So, a little over two months ago, I started reading Atlas Shrugged. It’s a book my Dad has been suggesting I read for almost ten years, and since I’m currently unemployed and don’t have any more college reading to do, I figured I’d buckle down and git ‘er done. What I found is that Atlas Shrugged is the perfect book to read after spending 4 years studying literature at one of the most stridently left-wing colleges in America. I say after because if I read this during college I may have been kicked out. Or at least socially ostracized. Seriously, reading a copy of Atlas Shrugged on the bus in Santa Cruz would have gotten me the same kind of looks on the Metro as reading Mein Kampf in Brooklyn.
Now, I didn’t take the ideas in this book too seriously, but they did really get me thinking. There’s a lot of parts where we differ, but I think Ayn Rand and I have the same INTJ kind of personality. Because we’re compatible personality-wise and we have that fellow-outsider deal going on, I often felt like she was speaking to me personally as I read. Because of this, I rated it a four, but if I were a different person with a higher EQ I might have rated it a two. I just found too much that I related to to give it a bad rating.
Although we have many things in common, I think Rand would probably classify me with the mystics, because I can’t adopt her “life and humans r great!” outlook, which is partly due to culture I was raised in, the books I read, and the music I listened to as a wee teenager. I identify more with the Buddhist position that life is suffering, accepting it is transcendence, yada yada yada.
Anyway, I thought her book was interesting. I liked the protagonist, Dagny, and I related to her a lot. I also liked Cherryl and loved/hated Lillian (I love to hate these kind of manipulative female characters, like Jessica Lange on American Horror Story). Rand’s male characters, on the other hand, were a lot weaker. John Galt is basically just an ideal, Hank Rearden is totally one-dimensional, although tortured, and Francisco D’Anconia is adorable, but still a little too simple. Dagny sleeps with Francisco first, then Rearden, then Galt. If it were me I would have stuck with Francisco – he’s her childhood friend, her first love, and he seems to care about her the most. It’s clear by comparing the warmth in his lines to the relative lack of emotion in Galt’s and the anger and bitterness in Rearden’s. Rearden’s an ass and Galt’s just so… colorless. Bleh. When I was researching for this review, I found a Livejournal article someone had written about Francisco and Rearden’s possible homosexual relationship which is pretty accurate – she does leave both of them to go with Galt, therefore leaving them free to love each other.
I was told that Rearden rapes Dagny at one point, and while there are some “rapey” scenes I think it’s pretty clear that they’re consensual, so I think it would fall under “rough sex” rather than rape (it seems like the more sketchy scenes are in The Fountainhead anyway) . I found this article in Psychology Today which does an good job of explaining the craving for “consensual ravishment” (not rape, but consensual rough sex). I think that consensual ravishment sounds more like what Rand is describing in Atlas Shrugged. It seems like a pretty common thing, especially in the romance genre, which might be because of the wide-spread belief that good girls don’t want sex or it could just be personal preference. As Amy Poehler said, “Good for her! Not for me!”
Ayn Rand has said multiple times in interviews that the only philosopher she thinks is worth reading is Aristotle. She likes his idea of the Unmoved Mover, a god-like being which is not moved by anything else, but that moves everything in the universe. Yet she was an atheist. Personally, I think she was against institutionalized religion but believed in a single god. The Christian Egoist has a good argument for this.
Unless her Unmoved Mover is a John Galt-type character and he’s not technically a god, but a human being who makes everything move… but that would be really strange.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is really more of an ideology – it’s very tightly constructed and doesn’t consider any ideas outside of its narrow framework (difference between ideology and philosophy here). At DifferenceBetween.net, it says, “A philosopher is open minded and willing to listen to criticism whereas an ideologue will refute anything challenging his or her ideology outright. This also suggests that while philosophy encourages people to think, ideology discourages any thinking that goes against the basic doctrines that govern the ideology.” See the part where she talks about uncertainty being the mark of someone with low intelligence. I think uncertainty depends more on personality and level of anxiety than on intelligence, since I’ve known intelligent people who are very self-assured and intelligent people who have low self-esteem. Ideology is more of a political vision, hoping to change the world, than looking at the world as it is. The world as she saw it wasn’t quite accurate to the world as it probably was, and the world she envisioned is in some ways radically different from the world we’re living in now (less regulation, no public schools).
The main issue that I have with Atlas Shrugged is that it assumes that value = money, but there are lots of lines of work in which people do not make money equal to the amount of work and thought they put in (teaching, social work). Value doesn’t translate directly to money. Rand herself was a writer, and provided a lot of value to a lot of people, but she had to accept Social Security, which she despised, to get treatment for lung cancer, because her writing didn’t pay the bills.
I had the luxury of a big block of time to carve this monster up, so I’ve included a long summary and a pretty thorough collection of the important quotations (with my annotations in parentheses) from the novel. If any of you have professors mean enough to assign this book, feel free to look over my notes as you’re writing your paper. Or just read my summary and quotes and skip the book because – spoiler – it’s not worth it! It’s a 1200-page ideological rant that expounds on the same set of beliefs hundreds of times, from all different angles, to the point where I think the repetition is literally meant to be brainwashing. And it works! I can’t think of any substantial ways to poke holes in her argument… but I could just be brain-dead after trying to organize 35 pages of quotations. See how much fun I’m having? My life is awesome! No, really… just read these stupid quotes and get out of here. ;)
Summary: The book starts with Dagny, Francisco, Jim, and Eddie as children in New York. Dagny – a smart girl, and the heir to Taggart Transcontinental railroad. Jim – her wimpy brother. Francisco – their “cousin”, the son of a family friend and heir to D’Anconia Copper in Argentina. Eddie – the boy next door. Eddie wants to do something great with Dagny in the future, but he’s fine with her taking the reigns. He believes her when she says that she’ll run the railroad when she grows up. He has a huge crush on Dagny but he won’t tell her until the end. Francisco and Dagny spend a lot of time playing together. They call each other pet names “’Frisco” and “Slug”. Francisco is strong, fast, and energetic, and Jim is extremely jealous of him. Francisco starts working a small job on the railroad when he’s a pre-teen. Dagny admires him greatly and does everything he tells her to do, which increases Jim’s bitterness.
Then the story flips back to present day, and we see Dagny running the railroad in a non-executive position while Jim, as executive, spends most of his time trying to make friends in Washington. They are arguing about whether Taggart Transcontinental should buy Rearden Metal, a new invention of Rearden’s that is stronger than steel. Jim thinks that Rearden has a monopoly, so TT shouldn’t buy from him. Dagny says Rearden is the only supplier who delivers on time, and she read the reports on the metal herself (she has a degree in engineering). Dagny buys the metal regardless of Jim’s objections.
Meanwhile, Hank Rearden has just perfected his metal alloy that is stronger than steel or iron after months of work and very little sleep. He gives a bracelet made of the new material to his wife, but she calls him selfish for only caring about his own accomplishments and not about how she’ll look wearing it (she would have preferred a diamond bracelet). Hank is a hard-working guy, and takes a lot of shit from his family about not paying attention to them. He considers it his moral obligation not to tell them to lay off.
Dagny, who has been doing the job of the Chief of Operations for years while struggling against his counter-productive policy, tells Jim to promote her to that position or she’ll leave. He gives it to her, grudgingly. Then the story of Richard Halley is told – the composer who disappeared because the critics thought his work was too positive and out of step with modern life. He’s Dagny’s favorite composer.
Over the course of the book, the government restraints on businesses get stricter and stricter. The first of these is the Dog-Eat-Dog Rule, which is meant to reduce “destructive competition” between railroads. It splits the US into regions, and says that there cannot be more than one railroad existing in each region. Ironically, this eliminates Dan Conway’s business.
Dagny’s mother throws her a coming-out party when she’s sixteen to get her to focus more on boys and less on her studies and work as a night station operator. She is disappointed by the dull people at the party. That summer, she sleeps with Francisco for the first time (she’s 17 and he’s 19).
Rearden’s wife Lillian throws a party where most of the guests are philosophers and writers that say that suffering is the essence of life, logic is primitive and outdated, and man is of no importance to the universe. Dagny overhears Lillian complaining about how her husband gave her an ugly bracelet of train-track metal and ends up trading her diamond bracelet for Lillian’s Rearden Metal one. Francisco approaches Rearden, who thinks he’s just a playboy (since he’s been partying and just set up the failure of the San Sebastian mines, which the government of Argentina seized before finding them empty of copper), but likes the way he speaks. Francisco advises Rearden about his problems with his family’s lack of respect for him and his work. He reminds Rearden that his is the strength keeping his family (and most of the party’s guests) alive.
Soon, an “Equalization of Opportunity” bill is passed making it illegal for one person to own more than one business. Rearden has to put one of his businesses in his friend’s name. Luckily, his friend is trustworthy and Rearden is still effectively running the business.
Jim tries to get Dagny to debate on the radio the question: “Is Rearden Metal a lethal product of greed?” She gets out of the car and walks away.
A scientist from the State Institute comes to buy the rights to Rearden Metal. Rearden tells him to take the metal if he can, he won’t sign a paper to make it look legitimate.
A book criticizing Rearden Metal is published with Dr. Stadler’s stamp of approval, and Dagny goes to his office to ask him why he approved it. He says he didn’t approve it, Dr. Ferris did, but he seems rather resigned about the issue. He tells her about his former students: Rearden (the executive of Rearden Metal), Francisco (who became a playboy), and Ragnar Danneskjold (who has become a pirate). He, the physics professor, and a professor of philosophy named Hugh Akston had been competing for those three as students. The philosophy professor seemed to have won, as he says he hasn’t seen the students in a long time.
Dagny decides, against everybody else who says it’s unsafe, to build the John Galt Line out of Rearden Metal. Rearden rides with her in the train over a bridge made of Rearden Metal. Afterwards, Rearden starts an affair with Dagny. He likes seeing her degraded from a railroad executive to his mistress. One morning after, Rearden scolds Dagny for wanting low pleasures, and she laughs in his face. She mockingly accedes that he’s ashamed of their relationship, and says she doesn’t want his mind, only his body (however, their relationship is based on their values). It is a little uncharacteristic for Dagny as a Rand character, since Rearden later says that lying compromises one’s reality… but maybe this is more of a humorous lie, or not a lie because on some level they both know the truth.
