After having read the first couple of chapters of part three of Atlas Shrugged, something started to look mighty familiar from my research for Simon Peter: John Galt has nearly every characteristic of a doomsday millenarian cult leader.
First, John Galt approaches people – or has them approached – when they’re psychologically vulnerable. He targets people who are in the midst of exceptional crises, in this case, generally the failure of their business or some other great professional failure.
Kit Bradley: I’m condensing chapters 21 and 22 into one bit because they’re nearly identical! This is some great, and by great I mean “awful”, writing!
John Galt: Hi, I’m John Galt!
Dagny Taggart: Ohemgee, I can’t catch my breath, and my thighs are steaming so I can’t see right, but I can tell because you’re the tallest and thinnest of all that means you’re the bestest CAPITALIST in the universe! Ohemgee! OHEMGEE!
Dagny Taggart: I’ve got to get to Utah, FAST, to talk to the man who is figuring out the Miracle Motor (a plot point ignored for 300 pages!), so I’m taking a train! Trains DEFINE fast!
Coachman: Get off the train, you bum!
Objectivist Bum: But I’m a CAPITALIST!
Dagny: He’s tall and thin, proof of his CAPITALISM! Let him stay! Tell me a story!
Objectivist Bum: Communism sucks! I started the whole “who is John Galt” thing, too. It is important to show no credulity that out of hundreds of millions of Americans, you just happen to find one of the few people who really knows John Galt’s origin story! Remember, I’m a CAPITALIST, not a moocher saying what you want to hear to take advantage of you.
Dagny Taggart: I love my apartment now that my job sucks. Why doesn’t the whole world be like I want it to be? I’d be happy if everything was exactly like I wanted, which isn’t childish of me AT ALL. Hark! A knock! Who could it be?
Francisco d’Anaconia: It’s me!
Dagny: Of course it is. Of course.
Francisco: Do you remember that thing, last chapter, when I said that you should just go back and read my other speeches? I’m here to give that speech, again.
Dagny Taggert: I’m in a cabin learning to be unemployed and hating it! I can’t go to Hank, because being in a committed relationship with someone isn’t about helping each other out! No one knows where I am.
Francisco d’Anaconia: I know where you are.
Dagny: Curses! What do you want?
Francisco: To do what I do best. Give the same speech I’ve given three times before!
Eddie Villers: I exist to tell some random guy working that is totally not John Galt (he’s John Galt) where everything is. Despite being a lickspittle who is totally incompetent, I’m one of the heroes. Here, total stranger who isn’t John Galt (he’s John Galt), let me tell you where Dagny Taggart is!
Not John Galt: Thanks.
Hank Rearden: Since my moral weakness with Rearden Metal where I signed it over to the government, I walk through dangerous woods alone!
Commie Government Officials: We will consciously restrict the economy because we’re idiots!
James Taggart: I feel guilty thinking about George Washington, because he was such a great capitalist who never owned slaves!
Commie Crook: Intellectuals suck and are the allies of tyrants, which is why every tyranny in the world has rounded up to imprison or kill intellectuals!
Commie Government Officials: Yeah! And now we’ll give a lot of speeches about why we’re the good guys! Seriously, it’ll last about twelve pages!
Wesley Mooch: We will force businessmen to sign over the intellectual property rights of all their stuff! And by “force” we don’t mean force. Because commie tyrants would never use guns!
Dagny Taggart: No way! I quit! Hank, when they come after you, I want to share your burdens.
Hank Rearden: I’ll never sign of Rearden Metal!
Commie Dr. Ferris: We’ll reveal your affair with Dagny, which will embarrass her.
Hank: Drat! Despite Dagny having contempt for public opinion, and the reason she hasn’t revealed the affair already is so I’m not embarrassed, and despite her just telling me that she wants to share my burdens, I’ll ignore all of that and sign over Rearden Metal!
I believe I have figured out the appeal of Atlas Shrugged.
#1. Herbert Spencer’s defense of capitalism is flawed. Before there was Ayn Rand, the philosopher of the market was Herbert Spencer, who used a social Darwinism message to defend the unchecked accumulation of wealth. The argument ran: “Evolutionarily speaking, if you’ve got it and you can keep it, you deserve it, no matter the source.”
The immense flaw with this plan is that if, say, the Russian Revolution came along and reminded merchants that they were a bunch of wussy powderpuffs wholly dependent people capable and willing to kick ass to defend them from brutal thugs who would kick their middle classes asses in a hot minute, then the very philosophy they espoused was turned against them: unable to hold onto things, they did NOT deserve them, and now the communists do.
Dagny Taggart: I told everyone that those commie limits on production would cause disaster. It’s causing disaster! Ha! I will, of course, ignore ongoing industrial sabotage by the person I literally call “the destroyer”, not to mention widespread piracy that has stopped metal production in the US – it is ONLY the result of the COMMIES.
Commie Business Leaders: It is a disaster! We will also fail to blame industrial saboteurs or pirates! We will blame James Taggart!