If Galt hadn't interfered, what would Thompson have announced as his great plan?? "A stern way . . . but a way of glory". My theory is that he was going to turn the US into a Communist, er, People's State, nationalizing all land and businesses.
Told people that they needed to be ready to make more sacrifices for the good of the country, blamed some of his underlings for all the problems, criticized the greedy capitalists, and reminded them of how much better things were compared to the past a la Oceania.
Rearden Metal is stronger than steal, lighter than steel and he is selling it for a price below that of normal steel. So why is nobody willing to use it except for Dagny Taggart?
Because Rearden has patented it, meaning if the majority of steel users switch to it, competitors such as Orren Boyle's Associated Steel would be left without a market. So they're using their connections to smear it, hoping to kill/suborn it before that can happen. Someone from the government actually goes right up to Rearden and offers him an obscene amount of money to nationalize it. If Rearden hadn't invented it himself(meaning killing/disappearing him would martyr him, particularly to the businesses in Colorado), someone might have sent mercs to shoot up his factory.
Besides the above - no-one wants to be the first to use it. Sticking your neck out in that way is an absolute no-no in the looters' world. Regardless of what Rearden's reports and tests say, he's an interested party and therefore implicitly untrustworthy. The State Science Institute *could* give them the cover they need with a positive report, but the Institute have their own competing, publicly-funded metallurgy program to protect and aren't willing to admit that Rearden Metal is better than anything they've come up with, so they choose to instead spread FUD based on the metal's newness, essentially saying "we don't know how the metal would act in conditions we haven't analysed it under", but phrased much more scarily. Eventually, Dagny does use it, it doesn't kill anyone or explode, and since they now have Dagny's success to point to, everyone starts ordering it.
Businessmen as a whole aren't real big on taking risks period. It's not just the looters. There is a very good reason why there are years with nothing but sequels and remakes.
At the beginning of the novel, Dagney's train is held up for hours by a red signal. How does she deduce that the signal must be faulty and that the train can safely proceed? How does she know there isn't something on the tracks?
This is a case of artistic license, since while certainly knowing the train schedule is useful (and in fact absolutely necessary for certain types of train control systems), the fact a train is not scheduled to be in the block does not mean one isn't there due to some unforeseen circumstance. Furthermore, while it would upset the point Rand was trying to make, knowing if another train is around shouldn't depend on the intellect of a passenger. Train meets are supposed to be planned out ahead of time, and all crew members should know about them. The real problem is that a train occupying a signal block is not the only thing that can drop a signal to red. A broken rail or other critical defect can do so as well. The appropriate action in such a situation would be to contact the dispatcher or next station agent (by radio, or in the days before locomotives were so equipped, by walking to the nearest line-side phone box) and ask why the signal was dropped. Assuming no unexpected train was occupying the block, the dispatcher could then direct the train to proceed at a restricted speed allowing a full stop within half the line of sight in case a track defect was discovered.
Deduces by means of having memorized the train schedules (since she runs and writes the things) and by running a railroad for at least ten years. She tells them to proceed with caution, and then continue if the next light is green. If there was an actual problem the next light would have been red and they would have waited.
She deduces it but didn't actually TEST it or check it in any other way! If the world of the book was more realistic, every single person on that train would have either died (worst case scenario!) or sued Dagny for reckless endangerment (best case scenario).
The entire first section concerns the "irrational" resistance faced by industrialist Hank Rearden when he, having just produced the first few grams of a revolutionary new copper alloy, decides:
To convert his company's entire production over to this new alloy.
That from now on, all civil engineering contracts filled by his company will use the alloy exclusively.
All this will be carried out without conducting any testing. Why is the resistance to this decision considered irrational?
The book says he spent ten years testing sample after sample of different alloys with the help of (doubting but willing) research staff. Despite that significant testing, all he did was put the stuff out onto the market, and until he was contacted by Taggart Transcontinental a significant amount of time later no one was willing to order it and only test runs of the stuff were poured. His production of steel remained unimpeded until Taggart Transcontinental ordered a massive batch of Rearden metal. Taggart only bought it after reading the test results.
A company that produces metals has various grades for various uses, and switching his entire production over to his new unobtanium would mean that he would only be able to sell metal for one use.
Why can't Rearden Metal have the same variety and types of grades as steel?
Alternatively, there weren't any that could sell Rearden Metal until very late in the book. Once he's got a monopoly on a new metal being purchased, it'd be quite foolish economically to waste production time on other pursuits.
He did not "convert his company's entire production over to this new alloy" or decide "from now on, all civil engineering contracts filled by his company will use the alloy exclusively." He continued to produce and sell regular steel after he invented Rearden Metal: the customer who comes in when they pass the Equalization Of Opportunity Bill is ordering steel; Dagny, at one point, placed an order of steel that Hank said he was secretly replacing with Rearden Metal, regardless of the law about her "fair share"; and at another point, she needs a rush order and, since she's not allowed to buy Rearden Metal, says it can be steel.
How can a story that is meant to be realistic has the invention of a power source that the laws of thermodynamics says is physically impossible?
The book does admit that the existence of the engine would invalidate some accepted laws of physics. What is believed by science are not rules written in stone that can never be changed, but the best explanation of how reality works that we have come up with so far. Also, Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Why. Oh why did those people in the train tunnel have to die? Or, rather, why did the Writer on Board argue that they deserved to die for some fairly minor reasons? It wouldn't be nearly so mind-boggling if the Big Bad and all his buddies survived.
It may have been less of a 'deserved to die' as a different motif — the very worst of the villains all notably escape immediate death, and those who were only 'guilty' of being told or taught the Moocher ideology were in the train. The one person who pushed the lever for the train tunnel disaster, for example, jumped out of the train before entering the tunnel. This troper came away with the impression that the point was that all the beliefs and platitudes and good purposes were little or no shield against what other people, not held responsible for their actions, could do, just written horribly.
It's been a while since I read the book, but from what I remember, they were all small-time contributors to, or supporters of, the social conditions which put them on the suicide train. They died because they, and others like them, had spent centuries supporting the development of the conditions which sent the train into the tunnel (regardless of what they thought they were doing). Of course, practically speaking, it wouldn't have made a lick of difference if the passengers had all been staunch Objectivists, they'd have still died; but dramatically speaking, it's another depiction of Looter society as self-destructive.
It didn't feel like Rand was saying the people deserved to die. Rather, she was arguing against the view, common when such disasters occur, that the victims were all innocent, and had no role in causing their own fate. She isn't saying they deserved to die, but rather that they were not innocent, and that their own actions and beliefs contributed to the conditions that ultimately led to their demise.
