Atlas Shrugged: Triage for Dummies

Atlas Shrugged: Triage for Dummies September 5, 2014

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Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter V

As the next chapter opens, halfway through Part II of Atlas, the crumbling of society is accelerating. Fuel has become scarce, household appliances and other modern conveniences are vanishing, and people are dying by the hundreds in winter blizzards. But what’s far worse is that Hank Rearden has failed to fill an order for the first time in the history of his company:

“It won’t make any difference to us now, forget it, Hank, it doesn’t matter,” said Dagny when Rearden told her that he would not be able to deliver the rail; he had not been able to find a supplier of copper. “Forget it, Hank.” He did not answer her. He could not forget the first failure of Rearden Steel.

This review would be twice as long if I pointed out everything that strains credulity in this book, but still, it’s worth pausing here just to marvel at the unreality of this. What large company has never missed a deadline or reneged on a deal in its entire history?

These niggling little implausibilities are a constant barrage, and ironically, they can’t help but weaken the author’s own argument. Rand considered her genre to be “romantic realism“, presenting the world as she thought it should be. But the more blatantly unrealistic and inhumanly perfect she makes her protagonists, the more her narrative recedes from reality, and the less confidence we ought to have that the principles she advocates in this book have any relevance to our own lives.

Part of the reason for Rearden Steel’s failure is that coal is becoming almost impossible to obtain, since Ken Danagger’s coal company has been taken over by his predictably incompetent cousin:

He could not help it, he said, if the tonnage intended for Taggart Transcontinental had been turned over, on the eve of its scheduled delivery, to the Bureau of Global Relief for shipment to the People’s State of England; it was an emergency, the people of England were starving, with all of their State factories closing down…

The coal shipped across the Atlantic by the Bureau of Global Relief did not reach the People’s State of England: it was seized by Ragnar Danneskjold.

This hasn’t been explained in the narrative yet, but believe it or not, Ragnar Danneskjold is one of the good guys. Just as Francisco d’Anconia is defrauding investors and causing chaos to undermine the looters’ system from within, Danneskjold is attacking it from without, seizing and destroying goods that the government is trying to redistribute to those who didn’t pay for them. Yes, this means he’s stopping food and fuel from getting to people who are freezing and starving, and no, the moral implications of this are never addressed.

Orren Boyle… sold to the Bureau of Global Relief, for shipment to the People’s State of Germany, ten thousand tons of structural steel shapes that had been intended for the Atlantic Southern Railroad. “It was a difficult decision to make,” he said, with a moist, unfocused look of righteousness, to the panic-stricken president of the Atlantic Southern, “but I weighed the fact that you’re a rich corporation, while the people of Germany are in a state of unspeakable misery. So I acted on the principle that need comes first. When in doubt, it’s the weak that must be considered, not the strong.” The president of the Atlantic Southern had heard that Orren Boyle’s most valuable friend in Washington had a friend in the Ministry of Supply of the People’s State of Germany. But whether this had been Boyle’s motive or whether it had been the principle of sacrifice, no one could tell and it made no difference: if Boyle had been a saint of the creed of selflessness, he would have had to do precisely what he had done.

Like “the sanction of the victim“, this is another of Rand’s philosophical themes: that cronyistic corruption is indistinguishable from genuinely selfless altruism. Both, in her view, result in resources going to the undeserving – whether out of actual pity or corrupt bargaining, it doesn’t matter – rather than the True Capitalists who can make the best (i.e., most profitable) use of them. (The fact that Rand’s own protagonists aren’t above bribery is casually ignored.)

What she’s trying to convey, however clumsily, is the idea of triage: a crisis situation where demand outstrips supply, like an emergency room that has half a dozen trauma victims but only a limited supply of blood for transfusion. Rand fiercely rejects the idea that “need” should ever be a factor in deciding how to allocate a scarce resource, believing that this leads to moral absurdities like the one described above.

But the point of triage isn’t, as Rand apparently imagines it is, to always help the sickest person (the one with the greatest need) first. The point of triage is to accomplish the greatest good for the greatest number: to prioritize helping the people who need it the most and will benefit the most from it. In a triage situation, someone so severely injured that they’ll die no matter what isn’t a good candidate for treatment. Neither is someone who’ll pull through on their own.

Again, we’re not told the details of what’s going on in the rest of the world, but it seems that Europe is collapsing in the final stages of famine, while America is sliding down the same path but still has a barely functioning economy and some heavy industry. America can’t save the whole world, but it could save itself, if its remaining resources were directed efficiently. In these circumstances, the right thing to do is save those who can be saved – to keep America going so that it can recover and later rebuild civilization. That’s also what Dagny and Hank are trying to do. In a sense, they’re the ones making decisions based on need, not that Rand realizes this.

From a coldly logical perspective, giving scarce medical supplies to people who are probably going to die anyway is a bad idea. But even that would be better than, say, making a bonfire with them on the front lawn. Yet that’s exactly what Ragnar Danneskjold is doing:

In the foggy winter nights, on the waterfront, sailors whispered the story that Ragnar Danneskjold always seized the cargoes of relief vessels, but never touched the copper: he sank the d’Anconia ships with their loads; he let the crews escape in lifeboats, but the copper went to the bottom of the ocean. They whispered it as a dark legend beyond men’s power to explain; nobody could find a reason why Danneskjold did not choose to take the copper.

