude, a core, a cadre – why not make them the new ruling class? Galt as Philosopher-King, Dagny as Queen Regnant – it is, in fact, precisely what Mr. Thompson and the rest of the present ruling class will expect after the last echoes of this speech reverberate across the country.

Well, it isn’t going to work like that -- first, because the rules are going to change. No more of the model of producers and leeches, vampires and victims. The sanction of the victim has been withdrawn in favor of objective truth. Freedom starts there.

”Just as man can’t succeed by defying reality, so a nation can’t, or a country, or a globe. A is A. The rest is a matter of time…”

“The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike...Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish." -- C.S. Lewis

”So long as men, in the era of savagery, had no concept of objective reality and believed that physical nature was ruled by the whim of unknowable demons – no thought, no science, no production were possible. Only when men discovered that nature was a firm, predictable absolute were they able to rely on their knowledge, to choose their course, to plan their future, and slowly, to rise from the cave…”

”Such was the service we had given you and were glad and willing to give. What did we ask in return? Nothing but freedom…free to think and to work as we choose – free to take our own risks and to bear our own losses – free to earn our own profits and to make our own fortunes – free to gamble on your rationality, to submit our products to your judgment for the purpose of a voluntary trade, to rely on the objective value of our work and on your mind’s ability to see it…”

And no less, and no more, will be demanded in the new world to rise from the ashes of the old.

”I am speaking to those who desire to live and to recapture the honor of their soul. Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies’ terms or to win at a game where they’re setting the rules…Do not attempt to rise on the looters’ terms… Go on strike – in the manner I did. Do not try to produce a fortune, with a looter riding on your back. Do not help them to fake reality…”

“The honor of their soul” – we know exactly what Rand means, although one is led to wonder what would happen should she subject the existence of that soul to the same scrutiny she accords the existence of God. Such a proof would at best be inferential, “self-evident,” and her villain, the nihilist Pritchett, doesn’t find it so. Man is, we recall him stating, merely a collection of chemicals. And yet he is a collection of chemicals that spans chasms with bridges, continents with railroad tracks. That is Rand’s evidence for the existence of soul.

Galt concludes with his vision of the future:

”When the looters’ state collapses, deprived of the best of its slaves, when it…dissolves into starving robber gangs fighting to rob one another – when the advocates of the morality of sacrifice perish with their final ideal – then and on that day we will return. We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a city of smokestacks, pipelines, orchards, markets and inviolate homes… With the sign of the dollar as our symbol – the sign of free trade and free minds – we will move to reclaim this country once more from the impotent savages who never discovered its nature, its meaning, its splendor.”

In short, the strike is to continue, only now it will include the entire country. Here for the first time we understand that not only industrial magnates and persons of outstanding entrepreneurial ability are capable of this sort of moral conduct, but that everyone is – Rand calls this “the best that is within you.” Galt’s Gulch is a gated community in a literal sense – the world to come will not be.

”You will win when you are ready to pronounce the oath I have taken at the start of my battle: 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.”

And now the real import of that oath is clear: that it is the individual, not the collective or the mystical, neither State nor Church; it is the individual who is Atlas, who will shrug, who will pick up the shattered pieces of the world once it hits the hard surface of reality, who will assemble them once again into the world that is to come. It is a nation of individuals, and not a collective, that will emerge.

Discussion Topic: Dissecting The Speech

Next Saturday: The Egoist


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 07/18/2009 7:32:31 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 VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”

Ping! The thread is up.

I’ll be spending most of Saturday (7/18) out of contact, so Billthedrill will be monitoring this thread for most of the day.

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
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
Part III, Chapter VI: The Concerto of Deliverance

2 posted on 07/18/2009 7:33:58 AM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren’t always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Publius

No need to read the book, we are living it!


