Atlas Shrugged: Death and Taxes


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VIIWhen someone pops up out of nowhere on a lonely road late at night to hand you a bar of gold, it probably wouldn't be your first impulse to wonder how they determined how much gold to give you. But Hank Rearden is curious, and Ragnar Danneskjold has an answer for that, too:"If men refuse to pay the debt they owe you, this is the manner in which they will pay for it. But there is one part of the debt which is computed and on record. That is the part … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Highwayman

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VIIHank Rearden has moved into an apartment in Philadelphia, so as not to have to see his family anymore. He's also - finally - begun divorce proceedings against Lillian, handing his lawyer a blank check and telling him: "I don't care what means you use, how many of their judges you purchase or whether you find it necessary to stage a frame-up of my wife." (Remember, bribery, fraud and false accusations are fine, as long as it's a Capitalist Hero doing … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Violence Vouchers


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VITo finish off this chapter, I want to flash back to an earlier scene. In it, the villains are discussing the one part of Directive 10-289 they're worried they may not have the power to implement: the part about the state taking over all existing patents. Somehow, they have no concerns over whether enslaving people to their jobs, or requiring them to spend the same amount of money every year, will pass legal muster; but they fear that Rearden "is in a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Make the Trains Run on Time


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VThe band of crossties swept in wide curves around granite corners, clinging to the mountainsides of Colorado. Dagny walked down the ties, keeping her hands in her coat pockets, and her eyes on the meaningless distance ahead; only the familiar movement of straining her steps to the spacing of the ties gave her the physical sense of an action pertaining to a railroad.Dagny and Hank have traveled to Colorado. Ostensibly it's to buy and ship out any … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Men With Guns


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IIIEntering Rearden's office, Dr. Floyd Ferris wore the expression of a man so certain of the success of his quest that he could afford a benevolent smile.Rearden asks why he requested an appointment, and Ferris says it's in regard to the five thousand tons of Rearden Metal that the State Science Institute ordered several months ago. Rearden reminds Ferris that he already turned them down and has no intention of reconsidering."But that was five … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Offshore Accounts


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IIAll the movers and shakers, including Hank and Lillian, have showed up for James Taggart's wedding in New York. Dagny is also there, and obviously she and Hank have to keep up the pretense that there's nothing between them. This makes Hank grit his teeth at his inability to, I don't know, have sex with her right there on the ballroom floor:...he wondered why he stood here, he wondered who had the right to demand that he waste a single irreplaceable … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Second Amendment Remedies


Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IThe government has passed a so-called Fair Share Law which requires Hank to sell Rearden Metal to anyone who wants it. In practice, this means that politically connected businesses can buy it in quantity, while industries that desperately need it, like Ken Danagger's coal mines, are being left empty-handed. To make it worse, the government has sent a young flunky, whom Rand nicknames the Wet Nurse, to oversee Rearden's mills:"Mr. Rearden," he had said … [Read more...]

The Problem of Private Armies

Since I started reading Atlas Shrugged, I've become interested in libertarian theories of how the state should operate. Like many libertarian writers, Rand is full of outrage against the intrusive laws of Big Government, but the book ends when that society collapses. She says very little about the new society that's going to take its place.I'm going to tackle a different answer to that question, given in "The Problem of Authority" by Michael Huemer, an anarchist libertarian. He makes a … [Read more...]

The Arab Spring in Danger


I first covered the Arab Spring just over two years ago, and since then, I've written about whether the revolutions were a setback for women's rights, as well as the unresolved tension between democracy and Islamism among Arab populations.I didn't report on events in the Middle East very much last year, since I thought there were fewer major developments to cover. It seemed like the worst violence was over, and all that was left was the sausage-making process of democracy, writing new … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not a Gun Owner


Last month, Sam Harris wrote a controversial essay arguing for private gun ownership:It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming … [Read more...]