D’Anconia Copper is still theoretically owned by Francisco d’Anconia, and at least some of those ships must have been going to fill the orders of private businesses who paid honestly for them. (Don’t forget, Hank is one.) Armed resistance against tyrannical governments is one thing, as is convincing businessmen to leave their jobs and join Galt’s strike – but this is a direct, violent assault on the system of free enterprise that Rand supposedly respects!

At the beginning of this chapter, Rand tells us how the failure of one business causes a chain reaction that leads to the collapse of others – a ball-bearing company goes out of business because it can’t get steel, leading to the closing of a motor company that needed the ball bearings, leading to the closing of a sawmill that needed a new motor, and so on. But the looters no longer bear sole responsibility for this cascading disaster. Some of Rand’s heroes are complicit in it, working to destroy scarce, badly needed supplies that might have helped keep some people alive.

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  • One of the bizzaro world issues with the world Rand depicts as well is a system where supply and demand seem completely seperate from need.
    We’re constantly told that their are people who need things, but none of Rands protagonists ever seem interested in selling things to them. They seem to blame the market for not producing the needs they want to sell to rather than the needs that actually exist.
    The capitalists Rand depicts look at a world full of need around them, with people hungry, people in need of cheap solutions to now more and more mounting problems, and they are wholly uninterested in answering those problems which is not how business works. Or at least not how it’s supposed to. Hank is a genius civil engineer/metalurgist. As we’re getting to this point in the story the world needs a cheap steel and railroad/bridge designs to prop up distressed economies. But rather than spend his time working on that where he can corner the market and make a killing, he instead wants to keep selling the incredibly expensive and unnecessarily high spec Rearden Steel to private businesses who themselves are going out of business because no one wants what they’re selling.
    Rand’s protagonists are just like the US car companies in the early 2000’s, where they kept making big expensive SUV’s nobody wanted to buy anymore and wondering why they were failing. The value of a product isn’t in it’s own quality but in how marketable it is.

  • Rand always seemed like someone who ironically idolized capitalism while at the same time knowing very little of how it actually worked. A lot of her capitalist heroes are in fact lousy capitalists-just look at Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead, an architect who only wants to design buildings that he finds artistically fulfilling, rather than what customers in fact want (he even blows up one when a client changes the design). How is that capitalism? It’s more like “artistic integrity at all costs”, which has very little market value.

  • Hawker40

    And again I ask: if there’s a pirate rampaging about, why aren’t the cargo ships traveling in convoy with naval escort? Ragnar would be hunted down and sunk like the criminal scum he is in a real world.

  • Space Blizzard

    “at least some of those ships must have been going to fill the orders of private businesses who paid honestly for them”

    To be fair the paragraph does say he always seized the cargoes of “relief vessels” which I took to mean he was only targeting the ships sent off by the government and deliberately avoiding privately owned ones.

    I can’t quite remember, is D’anconia in on the John-Galt-o-thon at this point? If so it would seem him and Danneskjold are collaborating, which makes sense, but I don’t get why Hank and Dagny haven’t been brought into the fold yet. They must be two of the most powerful capitalists still active, and anyone who spent five minutes talking to them would realize they’re completely sympathetic to Galt’s aims.

    I know they’ve both protested against the idea of giving up, but surely that’s only because they don’t know that the vanished capitalists are taking part in a grand plot to sink the looter’s economy.

  • Al Petterson

    Well, in Randworld, the actual “need” that people have is Proper Philosophy. They don’t really need /things/, they don’t need food, or goods and services, or high-quality rail, or limitless energy generation. They just need to Think Right and Be Better.

    And of course they don’t know that this is what they actually need, so you can’t sell it to them. Other people (*cough* Galt *cough*), who know better than them, have to force them to accept what’s good for them; there’s no market for the one product that will actually fix society.

    Because capitalism and freedom.

  • AstroUltra

    Ragnar’s ship is stated to be better than the combined strength of all the world’s naval fleets. Because that’s not completely implausible.

  • AstroUltra

    It’s stated later that Ragnar only seizes the cargo of relief vessels, and refuses on principle to touch private vessels (which are the property of their owners) or military vessels (which are an ‘acceptable’ use of governmental power).

    Francisco’s copper is an exception. They’re Francisco’s property, so if he gives the okay for their destruction (as he clearly has, as evidenced by his conversation with Rearden last chapter), then Ragnar’s qualms are satisfied.

    As for his legitimate customers, Francisco has already shown that he has no problem with defrauding those who trust or invest in him. In Rand’s view, if you deal with an untrustworthy company, you deserve what you get. Francisco’s made it clear that he’s an irresponsible playboy, so he’s fine with ruining the property of those who dare to trust him anyway.

    He’s kind of a jerk that way.

  • duke_of_omnium

    IIRC, Dagny is still trying to save her railroad at this point, and is making the egregious mistake of remaining loyal to her family, past and present.

