Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 3-12: Who is John Galt?

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the worst book ever published. The characters are poorly drawn, the story is ridiculous, the philosophical underpinnings are incoherent and morally repugnant, and the writing is incompetent. Quite frankly and put as simply as I possibly can, there is no value to this book, it should not be read by anyone for any reason. And yet it is. By millions. It has sold a bajillion copies and is a touchstone of political thought for a wide swath of the American public who for some reason have come to the conclusion that it has something to offer. I offer in return the thesis that these people are fucking idiots. As a public service in order that no one else should ever have to read this garbage, I am undertaking the following analysis, in detail, of the book in its entirety, page by excruciatingly awful page. If you're interested in following along, it will be useful to know that all page references and quotations are from the 1999 Plume Paperback edition with a new introduction by Leonard Peikoff. But I discourage anyone from following along. It's my hope that this summary and close reading will be more entertaining than the actual text, and that one can read this instead of ever having to suffer through the actual book.

Since I have to start somewhere, it may as well be at the beginning. I was inspired to undertake this task by the blog Slacktivist, whose close reading of the Left Behind series is a novel and interesting use of the blog format that I've enjoyed reading. I've been wanting to attempt something similar myself for some time, and originally I thought I might try it with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Dune, both of which I think are the source of a lot of bad writing in the SF Ghetto. That having been said, neither of those are really all that bad, although they are definitely bad, and as such it didn't seem like a truly worthwhile expenditure of my energy on reflection. The case against Atlas Shrugged, however, is much stronger.

For one thing, it is one of the top selling books of all time and as of this writing is the 147th best selling book on and is the number 2 book in the categories of US classics (although, clearly, it shouldn't be included in that category at all). Which is to say that even if lots of people aren't reading all the way through Atlas Shrugged, at least a lot of them are buying it. More important than its bestseller status, however, is the fact that it reflects a lot of the worst of American politics. It has at its core a pervasive misanthropy that is repeatedly used to justify the appalling conceits and sense of entitlement among the book's wealthy protagonists. It is that misanthropy that I have in my sights for this reading.

The book opens with the question "Who is John Galt?" The person asking the question is "a bum" begging for a dime. The question is asked apparently in the middle of his panhandling sales pitch, but we can't really know that for sure because Rand doesn't give it to us. All we're told is that he needs a dime and that he's talking about why he needs a dime and at some point asks "Who is John Galt?" Why does he ask that question? What is the answer to it? We don't know, and neither does Eddie Willers. So he asks the bum. The bum, whose face he can't see, "leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky." His answer to Willers question is "Why does it bother you?" Ok. Well, that's a weird thing to ask. The "bum" comes out of nowhere, begging for a dime then says some other things, then says "Who is John Galt?" which is really a weird thing to say particularly if John Galt is someone that the person you are talking to didn't just say something about, which clearly Eddie Willers did not. It's a perfectly natural reaction, one of the few perfectly natural reactions we get from characters in the book when confronted by people acting really strangely for apparently no good reason, to ask why someone would ask that. To then turn that around with a stranger question about why asking who John Galt is bothersome is absolutely bizarre. Clearly the "bum," who is a "shadow with no face," is either a mentally ill homeless person or someone with an ulterior motive. When Eddie Willers moves in to give the "bum" his dime, he is finally able to see the man's face: it is"wind-browned" whatever that means, and "cut by lines of weariness and cynical resignation; the eyes were intelligent." The reader will be forgiven if, knowing a bit about where the plot is going, the reader guesses that this is John Galt in homeless drag. That was certainly my guess. Why John Galt would be standing on a street corner stemming is beyond me. But why a man standing stemming on a street corner at the beginning of a novel would act so strangely and then be given such a description, moving from non-entity to this intriguing portrait of cynical and worn out man of intelligence, well, that seems to indicate something more important about him, doesn't it? Whether Rand is so bad as to telegraph things so clumsily remains to be seen, but the next few paragraphs do not exactly inspire confidence.