The point is that the people (or the great majority) are the real destroyers; they're doing it to themselves. It's as though the people of an agricultural society were to eat their seed grain (which does literally happen later).
What about the plan in general? Inferred Holocaust and moral dissonance if I've ever seen it! One hundred odd people bring about the end of the mixed economy as we know it without actually doing anything, countless are dead, the infrastructure is shot... and our protagonists act like they will be national heroes, and that the country will be up and running in a month or so. If any semblance of civilization managed to survive, then it would take a good hundred years to get the country back to its current size and strength.
One of the premises of the story is that the looters system is unsustainable. Even without the strike the Inferred Holocaust would happen.
The fact that they "didn't actually do anything" is the point. Galt's plan depended upon getting all of the right people to go on strike and turn their back on the society that leeched off them while condemning them. For them to actually do anything to that society would have diluted the "moral purity" of their stand.
Also, they're clearly willing to take that hundred years to rebuild as long as it's on their terms. Even with Galt's perpetual energy device, the Gulch's residents were excited about one of them finally assembling a single tractor to help them farm.
A difficult IJBM to empathize with. This is the point of the book basically. Stop the motor of the world, let it die, then rebuild from the ashes.
This would most likely result in a second Dark Age that could last well past the rest of these peoples live should it happen.
"get the country back to its current size and strength."? But it's already near collapse.
Isn't Rand's whole point to show the Inferred Holocaust in leeching off of those who choose to produce by their own free will? (By showing what happens when they don't choose to do so any longer.)
The thing is, when you get right down to it, none of the people in Galt's Gulch were terribly important. Sure, they were rich and talented, but there'll never be a shortage of research scientists or people to run railroad companies. At most, society would stagnate for a decade and maybe see a lot of stocks drop, but they'd pick themselves up. Meanwhile, the Gulchers would probably fall apart due to infighting and lacking key "simple" skills that were unneccessary in their old lives. Rand just handwaves both of these away, but it's really pretty obvious if you think about it for a moment that all Galt did is slow down the march of society-as-a-whole. After all, Great Man theory is pretty discredited...
Quite so. "Great men" are made by societies, not the other way around.
Agree on some of the small points but overall, this troper disagrees. Examples of things falling apart and the importance of "one man/woman" are found throughout the entirety of the book. From the perpetually burning Wyatt oil rig and Dagnys struggles with the railroad to the invention of things like Reardon metal and Johns motor, it is shown how one person can make all the difference. It's not like Galt is just going to let replacement "research scientists" or "people to run companies" crop up without similarly recruiting them either. don't forget that Danneskjold is out running roughshod on everyone's military forces. The pressure from those stopping the motor of the world is pretty great. The "simple" skills stuff is a good point though and I often wonder which of these Super-men or women is the one having to play garbage man or plumber or other less glorious jobs. As for great man theory it's credit and criticisms, I've never personally liked how its detractors are essentially are arguing that a great work of art is not created by the author. It can't be great without society saying it is so but neither can there be light without dark and other such aesops. Note too that Rand doesn't say that in Objectivism there is no room for "moochers" but rather that they should get out of the way of "men of ability" and let them do their thing. A bit over-simplified but this is a long enough edit as is.
I haven't actually read Atlas Shrugged, but thinking about this in the Great people way: I don't think that the point is to get credit off from the artist, but similarly it would be wrong to claim that the whole world of art revolves around few geniuses and that it would collapse without those few and that there would be no art at all. Similarly it is wrong to assume that a modern society somehow comprises of a few geniuses and moochers. One must remember that while obviously there are graet breakthroughs in science or industry, which can be credited to some people, it is not the same as to claim, that we would be eternally in the dark without certain spesific individuals. Human society is a co-operative society and all our breakthroughs is because there is a surplus of resources, which is caused by specialization of jobs and the fact that there are very many people to specialize always further and in this way(very simply put) cause the economy to grow and make possible the surplus capital to allow for the great scientists &c. to do their stuff. So society is not necessarily dependent on great persons, great persons as parts of that society need it to exist in the first place. And anyways really? If you remove some key persons, it might pose some temporal difficulties, but what would actually stop other people to replace them. I mean they might not be as efficient, but surely the amount of educated people in modern societies make this scenario very unlikely. Especially if Rand was trying to make some point with this which would be applicable to the real world.
The issue in the book is not merely that a few hundred people are disappearing, but that a few hundred of those most dedicated to keeping vital infrastructure running disappeared, while many, many more vanished of their own free will, and the remaining society has had it drilled into them that. Even with that, it is primarily the destruction of the main infrastructure for transport that really signals the downfall of civilization, not the. The society only gets a little less efficient and a little less capable with every major person that it loses, but we're talking a society that was holding on by its fingernails as the book starts. By midway, we're talking where a little difference in efficiency is the difference in whether or not common copper cable is available. Take a look at real-world programming. A company I worked for had a handful of people who really grokked their code. If one of them left, we could train someone new up to it in a little under a month. If two left, we probably could train someone up to it in a little bit longer. If half of them left, though, the remaining folk would barely (or might not) be able to keep up with maintaining the code, never mind have enough time to train someone else up. We'd be struck trying to have someone figure it out with whatever scraps of time were around, and that's much more time-consuming. If all of them quit at the same time, we'd probably end up simply rebuilding the entire thing from first principles, and that might takes years of inefficiency, countless lost dollars, and even significant costs to the people we work for. Things like cities in particular are very dependent on criteria like this; the central network backbone for a place like New York City might only have a couple hundred thousand people worldwide certified for administration, only a couple hundred with the experience to work it with minimal training, and even fewer who are capable and willing. Every second that backbone went down could be millions of dollars of economic value lost, and even some lives. Change that to a transportation network and the issues are even more dramatic.
Ah, okay. It does sound like the scenario described in the book is kind of a stretch though, if it's supposed to be a viable philosophical model. How are the moochers described? And I mean, economics and society can't work on the principle that everybody is super important and vital to the survival of everything. What about restaurant owners or any hardworking commuters and factory workers and &c. I mean even if all the people in the world were software engineers, there still a limit to how many are actually needed and the same applies to any jobs. So basically, for the people controlling the transportation network to just collectively scooch off, they're not dooming just the moochers, they're dooming everybody else who is a part of the economy, regardless of their moochiness.