Jim, while he’s angry at Dagny for making the John Galt Line happen, goes to get tissues at a newspaper stand and meets a young woman named Cherryl, who thinks he made the John Galt Line work. Jim loves the unearned affection. He takes her to balls and shows off his magnanimity to his friends (he took this poor girl out of poverty and gave her luxurious clothes and friends in high places). Eventually he marries her.
Rearden and Dagny go on vacation and find their way to a tiny dilapidated town near a power plant. In the abandoned plant, Dagny finds half the blueprints for a motor that could harness static electricity into power. The plant and the town have been ravaged by looters (collectivists), so only half of it was legible. They decide to go looking for the man that designed the motor.
On her search, Dagny finds the philosopher, Hugh Akston, cooking burgers. Dagny is shocked that a philosopher like Akston is doing menial labor. She asks him where the guy who designed the motor went, but he won’t tell her.
Ellis Wyatt burns his oil rigs because he can’t make any money under the restrictive conditions. Wyatt’s “torch” (the oil wells that burn indefinitely) become a symbol of rebellion and the withdrawal of the intelligent capitalist class for the rest of the book. Rearden is ordered to give every customer a fair share of his metal. This leads to him being unable to meet his most important customers’ demand while his metal is being used to make mundane objects like faucets. A government agent comes to ask Rearden to nationalize his factories. He says if they want the metal, to just steal it; he won’t sign it over like it’s a transaction. Rearden goes to see Francisco at his apartment. Francisco tells him that he didn’t sleep with any of the women he was seen with because they didn’t fit his values.
The whole country starts to fall apart – businesses go under, people starve.
Taggart Transcontinental gets nationalized. The Washington men pretend that Dagny was involved in the decision, but it was already a done deal (the more important the decision, the more casual and sketchy the environment in which it gets decided). Francisco comes and helps Dagny recover.
Lillian confronts Rearden about his sleeping with Dagny. He tells her he’ll beat her up if she tries to claim his life (since he values Dagny as his life).
TURNING POINT: The government passes Directive 10-289 which orders that no one can quit or change jobs. Everyone who turns twenty-one must report to the Unification Board, who will decide where they will work according to the interests of the nation. Business owners cannot close or transfer their businesses. Patent and copyright holders are required to turn over their inventions to the government by means of Gift Certificates, which they must sign “voluntarily”. No new products can be invented.
An agent of the government comes to Rearden’s office to make him sign the Gift Certificate. They use his adulterous relationship with Dagny as blackmail, and he signs it because he wants to protect her. The government takes the patent and renames it “Miracle Metal”, erasing Rearden’s work.
Rearden is walking on an empty road when a man approaches him. It is Ragnar Danneskjold, giving him gold bars equal to twelve years of his income tax (he steals back money that the government took from Rearden – kind of like Robin Hood except he says he hates Robin Hood and wants to steal from the “thieving poor” and give to the “productive rich”).
Taggart Transcontinental is pressured to make a special train for politician Kip Chalmers, but it gets stuck and needs a new engine. The coal engine would not be safe to go through the tunnel because the tunnel’s ventilation system wasn’t made for it, but Chalmers demands that the Comet continue. The buck is passed around, and an honest engineer is caught between saving the people on the train and saving his children (because if he quits, they would starve). He decides to leave. A man who doesn’t know anything about railroads (the government hired him) sends the train ahead into the tunnel. By chance, an army train carrying explosives was also off its schedule and ran into the coal-burning engine, causing a huge explosion and the collapse of the tunnel.
At the time of the explosion, Dagny is in her cabin in the woods for a break. She tries to forget her worries about the railroad (unsuccessfully) while she fixes up the house using levers and pulleys to lift things that are too heavy for her. Francisco comes to visit, they turn on the radio, and hear the news of the disaster. Rearden comes and finds her with Francisco and demands to know whether Francisco loves Dagny. He says yes, and Dagny admits that Francisco is the man she slept with first. Rearden has rough sex with Dagny to prove his dominance over her.
They go back to Dagny’s apartment in New York and in the morning a mailman drops off a letter from Quentin Daniels (the guy who Dagny hired to complete the motor), saying that he’s resigning from the job she gave him because he doesn’t want his motor to serve the people who use Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny takes the train to Colorado to try and find Daniels. On the way, she sees an intelligent-looking bum getting kicked out of the dining car and offers to treat him to a meal. They talk over dinner and he turns out to have worked at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, where Galt had worked. He tells her what it was like to stay quiet and go along with the company’s new collectivist policies (if you read no other part of the book, you should read this. It explains the difficulties of implementing communism in very concrete terms):
“The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need… None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it… And if anybody had doubts, he felt guilty and kept his mouth shut–because they made it sound like anyone who’d oppose the plan was a child killer at heart and less than a human being… it’s theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures–and yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end. . . . From each according to his ability, to each according to his need…
“Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. Yes, ma’am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done?…his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’–so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife’s head colds, hoping that ‘the family’ would throw him the alms… He had to claim miseries, because it’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm–so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s… Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot…
When all the decent pleasures are forbidden, there’s always ways to get the rotten ones [alcohol]… Babies was the only item of production that didn’t fall, but rose and kept on rising–because people had nothing else to do, I guess, and because they didn’t have to care, the baby wasn’t their burden, it was ‘the family’s.’ In fact, the best chance you had of getting a raise and breathing easier for a while was a ‘baby allowance.’ Either that, or a major disease…
Nobody can divide a factory’s income among thousands of people, without some sort of a gauge to measure people’s value. Her [Ivy Starnes’s]gauge was bootlicking… There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself… But while he was thinking that he’d get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who’d get unearned benefits, too… She made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan had failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world–and that the plan was a noble ideal, but human nature was not good enough for it.”
On Dagny’s way to Colorado, the train breaks down and everyone demands that Dagny get it moving again, without worrying about how. Owen Kellogg accompanies her to find a phone. She calls someone at the train station who tells her that he doesn’t want to be responsible for diverting a train to rescue their train, so she uses her position as CEO to scare him into doing it.
Dagny finds out that Quentin Daniels was last seen at the airfield and Kellogg says he’ll get the train unstuck so she can go look for him. She follows him in the plane. He dips into a valley, and Dagny follows him, crash-landing since it’s really narrow and there’s an optical illusion that makes the little patch of grass at the bottom look tiny from the outside.
Dagny spends a month in Galt’s Gulch, as Galt’s housemaid. Galt is the man with no sign of pain or guilt on his face. He shows her everyone who ran away from the outside world, who are still producing, but not for the collectivist leeches. Galt has completed his motor that creates electricity from static, and is working as the handyman for the community. He has his motto, “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” inscribed on the door of his power plant.
Dagny meets Ragnar Danneskjold and thinks he looks too aristocratic to do anything dangerous. He’s married to Kay, the famous actress who was shamed for her beauty. Eventually Francisco comes to visit Galt and is shocked to find Dagny there. He tells her that everyone on the outside thought she was dead and Rearden has been frantically searching for her. When they get out and return to the regular world, Jim and Lillian blackmail Dagny with her relationship with Rearden, but instead of advocating their policies on the radio, she gives a speech admitting her relationship with Rearden and saying she had no shame about it. She goes and cries with Rearden after, and tells him that she loves Galt and no longer loves Rearden like she did.
Dr. Stadler is brought to a demonstration of Project X, a machine that emits a sound that destroys everything within a certain radius. He watches it blow up a farm and turn a sheep inside-out. Dr. Ferris requires him to give a speech endorsing the machine and accepting credit for its invention. A reporter exhorts Dr. Stadler to say he wasn’t involved in and doesn’t approve of the project, but Dr. Stadler gives up and goes along with what Dr. Ferris wants him to say, because “What can you do when you have to deal with people?”
John Galt gives a three-hour speech on the radio (excerpts below).
James argues with Cherryl and she goes to talk to Dagny. A bit later, she comes back and finds out James has just slept with Lillian, who is in the process of divorcing Rearden. They argue again, he hits Cherryl, and she runs away, not sure where to go. She considers going to a home for women, but she doesn’t have anything they could help her with (drugs, drink, pregnancy). She panics and commits suicide, jumping off the pier.
Argentina becomes totally nationalized, and as soon as the gavel falls, Francisco blows up everything owned by D’Anconia Copper.
Dagny gets it on with John Galt at the subway station.
The new (collectivist) workers at Rearden’s factory demand a raise in wages.
Rearden’s family stages kind of an intervention at his house, including Lillian. They demand money, he says he has none and leaves.
The workers storm the steel factory. The Wet Nurse (a mole who turns into Rearden’s prodigy) dies. Rearden gets hit in the head by a looter and Francisco saves him (it turns out Francisco had been the man with the shotgun Rearden saw killing the looters).
The government has been looking for John Galt ever since he gave the radio speech, partially because he could fix their problems, and partially because he challenges their rule. Mr. Thompson implies to Dagny that John Galt might be dead because Dr. Ferris & co want to kill him. Dagny tries to hold off but after a while goes to him and accidentally leads the government to him. She has to pretend that she did it on purpose so that they won’t torture or kill her to get at Galt. Galt shows Dagny the engine, which he is working on in a secret laboratory in his apartment. Galt gets arrested and taken to Mr. Thompson, who tries to convince him to fix the economy. Dr. Stadler comes and confesses to Dagny without any prompting. He’s too guilty in her presence. John Galt gets taken at gunpoint to a celebration where he’s to announce his plan for getting the country back on track. He stands up, showing the gun at his side, and says, “Get the hell out of my way!”
Dr. Stadler goes to get Project X, to use like a fortress. When he gets there, he finds Cuffy Meigs and his men in possession of it. Dr. Stadler insists that he owns the place, but Meigs is drunk and starts playing with the levers. He accidentally makes the sound go off inside the structure, killing everyone inside. Project X’s explosion blew up the Taggart Bridge.
Galt gets tortured by Dr. Ferris, Jim, and Wesley Mouch. They use a machine that inflicts pain without injury (kind of like the one in “The Princess Bride”). The generator dies and Galt tells them how to fix it. The other guys want to stop, but Jim wants to continue and has a dramatic meltdown because he sees his true nature as a killer who wants to see the destruction of life because he doesn’t want to be subject to the objective laws of the universe.