As we move away from the "bum" to the internal landscape of Eddie Willers, we are treated to something like paranoia mixed with depression. Willers projects his unease onto the bum, stating that he feels as though "the bum knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason." If you're reading that passage, which occurs on the very first page of the text, and imagining all sorts of melodramatic music and maybe a sign hanging over the "bum"'s head that reads "THIS MAN IS MORE THAN HE APPEARS" then your disappointment in learning that in fact he never appears again is understandable. Chalk one up to bad writing, so far the most interesting character is one who is completely inconsequential to the story.

It is indicative of Rand's writing, however, which is why it deserves a little attention. Here on the first page we can see evidence for a few of the biggest flaws in Rand, first and foremost her disregard for the humanity of her characters. In 1957, "bum" was already an epithet and in it Rand reveals her disdain for those she sees as "parasites" and "scum" who exist only off the production of people who she refers to in her journal entries about the planning of Atlas Shrugged as "creators." Nevertheless, as the ensuing pages pass by, I find myself longing for the return of this character since everybody else in the book is clearly a fucking moron. I could do with some more of this panhandler and his "intelligent" eyes.

As Willers moves away from the bum along the streets as he walks to work, he takes in the city and we are treated to one of the most boring descriptions of downtown New York that I have ever encountered. Willers continues in the Randian device of projecting his own dismay, which he can't quite source and for some reason blames it on the twilight, onto the city. It is clear that New York is past its prime. The clouds and buildings of the city are "brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece" in the setting sun. The skyscrapers are streaked with "grime" and have "soot-eaten walls." There is a crack down the side of one building "the length of ten storeys" and half the gold leaf has long since come off of a spire so it glows like a "dying [fire] which it is too late to stop." Note in all of this the clumsy prose. The crack is "the length of ten storeys" not "running ten storeys long" and it is too late to stop the fire, not it's death. This, frankly, is just carelessness with language, and a carelessness that extends beyond just the prose, as we shall see.

Willers concludes that there is nothing disturbing in the view of the city, that it has always been this way. This is not New York as I know it, and I don't think it's the New York of the 1950s when the book was written either. Clearly then, this is a book set in the future when the most sparkling and interesting of American cities—and for all its faults, New York City has long been that—has long since fallen on hard times. It is also now the home of a giant calendar that is suspended in the sky, presumably by some form of high tech sky hook invented by one of Rand's protagonists, although she doesn't tell us. All we get is the image of a gigantic calendar hanging in the sky that reads the date "September 2" which also makes Willers feel uneasy although he can't think why. He recalls that there is an expression linked to this unease, but it will be a couple more pages before Rand tells us that the expression in question is "your days are numbered." Why she disconnects this from the image is beyond me. By the time you get to it, you have to flip back to an earlier page to get what the hell she is talking about, slowing down the narrative even further.

And let me tell you the narrative is slow. The first 4 pages are all Eddie Willers living inside of his head on his walk back to the office, presumably from lunch although why that's happening at twilight is beyond me and Rand doesn't give us any help there. Along the way we get any number of banal observations about the world and how ill at ease it makes him. And of course the portentous image of an oak tree that is probably the most clumsy piece of foreshadowing in all of literature. Willers is recalling his childhood growing up as the child of the manservant of the Taggart family, whose father before him had been a manservant to the Taggart Patriarch. He spent his days running around on the Taggart estate and loves an oak tree, which he associates with strength, only to be disappointed when it is destroyed by lightening and he discovers that it is dead inside, that the center where its support was supposed to be was long since rotten. The metaphor is clearly for the world that Rand is trying to describe, where in the vital "movers" or "creators" of the world leave everything else behind and the world/tree dies without them. It's an inept metaphor though, because the other possible reading is that all of these self centered individualists in the novel who seem so strong have rotten hearts. Or they can't sustain erections. Maybe both. And don't worry, there are many more opportunities for Freudian close reading to come, so stay tuned!

From the Tree, Willers turns his thoughts to Dagny Taggart, the novel's heroine, still a half dozen pages off in the future, and their childhood conversations about what they want to be when they grow up. Willers doesn't ruminate at all on what Dagny has said, she'll tell us herself in a couple of chapters, but he does know that he wants to "do what is right" and that becomes his guiding principle in life, despite the fact that the child Dagny offered some questions to this notion and the narrator seems under the delusion that they are quite on point. Following that notion of doing what is right brings us shakily to the first bit of real action in the book, a short, stilted dialog between Willers and the president of the company that employs him, Jim "King of the Strawmen" Taggart.