The Galt's Gulch people included everything from the head of an oil company to a truck driver that aspired for more to a janitor doing research in his off hours (the second-to-last recruit). Countless more had separately decided to leave the whole mess, including every trustworthy worker in both Rearden's metal company and a couple of the other metal refineries and oil shops — it's implied that the caravan at the end that rescues the people of the last train is one such group. It wasn't just the vital top level experts and leaders that had run off — those were just the ones that were most likely to need to be abducted by Galt, albeit not the only ones (see the janitor and truck driver examples above, as well as a teenage sculptor and a good-but-one-hit-wonder musician). Part of d'Anconia's efforts were specifically done to push productive people out from the more dangerous cities and into areas that would be safer. That said, it's made clear that there's a lot of people who aren't going to be saved by this no matter how well the whole thing is pulled off. One of the most sympathetic and faithful characters in the setting, Edwin Willers, is left to die in the desert to make this very explicit. It takes hours, days, for each person that Galt abducts to deal with this, and it's described as a horrible feeling that earns sympathy from some rather less-than-empathetic individuals. And his argument is that the setting that they're in is already doomed — the mere fact that he can find a big enough percentage of these people, combined with the slide of civilization we see in the first few chapters of the book, mean that these deaths and destruction are not avoidable anymore. In this setting, the choice is between whether the workers — included the restaurant owners and factory workers and hardworking commuters — are going to be eaten alive by the moochers before they all die off, or the workers escape. As for the philosophical model, it's just philosophical : the scenario was meant to be far from what was happening and is happening, but imaginable, similar to 1984 or Brave New World but aiming more for Bittersweet Ending than Downer Ending. It's supposed to portray the whole concept that the moochers are dependent on workers to survive, but because the situation doesn't match (thankfully) less massive shake-ups need to be done by workers to fight or convert moochers.
What? So janitors just can't do a good job cleaning they have to be mathematicians as well? If you think that sentence misrepresents what you were trying to say, it illustrates my point as well. Which is that in a mdern society it's next to impossible to discern between moochers and the key persons since our whole economic system is intertwined between different participants. As it comes to 1984 you can say that it predicted a society where individual freedom is crushed alltogether, and Rand tries to describe a society where the few talented are used by the mooching masses. There is a distincton here, that the other encourages us to guard are liberties and the other tells us that society depends on superior individuals. But still, I have't actually read the book in question, I'm must responding to people here. So I might be wrong. (I have read 1984 though)
The janitor in question aspired to be a scientist before he became a janitor. It's not that someone who only wants to be a janitor is a moocher : Galt and company specifically work as janitors and cooks and railway workers whenever they're in the world. The above-mentioned truck driver doesn't have any major plans; he just wants to be a damned good truck driver as far as we can see. Other residents include someone who just wants to make great sculptures, or meaningful music. A character that is strongly implied to make it through the book better than most (and possibly even make it to the Gulch, although this is only implied) is a hobo with no further interests than menial factory work. The distinction isn't between key people and moochers or looters, but between everyone else and moocher or looters. It's just that Galt only has to actively abduct people to Galt's Gulch when they've got dreams of something greater — someone who only wants to be a damned good janitor won't be repairing generators, while someone who aspires to invent generators may. That's not to say that janitors are moochers or are intended to be killed by Galt's ideology. It's just that people who were interested in just being janitors have already been driven out of the market in this setting; they can't be hired unless they grovel at the feet of politicians, can't stay in their jobs for long as their bosses only stay in business if they've groveled at the feet of politicians, get shoveled down with more and more work, can't even be rewarded for being janitors well. Those that do work well are singled out by their coworkers or replaced with those who have more egalitarian or politically connected goals. Moochers and looters aren't much interested in janitors, other than for political capital. The emphasis is on the 'key people' only because it's they that the moochers want to give a crown today and hunt tomorrow; the moochers have already cast out or converted the low-level actual workers for Galt.
The book is not elitist about janitors or other such tripe. To paraphrase it, Galt, Rearden and Co. are done putting in intellectual effort under threat of violence. The "moochers" can have the sweat of their brow, but will not be given the fruits of their mind. What made the janitor special was not that he wanted to be a mathematician, for there were plenty of those left behind. It's the fact that he pursued his scientific studies for his own benefit, then the prestige such a position would give.
Let's hope that ambitious janitor never gets his science project going, or the Gulch's toilets are going to get really grimy really fast. Hopefully someone with a deep passion for scrubbing porcelain will show up eventually and render the issue moot.
No, everyone will either: continue to clean their own toilets (Galt says Dagny is the first servant the valley's ever had), or be willing to pay whatever the person they hire for the job demands. In their economy, if you want a task done, you have to pay for it; if you want money, you have to work for it. If no one is willing to clean toilets, people who don't want to do it for themselves will just have to be willing to pay more for the task until someone decides the compensation is worth doing the task.
And therein lies the problem with setting the book in a Captain Planet-like strawman setting designed to get ideological message across with maximum efficency (i.e, where opponents are motivated by For the Evulz). IRL, people faced with that choice very often take nonmonetary compensation into account and conclude 'I can earn a comparable sum of money, if maybe a bit less, outside of the small utopia, but also gain the benefit of doing a job I enjoy in a location that I am established in and is convenient to people I derive benefit from being close to', driving the cost of paying that labor up further, to the point where it becomes cheaper to lure in those driven more by hopes than sense and bilk 'em for all they're worth, then replace when they get fed up and/or die - thus ensuring that the new society lacks influx and develops a bad reputation (which is a cost to the community as a whole, rather than any individual employer, and would thus not be dealt with until it is too late). As stated below, plenty of historical antecedent.
This point of the book reflects the height of arrogance of the author. Even if 1000 of the most critically important persons in the world were to vanish from society, others with 99% of their competence would happily take their place. The world would muddle on as before with no significant change. Those 1000 would be forgotten by most. "Remember John? Anyone know what he's up to now?"
Furthermore, those 1000 would be shocked at the heavy work they would have to do hidden in their own gulch, to replace numerous services they took for granted. The vast majority wouldn't last a month; they'd trickle out one by one leaving only a few diehards. Eventually the last of them (probably Galt himself) would give up, railing and raging against the wind in a 100-page rant at the failure of his gulch and of the world to collapse around him: "It's anti-life and anti-man!"
Of course. This has happened hundreds, if not thousands, of times, every time someone tries to build a Utopia based on a unique vision of a different way of living. You couldn't travel 50 miles in the 1800s without tripping over one of 'em running the gamut from top-down communist utopia to anarchist utopia, and guess what- they all died out in a matter of years, if not months, as people realized that their "idea" way of living just didn't work in the real world. There's no reason Galt's Gulch would end up any different than its innumerable historical precedents.