Dagny, Rearden, Ragnar, and Francisco come to save Galt. Dagny kills a guard b/c he won’t let her in. Rearden gets shot (non-fatally) by the head of the guards. They find Galt, unhook him from the machines, and leave. As they’re flying over New York, the lights of the entire city go out. Galt tells Dagny not to look down, since he knows it would upset her (but isn’t that kind of turning away from reality non-objectivist?)
Eddie Willers goes to help the Comet get back from California, but something gives out and he is stranded in the desert. He refuses a ride from a group of people in a wagon and stays with the train. Poor Eddie. The train is his only value, and without it his life would have none, so he stays.
The book ends with Dagny and Galt looking out at Wyatt’s Torch from Galt’s Gulch and Galt says, “The road is cleared.”
Thinking of things we take for granted in interesting ways:
“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity–to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.
“The dollar sign? For a great deal. It stands on the vest of every fat, pig like figure in every cartoon, for the purpose of denoting a crook, a grafter, a scoundrel–as the one sure–fire brand of evil. It stands–as the money of a free country–for achievement, for success, for ability, for man’s creative power–and, precisely for these reasons, it is used as a brand of infamy. It stands stamped on the forehead of a man like Hank Rearden, as a mark of damnation. Incidentally, do you know where that sign comes from? It stands for the initials of the United States.”
A circle, she thought, is the movement proper to physical nature, they say that there’s nothing but circular motion in the inanimate universe around us, but the straight line is the badge of man, the straight line of a geometrical abstraction that makes roads, rails and bridges, the straight line that cuts the curving aimlessness of nature by a purposeful motion from a start to an end.
Yet these [the traffic lights] had been her stars–she thought, looking down–these had been her goal, her beacon, the aspiration drawing her upon her upward course. That which others claimed to feel at the sight of the stars–stars safely distant by millions of years and thus imposing no obligation to act, but serving as the tinsel of futility–she had felt at the sight of electric bulbs lighting the streets of a town.
But this–she thought in consternation–was that view of human destiny which she had most passionately hated and rejected: the view that man was ever to be drawn by some vision of the unattainable shining ahead, doomed ever to aspire, but not to achieve (Doesn’t she approve of greed, though? What is greed but aspiration?)
Relatable Feels/Emotional Truth:
She felt, at the same time, a growing respect for the adversary, for a science that was so clean, so strict, so luminously rational. Studying mathematics, she felt, quite simply and at once: “How great that men have done this” and “How wonderful that I’m so good at it.”
It was strange to feel so pure a joy in the simple task of preparing a breakfast. The work seemed an end in itself, as if the motions of filling a coffee pot, squeezing oranges, slicing bread were performed for their own sake, for the sort of pleasure one expects, but seldom finds, in the motions of dancing.
She was startled to discover, as her hand reached for the gold piece, that she felt the eager, desperate, tremulous hope of a young girl on her first job: the hope that she would be able to deserve it.
She lay half-stretched in an armchair of the living room, crumpled by that heavy, indifferent lassitude which is not the will to laziness, but the frustration of the will to a secret violence that no lesser action can satisfy.
She caught herself thinking: She’s functioning well in an emergency, I’ll be all right with her–and realized that she was thinking of herself. (I wonder what that means, if someone talks to themselves in third person? I talk to myself in second person “You need to do this”, mostly things like that. A very centered, non-fractured person would probably use “I” all the time… but maybe they would be less objective and analytical).
Not to get scared, but to learn–she thought–the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn . . . The words came from a sentence she had repeated to herself so often that it felt like a pillar polished smooth by the helpless weight of her body, the pillar that had supported her through the past year. (I like all of the things that are going on internally with the characters).
Just True Things:
I do not care to be admired causelessly, emotionally, intuitively, instinctively–or blindly, I do not care for blindness in any form, I have too much to show–or for deafness, I have too much to say. I do not care to be admired by anyone’s heart–only by someone’s head. And when I find a customer with that invaluable capacity, then my performance is a mutual trade to mutual profit. An artist is a trader, Miss Taggart, the hardest and most exacting of all traders. Now do you understand me?” (Great artistic sentiment from the composer guy).
Wealth, Dagny? What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing?
An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.
That shining vision which they talk about as belonging to the authors of symphonies and novels–what do they think is the driving faculty of men who discover how to use oil, how to run a mine, how to build an electric motor? That sacred fire which is said to burn within musicians and poets–what do they suppose moves an industrialist to defy the whole world for the sake of his new metal, as the inventors of the airplane, the builders of the railroads, the discoverers of new germs or new continents have done through all the ages?
Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist’s intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth? Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, that it is and does–and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind!
“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.
There have always been men of intelligence who went on strike, in protest and despair, but they did not know the meaning of their action. The man who retires from public life, to think, but not to share his thoughts–the man who chooses to spend his years in the obscurity of menial employment, keeping to himself the fire of his mind, never giving it form, expression or reality, refusing to bring it into a world he despises–the man who is defeated by revulsion, the man who renounces before he has started, the man who gives up rather than give in, the man who functions at a fraction of his capacity, disarmed by his longing for an ideal he has not found–they are on strike, on strike against unreason, on strike against your world and your values. But not knowing any values of their own, they abandon the quest to know–in the darkness of their hopeless indignation, which is righteous without knowledge of the right, and passionate without knowledge of desire, they concede to you the power of reality and surrender the incentives of their mind–and they perish in bitter futility, as rebels who never learned the object of their rebellion, as lovers who never discovered their love.
“Every form of causeless self-doubt, every feeling of inferiority and secret unworthiness is, in fact, man’s hidden dread of his inability to deal with existence. But the greater his terror, the more fiercely he clings to the murderous doctrines that choke him. No man can survive the moment of pronouncing himself irredeemably evil; should he do it, his next moment is insanity or suicide. To escape it–if he’s chosen an irrational standard–he will fake, evade, blank out; he will cheat himself of reality, of existence, of happiness, of mind; and he will ultimately cheat himself of self-esteem by struggling to preserve its illusion rather than to risk discovering its lack. To fear to face an issue is to believe that the worst is true.”
Ideas about Sex:
- “I’m your mistress, am I not?” He laughed. “That’s what you are.” She felt the pride a woman is supposed to experience at being granted the title of wife. (She’s actually kind of progressive here, speaking out against the institution of marriage by suggesting that the position of mistress, the one who is loved without obligation, is the better position to be in).
- It was not–as it is for most of you–an act of casual indulgence and mutual contempt. It was the ultimate form of our admiration for each other, with full knowledge of the values by which we made our choice. (Who even has sex with someone out of contempt? Other than James and Lillian?)
Rough Sex (Rape or “Consensual Ravishment”?):
- She felt a moment’s rebellion and a hint of fear. He held her, pressing the length of his body against hers with a tense, purposeful insistence, his hand moving over her breasts as if he were learning a proprietor’s intimacy with her body, a shocking intimacy that needed no consent from her, no permission. She tried to pull herself away, but she only leaned back against his arms long enough to see his face and his smile, the smile that told her she had given him permission long ago. She thought that she must escape; instead, it was she who pulled his head down to find his mouth again. (bodice-ripping)
- …it moved as if her flesh were his possession.
- “You want it?” Her answer was more a gasp than a word, her eyes closed, her mouth open: “Yes.” (Rearden does ask her for consent… at least once).
- He twisted her arms behind her, holding her helpless, her breasts pressed against him; she felt the pain ripping through her shoulders, she heard the anger in his words and the huskiness of pleasure in his voice: “Who was he?” (sexual violence)
- He seized her shoulders, and she felt prepared to accept that he would now kill her or beat her into unconsciousness, and in the moment when she felt certain that he had thought of it, she felt her body thrown against him and his mouth falling on hers, more brutally than the act of a beating would have permitted.
- He knew, by the eagerness of her movement as her arms seized him, that this was the way she wanted to be taken. (That “consensual ravishment” thing I was talking about)
- Letting her lips bring blood to his, knowing that she had never wanted him as she did in this moment.
- She was now unable to move. He seized her arm, he jerked her inside the room, she felt the clinging pressure of his mouth, she felt the slenderness of his body through the suddenly alien stiffness of her coat. She saw the laughter in his eyes, she felt the touch of his mouth again and again, she was sagging in his arms, she was breathing in gasps, as if she had not breathed for five flights of stairs, her face was pressed to the angle between his neck and shoulder, to hold him, to hold him with her arms, her hands and the skin of her cheek. “John . . . you’re alive . . .” was all she could say. He nodded, as if he knew what the words were intended to explain.
They can be gentle, too:
- He held the length of her body pressed to his, as if their bodies were two currents rising upward together, each to a single point, each carrying the whole of their consciousness to the meeting of their lips. What she felt in that moment contained, as one nameless part of it, the knowledge of the beauty in the posture of his body as he held her, as they stood in the middle of a room high above the lights of the city… and that the desire was not an answer to her body, but a celebration of himself and of his will to live. (mirroring)
- …it contained her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers (mirroring x2)
- …the moment when she knew what he saw in her face, by the tight, drawn harshness of his lips–the moment when she felt his mouth on hers, when she felt the shape of his mouth both as an absolute shape and as a liquid filling her body–then the motion of his lips down the line of her throat, a drinking motion that left a trail of bruises. (Atlas Shrugged: Still a better love story than Twilight).
- He reached for her hand and slipped her fingers under his face to let his mouth rest against her palm for a moment, so gently that she felt his motive more than his touch.
Francisco x Rearden
- then gained his footing and pulled him back, and, for an instant, still held the length of Francisco’s body against the length of his own, as he would have held the body of an only son. His love, his terror, his relief were in a single sentence: “Be careful, you goddamn fool!” (Rand didn’t approve of homosexuality, but this is some serious bromance happening here… and in a lot of other parts, see this LiveJournal blog for more: http://almost-canon.livejournal.com/4850.html)
- He won’t be in or, if he is, you’ll probably find him entertaining some floozie, which will serve you right. But the thought seemed unreal, he could not make it apply to the man he had seen at the mouth of the furnace–he stood confidently in the elevator, looking up–he walked confidently down the hall, feeling his bitterness relax into gaiety–he knocked at the door. (jealousy = bromance)
Reasons Francisco is a sweetheart and Dagny should have stayed with him:
- “Francisco, why don’t you laugh at me? You’ve always laughed about that Line.” “I will – tomorrow, when I see you going on with all the work and details. Not tonight.” “Why not?” “Come on. You’re in no condition to talk about it.” (he takes care of her when she’s angry and sad)
- Her body responded to his, her arms and mouth held him, confessing her desire, confessing an acknowledgment she had always given him and always would. (So what happened to that desire when she went with Galt?)