Taggart Transcontinental, Willers employer, is not doing so hot these days as it turns out. There has been a train accident out west and Willers thinks the president ought to hear about it. That's pretty sensible I would think, and I was initially shocked by what Scarecrow Taggart had to say when he was told about the train "wreck" which is that "accidents happen every day." I had no idea if that was true or not, so I decided to look it up, and surprisingly enough, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, there are thousands of rail accidents every year, and a major line like BNSF, which is comparable in size to Taggart Transcontinental has a little under two accidents a day. Granted, most of them are minor, but still if they're that common there's hardly a need to tell the president of the company about every single one every time it happens. Weekly or monthly briefings on accident rates and updates on major accidents seem like the only things worth doing. Eddie Willers apparently disagrees with that, but ok, maybe this is unusual. He goes on to say that the line in question where there was an accident, the Rio Norte which we are told runs from Cheyenne Wyoming through El Paso and down to a mine in Mexico, is falling apart. The rails need replacing and replacing soon. So Eddie Willers has come to tell the president about the latest wreck to highlight the problem and to tell him something that he needs to hear.

This is apparently not news to the King of the Strawmen. While Eddie is mindlessly chattering about what bad shape the Rio Norte line is in, Strawman Taggart is sighing heavily and noting how he doesn't like how Willers has a habit of looking people straight in the eye. We'll get back to that in a minute, but in the meantime we're being given some valuable information about the world of the book. Apparently, every rail road in the nation is having trouble. They are all running at least one line at a loss, and are having trouble getting rails made and locomotives delivered. Everybody is having trouble except for an upstart rail company called Phoenix-Durango that is growing by leaps and bounds and stealing a lot of Transcontinental Rail's business in the SouthWest, including Colorado where apparently there are huge oil fields pushing an industrial boom. We'll leave that, and Ellis Wyatt the genius behind the miracle oil in Colorado, for another day, but at this point there's some stuff that needs some unpacking.

Here is the situation: A major rail company is hurting in an important line because it needs to make repairs. The rails it needs to make the repairs are nearly a year overdue from the steel supplier run by Orren Boyle (who becomes important later). The president of the rail company refuses to buy rails from another manufacturer because the owner of the steel company is his friend and he dislikes the competitor he would have to go with, Hank Rearden of Rearden Steel, to buy the rails elsewhere. As a result, they are losing money and business to a competitor. These are the facts as they are presented and no one seems to disagree with them at all. What's surprising is how childish and stupid the railroad family scion appears to be in the face of all of this. My initial reaction was that it must not be a publicly traded company because this sort of thing would never fly with any reasonably awake board of directors. Later it will be revealed that it is in fact publicly traded, and Strawman Taggart has the boards full support more or less.

James Taggart, from the moment he appears, is painted as a feeble, weak and passive man who is apparently incapable of doing anything right. Rand describes him as a man of 39 who looks like he is approaching fifty, he has a "small, petulant mouth and thin hair clinging to a bald forehead." His bearing is "limp" in contradiction to the "tall slender body with an elegance of line intended for the confident poise of an aristocrat, but transformed into the gawkiness of a lout." He is described with words like "pale"—a word used twice in as many sentences—"soft" "slow" "drained" "obstinate" and "sloppy." And all of this in a single paragraph at the top of page seven. The first words out of his mouth are "Don't bother me, don't bother me, don't bother me." I wonder if he's the antagonist in the book?

Which is why I call him the King of the Strawmen. Taggart is set up from the very beginning to be an unlikable, ineffective idiot who is easy to knock down and whose attitudes and position, as a result, are entirely unbelievable. This is a man unanimously elected president of a gigantic rail company at 34 who seems completely incapable of effective leadership and whose ideas of how to run a business are an incoherent mishmash of Roosevelt style public responsibility and the petulant whining of a spoiled upperclass twit who is more interested in whether he can be blamed for poor performance than he is with the companies bottom line. He is unlikable, two dimensional, and pathetic. And he's a prime example of why Atlas Shrugged is the worst book ever published.