Part of the book's backstory is that the system, which is set up semi-explicitly to allow the incompetent to assume power over the competent, is on the verge of collapse. All those with even 5% of the strikers' competence, never mind 99%, are becoming aware of this and, importantly, are coming to understand, intuitively if not intellectually, why it's collapsing; more so every time the looters' leaders do something stupid to try to stave off the collapse. The point is not just that Rearden, Mulligan, etc., are personally vital to the system, but that their presence and continued success in the outside world keeps the competent people from the lower ranks, who aren't as personally exposed to the looters for the most part, in a state of false hope that the system can't really be as bad as they suspect. When Galt knocks them off, the competent lower ranks start to jump ship too, in reaction to their unvarnished experience of the system, effectively extending the strike beyond the chosen few in the Gulch. Without that cascade effect, Galt's plan wouldn't work (and although that's what Galt expected to happen, it comes a lot quicker than he thought it would - he says at one point that they'd made preparations for Galt's Gulch to last several generations).
In other words, the entire premise of the plot is based on a gigantic strawman. Sure, in a world that Rand posits, where a minor nobility of the intellect makes all the difference in a world of looters, the world would collapse if the nobility disappeared. Too bad this has nothing to do with the real world. As fiction it's a nice conceit, but the problem is is that Rand and her followers are selling the novel as an actually applicable parable.
In fact, nowadays, there's so many people aspiring to be research scientists that not all of them can get good positions.
In one of the many rants in the book, Ragnar DanneskjÃ¶ld attacks the idea of Robin Hood, going on and on about how the rich deserve to be rich, and robbing from the rich to give to the poor is wrong, etc. However, he completely ignores the ACTUAL Robin Hood tale. His robberies were not from random rich people. He robbed from tax collectors, to protect the poor from oppressive taxation, an aim Ragnar would likely agree with. It seems that one of the legendary "men of the mind," the great intellectuals of the age, was incapable of understanding the plot of one of the most legendary stories in Western history.
You are correct about the actual plot of the Robin Hood legend. But as Ragnar himself points out, "It is said that he fought the looting rulers... but that is not the meaning which has survived." When people think Robin Hood, they mostly think "steal from the rich to give to the poor," largely in those words, and that was what Ragnar was getting at.
Ah, yes, those ever-so-deserving medieval rich people, who never did a damn thing to prove they were worthy of their wealth except to choose the right parents when they were born.
You're exactly missing the point. Ragnar's purpose was to emulate the original version — a thief who stole from those who earned only by force or taxation — over the pop culture version of simply stealing from general rich people and giving to general poor people. This is spelled out in his first introduction to Rearden.
The idea that most wealthy people today are any more directly responsible for their wealth than the lazy, ignorant gentry of the feudal system is exactly the idea that gets people who believe Rand's crap in trouble. They honestly believe that most rich people are rich because they're smarter or work harder and if you're starving to death in the streets then you just aren't trying hard enough. I can't say Rand would agree but far too many of her followers do. And that's where your 401k went.
"Rand's Crap"? I wish tropers would be more tolerant of other peoples viewpoints and philosophies. It really isn't very conducive to civilized and thought provoking discussion to just dismiss an entire POV as "crap." I often wonder how often, "Please don't be rude. It doesn't help and it gets you banned." is enforced or even read.
Did you even read past that? The part where he actually argued why Rand's ideas where crap? Should I just assume you fixated on that because you couldn't come up with a real response?
Not the above troper, but you don't need to read further than "Rand's crap" to see rude. If you want a "real response", I'd recommend looking at all the Randian Objectivists who point out that many rich people are only rich because of government intervention, or the places in the damn book that show people who were rich only by profiteering from the ability or intellect of others. The richest people outside the Gulch at the end of the book are also the worst workers and the stupidest people. It's not that everyone who's rich is such because they were smart or worked the hardest, but that without threats of force or gullible charity that such would be the case. I don't like the ideology myself — there's a pretty good room for argument about whether that should or shouldn't be the case — but construct something better than a strawman and accusations of crap.
A response doesn't have to be polite to be valid. The troper above may have been rude, but he/she is largely correct in pointing out that wealth has very little to do with effort. Statistics demonstrate that being born to a prosperous family and having access to the opportunities that the wealthy do is a much larger factor.
The climax with Project F, the electric torture. Galt takes a couple dozen shocks, the machine breaks down, blah blah blah. I can actually buy him being able to fix the issue by ear — it would most likely be a popped transformer or capacitor chain, both of which can only be in so many places and tend to have rather distinctive sounds. But the whole point of his Oath and the torture is that he would not offer any ability of his mind, anything more complex than cooking or cleaning or doing damn menial work anyone could do, if not perfectly, to the moochers. And that's precisely what he's does : he breaks. Rand might not have noticed it, given that she has a character panic about Galt being unbreakable, or she might have intended it so he's not always perfect and to highlight the panicked character not understanding what drives Galt, but it makes the sequence a joke rather than a climax.
This could be read in line with the rest of Galt's character rather easily. Consider: he's won, and he knows it. Even tied to a torture rack, he knows with absolutely certainty that, live or die, he's achieved everything he aimed for, and the most complete representations of everything he despises are struggling in vain to preserve their charade of control for just a few more minutes. Imagine, then, after he gives the matter-of-fact instructions on how to fix the vibrator coil, what he leaves unsaid: "This is the difference between us: that I can accomplish in an instant a task at which you could struggle for years and never complete. Do you see, now, at the end, what it is you're doing? I am the only man who can save you from yourselves, and you have tied me to a torture rack just to hear me suffer. This is why you have failed. This is how much you suck." In short, he's being a jerk for the fun of it, but it's not like he ever had any love for the stupids.
Not to mention there are more problems here than just not understanding Galt's motivation. First off it's not the machine that breaks down but the generator powering it. Secondly the entire scene from that point on is every person basically freaking out at Galt's composure in the face of torture and Galt goading them on by laughing at their reactions. Jim Taggart breaking down in the face of it all and that he "wanted Galt to be destroyed for the sake of his own survival." The chapter and point is summed up well by the last line, "For the moment, their only certainty was that they had to escape from that cellar—the cellar where the living generator was left tied by the side of the dead one." Galt basically can beat them with every hand tied behind his back because they are moochers, incapable of truly achieving anything of worth on their own.
I understand that's what the purpose is, but it's still the Fettered breaking his very biggest rule, and it bugs me as a result.
Being quite the Marty Stu Galt instinctively knows how every person in the room will react with 100% certainty. As such he knows that they will not be helped by his display of knowledge, and is free to use it to further his goals.