- “Dagny, Dagny, Dagny” – his voice sounded, not as if a confession resisted for years were breaking out, but as if he were repeating the long since known, laughing at the pretense that it had ever been unsaid – “of course I love you. Were you afraid when he made me say it? I’ll say it as often as you wish – I love you, darling, I love you, I always will… Will I want to sleep with you? Desperately. Will I envy the man who does? Sure. But what does that matter? It’s so much – just to have you here, to love you and to be alive.”
- Francisco held a flask of brandy to Galt’s lips. Galt drank, and raised himself to lean on an elbow when his arms were free. “Give me a cigarette,” he said. Francisco produced a package of dollar–sign cigarettes. Galt’s hand shook a little, as he held a cigarette to the flame of a lighter, but Francisco’s hand shook much more. (This is the guy who stole Francisco’s girlfriend… it’s amazing he can care about him so much).
- The light cloth of his shirt seemed to stress, rather than hide, the structure of his figure, his skin was suntanned, his body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy, the color of his skin blending… (This is Galt’s description. Dagny and Rearden are also described as gaunt, though. Gaunt being “underweight”, not healthy thin. It’s interesting since this was written in the 1950s, when models were curvier than they’ve been since the 90s).
[Dagny] kept her hands in the coat pockets, her posture taut, as if she resented immobility, and unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a woman’s body.
[Dagny] walked, cutting across a room, with a masculine, straight-line abruptness, but she had a peculiar grace of motion that was swift, tense and oddly, challengingly feminine. (Dagny is pretty androgynous)
She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought–and never worried about it again…
She had run the Operating Department for the past three years, without title, credit or authority. She was defeated by loathing for the hours, the days, the nights she had to waste circumventing the interference of Jim’s friend who bore the title of Vice-President in Charge of Operation. The man had no policy, and any decision he made was always hers, but he made it only after he had made every effort to make it impossible. (women have trouble getting credit for things)
“Well, I’ve always been unpopular in school and it didn’t bother me, but now I’ve discovered the reason. It’s an impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in the class. I don’t even have to study. I always get A’s. Do you suppose I should try to get D’s for a change and become the most popular girl in school?” Francisco stopped, looked at her and slapped her face. (Francisco won’t accept her giving in to internalized sexism)
In an age of casual, cynical, indifferent routine, among people who held themselves as if they were not flesh, but meat – Dagny’s bearing seemed almost indecent, because this was the way a woman would have faced a ballroom centuries ago, when the act of displaying one’s half-naked body for the admiration of men was an act of daring, when it had meaning, and but one meaning, acknowledged by all as a high adventure. (I’m not quite sure what she’s going for here… is she walking ostentatiously or nervously?)
The naked shoulder was the gown’s only ornament. Seeing her in the suits she wore, one never thought of Dagny Taggart’s body. The black dress seemed excessively revealing–because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained. (Would Dagny wear bondage pants? This goes against the earlier feminist sentiments)
Did you call it depravity? I am much more depraved than you are: you hold it as your guilt, and I–as my pride. (Dagny was anti-slut-shaming before that was a thing).
It was the contrast he liked–the severity of her clothes and the half-naked body, the railroad executive who was a woman he owned (so her success enhances her appeal when she’s subservient… interesting…)
Now she wore a gray evening gown that seemed indecent, because it looked austerely modest, so modest that it vanished from one’s awareness and left one too aware of the slender body it pretended to cover. (Modest-not-modest)
I’ll put you in your place. I’m Mrs. Taggart. I’m the woman in this family now.” “That’s quite all right,” said Dagny. “I’m the man.” (Is she actually asserting masculinity, or is she just trying to unman James?)
[Dagny] slumped against him, sobbing as she had never done in her life, as a woman, in surrender to pain and in a last, futile protest against it.
- A little cigarette advertisement: He glanced at her and did not answer. Then he said, “I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind–and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.” (Rand was a 2-pack-a-day smoker and died of lung cancer)
- “That’s your cruelty, that’s what’s mean and selfish about you. If you loved your brother, you’d give him a job he didn’t deserve, precisely because he didn’t deserve it–that would be true love and kindness and brotherhood. Else what’s love for? If a man deserves a job, there’s no virtue in giving it to him. Virtue is the giving of the undeserved.” (A lot of the dialogue she gives to characters who don’t agree with her philosophy is just totally unbelievable)
- “But think how often we’ve heard people complain that billboards ruin the appearance of the countryside. Well, there’s the unruined countryside for them to admire.” She added, “They’re the people I hate.” (Rand hates environmentalists)
- “The giants of the intellect, whom you admire so much, once taught you that the earth was flat and that the atom was the smallest particle of matter. The entire history of science is a progression of exploded fallacies, not of achievements.” “The more we know, the more we learn that we know nothing.” (Quote from a character who disagrees with her. It’s an expression of humility, not really saying “we know nothing”. I don’t think anyone would deny that humanity has learned some things in the time we’ve been on this planet)
- “Do not look for ‘common sense.’ To demand ‘sense’ is the hallmark of nonsense. Nature does not make sense. Nothing makes sense. The only crusaders for ‘sense’ are the studious type of adolescent old maid who can’t find a boy friend, and the old-fashioned shopkeeper who thinks that the universe is as simple as his neat little inventory and beloved cash register.” (This is another quote from a character who disagrees with her. Who would actually say this?)
- he had remained there as night watchman and sole inhabitant of the place; the salary was sufficient to pay for his needs–and the Institute’s laboratory was there, intact, for his own private, undisturbed use. “So you’re doing research work of your own?” (but he didn’t pay for the materials…).
- “But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give’. (This is just absurd. Could you imagine living your life without giving or being given anything? I guess this is one of the main problems of her philosophy, the necessity of giving and being given to.)
- The tragic joke of human history is that on any of the altars men erected, it was always man whom they immolated and the animal whom they enshrined. (Pfft, what?)
- On Ragnar’s wife’s ability to wait while he goes out and steals from the collectivist government to give back to the producers: “She can live through it, Miss Taggart, because we do not hold the belief that this earth is a realm of misery where man is doomed to destruction… We do not expect disaster until we have specific reason to expect it–and when we encounter it, we are free to fight it. It is not happiness, but suffering that we consider unnatural. It is not success, but calamity that we regard as the abnormal exception in human life.” (But he’s a fucking pirate… you have reason to expect danger.)
John Galt doesn’t let anyone send a message to anyone outside while they’re in the valley… kind of cult-like, isn’t it?
“Did it ever occur to you, Miss Taggart,” said Galt, in the casual tone of an abstract discussion, but as if he had known her thoughts, “that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires–if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? (This makes no fucking sense to me. Why don’t Galt, Rearden, and Francisco fight over Dagny? Actually, each of the men she sleeps with and leaves gives up a lot for her happiness. If that’s not sacrifice, I don’t know what is. I guess Rand would say it would be irrational and destructive for Francisco or Rearden to try to make her love them after she fell in love with Galt? But what if something is rational and practical for two people? What if two people are equally suitable for having one thing?)
“Dagny, all three of us are in love”–she jerked her head to him–”with the same thing, no matter what its forms. Don’t wonder why you feel no breach among us. You’ll be one of us, so long as you’ll remain in love with your rails and your engines–and they’ll lead you back to us, no matter how many times you lose your way. The only man never to be redeemed is the man without passion.” (Is this a free-love kinda thing? I wouldn’t have thought of her as a hippie. And if Galt, Francisco, and Rearden are in love… isn’t that homosexuality? Especially since Rand hates Platonic love?)
mean, rancorous, suspicious faces that bore the one mark incompatible with a standard bearer of the intellect: the mark of uncertainty. (The mark of an ideologue is not allowing doubt, not at least considering ideas outside of her narrow framework)
“And I haven’t any sympathy for that welfare philosophy. I’ve seen enough of them to know what makes the kind of poor who want something for nothing.” (Clever, using a poor, working-girl mouthpiece to to say, “Well, I know all about the poor who are on welfare…”)
She could not believe that she was supposed to feel respect for the dreary senselessness of the art shows which his friends attended, of the novels they read, of the political magazines they discussed–the art shows, where she saw the kind of drawings she had seen chalked on any pavement of her childhood’s slums–the novels, that purported to prove the futility of science, industry, civilization and love, using language that her father would not have used in his drunkenest moments–the magazines, that propounded cowardly generalities, less clear and more stale than the sermons for which she had condemned the preacher of the slum mission as a mealy-mouthed old fraud. (What is she referring to here? Science fiction was getting big around 1957. I’m guessing these are Straw Man publications that didn’t exist in the 50s, but that she’s making up to contrast with her philosophy? Or is she alluding to Soviet literature under state control?)
An enlightened citizenry should abandon the superstitious worship of logic and the outmoded reliance on reason. (Another unbelievable line, this one’s Dr. Stadler’s. I can’t imagine a scientist ever saying this.)
You regard as ‘in the public interest’ any project serving those who do not pay; it is not in the public interest to provide any services for those who do the paying. (Except for roads, schools, Social Security).
‘Public welfare’ is the welfare of those who do not earn it; those who do, are entitled to no welfare. (This is just absurd. People who earn their own welfare don’t need welfare from the State. That wouldn’t make sense – take from the rich to give to… the rich? What’s the point?).
you renounce all personal desires and dedicate your life to those you love, you do not achieve full virtue: you still retain a value of your own, which is your love. (Only if virtue is pure selflessness. Most people would probably say it’s still virtuous to love with selfish interest.)