The book, you see, is Rand's self-proclaimed magnum opus. In it, she encapsulates what she thinks the world is like and makes the ultimate clear statement of how the world works and the best philosophy for living in that world. And she makes her case in the most idiotic of ways by portraying her ideological opponents as stupid, incoherent, and weak. The problem with that, both in philosophy and in literature, is that it doesn't present any challenge at all. It is the illusion of a challenge that is being created not to convince one's opponents that one is right, but to pander to one's allies about how lame the other guys are. By not making her antagonists human, capable, interesting, and real, she has completely ruined any opportunity to make any real statement of the value of her ideas, and destroyed any chance of writing a good book. As soon as you get a look at these douchebags, it's clear that the heroes of the book will make short work of them, and then live happily ever after. Put another way, everybody loves an underdog, and the reason for that is that it's completely uninteresting and actually kind of crass to sit back and watch Superman beat the shit out of a bunch of 90 pound weaklings. But as of page 12 having read the inane criticisms of Ellis Wyatt wherein Strawman Taggart takes his stupidity to another level by claiming that Wyatt's horrible because he didn't wait for Taggart Transcontinental to grow along with his oil production and went with another carrier that could do better. Taggart goes on from there to launch into an idiotic exposition on how it doesn't matter that Wyatt is making money because he's demanding more than his fair share of transportation and subjecting Taggart Transcontinental to destructive competition.

Which is, of course, insane. No businessman at the head of a national corporation has ever said anything like that ever in the history of the world. The stunning unreality of it of course is only made worse by the fact that Rand and her millions of admirers think that there are actually people in the world who think this way. These people, libertarians, objectivists, far right fiscal conservatives, really everyone who thinks that free market capitalism is the way to go, imagine that their critics really believe that businesses ought not to have competition and that it is the duty of the private sector to be cooperative and make sure that everyone gets their fair share. I feel kind of odd that it even needs to be said that nobody thinks that. Yes, there are critics of capitalism, and even people who don't believe in private property, but they do not become the presidents of public companies and their ideas are not that corporations should get along and work together, but rather that there ought to be something done about the excesses and wastes of capitalism by restructuring government or the economic order in some way. No one would EVER think that a company ought not to act strictly in its own best financial interest. In fact, the primary assumption of even the most rabid anti-capitalists is precisely that any corporation only ever WILL act strictly in its own best financial interest and that's WHY they need to be either eliminated or tightly controlled. To place someone who thinks like Strawman Taggart at the head of a major corporation only illustrates Rand's poor grasp of Economics and how corporate governance works, and it also does a lot to undermine the believability of a work that, as a philosophical novel attempting to show the world as it is, stands or fails on how good a simulacra the portrayal of that world is. So far, Rand is not standing up very well to her own standard, laid out in the books introduction as follows: art is a "recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." I read that as a thoroughgoing commitment to realism, particularly from a woman who insisted that values were objective facts that could be deduced simply by looking at the world. That a realist then could be so terribly unrealistic, well, I'll just say the next thousand pages of this monster do not look all that promising.

Finally, as a Coda, the last bit of this section before the triple asterisk and the scene transition introduces the character of Pop Harper, an old veteran of Taggart Transcontinental who has been the chief clerk since Strawman Taggart's father ran the company. He's a seemingly likable old duffer wrestling with a broken down typewriter and complaining about the way the world is falling apart. He is worth mentioning because he's the kind of character that I am starting to get the feeling as I move around in this text that Rand doesn't think about very much. All of her heroes and even her villains are captains of industry and their hangers on, and there is very little attention paid to regular everyday hard working men and women who do their jobs and do them well but who are not inventing new miracle steel or perpetual motion machines. I'll talk about them more as time goes on, but it's clear to me at this point that such characters have no place in the world of Rand where everyone is either Good or Evil, and the good are just mythic rugged individualists looking to their own interests and letting the world go fuck itself, and the evil are similarly unbelievable oafs and buffoons who can't for the life of them do anything worth a damn and only manage to get by by working hard to fuck over the heroes. Where in this scheme of creators, secondhanders, and parasites do guys like Pop Harper who do a necessary, dull job for a paycheck and really don't want a whole lot more out of life than a happy home life, some time for their hobbies and passions, and to not be completely overwhelmed with bullshit when the world falls apart around them. Like John Galt and his cronies are now trying to make happen.