Talk about Comically Missing the Point! The electric torture scene is the culmination of the "Sanction of the Victim" - that the evil men of the world had always been dependent on good men to keep them alive. They've strapped Galt down, zapped him over and over again, demanding he obey, zap zap zap, and then the damned thing breaks and none of them know how to fix it. He calmly points out how to fix it, and at the same time pointed out that that's all they ever really asked for. They never wanted technology to sustain the world, they just wanted weapons to threaten other people into sustaining the world for them - and he won't give them any. "All political power comes out of the barrel of a gun" and the politicians had always simply stolen guns because they never learned how to build a fucking gun. This is the end result of Screw the Rules, I Make Them!; they're using the last bullets on Earth to force last gunsmith on Earth to make bullets for them - and their gun just jammed. He told them how to unjam it, but not how to make more bullets. They can kill him if they want, and he'll even help them kill him, but he will not help them hurt anyone else. Once the last bullets are gone, they'll never find any more. No one will ever build a bullet for them ever again. It's The End of the World as We Know It and everything's going to be just fine.
The reason that this scene is so effective is the torturers realize that they only can torture him because he let's them. Even strapped down and electrocuted, they can only do what they want to because he allows it.
Why was electric torture the only way to hurt Galt? Couldn't they have just used low-tech torture, like hitting him?
Dr Ferris is a recognizable douche. I think he wanted to try out his new shiny thing.
That is the real reason. The official reason (given by Ferris) is that Galt must appear entirely unharmed. which he was.
The point of the electric torture machine was to inflict the maximum pain possible without actually killing the subject. It was monitoring his heart rate, and stopping every time it came close to killing him. I saw a show on the Discovery Channel or something like that about possible technologies and their advantages and disadvantages - there was one on robotic surgeons: surgical procedures become cheap - positive. Negative - surgeons without ethics; stick a subject in a "doc box" and it will inflict the maximum amount of pain possible while keeping him alive the whole time - the ultimate torture machine!
What about something like sticking him in a dark room, taking him out only for a waterboarding, grinding him down slowly but surely like water always does.
Thank goodness that soybean crop failed, or the looters might have actually had a success. (I actually agree mostly with the economics of AS, but that was a weak plot device that was out of context with the usual failure of the looters, which comes about through incompetence, not chance.)
At least in the copy I've got, Ma Chalmer's soybean crop fails because it's reaped too early and got moldy, not because of chance. Given the pointlessly long transport times (from Louisiana to California) before processing and Chalmer's method for arranging transport, it's pretty heavily the fault of the people on top of the chain.
All of the protagonist's they act like self-entitled whiners and pretend the massive amount of people their plan would kill means nothing.
News flash - the screwups were happening anyway! Nowadays, when the government regulates something to the point that it gets people killed, it's the fault of whoever's being regulated. No one cares that someone stupid demanded things that would screw up. The "strike" was simply them saying, "Okay, if you don't like it, I won't do it at all." Blaming the strikers for the deaths and destruction is like blaming whoever's being terrorized when terrorists kill hostages. The bureaucrats were the ones who broke other people's things, and blamed the owners when the broken things killed people. The strikers just stopped taking the blame for other people's mistakes. "You stole my car and hit someone? It's not my car anymore!" It's a tragedy, but it's not their fault - it's the fault of the people who ran the world into the ground. They just stopped fixing what the looters broke.
In real life regulations rarely if every kill anybody. They might lower productivity but they save lives. You only need to look at China or other countries with lower regulations than the US and Europe and check their workplace fatalities to confirm that.
Replacing one system that kills lots of people with another that kills most of the rest of them is not solving a problem. They caused far more deaths with their plan than collectivists ever would.
Sooo... The Strikers were just supposed to give in because the Looters' incompetence was killing people? At every turn, Dagny told them what they had to do to make things better - Deregulate. Let people rebuild. Stop squeezing the country's neck. You're killing people. Just freaking stop. The ending that happened was the only one that could happen.
One of the premises of the story is that the looters system is unsustainable. Even without the strike it would be results would be the same.
The strikers were only doing exactly what the government wanted them to do: stopped producing wealth and left their businesses to whomever wanted them. The strikers didn't cause anything or hurt anyone. They simply closed their businesses, which they had every right to do (well, not legally in their world, of course, just like African-American slaves weren't allowed to run away from their masters). They didn't cheat to win the game, they just found the rules unfair and, thus, decided to stop playing. They didn't make the looters pass the laws that deprived people of the things necessary to survive; the looters claimed businessmen were evil, so they closed their businesses and gave them a world without greedy capitalists, just like everyone wanted.
The Strikers were doing quite a bit more than than just not producing wealth. Just off the top of my head Ragnar was attacking ships that presumably would have delivered their goods just fine without his interference, Francisco effectively tricked investors into following him and losing their fortunes. Fortunes that would likely have have been if not 'wisely' invested certainly not lost on a boondogle if a legit businessman hadn't intentionally disrupted the system, Wyatt set his oil well on fire. Even if you assume that nobody else would have found it without him it would have continued to work just fine and that's just the well known and super obvious characters. The lookers also didn't want the Strikers to stop creating wealth they wanted them to produce wealth for others (gross oversimplification but there it is) and the Strikers decided they were tired of being used as slave labor and quit but quitting alone wouldn't be enough to topple the system.
Hank Rearden's brother realizes that he's sick of receiving money from the goverment without working and asks for a job at Rearden Metal. Hank Rearden gives him a filibuster about how he is not motivated by obligations and guilt and does not have to give his brother a job, but that it's his choice. He then chooses to ignore his family and not give him a job, dooming him to remain a parasite.
Phillip had nothing he could offer, and he thought Hank should give him a job just because he's family, which would make him just as much a parasite.
Almost everybody has something to offer. I don't think I'll ever read Atlas Shrugged, but I did read Sword of Truth (all of it up to Confessor) which deals with the same philosophy, though in a slightly more visceral manner. Objectivist or not, refusing your own brother the chance to become something other than the thing you despise the most in the world is a dick move. Especially since I get the feeling this was the first time that brother made such a move, meaning that he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Rand makes it crystal clear that Philip being Hank's brother means absolutely nothing, in her entirely merit-based value system. If Hank gave Philip a job on that basis, Philip would still be a Looter because of the reason he was given the job, and Hank would be guilty of some combination of altruism and nepotism, which he is supposed to be transcending at this point in the story.
Here we have a fundamental weakness of a characterization style that conceives and portrays people as types or ideograms: it leaves no room for Character Development, thereby lending the characters of Atlas Shrugged their notoriously two-dimensional quality, none more so than Galt himself. What really makes this example painful is that Hank may well be the most interesting character in the novel because of the inner conflict he feels, for the first half of the book or so, over his unarticulated Objectivist nature - while this conflict is no substitute for Character Development, it's as close to it as anyone in the novel gets. And yet he denies a similar chance to his own brother. I don't care who you are, or what you believe, that's cold.