3 posted on 07/18/2009 7:41:10 AM PDT by JayAr36 (Government the Culture of Corruption)
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To: Publius

I read Atlas Shrugged very nearly a year ago before the SHTF to pass the time in airports and related “long wait” situations. At the time the story had a strangely looming quality to it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Now we’re all living it, up close and personal.


4 posted on 07/18/2009 7:46:35 AM PDT by SpaceBar
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To: JayAr36
No need to read the book, we are living it!

I agree. Why do supposedly intelligent, independent people need a book written by a nasty feminist to tell them what to do?

5 posted on 07/18/2009 7:48:46 AM PDT by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: Publius; All

6 posted on 07/18/2009 8:09:45 AM PDT by musicman (Until I see a REAL C.O.L.B. BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: Publius
so it is under socialism – the individual does not die, he simply becomes crippled, paranoid, petty, and eventually destructive of everyone’s interests including his own. He does not die; he simply turns into something contemptible.

I'm kinda getting that vibe nowadays. Especially my own self! Very sad.

Frankly, I would have tuned out to the speech if it was presented in such a lofty manner. The folks rioting and lynching tax collectors wouldn't have gave it a listen, either, I think. John Galt was too hip for the room, as they say. But for the sake of the story the speech struck a chord with whom it needed to.(Of course, if Galt had a wonderful and compelling speaking voice, then one might stay tuned.)

As I understand it, this speech was/is the reason the book was never made into a film. Rand insisted that the speech remain INTACT if a movie was ever made. Holy Crap, that would have meant a run time of what? 12 hours for the flick? ; )

7 posted on 07/18/2009 8:18:47 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Palin/Nugent 2012---Would a Secret Service detail even be necessary?)
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To: musicman

LOL! Perfect!
My kids love those ads. Now they have new lyrics to learn!
HeeHee!


8 posted on 07/18/2009 8:22:15 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Palin/Nugent 2012---Would a Secret Service detail even be necessary?)
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To: musicman

Awesome!


9 posted on 07/18/2009 8:28:13 AM PDT by LongElegantLegs (It takes a viking to raze a village!)
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To: ozark hilljilly

This is RobFromGa speaking...

The politicans who you elected to public service are corrupt feather-nesters, and they are in cahoots with the big bankers, the big lawyers and the money-printers...

They are interested in one thing and one thing only... to hold onto their power as it gives them the power to exempt themselves from the laws and taxes and programs that they design for the regular population...

The productive workers and business owners are not your enemies, they are the reason that you have the standard of living that is the envy of the world...

Throw out the public servants who would tell you otherwise before it is too late...


10 posted on 07/18/2009 8:31:09 AM PDT by RobFromGa (The FairTax is to tax policy as Global Warming is to science.)
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To: RobFromGa

I like your speech. Suppose Sarah Palin gave it to the nation on September 12?


11 posted on 07/18/2009 9:22:06 AM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren’t always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Publius
A light bulb has just gone on for me. Rand’s objectivism is rooted in Natural Law. Your synopsis of Galt’s speech just brought it home. I’m sure a lot of you have understood this before now, but for me, my basic comprehension of this precept has made this whole novel much easier to read.
12 posted on 07/18/2009 9:50:08 AM PDT by MrsPatriot (‘The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.’ - R R)
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To: MrsPatriot

When Billthedrill logs on later to monitor this thread, I’m sure he will kiss you for that. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)


13 posted on 07/18/2009 9:53:42 AM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren’t always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Publius

Don’t you think he will wonder why it took me so long to get it?


14 posted on 07/18/2009 9:58:15 AM PDT by MrsPatriot (‘The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.’ - R R)
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To: Publius; Billthedrill

Great job, guys.


15 posted on 07/18/2009 11:05:24 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
The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society – a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself

This is where the race to be not the most needy but rather the biggest victim really plays out in today's world.To be a part of the "no one in particular" you must first show that you have somehow suffered in some aspect of your life. The concept that "life's tough, wear a cup" has been replaced by the promise of "justice" from the ruling class for your victimhood. And the validity of your victimhood is at the sole discretion (and whim) of that same ruling class.