Think about that for a second and you'll see why this is maybe not just the worst book ever published, but possibly even downright evil. Who would make a world like that? What kind of man decides to ruin the world in a fit of pique? Who is John Galt?


Wow- you are the sloppiest

Wow- you are the sloppiest reader I can imagine.

The oak tree has nothing to do with the disappearing industrialists. It is a metaphor for Taggart Transcontinental- which has James Taggart at its heart (Eddie shortly after walks into the "heart" of the building). I didn't have to flip back for "your days are numbered" because I was paying attention. Something you should try. As for James Taggart not having any real world counterparts, apparently you don't read the newspapers very carefully either.

"No one would EVER think that I company ought not to act strictly in its own best financial interest and that's WHY they need to be either eliminated or tightly controlled" You're joking, surely? (And way to proofread, btw. If you're going to set yourself up as grammar police) Can you say Microsoft?? Every other commercial on TV has some corporation insisting that they exist to "help""give back""Build communities" etc- ever major corporate mission statement is choked with public relations-driven do-gooderism. Every politician harangues business to act in the "National interest" ad infinitum. You're either engaged in obfuscation or you are a fool.

"Yes, there are critics of capitalism, and even people who don't believe in private property, but they do not become the presidents of public companies" PLEASE- If Paris Hilton inherits a hotel chain, I'm sure she will immediately transform into a paragon of virtue and corporate responsibility. Taggart is the unworthy heir of his family's achievement.

As a final note, John Galt does not destroy the Pop Harpers of the world, he and the others merely refuse to stop supporting them until the Pop Harpers of this world stop spitting on them. Consider it tough love. I'm glad you read to at least page 20.


yes, and those corporations

yes, and those corporations really do mean that! those statements on tv aren't cynical attempts to improve their public image and increase shareholder value at all. it's a good point tho, and something that will be addressed repeatedly in the coming columns as the strawman brigade appears and reappears in Rand's delusional vision of capitalism.

As for Paris Hilton, Hilton Hotels is a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group currently run by President and CEO Christopher Nassetta. Paris Hilton is never going to run a Hotel.

Keep reading though, I'm sure i won't convince you, but maybe I'll get lucky and force you to have an aneurysm.

Make sure to thank the

Make sure to thank the Objectivist founder for your Wikipedia access

see, this is the problem with

see, this is the problem with you objectivists. you're of the opinion that things are either all good or all bad. As if the fact that somebody who came up with something cool happens to be an Objectivist, or was even motivated by objectivist principles, in some way absolves all the problems. It's like the equivalent pointing out that Richard Stallman wrote BASH and Apache and BASH and Apache are necessary Unix tools that make the internet as we know it possible, ergo Stallmans lunatic fringe ideas about intellectual property ought to be accorded some respect. It's the nature of ideas that bad ones are often as useful as good ones, and that's a cornerstone of an entire movement in philosophy. But just because something good came out of something screwy doesn't make the screwy thing any less screwy.

also, you're teetering on the verge of trolling which we don't generally tolerate. Consider this your first and last warning. I have only so much patience.

I enjoyed reading your take

I enjoyed reading your take on the first few pages of Atlas Shrugged. My opinion is vehemently opposed to yours--I think it's one of the greatest novels ever written. It's actually kind of funny. Everything that you say makes it poor writing is what I think makes it great. I'm actually a little shocked. You say the characters are two dimensional, I say they are very well rounded; You say the story is ridiculous, I say Rand doesn't say enough; You say her philosophy is morally repugnant, I say it it is the most moral philosophy conceivable; And as for the incompetence of the writing, it's inconceivable that anyone can think that.

Did you read d'Anconia's speech about the morality of money or Galt's radio address at the end? How can someone read that and not feel solemn pride for the struggle of his fellow man? How can someone not cry out with joy when Dagney and Hank briefly threw off their shackles when they rode the first train down the John Galt line? How can someone not feel Hanks suffering as their own with his first dinner with his family or when he gave up Reardan metal? Are you made of stone?


thanks for pointing out the typo, it's now fixed.

and to reply to your first point, are you really saying that Taggart Transcontinental isn't intended as a microcosm of the world? a large business run by a looter who is skating by on the hard graft of a creator and put upon by moochers as a whole? it seems to me that oak tree = taggart transcontinental = world of atlas shrugged is the metaphorical equivalence going on here.