Keep in mind that Phillip Rearden's motivation is not wanting to be productive. He attempts to get a job at his brother's mill at the orders of Claude Slagenhop, one of the looters who sponsored legislation forcing Hank Rearden to sell off all but one of his businesses. Also, at this point it is illegal for business owners to hire people without authorization from a Unification Board, and the action of hiring Philip could be used for blackmail. Philip's probable motivation was to spy on his brother for Claude Slagenhop, with an implicit understanding that the factory would be his (or him becoming some part of its power structure) after he assisted in the staged riot that was to be used as an excuse for nationalizing the mills. Also, Philip's bills were paid for by his brother - not the government which had at this point frozen Hank Reardon's assets in an attempt to force him to keep working. Philip doesn't really ask for a job, as show up demanding one.
Rearden says that if he gave his useless brother a job at the mills he wouldn't be able to look a competent man in the face.
So he can't give his brother an apprenticeship or internship under a talented professional to see if he has the right stuff? This is a big catch-22. If you don't try to better yourself you're a moocher and deserve to starve, if you try to do better the Chosen can just decide you're not one of them and deny you the chance. Then you starve.
If Hank gave his brother a paying job he knew he was unqualified for (and neither Phillip nor their mother denies that he is unqualified) for no other reason other than that he was his brother, he would be guilty of unjust, unfair nepotism. True fairness doesn't allow for favoritism — something Phillip and all the proponents of so-called "fairness" always forget about.
As I recall, Hank's mother had come to him and specified that he was to give Phillip some high-ranking office job. I imagine that if Phillip had expressed a willingness to work his way through the company from the ground up, the reaction would have been QUITE different.
Hank put Philip through college; Chapter 2 says this right before he happily gives his brother $10,000.00 for his group's latest project... and promptly gets chided by his mother and brother for not caring about the organization's goals and only giving the money because he wants to see Philip happy. You can bet if Hank gave Philip the job, it wouldn't have been enough; his family's demands never stop — they use him for everything. He owes them nothing. Hank Rearden did everything in his power to help his brother career-wise... except lie for him by giving him a job he's unqualified for.
Galt Gulch. OK, let all this happen. And you want me to believe that the new structure of society is superior by giving me a great example? Oh, it works for organizing people who love doing their work well. We are not shown how well it will deal with a moocher inside trying to game the system. Building an Utopia is so easy when everybody loves honest work and is honest. And just in case this all still makes sense, let's give many people golden deposits probably comparable to the entire value of the economy inside the Galt's Gulch - which do not seem to affect the economy.
Great point about how the economy made no sense - giving everyone millions in gold should produce inflated prices just as millions in fiat currency would. But what sort of mooching are you suggesting? Unlike outside society, no one in the Gulch offers any charity. The moocher would get nothing.
Begging would give nothing, you are right - what about fraud?.. After a generation change, Galt's Gulch would be a fraudster's dream - with no one having experience of dealing with fraud efectively and no system to deal with it in a sane way. Any system that completely ensures punishment of the fraudster is also easy to abuse for fraudulent punishment of honest people, and the balance is hard to get right without experience... It looks like the Stainless Steel Rat would be right in such a world - a criminal bent on only stealing and only from the rich and only in non-obvious ways would do the society a service of not letting to become too relaxed.
But the entire point is that the Objectivists would be ok with that. They don't care when moochers beg or try and defraud, They just ignore them. It is when the moochers use force, or the threat of force, to steal from, stop, or try to command the Industrialists that they find fault with.
The above is wrong—Objectivists generally consider fraud a form of force, and would outlaw it.
How exactly does one "ignore" someone who just made off with half your fortune, and half the fortune of everybody else in town? How exactly would ignoring do anything to solve the problem posed by somebody like Bernie Madoff after the Ponzi scheme?
They wouldn't care because he earned it fair and square. He was more intelligent than them, and as such deserved what he managed to trick them out of.
We appear to be using separate definitions of "fair". Economic fairness only really works in a system in which all information is readily available; to justify stuff like Ponzi schemes as "OK because it just means he's smarter than you" is to say, in essence, that economics as a whole doesn't work and the only safe way to do anything is to do it yourself, no other human can be trusted because they might be smarter than you. Cue societal collapse due to modern technology and society all requiring more than one person or family's input to be viable.
Let's say Bernie Madoff enters Galt's Gulch a hundred years after the end. He frauds everyone in it for half their fortune. What's he going to do with it afterwards? He's just angered the only people who actually create value in the world, in otherwords, the only people who would actually be able to sell him stuff with the gold he just stole.
Get prosecuted and sued, found guilty and liable, and have his assets confiscated wile he goes to jail. Galt's Gulch is minarchist, not anarchist, and its resident Supreme Court Justice (Judge Naragansett) isn't going to change common law torts and crimes of fraud, which Objectivists generally agree with.
Ah, so "proper" civilization can only function in a small enough context for everybody to know everybody else, and breaks down on a large scale, where, any bigger than a single town, something is needed to let people know which strangers are and aren't trustworthy, and leaving it to an unregulated private individual is too corruption-tempting since they'd have the power to make strangers think their rivals are untrustworthy, and the only solution to that would lead to a bevy of sources all making contradictory claims, meaning a central body to force honesty or make judgements is needed, leading out of objectivism. Sounds a lot like one of the big problems with communism, which works fine on the community level but not any bigger too...
It seems like Dagny starts carrying the Idiot Ball after she gets out of Galt's Gulch. Despite being specifically told not to look for him, Dagny looks for Galt and leads the looters to him. Also, after living in the Gulch, she starts to understand that leaving her company to rot and starting over would be a good idea, and she leaves anyways. If she had stayed in the Gulch, the Gulch would have prospered with Dagny's rail carts and lines, Galt or D'Arconia would have convinced Rearden to leave, and society would have collapsed quicker.
She isn't terribly smart: her special skillset is management and inventory for running a railroad, which she's incredible at, but she's not a people person. She's also the sort to actually trust words on paper enough to follow Galt's (rather overtly obvious trail) and to expect other people to do so which leads her to believe the looters aren't looking very hard and certainly not hard enough to follow her, while the looters love to have other people do their thinking and follow them.
It just bugs me that Ayn Rand seems to think that anyone in the government cares about appearances when it comes to arresting or killing people for the sorts of things seen in the book. When the government decides to crack down, they won't care. They'll happily accept your guilty plea and they will jail you, or even kill you. Just look at how many people they already have for nothing more than smoking marijuana.
Ayn Rand operates under the belief that evil people aren't just stupid, they're also incompetent and incapable of doing anything. The government can obviously never win against TRUE OBJECTIVIST HEROES, unless said heroes let them. That is, in fact, one of the main statements that the book makes.
And finally, the novel takes place during the final collapse of collectivist civilization. They were doing that for years, and have come to realize that they are running out of people to replace those they jail and/or kill. So they're backing off of the truncheon slightly - but still torture Galt at the very end.