16 posted on 07/18/2009 11:15:17 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

bookmark


17 posted on 07/18/2009 11:31:44 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: MrsPatriot

could you elaborate on the tie ins for those of us unfamiliar with Natural Law?


18 posted on 07/18/2009 11:33:14 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Publius

“Had you been listening to the radio when all this happened, would you have listened to the entire speech, or would you have tuned out at some point?”

(flamesuit *on*)
Giant pothole indeed.

I’ve read the entire book except for this chapter. It is honestly so dry, boring, and downright mind-numbing I have never been able to finish it.

She is possibly the worst ‘great’ writer I have ever encountered. Her ideas have a great impact on me, but as a writer, her prose is horrible. I’ve never read less engaging writing, even in dry scientific journals, than this chapter.

No one talks this way. I doubt any speech ever given could be so dull, even some of the commencement speeches I’ve witnessed. I would have shut the radio off, and probably been the worse for it (as perhaps I am worse for never having finished this chapter).


19 posted on 07/18/2009 12:01:25 PM PDT by Betis70 (Keep working serf, Zero's in charge)
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To: Publius

* ”You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.”

I get the sense that the primary determining factor here is the individual’s volition in the act. If I am to be merciful because the gubment tells me to, that is bad. Of course, I can choose to be merciful if I wish (as I’ve seen discussed several times on the various threads), but imposed mercy is wrong.

Probably the biggest example of this for me was the clear self-denial of Galt and D’Anconia toward Dagny. They chose to deny themselves for a higher cause and did it of their own volition.

“Sacrifice wealth for need”? - More like sacrificing someone else’s wealth for my need.

To your question, I didn’t see any wiggle room for Rand. She was pretty black and white on this from my point of view.


20 posted on 07/18/2009 12:47:58 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: Betis70

I probably would have turned it off, too, but I’ve noticed when watching old TV shows, movies, and such that the attention span back then was significantly longer than the average person today.

I got a bit humbled when reading Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” as part of Glenn Beck’s Common Sense. This was supposed to be the arguments for revolution for the common man. I found it head and shoulders better writing than most of what I see now and I suspect that literary readers back then had higher expectations of their writers as well.

Having said all that, I do think that most of the people would have turned it off. But maybe Galt was expecting the other producers to listen through because it would speak to them more. And that was the audience that he was hoping to persuade to go on strike anyway.


21 posted on 07/18/2009 12:54:44 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: Publius

”...Walk into any college classroom and you will hear your professors teaching your children that man can be certain of nothing...”

I’ll take environmentalism for $1000, Alex. :-)

It blows me away the level of pseudo-science associated with environmentalism. And it goes more to your point (and Reagan’s) than Rand. How can a supposed “scientist” be so darn certain over something that has such a short measurable timeline and such a standard deviation in the data. It would be a huge improvement if somebody in the “movement” would declare that nothing is certain.

I get that environmentalism is all about control, but one would expect, in a rational world, that the science would lead to the conclusion and not the other way around. ( I guess Rand would tell me to examine my premise! ) It’s so bad that “global warming” has morphed into “climate change”. Fortunately, there are rational people who recognize this for what it is. Unfortunately, none of those seem to be in charge right now.


22 posted on 07/18/2009 1:07:47 PM PDT by tstarr
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To: GOP Poet
Natural Law is the law that is over and above any set of man made laws that gives us a standard to measure right and wrong against. In other words, it is what we use to judge right from wrong. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” in the Declaration of Independence, he was citing Natural Law. The left denies the existence of Natural Law which is how they can justify abortion among the other atrocities they are committed to, and in my opinion, this is the core of the political and cultural divide in our country today.

Justice Clarence Thomas talked about Natural Law during his confirmation hearings, and the Democrats tried to say this was a reason that he should not be confirmed. C S Lewis explains Natural Law beautifully in Mere Christianity, among other writings.