James Taggart

Kinda surprised you find his character so unrealistic considering the large number of selfish, incompetent buffoons who have led many large corporations to their present bailout-needing states.

you misunderstand me. it's

you misunderstand me. it's his unselfish incompetence, or "collectivist beliefs" in Rand lingo, that I find unbelievable. if he was just selfish and incompetent then he would not exist in Rand's universe because she is trying, poorly, to make the case that selfishness is a virtue.

James clings to his

James clings to his collectivist beliefs as self-justification and self-deception. He is actually working on the expediency of the moment, and allows himself any injustice if he can convince himself and others that his motive is 'unselfish' (just like Obama). If Jim wants a Mexican Branch line as a favor to Orren Boyle, he will declare as justification that it is for the good of the Mexican people. He does this while he and Boyle use words like 'spic' in private. This is fairly typical, I find. The worst villains are those that pursue irrational emotional whims and disguise their motives with altruist slogans. (e.g. Hitler pursued an irrational hatred of the Jewish race, while simultaneously crowning himself with virtue for how he was doing it all unselfishly for the fatherland and the german people.) James is what you would call "selfish" in it's ordinary sense- sacrificing others to self. Rand's ideal is the man who neither sacrifices nor is sacrificed. Really, Quackenbush, I don't think you've read this book carefully at all.

on that point, you're going

on that point, you're going to just have to be patient. James is supposed to typify the "looter" in the Rand taxonomy which is a distinction that, when I get to it, I'm going to spend some time on because it's a very muddled picture that is at times both pro-self interest and corporatist and I don't think that the distinction that you're drawing about the use of collectivist language as an expedient is at all that clearly drawn. If it were, it would make a lot more sense and would even start to look at lot like Marxist critiques of the bourgeoisie. As it stands, i don't think it's that clear at all. James is a monumentally bizarre character that there is a lot to say about because he's so completely incoherent on my read. I've only gotten to page 18 though, so if you could hold on to this particular argument until I get there in the general critique I'd appreciate it. I'm planning it around the section where the railways are putting Phoenix-Durango out of business through the railroad price fixing association. The thing is there's a lot to say about all of that and frankly I can only think about it so much before I just get annoyed with the whole thing and want to ignore it all.

Your suggestion that 'running

Your suggestion that 'running ten storeys long' replace the description, 'the length of ten storeys' is an absurd criticism. 'Running' would strike a false note; the entire point of her description is that the city is slowly decaying and rotting -- nothing in the city is running. Ms Rand has provided some advice to guide you: "James, you ought to discover some day that words have an exact meaning."

that's idiotic. some words,

that's idiotic. some words, if not most words, do not have an exact meaning and if rand believes that they do then clearly that is yet another flaw in her "philosophy." anyway my point is that the phrase is missing a verb, whether "running" is the best verb or not is secondary to the fact that "the length of ten storeys" is clumsy, which it is.

The exactness of words

>>some words, if not most words, do not have an exact meaning

Of course they do. Look at a dictionary. Sure, one word can have a dozen synonyms, but each of those words does have a separate meaning, and you do not *indiscriminately* use one for the other.

For a very simple example:

You can request, or you can ask. You use "asking" when you're asking a question. You use "request" when you're asking that someone give you something, or do something for you.

"Have you read Ayn Rand?" she asked, curiously.

"No, will you please read it and write a review?" he requested.

See how that works? You wouldn't say, "Have you heard Ayn Rand?" she requested. (Well, *you* might.) ; )

i'm not talking about

i'm not talking about definition, i'm talking about meaning. dictionary definitions are woefully inaccurate. Look up, for example, a word like crimson or scarlet. Or try something much more complicated like an indexical expression or something with a large complex of denotative and connotative meaning like "rave." Things are not as simple as you are making them out to be. Yes, there are words that are synonymous that have slightly different uses, but that's completely separate from the ridiculous statement that all words have an exact meaning.

Read this:

and we'll talk.