I suppose criticizing the lack of basic scientific knowledge presented in the book is comparable to criticizing the FTL communication device in The Dispossessed, but seriously, perpetual motions machines? It just feels very weak.
Weak or not, it's an easy way out of doing actual work to get energy. I'm not an expert but that doesn't seem very objectivist...
Considering that the Casimir effect was discovered nine years before the book was published, it probably didn't seem all that far-fetched at all. In the movie, Galt's motor is stated to be related to the Casimir effect. What does seem far-fetched is that sixty-three years have passed and we still don't have free energy...
It's not technically a perpetual motion machine. Not only does it need regular fueling and repairs, it's specifically a generator, ie something that turns existing energy into usable power. In this case, atmospheric static electricity, a theory that was going around at the time Rand was writing the books but is no longer treated seriously. May violate the second law of thermodynamics, depending on how the atmosphere's static electric field was maintained.
John Galt's speech was 60-80 pages long. It must have lasted for the better part of an hour, or more. Yet, the entire time, he was transmitting from a pirated radio station. This is a man whom the entireEvil Government is desperately intent on silencing. I find it very hard to belive that no one managed to shut down the transmitter Galt was using in that whole time.
The speech lasted three hours and was followed by dead air. The problem was the elites where teaching people not only not to think, but that thought is an illusion and raised a generation of morons.
It's mentioned that Galt is speaking over a transmitter that doesn't use traditional radio waves but super-ultra powerful ones based on his engine. (It's not clear if he planned the speech for a while and built this transmitter, or if he's just such a genius that he knocked it out over a weekend.) That could make it impossible to track. The way I'd figure to track a radio signal is to measure where it gets stronger and go that way, but if everywhere in the country has the signal so powerful that your meters can't differentiate strength, nothing they can do.
The looter's technicians also aren't terrible competent, as a rule.
Alright, this is something that really puzzles me about the book. Atlas Shrugged is meant, among other things, to be an extensive critique of altruism, showcasing the terrible effects such a morality would have upon people and society and the villains are meant to be exemplars of that. So why is it then that literally none of the villains actually are altruistic? None of the bad guys - whether they be corrupt businessmen, power-hungry government officials, sinister social reformers, nihilistic philosophers or parasitic family members - do what they do because they genuinely care about others, or because they want to help the poor and unfortunate. Many of them are just straight-up hypocrites - people who mouth platitudes about the general welfare and helping others because it makes them look good but who actually don't give a fig about anyone but themselves. They're not altruists, they're people masquerading as altruists for their own selfish purposes. It's the same thing with Rearden's family and other "moochers" who live of other people's strained charity - they preach selflessness so that others will enable them to live, but have no intention of doing the same for others. Leeching off of other's work and effort without giving anything in return isn't altruism, it's the textbook definition of selfishness. But even the villains that are supposed be "consistent" and utterly devoted to what they preach aren't actually altruists. Take Ivy Starnes, the reformer at the Twentieth Century Motor Company and the most vile of the Starnes siblings. She doesn't promote the pseudo-Marxist reforms at the factory because she actually cares for the workers and wants the best for them - she just loves the feeling of power it gives her and the pleasure of seeing them squirm under her boot heel while they're being utterly dependent upon her. She's not an altruist, just a power-hungry sadist. Even the tramp who tells the story to Dagny admits that none of the workers actually believed in the fancy words about brotherly love and compassion - they just wanted a bigger piece of the cake for themselves. And in the end, the novel seems to preach that all supposed "altruists" are in fact some kind of nihilistic death-worshippers who want to bring mankind down to a state of endless misery purely For the Evulz. How on earth is that supposed to be "altruistic" in any conceivable way? Ironically, the character who comes closest to being a genuine altruist in the book is Eddie Willers, one of the heroes who stick by Taggart Transcontinetal to the bitter end and actually seems to display true pity and compassion for others (but then, he meets a tragic end so maybe that's the point). If you were to show this book to anyone who promotes altruistic beliefs in real life, he would say "Of course I'm against what the villains do and believe here!" - they would never strike him as people he'd regard as altruists. So if the purpose of the book is to show the natural consequence of altruism, I think it fails at that. At most, it shows the consequences of people who claim to be altruists but who are actually either selfish or just want to see the world burn.
I think the point is an incredibly cynical "there is no such thing as real altruism", accusing altruistic people of just really being selfish liars.
So the message of the book is not "Genuine altruism is evil" but "Hypocrisy is evil."
Why do most of Rand's characters invoke the name of God? It's not just meaningless exclamations, either; Hank, for example, thinks, "God bless you, Ellis Wyatt," and "God help the little bastard" (Tony) on separate occasions.
Rand herself, in a TV appearance, agreed that she would "thank God" for America. While making it clear that she did not literally believe in God, she was owning the sentiment expressed. Her heir, Leonard Peikoff, at least once concluded a speech by remarking that although he is an atheist, he could not express himself better than "God bless you, and God help you!"
Are these major companies like Rearden Steel (and the other Rearden businesses) supposed to be effectively proprietorships? Maybe Rand was just conserving detail, but in a conglomerate the size of Rearden's, he would have shareholders, a board of directors, banks who lent him money and so on. Even the biggest companies of the Gilded Age like Standard Oil weren't one-man dictatorships. Or are we supposed to believe that Rearden and his ilk were just so awesomely awesome that they could singlehandedly own and run their companies?
Rearden's mentioned as having borrowed money (from Midas Mulligan) in the past, but never having sold any stock to others.
And at the opening of the John Galt line, we are told that since Rearden "has no stockholders", he can expect to pocket ALL the profits from Rearden Metal. Admittedly, it sounds unlikely.
D'Anconia Copper, on the other hand, IS publicly held. And as Francisco notes, it is strange how many of the shareholders are named "John Smith" and "Juan Gomez".
Jim and Dagney are seen dealing with the (troublesome) Board of Directors of Taggart Transcontinental, and Francisco drives his stockholders into greater and greater panic over the course of the plot, so the absence of any Rearden Steel stockholders or Board of Directors must be intentional. No doubt he also has other investors besides Mulligan; remember Dagny's mission to find investors for the John Galt Line. There's nothing in the book that says Rearden doesn't employ an army of superintendents, supervisors, and assistants to manage his various business and industries, but nobody else owns Rearden Steel, etc. but him. There's no reason why this would be impossible; it's a logical way to run a business for an introvert who loves to work. Now, are there laws decreeing businesses of a certain size must be owned by more than one person? Hey, why didn't the looters think of that?