Here is the part of John Galt’s speech that made the connection for me:

”So long as men, in the era of savagery, had no concept of objective reality and believed that physical nature was ruled by the whim of unknowable demons – no thought, no science, no production were possible. Only when men discovered that nature was a firm, predictable absolute were they able to rely on their knowledge, to choose their course, to plan their future, and slowly, to rise from the cave…”

Natural Law exists whether we acknowledge it or not. You can deny the law of gravity, but you can’t make it stop holding you to the earth. The left can deny the existence of Natural Law, but it doesn’t stop affecting them which is why they will ultimately fail.

23 posted on 07/18/2009 1:11:12 PM PDT by MrsPatriot (‘The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.’ - R R)
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To: All
I must say that of all of the chapters this one was the most difficult to write a critique for. Publius and I decided that two separate ones would probably risk committing the same offense that the book did in terms of redundancy, and so what you see above is our combined effort.

Rand was most certainly a student of philosophy, and Atlas Shrugged is her earnest attempt to add to the field. What seems to have developed over the months Publius and I have been doing this is a pattern of conflict between Rand's narrative and her philosophy, somewhat after the pattern of Nietszche and Aristotle as we detailed above, passion versus reason if you like. Rand saw no real antagonism between the two but I think that I do. YMMV.

Three chapters to go before the Book Club is finished with this beast, with one more entry afterward for a summation and final commentary. I hope the ride has been as much fun for you all as for us. ;-)

24 posted on 07/18/2009 1:19:36 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Publius
Had you been listening to the radio when all this happened, would you have listened to the entire speech, or would you have tuned out at some point?

Somehow, I knew you would ask this question and I've been trying to come up with an answer for weeks.

I must say, first off, that I would have turned the speech off as, IMHO, it would have been WAY over the head of 99.9% of the population that was listening. (NOTE: I read this chapter twice and was absolutely overwhelmed trying to figure out HOW on Gods green earth what he said related to why things were going to he*l in a handbasket). I can understand the need to explain A is A and so on, however, most people would want to know, in laymans terms, why what was happening was happening. Something along the lines of:

"This is John Galt speaking: We, the producers, who provided the economic engines, the jobs, the innovation, the thinking, have gone on strike and are now actively allowing collectivists, those who consider "the common good" over the importance of the individual, to completely have their way. This is our way of proving to you, the listening public, the "collectivist" form of government, from each according to his ability to each according to their need, simply does not work. Where are the jobs offered by those collectivists in charge? Where is the incentive to do your best, where is the incentive to work for you and your family if it's only going to be taken away to be GIVEN to someone else because they need it more than you but aren't willing to lift a finger to earn it.

Many of you listening have actively supported this concept at OUR expense. You supported taking our facilities in the interest of the common good, you advocated confiscation of our profits to be redistributed to people too lazy or uninterested in fending for themselves, for the common good.

The immense profits of which you complained were used to build more plants, to provide more jobs, to increase economic activity, to allow the INDIVIDUAL to excel to his or her greatest level. We provided jobs at a wage (value) and expected a return of equal value (labor) to everyones benefit. That was taken from us. Our value to the nation was reduced to nothing more than a giant pot to be used for distribution to those who had no value to offer, yet who expected more and more as a reward for their inability to offer anything in return. Have we, as INDIVIDUALS, made money? The answer is yes, but we paid ourselves as a reflection of our value the same as any employee. We provided jobs to those that wanted to work, we provided money to those willing to earn it and we provided profits to be used to rebuild train tracks, to rebuild steel furnaces, to rebuild and continue to move forward with as little interruption as possible.

You wanted that taken. We are now on strike, to return when a nation of INDIVIDUALS, willing to work to support THEMSELVES instead of others, who develop the mindset of those who built this country and return to the moral codes that originally took hold when this nation was started." (THEN go into a description of moral codes etc., but at least the public would have understood why they did what they did and would have, hopefully, made the connection)

At last in my case, THAT would have made me stick around for the entire broadcast.