‘The answer you evade, the monstrous answer is: No, the takers are not evil, provided they did not earn the value you gave them. It is not immoral for them to accept it, provided they are unable to produce it, unable to deserve it, unable to give you any value in return. (How else are people that need things that they can’t earn going to get them, other than being given them? Would weak people in Rand’s ideology just have to accept leading an extremely immoral life, if they can’t improve? What about disabled people? Are they being evil every time they receive help?)
- He wondered, for the first time, whether [Lillian’s] spite, her sarcasm, the cowardly manner of delivering insults under the protection of a smile, were not the opposite of what he had always taken them to be–not a method of torture, but a twisted form of despair, not a desire to make him suffer, but a confession of her own pain, a defense for the pride of an unloved wife, a secret plea–so that the subtle, the hinted, the evasive in her manner, the thing begging to be understood, was not the open malice, but the hidden love. He thought of it, aghast. It made his guilt greater than he had ever contemplated.
- “He needs to feel that he’s wanted.” “Here? What could I want him for?” “You hire plenty of strangers.” “I hire men who produce. What has he got to offer?”
- I rebelled against the looters’ attempt to set the price and value of my steel–but I let them set the moral values of my life. I rebelled against demands for an unearned wealth–but I thought it was my duty to grant an unearned love to a wife I despised, an unearned respect to a mother who hated me, an unearned support to a brother who plotted for my destruction.
- She (Rearden’s mother) wanted to force upon him the suffering of dishonor–but his own sense of honor was her only weapon of enforcement. She wanted to wrest from him an acknowledgment of his moral depravity–but only his own moral rectitude could attach significance to such a verdict.
- Eddie asked him once, “Francisco, you’re some kind of very high nobility, aren’t you?” He answered, “Not yet. The reason my family has lasted for such a long lime is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.”
- “It’s your sin if I suffer! It’s your moral failure! I’m your brother, therefore I’m your responsibility, but you’ve failed to supply my wants, therefore you’re guilty! All of mankind’s moral leaders have said so for centuries–who are you to say otherwise? (Jim)
- “One’s supposed to have some sort of feeling for one’s brother.” “Do you?” Philip’s mouth swelled petulantly; he did not answer; he waited; Rearden let him wait. Philip muttered, “You’re supposed . . . at least . . . to have some consideration for my feelings . . . but you haven’t.” (Even family relationships are an exchange… if both parties don’t agree to the same terms, defined or unsaid, the bonds won’t be very strong.)
Taboo Against Money
- That your only goal is to make steel and to make money.” “But that is my only goal.” “But you shouldn’t say it.” (Breaking taboos)
- Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
Art and Money
- We need a national subsidy for literature. It is disgraceful that artists are treated like peddlers and that art works have to be sold like soap.”
Cause and Effect
- “It’s just a thought that disturbs me once in a while. . . . I thought it about my first ball. . . . I keep thinking that parties are intended to be celebrations, and celebrations should be only for those who have something to celebrate.”
- …for all her years since the night of her first ball when, in desolate longing for an uncaptured vision of gaiety, she had wondered about the people who expected the lights and the flowers to make them brilliant.
- You looked preposterously out of place on a railroad platform–and it was not on a railroad platform that I was seeing you, I was seeing a setting that had never haunted me before–but then, suddenly, I knew that you did belong among the rails, the soot and the girders, that that was the proper setting for a flowing gown and naked shoulders and a face as alive as yours–a railroad platform, not a curtained apartment–you looked like a symbol of luxury and you belonged in the place that was its source
- “It’s a moral imperative, universally conceded in our day and age, that every man is entitled to a job.” His voice rose: “I’m entitled to it!” “You are? Go on, then, collect your claim.” “Uh?” “Collect your job. Pick it off the bush where you think it grows.”
The Wonder of Machines
- They are alive, she thought, because they are the physical shape of the action of a living power–of the mind that had been able to grasp the whole of this complexity, to set its purpose, to give it form.
- The Union of Locomotive Engineers was demanding that the maximum speed of all trains on the John Galt Line be reduced to sixty miles an hour. The Union of Railway Conductors and Brakemen was demanding that the length of all freight trains on the John Galt Line be reduced to sixty cars. The states of Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona were demanding that the number of trains run in Colorado not exceed the number of trains run in each of these neighboring states.
- “In its glare, they made the kind of fortunes they had dreamed about, fortunes requiring no competence or effort. Then their biggest customers, such as power companies, who drank oil by the trainful and would make no allowances for human frailty, began to convert to coal –and the smaller customers, who were more tolerant, began to go out of business–the boys in Washington imposed rationing on oil and an emergency tax on employers to support the unemployed oil field workers–then a few of the big oil companies closed down–then the little fellows in the sun discovered that a drilling bit which had cost a hundred dollars, now cost them five hundred…
- The largest industries, Rearden’s best customers, were denied the use of his Metal. But golf clubs made of Rearden Metal were suddenly appearing on the market, as well as coffee pots, garden tools and bathroom faucets.
- But to avoid the waste and danger of dog-eat-dog competition, all the companies will deposit their gross earnings into a common pool, to be known as the Steel Unification Pool, in charge of a special Board. At the end of the year, the Board will distribute these earnings by totaling the nation’s steel output and dividing it by the number of open-hearth furnaces in existence, thus arriving at an average which will be fair to all–and every company will be paid according to its need. The preservation of its furnaces being its basic need, every company will be paid according to the number of furnaces it owns.” (Paying by anything other than value provided really does not work. She makes this point very well.)
- “Well, let me see,” said Rearden. “Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel owns 60 open-hearth furnaces, one-third of them standing idle and the rest producing an average of 300 tons of steel per furnace per day. I own 20 open-hearth furnaces, working at capacity, producing tons of Rearden Metal per furnace per day. So we own 80 ‘pooled’ furnaces with a ‘pooled’ output of 27,000 tons, which makes an average of 337.5 tons per furnace. Each day of the year, I, producing 15,000 tons, will be paid for 6,750 tons. Boyle, producing 12,000 tons, will be paid for 20,250 tons. Never mind the other members of the pool, they won’t change the scale, except to bring the average still lower, most of them doing worse than Boyle, none of them producing as much as I. Now how long do you expect me to last under your Plan?
- “But, Dr. Stadler, this book was not intended to be read by scientists. It was written for that drunken lout.” “What do you mean?” “For the general public.”
- The only business boom, that winter, came to the amusement industry. People wrenched their pennies out of the quicksands of their food and heat budgets, and went without meals in order to crowd into movie theaters, in order to escape for a few hours the state of animals reduced to the single concern of terror over their crudest needs.
- “At a time like ours, with the country falling apart, with the mob driven by blind desperation to the edge of open riots and violence–order must be maintained by any means available. What can we do when we have to deal with people?”
- “You have to make certain sacrifices to the public welfare!” “I don’t see why Orren Boyle is more ‘the public’ than I am.” (The question of “Who is the public?” comes up a lot, and the answer is usually Washington and whoever has the most pull in Washington.)
(Not) Playing the Game
- “You need my help to make it look like a sale–like a safe, just, moral transaction. I will not help you.”
- Whatever you wish me to do, I will do it at the point of a gun. If you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there–I will not volunteer to move. If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine–I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe that you have the right to force me–use your guns openly. I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action.”
- I wouldn’t want to seek it from a painting. I’d want it real. I’d take no pride in any hopeless longing. I wouldn’t hold a stillborn aspiration. I’d want to have it, to make it, to live it. Do you understand?”
- We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by–” “–the aristocracy of pull,” said a voice beyond the group. They whirled around. The man who stood facing them was Francisco d’Anconia.
- There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone?
- “With the whole world starving and all those People’s States barely subsisting on handouts from this country–where do you see any danger of war? Do you expect those ragged savages to attack you?” Dr. Ferris looked straight into his eyes. “Internal enemies can be as great a danger to the people as external ones,” he answered. “Perhaps greater.”
- Dr. Ferris smiled. “No private businessman or greedy industrialist would have financed Project X,” he said softly, in the tone of an idle, informal discussion. “He couldn’t have afforded it. It’s an enormous investment, with no prospect of material gain. What profit could he expect from it? There are no profits henceforth to be derived from that farm.” (Dr. Ferris is pretty evil.)
- The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force.
- The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.”
- Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it.
- “Well, she thinks that there’s something like a shift of stress involved–economic and personal stress. As soon as all the weight of the moment shifts to the shoulders of some one man–he’s the one who vanishes, like a pillar slashed off.
- he was ready for the destroyer. You see, she doesn’t think it’s happening by chance or accident. She thinks there’s a system behind it, an intention, a man. There’s a destroyer loose in the country, who’s cutting down the buttresses one after another to let the structure collapse upon our heads.
- “Mr. Rearden,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders–what would you tell him to do?” “I . . . don’t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?” “To shrug.”
- Galt’s Motto: “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.”
- In such a world John Galt, the man of incalculable intellectual power, will remain an unskilled laborer– Francisco d’Anconia, the miraculous producer of wealth, will become a wastrel–and Ragnar Danneskjold, the man of enlightenment, will become the man of violence.
Robin Hood/Ragnar Danneskjold
- “I do approve of it, Mr. Rearden. But I’ve chosen a special mission of my own. I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in.” “What man?” “Robin Hood.” Rearden looked at him blankly, not understanding. “He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich–or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”
- All your life, you have heard yourself denounced, not for your faults, but for your greatest virtues. You have been hated, not for your mistakes, but for your achievements. You have been scorned for all those qualities of character which are your highest pride. You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life.
- You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. You have been called cruel for your unyielding integrity. You have been called anti-social for the vision that made you venture upon undiscovered roads. You have been called ruthless for the strength and self-discipline of your drive to your purpose. You have been called greedy for the magnificence of your power to create wealth.
- They might learn to hold, not death and taxes, but life and production as their two absolutes and as the base of their moral code.
- They were silent. She turned to Galt. “And you?” she asked. “You were first. What made you come to it?” He chuckled, “My refusal to be born with any original sin.” “What do you mean?” “I have never felt guilty of my ability. I have never felt guilty of my mind. I have never felt guilty of being a man. I accepted no unearned guilt, and thus was free to earn and to know my own value. Ever since I can remember, I had felt that I would kill the man who’d claim that I exist for the sake of his need–and I had known that this was the highest moral feeling. That night, at the Twentieth Century meeting, when I heard an unspeakable evil being spoken in a tone of moral righteousness, I saw the root of the world’s tragedy, the key to it and the solution. I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.”