Yes, we are supposed to believe that Rearden and his ilk are so awesomely awesome that they run these companies by themselves. Which is the reason why taking away the top people is a successful strategy for bringing down the entire world and not just an annoyance. Dagney does have a board of directors and they are shown as what's holding her back because she's so much smarter than all of them COMBINED that even with a successful business already in place she was driving them out of business within just a few years. Faith in Fransico drives stock holders to plunge entire fortunes because none of them have the know how properly gauge the value of an investment. Ragnar is so good that the combined military might of the WORLD can't stop him from doing what he wants. It's a common enough theme in Rand's novels. The good guys are faultless often to the point of being psychic and and the bad guys are so screwed up that it's only the fact that the heroes are actively keeping the fools alive that they manage to survive. That's pretty much the moral of Atlas Shrugged is that the poor owe the rich because without the rich the poor would be dead.
No, just that they prefer to own the companies themselves and pay people like his superintendent and foreman to run different parts of the business without sharing control/ownership with anyone.
If everything in Atlantis is powered by Galt's motor, what do they use Ellis Wyatt's oil for?
Probably as lubrication for engines of various kinds.
We use petroleum for a wide variety of things from medicines to plastics to gasoline. We don't know much about Galt's motor but I don't know if it would be viable for a train and I can't imagine it being small enough for a car either.
In addition to the other uses for petroleum, it is mentioned that Galt's motor does require fuel, as Dagny says when they find it: "A self-generator, working on a few drops of fuel, with no limits to its energy."
Can anyone give me a bullet points list of Galt's message? I've read it a few times, but I apparently have the memory of a goldfish, because by the time I've finished it, I've always lost track of just WHAT he was trying to say. O.O
The only interesting part of the speech is the beginning — see the Main and Quotes pages for Be Careful What You Wish For. The rest is an outline of the morality of Objectivism. It's the morality followed by the Ferengi of Star Trek, except with added taboos against lying and deception of any kind. I would say the most important points of it are:
Dishonesty is wrong.
Using force against others except in self-defense is wrong.
Using force, fraud, or coercion to get things from people is wrong.
Hedonism is wrong.
Marxism and Socialism are evil.
Capitalism = Freedom, which is why it's the only rational system to follow.
He also redefines words, especially "selfishness" and "sacrifice." According to Galt/Rand, a mother going hungry to feed her starving child is "selfish," not "sacrificial" (yes, he uses that example). Sacrifice is always wrong, and selfishness is always right, but he can rationalize any act as "selfish," no matter how kind. Rearden's Heroic Sacrifice for Dagny earlier in the book, or Dagny feeding and sheltering the tramp Jeff Allen, would be considered "selfish" as long as it was what they wanted to do and they considered it worth it.
He also finds religion to be evil, which is the only hypocritical part of the whole speech because you see people over and over in the book worship him (and sacrifice things for him!) like he's a god.
Exploiting or abusing others is always wrong and not "selfish" because it proves you have no self if you need to rely on others to the point of forcing things form them (that's Objectivism's logic behind its new definition of "selfishness").
There are several abridged versions out there: Howard Roark's speech at his trial at the end of The Fountainhead of course (though that's still ridiculously long despite being much shorter), Tony Stark's speech at his Senate hearing in Iron Man 2, the Scrooge McDuck comic "A Financial Fable," and any one of Captain Kirk'ssummations when he "liberates" a planet.
Pretty sure Kirk is automatically disqualified for that due to being from what is essentially a socialist utopia.
That's what makes it so hilarious that so many of his speeches (ex. the end of "Return of the Archons") sound like they were lifted right out of Galt's speech.
Which means he's being kinda hypocritical, and thus shouldn't be used as an example unless inherent hypocrisy is an integral part of the argument. Context matters, people.
Not hypocritical, just interesting. Rand loved capitalism and individualism. Roddenberry hated capitalism but loved individualism (and The Fountainhead and The Romantic Manifesto).
The Atlantean vow "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" does sum up the entire speech.
Does the story take place in an Alternate History, Twenty Minutes into the Future, both or neither? In the book, it seems that most of the other countries of the world have become these bizarre "Peoples' States", implying that some sort of global Marxist/Leninist revolution took place at most a few decades before the book was set. The US Government appears to have undergone a major institutional overhaul as well. Was there some particular point of divergence from actual history, or was Rand projecting her vision of "if this goes on" into the story?
I think of it as taking place in 1948, in an alternate history where Hitler never rose to power in Germany, so the Communists ended up taking over most of Europe and there was no World War II so the Depression just kept getting worse.
Why couldn't the Strikers tell people why they were quitting? They wouldn't have to tell them where their secret hideout was or who their leader was. There would have been no harm in William Hastings telling his wife, Midas Mulligan telling the papers, or Owen Kellogg, Ken Dannagger, Hugh Akston, etc. telling Dagny that they quit their jobs because they found the government's policies unfair and they refused to work under such unjust conditions any longer. That would have given who knows how many others the inspiration to follow suit without revealing anything dangerous.
Their plan would have fallen apart or taken far too long to succeed if they'd done anything differently. A lot of what the Strikers had accomplished which is why many of them didn't simply strike they also destroyed their life's work on the way out. Wyatt Oil for example would have ran until the well was dry with or without him. Francisco had to get all the investors to follow him into ruin again intentionally.
Okay, so I don't know if this is different in the book or not, but this was driving me up the wall in the movie. So some stooge from the State Science Institute visits Rearden and says the government wants to buy the rights to his metal. So Rearden says he'll sell it to him if he answers one question honestly: "Is Rearden metal good or not?" Rather than do the extremely simple thing (answer the question and get exactly what he wants), he goes "I think that's a very selfish question to ask in a time of great economic uncertainty" and dicks around with various other non-answers. If he just said yes or no rather than being too stupid to breathe, the entire "conflict" would be nonexistent.
The novel does indeed argue that everyone in government is too stupid to breathe and that no poloiticians ever give direct answers but always speak in vague, ambiguous terms that can never be accused of implying anything definite. Anyone want to argue this is inaccurate?
Yes, because if "the government" really was that stupid, it would've fallen eons ago.
Okay, so the story is really just badly written and relies on the antagonists being retarded.
If government was run by competent people, they wouldn't be the subject of countless jokes in other sources across media, and people who called government agencies for help wouldn't have the frustrating experiences they always have. Rand is hardly the first author to mock government officials or the first person to be diassatisfied with how politicians run things and answer questions. Like Katniss Everdeen says, stupid people are dangerous.
This troper always saw the question as a trap. The answer is obviously yes and both men know it's the answer. So why is Reardan asking? The government official might not be smart enough to to fully recognize what creek he's in but he's smart enough to notice he just got splashed. Also it seems unlikely Reardon was being honest about his intentions to sell the formula. That and as is mentioned in Rand's works the government are collectively too stupid to breathe.