Just my 2 cents..

25 posted on 07/18/2009 1:24:04 PM PDT by GeorgiaDawg32 (I'm a Patriot Guard Rider..www.patriotguard.org for info..)
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To: Publius
One hates to bring up a religious analogy with Rand being such an ardent atheist.

There was a reason that the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years...Those that remembered the slavery experience with fondness had to go.

Same thing here with Galt.. They can't really come back until every leech that is standing with their hand out wanting the food out of your mouth has to go.

Makes me concerned for our own culture..There are more folks looking for a hand out than there are hands producing to feed them..

Our society will never recover until there are fewer..

26 posted on 07/18/2009 1:24:14 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: Publius
Had you been listening to the radio when all this happened, would you have listened to the entire speech, or would you have tuned out at some point? Would you have acted upon the speech? What would you have done?

How does this address compare to President Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech?

At nearly 30 minutes, it is a lot to digest. I wonder how many people sit through the whole 30 minutes. I would imagine that conservatives and libertarians will, but liberals will stop listening very quickly.

In that context, I would imagine that the producers in AS would be more willing to listen to Galt's speech where the moochers would turn it off very quickly.

27 posted on 07/18/2009 1:28:39 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: Publius

Bump for later!


28 posted on 07/18/2009 2:38:48 PM PDT by Brads Gramma (BG x 2 (and a heartbeat was heard today....))
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To: GeorgiaDawg32

I like your prologue to the speech. It cuts right to the chase.


29 posted on 07/18/2009 3:56:02 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren’t always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: r-q-tek86

Reagan’s speech had little immediate impact, but it was the manifesto for a movement. Some 16 years later it bore fruit.


30 posted on 07/18/2009 3:57:42 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Publius; Billthedrill
This as been a terrific series.

I shall miss coming home on Saturdays to no new insights once Atlas has been fully dissected.

Perhaps you and Bill may consider other collaborations.

31 posted on 07/18/2009 4:01:48 PM PDT by Radix (Obama represents CHAINS for posterity.)
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To: Radix
Many thanks. Publius wants to do À la Recherche du Temps Perdu and I want to do Naughty Nurses In Bondage so I guess we're gonna hafta compromise... ;-)
32 posted on 07/18/2009 4:07:13 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Radix

We’re gving serious consideration to doing the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers together, interleaved, in strict chronological order, so as to follow the debate over the Constitution. I’m looking at reformatting each paper in Structured English, which uses indentation and line separation to take long sentences apart and make them more readable for the modern reader. Then we would follow each paper with commentary.


33 posted on 07/18/2009 4:11:36 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Billthedrill

The ride has been a lot of fun for me. I’ve been compiling the best of every contributor’s thoughts on every one of these threads and have been attaching it to my copy of Atlas Shrugged. I’ve learned so much American history in the vignettes here. I appreciate enormously that people have taken the trouble to write them. I will be giving the book to my brother for Christmas. He read it from ‘00 to ‘02. I read it in ‘04 and remarked to him that I was going to re-read it and highlight the parts that had special resonance for me. Because of the contributions of various people on these threads, but especially you and Publius, the entire book has more resonance to me now. All that, and I now have 1 Christmas present out of the way.

Inasmuch as this chapter is concerned, you and Publius did an outstanding job. I have no doubt that I would not be up to the task. To tell the truth, after the reading assignment of last week, I could not read this ping in a single shot, but I’ve been addicted all day and look forward to visiting it several times in weeks to come.


34 posted on 07/18/2009 4:11:51 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: Billthedrill

Oh, Proust is so gauche anymore! Maybe we should do some Balzac or Zola. Me-oui!


35 posted on 07/18/2009 4:12:55 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: definitelynotaliberal

This is a post that needs to be savored slowly and sipped, like a fine whisky.


