Atlas Shrugged: Rise of the Machines


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIFor all its fixation on economic theory, Atlas Shrugged shows a dismal, incurious ignorance of how the economy actually works. When Ayn Rand's capitalists gather in sufficient numbers, consumer goods just spontaneously materialize around them. By all rights, the inhabitants of Galt's Gulch ought to be living like primitive pioneers - wearing furs, dwelling in shacks, subsisting on a diet of salted meat and hardtack. Instead, they inexplicably have a fully … [Read more...]

The Post-Work Society


Laziness is a good thing.For as long as civilization has existed, people have been trying to live as well as possible with as little work as possible. That drive has created kings and kleptocrats who get rich by robbing their subjects, but it's also led to every technology that makes work easier, from horse collars to steam engines to industrial robots.Think of how few people in the industrialized world work in jobs that have a direct connection to the necessities of life: agriculture, … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Marketplace of Ideas

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIAs Dagny's life in the Gulch settles into a routine, she notices that John Galt leaves the house every other night, returning at midnight or later. Notwithstanding the fact that Randian protagonists are supposed to bow out graciously when the person they love finds a better capitalist than them, she feels an unaccustomed "savage resentment" and "dread that there might be a woman in his life". Finally, one night at dinner, she asks him:"What is it … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The New Feudalism


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IILast time, John Galt told Dagny that because she trespassed in his valley, he's going to hold her there for a month, just because he wants to. He also tells her that he's going to bill the account that Ragnar established for her at the Mulligan Bank for her accommodations:"If you don't claim it, some part of it — a very small part — will be turned over to me in your name.""In my name? Why?""To pay for your room and board."I quoted this p … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Workers’ Paradise


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IAlthough the capitalists all going on strike was John Galt's idea, the valley where they're hiding out is Midas Mulligan's possession. This raises some obvious questions about how their society would work in practice, but Dagny seems resolutely uninterested in exploring the matter, and Mulligan never volunteers more than the most basic information. For once, just when we need a Randian Monologue, we don't get one!She turned to him. "It was you who … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Hippocratic Oath


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny's first day in John Galt's secret capitalist valley, and her whirlwind tour of its inhabitants, ends with a dinner party at Midas Mulligan's house later that night:Midas Mulligan met them at the door. She noticed that his grim, square face was not as harshly expressionless as she had thought: he had a look of satisfaction, but satisfaction could not soften his features, it merely struck them like flint and sent sparks of humor to glitter faintly … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: One Steve Limit


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IAt the bottom of the valley, John Galt and Dagny drive into town, where she meets another old capitalist friend:Galt stopped the car in front of the first structure on a ledge above the roofs, a brick building with a faint tinge of red trembling over its smokestack. It almost shocked her to see so logical a sign as "Stockton Foundry" above its door.... "Hi, Dagny!"The smiling face that approached her out of the fog was Andrew Stockton's, and … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Post-Scarcity Economy


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny's next stop in the valley brings her to a familiar face:It was not a pass, it was a wall of laminated rock with a complex chain of pipes, pumps and valves climbing like a vine up its narrow ledges, but it bore, on its crest, a huge wooden sign...: Wyatt Oil.It was oil that ran in a glittering curve from the mouth of a pipe into a tank at the foot of the wall, as the only confession of the tremendous secret struggle inside the stone, as the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IJust as Dagny and John Galt prepare to set out, they have a visitor:They were finishing breakfast when she saw Mulligan's car stopping in front of the house. The driver leaped out, raced up the path and rushed into the room, not pausing to ring or knock. It took her a moment to realize that the eager, breathless, disheveled young man was Quentin Daniels."Miss Taggart," he gasped, "I'm sorry!" The desperate guilt in his voice clashed with the … [Read more...]

How We Built the Ghettos, Why We Built the Ghettos


In the wake of the protests and riots that convulsed Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, there was unexpected and welcome news: state's attorney Marilyn Mosby moved quickly to indict the police officers who let him die in their custody. I was surprised and pleased to see that she threw the book at them, including by charging one with second-degree murder.But even if the indictment sticks, even if the officers are convicted, there's a deeper problem which hasn't been touched. The tide … [Read more...]