Atlas Shrugged: Bonsai People

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter XAlthough Hank is back at his mills, Dagny hasn't given up searching for the inventor of the motor. Her latest clue takes her to Oregon, where she's looking for Lee Hunsacker, the president of a shell company that owned the Twentieth Century Motor Company when the Community National Bank of Madison made the loan that failed and resulted in the collapse of both bank and factory. Dagny finds him living in poverty in a filthy hovel:"I never had a chance!" … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The New Deal

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter XDagny and Hank have set out to track down the owner of the defunct Twentieth Century Motor Company factory, crisscrossing the country in the hope of digging up an employee list that will help them find the inventor of the magic motor they discovered there. But this, as they soon discover, is a Sisyphean task.They're able to establish that the man who built the factory and the surrounding town of Starnesville is one Jed Starnes, who died twelve years ago. … [Read more...]

Chain Bookstores Are Doomed

In the week between Christmas and New Year's, I went book shopping to use some of the gift cards I got as presents. I went to a Barnes & Noble in Queens, one of the big ones with the built-in coffee shops and a huge display near the front of the store for their e-reader. It's not as good as supporting an independent bookstore, I realize, but there are fewer and fewer of those where I live, and I still think it's better than Amazon (whose labor practices I'm greatly concerned about).I had a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Price of Progress

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter IXAs I've mentioned before, even though Atlas Shrugged is intended to be a complete guide to Ayn Rand's economic and political philosophy, there are some fundamental aspects of an economy that she never addresses or makes only the vaguest of passing allusions to. I'm going to linger on the scene we discussed last time, because it has one of those fleeting mentions that's of enormous importance.Mr. Mowen looked at the skyline, at the belts, the wheels, … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Battle Cry of Freedom

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter IXLeaving Hank and Dagny for a little while, we turn to a scene in Connecticut:The silhouette of a conveyor belt moved against the strips of fire in the sky, raising coal to the top of a distant tower, as if an inexhaustible number of small black buckets rode out of the earth in a diagonal line across the sunset. The harsh, distant clatter kept going through the rattle of the chains which a young man in blue overalls was fastening over the machinery, … [Read more...]

Living Wages, Living Work: A Humanist Sermon

A few days ago, progressive blogs reported on the "McResource Line", an instantly infamous (and quickly-disappeared) website created by McDonald's to offer comically insensitive health and financial advice to its 1.8 million employees, who collectively earn $7.75 an hour on average.Among the stress-reducing tips on this site were: quit complaining about your low-wage job ("Stress hormone levels rise by 15% after ten minutes of complaining"), chew gum, sing songs, and go to church ("People … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Resource Curse

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIIDagny has invited Francisco to her office. She explains that she needs $15 million to finance the completion of the John Galt Line, of which she's been able to raise about half using the Taggart Transcontinental stock she owns as collateral, but now she's stuck because no banks will lend to her. She begs Francisco to help her, but he refuses.But just when all seems lost, she visits Hank with news of triumph - she's gotten the investment she … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIIThe next chapter opens in Colorado, where Dagny is personally supervising the construction of the Rio Norte Line in the shadow of Ellis Wyatt's oil derricks. As we found out earlier, her best contractor, McNamara, mysteriously closed his company and vanished, so she's being forced to rely on a replacement contractor named Ben Nealy. (We're told he has "a soft, sullen face" and skin with "the tinge of butter" [p.158], so you can guess whether he's competent … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Trust-Busting

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIAs Hank finishes dressing and goes downstairs to the party he's dreading (which is being thrown, remember, to celebrate his wedding anniversary), his mind is elsewhere. He's dwelling on a newspaper editorial he read earlier, about a proposed "Equalization of Opportunity" bill:The editorial said that at a time of dwindling production, shrinking markets and vanishing opportunities to make a living, it was unfair to let one man hoard several business … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: You’ll Never Fail Like Common People

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VAmerica loves rags-to-riches stories. The idea of the U.S.A. as a land of opportunity is deeply ingrained in our national self-image - we want to believe those Horatio Alger fairytales about how any poor-but-honest young boy with pluck, grit and spunk can start out by sweeping floors and rise to the executive boardroom.No surprise, Ayn Rand is a passionate devotee of this idea. But this does make it all the more surprising that she chooses to write her … [Read more...]