- “What is your guilt?” they would ask her. “Drink? Dope? Pregnancy? Shoplifting?” She would answer, “I have no guilt, I am innocent, but I’m–” “Sorry. We have no concern for the pain of the innocent.”
- Your victims took the blame and struggled on, with your curses as reward for their martyrdom–while you went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good?–by what standard?
- A doctrine that gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard. By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man–every man–is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”
- It was the feeling which had moved him through his life, the feeling which some among men know in their youth, then betray, but which he had never betrayed and had carried within him as a battered, attacked, unidentified, but living motor–the feeling which he could now experience in its full, uncontested purity: the sense of his own superlative value and the superlative value of his life.
- “Do you think a man should give jewelry to his mistress for any purpose but his own pleasure?” he asked. “This is the way I want you to wear it. Only for me. I like to look at it. It’s beautiful.”
- “We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil. We are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.
Materialists vs Idealists
- One kind of half is the man who despises money, factories, skyscrapers and his own body. He holds undefined emotions about non-conceivable subjects as the meaning of life and as his claim to virtue.
- The other kind of half is the man whom people call practical, the man who despises principles, abstractions, art, philosophy and his own mind. He regards the acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence–and he laughs at the need to consider their purpose or their source. He expects them to give him pleasure–and he wonders why the more he gets, the less he feels. He is the man who spends his time chasing women. Observe the triple fraud which he perpetrates upon himself. He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values; yet he feels the profound self-contempt which comes from believing that he is a piece of meat.
Tyranny of the Needy
- the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrifices–that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others–that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will descend upon us–and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord.
- What we are now asked to worship, what had once been dressed as God or king, is the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent.
- Ability is a selfish evil that leaves no chance to those who are less able? We have withdrawn from the competition and left all chances open to incompetents.
- I want this kind of world, today’s world, it gives me my share of authority, it allows me to feel important–make it work for me!–do something!–how do I know what?–it’s your problem and your duty! You have the privilege of strength, but I–I have the right of weakness! That’s a moral absolute! Don’t you know it? (Jim)
- “You won’t go bankrupt. You’ll always produce,” said Dr. Ferris indifferently, neither in praise nor in blame, merely in the tone of stating a fact of nature, as he would have said to another man: You’ll always be a bum, “You can’t help it. It’s in your blood. Or, to be more scientific: you’re conditioned that way.” (Turning the tables, good rhetoric. But people like to give to bums who seem like they’ll get better, not bums who will stay bums. I think this is a corruption of the concept of “privilege”. Economic privilege has to do with the kind of start you got, not the kind of person you are.)
Problems of Collectivism
- The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need… None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it… And if anybody had doubts, he felt guilty and kept his mouth shut–because they made it sound like anyone who’d oppose the plan was a child killer at heart and less than a human being… it’s theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures–and yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end. . . . From each according to his ability, to each according to his need… Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. Yes, ma’am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done?…his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’–so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife’s head colds, hoping that ‘the family’ would throw him the alms… He had to claim miseries, because it’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm–so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s… Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot?… When all the decent pleasures are forbidden, there’s always ways to get the rotten ones… Babies was the only item of production that didn’t fall, but rose and kept on rising–because people had nothing else to do, I guess, and because they didn’t have to care, the baby wasn’t their burden, it was ‘the family’s.’ In fact, the best chance you had of getting a raise and breathing easier for a while was a ‘baby allowance.’ Either that, or a major disease… Nobody can divide a factory’s income among thousands of people, without some sort of a gauge to measure people’s value. Her [Ivy Starnes’s]gauge was bootlicking… There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself… But while he was thinking that he’d get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who’d get unearned benefits, too… She made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan had failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world–and that the plan was a noble ideal, but human nature was not good enough for it. (Then he tells her how Galt quit the Twentieth Century Motor Company, saying he will “stop the motor of the world”).
- Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it–and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”
- “Mr. Meigs,” she said, “if you look at a map, you will see that two thirds of the cost of maintaining a track for our transcontinental traffic is given to us free and is paid by our competitor.” “Why, sure,” he said, but his eyes narrowed, watching her suspiciously, as if he were wondering what motive prompted her to so explicit a statement. “While we’re paid for owning miles of useless track which carries no traffic,” she said.
- “It has eliminated thirty per cent of the trains run in the country,” said Eddie. “The only competition left is in the applications to the Board for permission to cancel trains. The railroad to survive will be the one that manages to run no trains at all.”
- We’re supposed to pretend to believe that ‘public welfare is the only reason for any decision–and that the public welfare of the city of New York requires the immediate delivery of a large quantity of grapefruit.” – Eddie
- There was no way to tell which devastation had been accomplished by the humanitarians and which by undisguised gangsters.
- But five million dollars was being spent by the office of Morale Conditioning on the People’s Opera Company, which traveled through the country, giving free performances to people who, on one meal a day, could not afford the energy to walk to the opera house. Seven million dollars had been granted to a psychologist in charge of a project to solve the world crisis by research into the nature of brother-love. Ten million dollars had been granted to the manufacturer of a new electronic cigarette lighter–but there were no cigarettes in the shops of the country.
- There were waiting lines years’ long for the jobs of janitors, greasers, porters and bus boys; there was no one to apply for the jobs of executives, managers, superintendents, engineers.
Mind vs Emotions
“Whenever a man denounces the mind, it is because his goal is of a nature the mind would not permit him to confess.
“If any part of your uncertainty,” said Galt, “is a conflict between your heart and your mind–follow your mind.”
“Whenever anyone accuses some person of being ‘unfeeling,’ he means that that person is just. He means that that person has no causeless emotions and will not grant him a feeling which he does not deserve. He means that ‘to feel’ is to go against reason, against moral values, against reality.” (Dagny)
“Oh, I can’t answer you. I don’t have any answers, my mind doesn’t work that way, but I don’t feel that you’re right, so I know that you’re wrong.” “How do you know it?” “I feel it. I don’t go by my head, but by my heart. You might be good at logic, but you’re heartless.”
“Lillian,” he said, in an unstressed voice that did not grant her even the honor of anger [italics mine], “you are not to speak of her to me. If you ever do it again, I will answer you as I would answer a hoodlum: I will beat you up. Neither you nor anyone else is to discuss her.”
They [the children in Galt’s Gulch] seemed to face life as she had faced it. They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world–a look of fear, half-secretive, half sneering, the look of a child’s defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred.
I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child’s brain, to convince him that reason is impotent, that existence is an irrational chaos with which he’s unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror… The cause is that here, in Galt’s Gulch, there’s no person who would not consider it monstrous ever to confront a child with the slightest suggestion of the irrational.
(from Galt’s speech) In that world, you’ll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit you had known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe. No child is afraid of nature; it is your fear of men that will vanish, the fear that has stunted your soul, the fear you acquired in your early encounters with the incomprehensible, the unpredictable, the contradictory, the arbitrary, the hidden, the faked, the irrational in men. You will live in a world of responsible beings, who will be as consistent and reliable as facts; the guarantee of their character will be a system of existence where objective reality is the standard and the judge. (Utopian)
He thought of all the living species that train their young in the art of survival, the cats who teach their kittens to hunt, the birds who spend such strident effort on teaching their fledglings to fly–yet man, whose tool of survival is the mind, does not merely fail to teach a child to think, but devotes the child’s education to the purpose of destroying his brain, of convincing him that thought is futile and evil, before he has started to think.
“Don’t ask so many questions, children should be seen and not heard!”–”Who are you to think? It’s so, because I say so!”–”Don’t argue, obey!”–”Don’t try to understand, believe!”––”Don’t rebel, adjust!”–”Don’t stand out, belong!”–”Don’t struggle, compromise!” –”Your heart is more important than your mind!”–”Who are you to know? Your parents know best!”–”Who are you to know? Society knows best!”–”Who are you to know? The bureaucrats know best!”–”Who are you to object? All values are relative!”–”Who are you to want to escape a thug’s bullet? That’s only a personal prejudice!”
His eyes had the stare of a man who suddenly sees that which he had known, had known from the first, had spent years trying not to see, and who is now engaged in a contest between the sight and his power to deny its existence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he snapped at last. (This is Dr. Stadler, but Jim has this sense of denied reality, too.)
There had been a time when he [Jim] had felt some measure of guilt–in no clearer a form than a touch of irritation–at the thought that he shared the sin of greed, which he spent his time denouncing. Now he was hit by the chill realization that, in fact, he had never been a hypocrite: in full truth, he had never cared for money. This left another hole gaping open before him, leading into another blind alley which he could not risk seeing. (because he cares more about being a bully and hurting people, particularly bringing down people on high horses… he also wants power over other people’s lives)
Whatever they do, I can undo it. Let them build a track–I can come and break it, just like that!” He snapped his fingers. “Just like breaking a spine!” “You want to break spines?” she whispered, trembling. “I haven’t said that!” he screamed. “What’s the matter with you? I haven’t said it!”
“Love” as Bromide
“Jim, why did you marry me?” He chuckled sadly. “That’s what everybody kept asking me. I didn’t think you’d ever ask it. Why? Because I love you.” She wondered at how strange it was that this word–which was supposed to be the simplest in the human language, the word understood by all, the universal bond among men–conveyed to her no meaning whatever.
“To be loved for!” he said, his voice grating with mockery and righteousness. “So you think that love is a matter of mathematics, of exchange, of weighing and measuring, like a pound of butter on a grocery counter? I don’t want to be loved for anything. I want to be loved for myself–not for anything I do or have or say or think. For myself–not for my body or mind or words or works or actions.” (However, when people say that they love someone how they are it means that they aren’t put off by adverse conditions that the person they love is experiencing, like poverty, or mental illness, or bad acne. In unconditional love, usually the conditions that don’t matter to the lover are exterior phenomenon, not intrinsic properties of the person. Nobody loves someone “for themselves” unless there’s something they admire about them to begin with.)
“You want unearned love. You want unearned admiration. You want unearned greatness. You want to be a man like Hank Rearden without the necessity of being what he is. Without the necessity of being anything.”