36 posted on 07/18/2009 4:14:18 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: r-q-tek86

But there was absolutely nothing else that they could do but listen. Remember how Mouch & Co. commandeered the waves?


37 posted on 07/18/2009 4:18:09 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: Billthedrill

Please, please, please tell me that A la recherche du Temps Perdu is not what I fear it is. I’m afraid to say it - Proust’s Rememberances of things past? If so, I, female heterosexual, will be rooting for Nurses in bondage.

*eyes rolling around the block*


38 posted on 07/18/2009 4:21:09 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: Publius

That sounds terrific. I have long hungered for that, but have not had the discipline to read them myself.


39 posted on 07/18/2009 4:22:27 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: Publius

I don’t know about gauche. If I had to pick an adjective, I’d go with tiresome. Zola is tedious too, in my estimation; I can concede some redemptive value in the case of Balzac.


40 posted on 07/18/2009 4:25:22 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: definitelynotaliberal

Ah, not going to bite into that madelaine, are we?


41 posted on 07/18/2009 4:26:10 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Publius

Mais, non!


42 posted on 07/18/2009 4:27:07 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (Sarah Palin - It's what happens when you attempt to bikini wax a bear.)
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To: Billthedrill

Ping me when you start... I’ve always had an interest in medicine


43 posted on 07/18/2009 4:29:16 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: Publius
Reagan’s speech had little immediate impact, but it was the manifesto for a movement. Some 16 years later it bore fruit.

True. It had to wait for people to see the real result of The Great Society and begin to get desperate before they would heed his words. I hope we don't have to wait as long this time. I've got nine people that depend on me for a paycheck every two weeks that I would hate to disappoint.

44 posted on 07/18/2009 4:33:10 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: definitelynotaliberal
LOL - it was a commentary on our respective cultural tastes. I actually tried to slog my way through Swann's Way one time and gave up. Proust wrote seven volumes of that stuff. I have to admire his persistence.

Let's toss this one out to the Book Club - what do you folks think might be a good subject?

45 posted on 07/18/2009 4:36:17 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: definitelynotaliberal; Publius; Billthedrill

notalib... Did you see that Pub and Bill are writing a book based on this series?

Pub and Bill... Sounds like a line is forming for that book of yours. How are things going with the publishing houses?


46 posted on 07/18/2009 4:39:09 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: Publius; Billthedrill
Me being a high school drop out and all seriously left me ill prepared for my first college course in English as well as the other subjects.

I managed to get my act together after a few months of working in a shoe warehouse.

In my English1 course, a few “auditors” showed up one day and though not disruptive, certainly opened up my awareness to what I suppose can only be referred to as “critical” analysis with their challenging insights to the particular work that we were exploring at that time.

I have been a fan of the interpretation of literature ever since.

You two have been quite appreciated from here since these threads began several months ago. Thanks for that.

I read Atlas a couple of years ago. I think that I got it, but your insights have been most helpful to me since this series started.

I suspect that you two have a history together involving academics. Cannot tell for sure, but you certainly have raised yourselves in my estimation after this work.

You make me want to post less and not appear as ignorant as I actually am.

47 posted on 07/18/2009 4:41:47 PM PDT by Radix (Obama represents CHAINS for posterity.)
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To: Publius
Augustine of Hippo, a converted Gnostic

Augustine was a Manichean.

48 posted on 07/18/2009 4:41:55 PM PDT by Lee N. Field ("Take, drink. Remember and believe that the blood of Jesus was shed for a complete remission ...")
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To: r-q-tek86

Our agent is circulating it around. Haven’t heard much of late. We’ll see.


49 posted on 07/18/2009 4:42:08 PM PDT by Publius (Conservatives aren't always right. We're just right most of the time.)
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To: Billthedrill
what do you folks think might be a good subject?

It is going to be hard to follow such an epic as AS although I like the idea of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers that Pub mentioned upthread.

50 posted on 07/18/2009 4:44:49 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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