Speaking of Words

Speaking of choosing words carefully, if this is a scene in New York, the word should be "stories" -- why would an American write -- or even think -- in British English?

"Storeys" -- You've got to be kidding. Talking about striking a "false note." I suppose the next thing this American character will do is describe the "colours" he sees!

Thank you for having the

Thank you for having the fortitude to do this. I could never get further than about halfway through the book. Quite possibly the only thing I dislike more than Rand herself is her fans.

i'm glad it's appreciated.

i'm glad it's appreciated. please continue to comment.

Ooh! Ooh! Is this going to be a Fred Clark thing?

Is this going to be like what Fred Clark did to Left Behind? Because that would be awesome.

yep. i specifically credited

yep. i specifically credited him with inspiration in the first installment.

How different people see metaphors

Too funny.... I never thought the oak tree was a metaphor for Taggart Transcontinental, I always thought it was a metaphor for the United States of America.... as the "fading masterpiece" that was New York City, and the "dying fire" were. But now that I think about it... to Eddie the metaphor *would* be Taggart Transcontinental, since that is his lfe.

Other than that, while some of Atlas Shrugged is a bit melodramatic, and I do have issues about Ayn Rand's weird attitude toward rape (Howard Roark rapes Dominique Francon, Francesco d'Anconia rapes Dagny, and in The Night of January 16...the male character in that raped the female character (been a while since I read it...) anyway...she seems to be of the belief that a guy really knows when a woman "really wants it." However, I forgive her that stupidity, since most of her philosophy is spot on.

All you have to do is look at what's going on in the world today, with the mortgage crisis. Every bank that did not make bad loans... is not going under. Every bank that allowed itself to be forced by the government to make loans to people with bad credit history, is going under. The car industries, dragged down by ridiculous Union wages. Are government, incompetent and corrupt, regardless of party.... the protesters at the G20 summitt in London who "hate capitalism" little recking that Obama is on their side...

her philosophy is bankrupt.

her philosophy is bankrupt. It's a long way off because I won't be addressing it specifically until John Galt shows up, but i'm looking forward to pointing out how absolutely wrong you are.

Yeehaw! Let's bust the

Yeehaw! Let's bust the unions! We need our wage structures to look more like the ones Mexico, Tanzania or India. And if those lazy sods can't hack it for dollars a day, back to subsistence agriculture for them!

Why haven't you posted anything new since march?

I read the first 50 pages of Atlas Shrugged last night and found that I hated all of the characters. I assumed it was because Ayn Rand was trying to force feed her view of the world to the reader and the story was secondary.

Anyway I found your insights very informative and much more interesting than the book. I'm unable to find any new postings after "Think about that for a second and you'll see why this is maybe not just the worst book ever published, but possibly even downright evil. Who would make a world like that? What kind of man decides to ruin the world in a fit of pique? Who is John Galt?" and wasn't sure if you had posted anything newer than that.

Looking forward to your insights on the topic. Thanks.

I shrugged too...

I keep telling myself it will get better, it will get interesting, it will somewhere, somehow approximate reality. When it doesn't, I tell myself that maybe it isn't supposed to, that it is really allegorical or metaphorical or a parable. But I keep reading and think it is really a ridiculous book about uninteresting or dispicable characters (and those are the protagonists) that reads like a late 1940's movie script.

The book was given to me by a friend who insisted "it's just a train story," but that it mirrors exactly what is happening since the 2008 election. I've read to about page 110, and like Franciso, I needed some help to refuse. This blog encouraged my thinking that I really am in my right mind, and that Atlas Shrugged is really a lousy book with an impressive title.


Your ignorance is the reason why there is unhapiness in the world.

thank you, i thought i was nuts...

I started reading this book about a week ago primarily because of its position as a cultural reference point. I came to it knowing that i dont agree with the politics of many of the books fans but at the same time im curious about whats lead many to their conclusions. Besides , so many people think this is such a great book i wanted to check it out. I was STUNNED. Its terrible! Seriously the implausibility of the world the characters inhabit is almost beyond suspension of disbelief. I can actually get into zombie books , but at points this thing is just too much of a stretch. When shes talking to the ex factory owner , trying to get information on the mysterious engine they found, is ludicrous and i could barely get through it. Its like the entire world is the straw man in an argument, only in a world gone completely mad would these rationals make any sense.
it doesnt look like you finished your project but ill check back over here when im done with the book

I read the whole stupid book...