The newspapers did not mention it. The editorials went on speaking of self-denial as the road to future progress, of self-sacrifice as the moral imperative, of greed as the enemy, of love as the solution–their threadbare phrases as sickeningly sweet as the odor of ether in a hospital.
Suffering (or Rejection of)
“Yours? Your feelings?” It was not malice in Philip’s voice, but worse: it was a genuine, indignant astonishment. “You haven’t any feelings. You’ve never felt anything at all. You’ve never suffered!”… You’ve never suffered, the dead stare of the eyes was saying, you’ve never felt anything, because only to suffer is to feel–there’s no such thing as joy, there’s only pain and the absence of pain, only pain and the zero, when one feels nothing–I suffer, I’m twisted by suffering, I’m made of undiluted suffering, that’s my purity, that’s my virtue–and yours, you the untwisted one, you the uncomplaining, yours is to relieve me of my pain–cut your unsuffering body to patch up mine, cut your unfeeling soul to stop mine from feeling–and we’ll achieve the ultimate ideal, the triumph over life, the zero!
Dagny, it’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence. Don’t feel sorry for me. It was gone right then.”
“What does it matter, Mr. Rearden? . . . Man is only a collection of . . . conditioned chemicals . . . and a man’s dying doesn’t make . . . any more difference than an animal’s.” “You know better than that.” “Yes,” he whispered. “Yes, I guess I do. … “and, I guess, it makes a difference to an animal, too . . . But they said there are no values . . . only social customs . . . No values!” His hand clutched blindly at the hole in his chest, as if trying to hold that which he was losing. (It sounds like an old man complaining that the youth have no values! Haha)
“There’s no such thing as the intellect. A man’s brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he’s picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what’s floating in the social atmosphere. (both of these are not things that Ayn agrees with, they’re said by the villains)
“Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch–or build a cyclotron–without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think. “But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call ‘human nature,’ the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival–so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think.’
“If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shall think. But a ‘moral commandment’ is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.
The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.
Galt’s Speech Highlights (more under the section on Mystics)
“We, the men of the mind, are now on strike against you in the name of a single axiom, which is the root of our moral code, just as the root of yours is the wish to escape it: the axiom that existence exists.
“My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists–and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason–Purpose–Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge–Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve–Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.
“Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live–that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values–that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others–that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human… that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction.”
Virtue is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own reward or sacrificial fodder for the reward of evil. Life is the reward of virtue–and happiness is the goal and the reward of life.
Happiness is a state of non contradictory joy–a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind’s fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer. Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.
To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight.
Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.
It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the right to choose: his own.
Joy is not ‘the absence of pain,’ intelligence is not ‘the absence of stupidity,’ light is not ‘the absence of darkness,’ an entity is not ‘the absence of a nonentity.’ Building is not done by abstaining from demolition; centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one single girder for you to abstain from demolishing–and now you can no longer say to me, the builder: ‘Produce, and feed us in exchange for our not destroying your production.’ I am answering in the name of all your victims: Perish with and in your own void.
“What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge–he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil–he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor–he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire–he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy–all the cardinal values of his existence.
‘The good of others.’ The good is whatever others wish, whatever you feel they feel they wish, or whatever you feel they ought to feel. ‘The good of others’ is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold, a formula to be recited as a guarantee of moral glory and as a fumigator for any action, even the slaughter of a continent.”
As this double-jointed, double-standard morality splits you in half, so it 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.
you struggle to evade, as ‘theory,’ the knowledge that by the moral standard you’ve accepted you are guilty every moment of your life, there is no mouthful of food you swallow that is not needed by someone somewhere on earth–and you give up the problem in blind resentment, you conclude that moral perfection is not to be achieved or desired, that you will muddle through by snatching as snatch can and by avoiding the eyes of the young, of those who look at you as if self-esteem were possible and they expected you to have it.
“Whenever you rebel against causality, your motive is the fraudulent desire, not to escape it, but worse: to reverse it. You want unearned love, as if love, the effect, could give you personal value, the cause–you want unearned admiration, as if admiration, the effect, could give you virtue, the cause–you want unearned wealth, as if wealth, the effect, could give you ability… And to indulge your ugly little shams, you support the doctrines of your teachers, while they run hog-wild proclaiming that spending, the effect, creates riches, the cause, that machinery, the effect, creates intelligence, the cause, that your sexual desires, the effect, create your philosophical values, the cause.
To receive it–from whom? Blank-out. Every man, they announce, owns an equal share of the technological benefits created in the world. Created–by whom? Blank-out.
Granting man less dignity than they grant to cattle, ignoring what an animal trainer could tell them–that no animal can be trained by fear, that a tortured elephant will trample its torturer, but will not work for him or carry his burdens –they expect man to continue to produce electronic tubes, supersonic airplanes, atom-smashing engines and interstellar telescopes, with his ration of meat for reward and a lash on his back for incentive. (People won’t work under fear, with no incentive.)
When you permit your precariously semi-rational state to be shaken by any assertion and decide it is safer to trust his superior certainty and knowledge, the joke is on both of you: your sanction is the only source of certainty he has. (Don’t listen to other people, don’t assume others are smarter or know things you don’t.)
“If you want to know what you lost when I quit and when my strikers deserted your world–stand on an empty stretch of soil in a wilderness unexplored by men and ask yourself what manner of survival you would achieve and how long you would last if you refused to think, with no one around to teach you the motions, or, if you chose to think, how much your mind would be able to discover–ask yourself how many independent conclusions you have reached in the course of your life and how much of your time was spent on performing the actions you learned from others–ask yourself whether you would be able to discover how to till the soil and grow your food, whether you would be able to invent a wheel, a lever, an induction coil, a generator, an electronic tube–then decide whether men of ability are exploiters who live by the fruit of your labor and rob you of the wealth that you produce, and whether you dare to believe that you possess the power to enslave them.
‘It’s only human,’ you cry in defense of any depravity, reaching the stage of self-abasement where you seek to make the concept ‘human’ mean the weakling, the fool, the rotter, the liar, the failure, the coward, the fraud, and to exile from the human race the hero, the thinker, the producer, the inventor, the strong, the purposeful, the pure–as if ‘to feel’ were human, but to think were not, as if to fail were human, but to succeed were not, as if corruption were human, but virtue were not –as if the premise of death were proper to man, but the premise of life were not.
There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.
Once, you believed it was ‘only a compromise’: you conceded it was evil to live for yourself, but moral to live for the sake of your children. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your children, but moral to live for your community. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your community, but moral to live for your country. Now, you are letting this greatest of countries be devoured by any scum from any corner of the earth, while you concede that it is selfish to live for your country and that your moral duty is to live for the globe. A man who has no right to life, has no right to values and will not keep them.
that there is no more despicable coward than, the man who deserted the battle for his joy, fearing to assert his right to existence, lacking the courage and the loyalty to life of a bird or a flower reaching for the sun.
Discard the protective rags of that vice which you called a virtue: humility–learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your happiness–and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you will learn to live like a man.
Do you ask if it’s ever proper to help another man? No–if he claims it as his right or as a moral duty that you owe him. Yes–if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. (Criticism of this line is probably what she wrote the essay “The Ethics of Emergencies” to address… how could you see someone drowning and not save them if you had the power to? Rand says the problem is that all ethics (except her own, of course) are constructed with only emergency situations in mind)
If you choose to help a man who suffers, do it only on the ground of his virtues, of his fight to recover, of his rational record, or of the fact that he suffers unjustly; then your action is still a trade, and his virtue is the payment for your help.
When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing. (Not sure if I agree, but this is interesting)
The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.
The man who does no more than physical labor, consumes the material value-equivalent of his own contribution to the process of production, and leaves no further value, neither for himself nor others. But the man who produces an idea in any field of rational endeavor–the man who discovers new knowledge–is the permanent benefactor of humanity.
You decided to call it unfair that we, who had dragged you out of your hovels and provided you with modern apartments, with radios, movies and cars, should own our palaces and yachts–you decided that you had a right to your wages, but we had no right to our profits, that you did not want us to deal with your mind, but to deal, instead, with your gun.
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.
(detonation of the WMD Dr. Stadler “helped” develop) In the instant when he focused his lens, a goat was pulling at its chain, reaching placidly for a tall, dry thistle. In the next instant, the goat rose into the air, upturned, its legs stretched upward and jerking, then fell into a gray pile made of seven goats in convulsions… It was so swift, so uncontested, so simple, that Dr. Stadler felt no horror, he felt nothing, it was not the reality he had known, it was the realm of a child’s nightmare where material objects could be dissolved by means of a single malevolent wish.
(After Galt is taken by the government) She could not get rid of the feeling that she was running nothing but freight trains: the passengers, to her, were not living or human. It seemed senseless to waste such enormous effort on preventing catastrophes, on protecting the safety of trains carrying nothing but inanimate objects. She looked at the faces in the Terminal: if he (Galt) were to die, she thought, to be murdered by the rulers of their system, that these might continue to eat, sleep and travel–would she work to provide them with trains? If she were to scream for their help, would one of them rise to his defense? Did they want him to live, they who had heard him?
(When Galt is being interrogated by the politician Mr. Thompson) Okay, I’ll tell you. You want me to be the Economic Dictator?” “Yes!” “And you’d obey any order I give?” “Implicitly!” “Then start by abolishing all income taxes.” “Oh, no!” screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. “We couldn’t do that! That’s . . . that’s not the field of production. That’s the field of distribution. How would we pay government employees?” “Fire your government employees.” “Oh, no! That’s politics! That’s not economics! You can’t interfere with politics! You can’t have everything!” Galt crossed his legs on the hassock, stretching himself more comfortably in the brocaded armchair.
“Well, you talked a lot about wealth. If it’s money that you want–you couldn’t make in three lifetimes what I can hand over to you in a minute, this minute, cash on the barrel. Want a billion dollars–a cool, neat billion dollars?” “Which I’ll have to produce, for you to give me?” “No, I mean straight out of the public treasury, in fresh, new bills . . . or . . . or even in gold, if you prefer.” “What will it buy me?” “Oh, look, when the country gets back on its feet–” “When I put it back on its feet?” “Well, if what you want is to run things your own way, if it’s power that you’re after, I’ll guarantee you that every man, woman and child in this country will obey your orders and do whatever you wish.” “After I teach them to do it?” “If you want anything for your own gang–for all those men who’ve disappeared–jobs, positions, authority, tax exemptions, any special favor at all–just name it and they’ll get it.” “After I bring them back?” “Well, what on earth do you want?” “What on earth do I need you for?” “Huh?” “What have you got to offer me that I couldn’t get without you?”
The removal of a threat is not a payment, the negation of a negative is not a reward, the withdrawal of your armed hoodlums is not an incentive, the offer not to murder me is not a value.” “Who . . . who’s said anything about murdering you?” “Who’s said anything about anything else? If you weren’t holding me here at the point of a gun, under threat of death, you wouldn’t have a chance to speak to me at all. And that is as much as your guns can accomplish. I don’t pay for the removal of threats. I don’t buy my life from anyone.” (At which point Mr. Thompson kills him… just kidding!)
“Oh, but I don’t know what directives to issue!” “I don’t, either.” There was a long pause. “Well?” said Galt. “What are your orders?” “I want you to save the economy of the country!” “I don’t know how to save it.” “I want you to find a way!” “I don’t know how to find it.” “I want you to think!” “How will your gun make me do that, Mr. Thompson?”
(While Jim Taggart has Galt hooked up to the pain machine, after it breaks, and Galt tells the technician how to fix it) “I don’t care! I want to break him! I want to hear him scream! I want–” And then it was Taggart who screamed. It was a long, sudden, piercing scream, as if at some sudden sight, though his eyes were staring at space and seemed blankly sightless. The sight he was confronting was within him. The protective walls of emotion, of evasion, of pretense, of semi-thinking and pseudo-words, built up by him through all of his years, had crashed in the span of one moment–the moment when he knew that he wanted Galt to die, knowing fully that his own death would follow… It was the urge to defy reality by the destruction of every living value, for the sake of proving to himself that he could exist in defiance of reality and would never have to be bound by any solid, immutable facts.
He was no longer able to summon the fog to conceal the sight of all those blind alleys he had struggled never to be forced to see: now, at the end of every alley, he was seeing his hatred of existence–he was seeing the face of Cherryl Taggart with her joyous eagerness to live and that it was this particular eagerness he had always wanted to defeat–he was seeing his face as the face of a killer whom all men should rightfully loathe, who destroyed values for being values, who killed in order not to discover his own irredeemable evil.
“Look,” he said hastily, pulling a key from his pocket and turning to the door, “I’ll ask the chief. He–” “No.” she said. Some quality in the tone of her voice made him whirl back to her: she was holding a gun pointed levelly at his heart. “Listen carefully,” she said. “Either you let me in or I shoot you. You may try to shoot me first, if you can. You have that choice–and no other. Now decide… Calmly and impersonally, she, who would have hesitated to fire at an animal, pulled the trigger and fired straight at the heart of a man who had wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness. (The part where Dagny kills a man for taking too long to open the door to where Galt is being tortured).
(After they save Galt) The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations–and that the lights of New York had gone out. Dagny gasped. “Don’t look down!” Galt ordered sharply.
End of the book: But far in the distance, on the edge of the earth, a small flame was waving in the wind, the defiantly stubborn flame of Wyatt’s Torch, twisting, being torn and regaining its hold, not to be uprooted or extinguished. It seemed to be calling and waiting for the words John Galt was now to pronounce. “The road is cleared,” said Galt. “We are going back to the world.” He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.
- He did not answer. He sat studying her silently. Her slender body, about to slump from exhaustion, was held erect by the straight line of the shoulders, and the shoulders were held by a conscious effort of will. Few people liked her face: the face was too cold, the eyes too intense; nothing could ever lend her the charm of a soft focus. The beautiful legs, slanting down from the chair’s arm in the center of his vision, annoyed him; they spoiled the rest of his estimate.
- Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding, and cruel, because it was expressionless. (Rearden has that same straight face as Dagny).
- REARDEN STEEL. He stood straight, as if before a bench of judgment. He thought that in the darkness of this night other signs were lighted over the country: Rearden Ore–Rearden Coal–Rearden Limestone. He thought of the days behind him. He wished it were possible to light a neon sign above them, saying: Rearden Life. (He kinda reminds me of Donald Trump).
- (Galt) a face that bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt. The shape of his mouth was pride, and more: it was as if he took pride in being proud.
- Lillian’s motives: 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, as if the murderer who killed a child were greater than the mother who had given it birth.
- He remembered her hammering derision of his work, his mills, his Metal, his success, he remembered her desire to see him drunk, just once, her attempts to push him into infidelity, her pleasure at the thought that he had fallen to the level of some sordid romance, her terror on discovering that that romance had been an attainment, not a degradation.
Stuff that Reveals More About Ayn
- “You’re unbearably conceited,” was one of the two sentences she heard throughout her childhood, even though she never spoke of her own ability. The other sentence was: “You’re selfish.” She asked what was meant, but never received an answer. She looked at the adults, wondering how they could imagine that she would feel guilt from an undefined accusation. (Ayn Rand, er – Dagny’s childhood)
- The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue – while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin… the work of dealing with grease, steam and slimy peelings in a reeking kitchen was held to be a spiritual matter, an act of compliance with her moral duty – while the meeting of two bodies in a bedroom was held to be a physical indulgence, an act of surrender to an animal instinct, with no glory, meaning or pride of spirit to be claimed by the animals involved.” (Something tells me Ayn’s house wasn’t too clean)
- “Do they ever think?” she asked involuntarily, and stopped; the question was her one personal torture and she did not want to discuss it. (This is such an INTJ thing)
- “It would work very simply,” said Balph Eubank. “There should be a law limiting the sale of any book to ten thousand copies. This would throw the literary market open to new talent, fresh ideas and non-commercial writing. If people were forbidden to buy a million copies of the same piece of trash, they would be forced to buy better books.” (She has some interest in this, being a paperback writer)
- “But if a book has a good story which–” “Plot is a primitive vulgarity in literature,” said Balph Eubank contemptuously. (making fun of literary fiction)
- In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. *sigh* okay…
- “For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a protection racket–by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from the sinners.
- Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of humanity and preach that the highest virtue man can practice is to hold his own life as of no value. Do they tell you that the purpose of morality is to curb man’s instinct of self-preservation? It is for the purpose of self-preservation that man needs a code of morality. The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.
- “No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him, they say, against his pain–and they point at the torture rack to which they’ve tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body.
- his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth–and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.
- “It is only the metaphysics of a leech that would cling to the idea of a universe where a zero is a standard of identification. A leech would want to seek escape from the necessity to name its own nature–escape from the necessity to know that the substance on which it builds its private universe is blood.
- Mystic faith, the supremacy of the irrational, which has but two monuments at the end of its course: the lunatic asylum and the graveyard.
- There are two kinds of teachers of the Morality of Death: the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle, whom you call the spiritualists and the materialists, those who believe in consciousness without existence and those who believe in existence without consciousness.
- The idol of instinct and the idol of force–the mystics and the kings–the mystics, who longed for an irresponsible consciousness and ruled by means of the claim that their dark emotions were superior to reason, that knowledge came in blind, causeless fits, blindly to be followed, not doubted–and the kings, who ruled by means of claws and muscles, with conquest as their method and looting as their aim, with a club or a gun as sole sanction of their power.
- The mystics of spirit declare that they possess an extra sense you lack: this special sixth sense consists of contradicting the whole of the knowledge of your five.
- If an honest person asks them: ‘How?’–they answer with righteous scorn that a ‘how’ is the concept of vulgar realists; the concept of superior spirits is ‘Somehow.’ On this earth restricted by matter and profit, rewards are achieved by thought; in a world set free of such restrictions, rewards are achieved by wishing.
- “The restriction they seek to escape is the law of identity. The freedom they seek is freedom from the fact that an A will remain an A, no matter what their tears or tantrums–that a river will not bring them milk, no matter what their hunger–that water will not run uphill, no matter what comforts they could gain if it did, and if they want to lift it to the roof of a skyscraper, they must do it by a process of thought and labor, in which the nature of an inch of pipe line counts, but their feelings do not–that their feelings are impotent to alter the course of a single speck of dust in space or the nature of any action they have committed. (This is the butt-kicking part.)
- We know that we know nothing,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are claiming knowledge–’There are no absolutes,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are uttering an absolute–’You cannot prove that you exist or that you’re conscious,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved.mystic wishing is a higher mode of life, the rebellion against identity is the wish for non-existence. The desire not to be anything is the desire not to be.
- A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at its first encounter with the minds of others. Somewhere in. the distant reaches of his childhood, when his own understanding of reality clashed with the assertions of others, with their arbitrary orders and contradictory demands, he gave in to so craven a fear of dependence that he renounced his rational faculty… At the crossroads of the choice between ‘I know’ and ‘They say,’ he chose the authority of others, he chose to submit rather than to understand, to believe rather than to think… His surrender took the form of the feeling that he must hide his lack of understanding, that others possess some mysterious knowledge of which he alone is deprived, that reality is whatever they want it to be, through some means forever denied to him.
- Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience–that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible.
- “You see, Dr. Stadler, people don’t want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some sort of instinct, they feel that they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they’ll bless and follow anyone who gives them a justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue–a highly intellectual virtue–out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness and their guilt.
- The contemptible breed of those mystics of science who profess a devotion to some sort of ‘pure knowledge’–the purity consisting of their claim that such knowledge has no practical purpose on this earth–who reserve their logic for inanimate matter, but believe that the subject of dealing with men requires and deserves no rationality, who scorn money and sell their souls in exchange for a laboratory supplied by loot. And since there is no such thing as ‘non–practical knowledge’ or any sort of ‘disinterested’ action, since they scorn the use of their science for the purpose and profit of life, they deliver their science to the service of death, to the only practical purpose it can ever have for looters: to inventing weapons of coercion and destruction. They, the intellects who seek escape from moral values, they are the damned on this earth, theirs is the guilt beyond forgiveness. Do you hear me, Dr. Robert Stadler?
- You, who scorn a businessman as ignoble, but esteem any posturing artist as exalted–the root of your standards is that mystic miasma which comes from primordial swamps, that cult of death, which pronounces a businessman immoral by reason of the fact that he keeps you alive.