I also was struck by how Ms Rand was careful to completely ignore the millions of "regular" people who were supporting the "heroes" of the story upon their shoulders. When Henry Reardon completed the railroad tressle in record time, it took thousands of competent, professional people to pull it off. Steel mill employees, construction workers, engineers, people to schedule and deliver materials, etc. Such a project is a massive undertaking that requires a TEAM to make it happen. This is just one example of Ayn Rand's simple minded lack of understanding of how economies and societies work.
Who constructed the heroes "hideout"?? Who operated the "invisibility sheild"??
We are to believe that the heroes traded on a barter system in their secret utopia??
On what monetary system did the workers in the utopia trade?? These ridiculous ideas are not even marginally explained.

The logical fallacies of Atlas Shrugged

I'm surprised that people have not pointed out the logical fallacies inherent in the arguments made in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand's arguments for the objectionable Objectivism philosophy were nothing more than a series of straw man arguments, slippery slope fallacies, false dilemmas and ad hominem arguments. Take, for example, the villain's whiny demand that "everyone has to be equal in every way." There is no one in the history of mankind who has ever made that argument, not even the most ardent socialist. This is the classic straw man argument: Misrepresent the views of those with whom you disagree, and then, attack the misrepresentation. The argument that any government regulations are impediments to business that cause all commerce to grind to a halt, or that "Atlas" would "shrug" are the fallacy of slippery slope. Business regulation is often a good thing, both for business and for society. Nor will the heroic businessmen and the Godlike perfection of the universe of greed and market forces create a utopian society where work rewards everyone. Rather, it creates societies driven on fear. We've already tried laissez faire and regulation-free markets, the real and true slippery slope that America went down in the early 1900s, and the result was that children were forced to work 20 hour days, 7 day weeks in coal mines for pennies. Atlas Shrugged is the most dangerous book in the history of mankind.

The system that I would propose, by the way, is one of checks and balances. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ayn Rand points to a powerful government and says, "There is the absolute power you should fear. Grant absolute power to big business and you will prosper." Neither the government nor big business should have absolute power--nor even should democratic majorities have absolute power, where 51% of the people can then oppress 49% of the people and the mob rules. The power of the rich and of the common person, of government and of business, should have a series of checks and balances such that rights cannot be crushed. Currently, we have gone way too far down the road of laissez faire, nearing where we were when children worked in coal mines. People are working harder than ever for less, and people are jobless, while the richest corporations are paying next to nothing in taxes, granting themselves multi-million dollar bonuses, and laying off people so that they can collect on foreclosed homes. Are we still fooled by the arguments of Ayn Rand, that our best decision would be to grant absolute power to business? "Get out of my way," says big business. Frankly, we're not in your way enough. Because what you're doing is not creating. What you're doing is tearing down for the sake of short-term gain, just like those who sent the children into the mines.


About New York...

Actually, though I agree with your overall take on the politics, New York was DEFINITELY in decline in the late 50's-early 60's... her description is spot on. There were beggars and thieves on every street corner, and (like most US cities) no one wanted to live there except the very poor or the very rich.
The boom of the 90's provided money to repair the gold tops of the buildings and the cracks in their sides (Ok-- a lot of them were pulled down and new ones put up in their place). Also, if you believe "Freakonomics", birth control and abortion lowered the crime rate (as well as David Dinkins' and Rudy Giuliani's police department practices).

I see your point and you may

I see your point and you may be right. Just to be clear tho my beef was more the contention that it was New York as it had always been. Willers is a man in middle age so he should remember New York of the 20s and of the War Boom after the depression. At both times it was hardly in decay, as there was a lot of new construction going on, and some of the most iconic american architecture of all time was built into the cityscape during his lifetime. Which is why this must be some future further detached from New York as Rand knew it than is otherwise apparent.


like, i understand if you didnt like it? but its not objectively the worst piece of literature out there. And to be quite honest your own wording and writing could use a lil work so, maybe just calm down a little? its just a book man.