    Because she’s not willing to destroy a century or two of family and company tradition, she’s not quite ripe for recruitment.

    I’m not sure about Hank.

  • Doug Langley

    Rand argues that Proper Philosophy is the only way to produce food and services. Philosophy states that Man’s only means of survival is his rational mind, which determines the means by which food is grown and houses are built. So, she claims, if you try to obtain goods by non-rational means, you can only steal it from the producers, which makes everyone worse off in the long run.

    Her argument makes sense to a degree, but has some flaws. It shoehorns all human activity into an Industrial Revolution system, ignoring other systems such as the Hunter-Gatherer system used by humans before the Agricultural Revolution, and the Feudal System where owners of capital and government were the same.

  • Doug Langley

    “Rand’s protagonists are just like the US car companies in the early 2000’s, where they kept making big expensive SUV’s nobody wanted to buy anymore . . .”

    Rand’s heroes produce things that are always wanted and always turn a profit. They can’t ever make a mistake. Rand seems stuck in a kind of Say’s Law: supply create its own demand. Create a good product and it automatically sells, regardless of whether customers exist. The notion of demand driven economics – customers buy your product only if they have money to do so – was beyond her comprehension.

  • Cerebus36

    “…keep selling the incredibly expensive and unnecessarily high spec
    Rearden Steel to private businesses who themselves are going out of
    business because no one wants what they’re selling.”

    I thought Rearden steel was supposed to be cheaper than regular steel? I know it’s supposed to (magically) cheaper to create than regular steel.

  • Doug Langley

    I’m intrigued by the actions of villains such as Orren Boyle who sends his steel to Germany instead of the Atlantic Southern. Clearly, Boyle IS capable of manufacturing steel, he’s not an incompetent – he’s just giving it to the wrong people.

  • Doug Langley

    Reardon Metal is the magic alloy which he produces cheaper than steel. Then again, Reardon is such a genius he can also produce regular steel cheaper than anyone else.

  • Pacal

    I am at a loss to understand how Ragnar Danneskjold can operate as a international pirate. In the real world he would be tracked down and destroyed long ago by the massive naval forces of various nations. That he operates on such a scale is simply utterly unbelievable.
    I also note that Ayn Rand seems to think that starving and freezing people “deserve” to starve and freeze. But then since there appears to be in her eyes no right to life
    I guess I should not be surprised.
    I also find that her fantasy that the removal of few hundred people from an economy would cause it`s collapse increasingly both idiotic and absurd. The bottom line is no does it by him/herself. Big companies have huge hordes of people who could easily replace most CEOs. Ayn Rand`s view of how corporations ands capitalism works is hopelessly naïve. I am reminded of Nietzsche`s Supermen in her infantile picture of how modern economies work.
    It is now abundantly clear that her “Heroes” are deliberately creating situations in which millions will suffer and die. That they feel no responsibility and do not acknowledge any responsibility for the gathering catastrophe is clear evidence that her `”Heroes” have Sociopathic tendencies.

  • Cerebus36

    This again brings up one of the major flaws of “Atlas Shrugged”. Dannager has gone on strike, abandoning the coal business and the only remaining sources are run by complete and total incompetents apparently. Only Dannager was able to supply all the coal needs for the nation and/or world. Only Ellis Wyatt was able to supply all the oil the country and the world needed. At times, it almost seems like there’s really only one coal mine in Atlasworld. One oilfield. One copper mine, etc. The others are either non-existent or run by people who have no idea what they’re doing. In reality, there are more than one mine, more than one oilfield, more than one steel plant and they are all run with varying degrees of competence. Most are run competently enough that they can legitimately stand on their own and help supply the nation’s need. But the way Ayn Rand portrays things, it’s either Hank Rearden or Orren Boyle. Nobody else and only Hank is good at running a steel mill. That’s not even how things were in Forties and Fifties when Rand was working on AS.

  • Pacal

    ??? So Rand to “explain” Ragnar`s success does the equivalent of pulling a Deus Ex Machina out of her ass.
    By the way is Ragnar`s ship immune to a nuclear bomb? And just how is it undetectable?

  • Cerebus36

    It’s actually nothing short of miraculous that Danneskjold can target each and every freighter on the high seas and sink them all. Realistically, there’d be several ships on the west coast heading for the Orient, say, and several heading East to Europe and many more heading South to Australia and South America, all more or less at the same time, all from divers ports. There’s no way he can cover both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean without several freighters getting to their destinations with much needed supplies and goods to other countries. Yet, in Atlasworld, only one freighter sails at a time, making life so much easier for Ragnar.

  • Cerebus36

    Not only is Rearden Metal cheaper, but it’s good for doing all sorts of things. It’s a communication cable, your engine, a rail line, etc. Normally, you’d use different alloys for each task, but Rearden Metal does it all. o_0

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    It does make me wonder if there were some pages of AS missing, such as the ones where Ragnar meets this half-squid guy named Davey Jones in a bar one night and wakes up the next morning with his magical ship and a ten year contract.

  • Doug Langley

    I could buy it if Rand was merely explaining how industries work. This is how a typical steel plant run, this is a typical coal mine, etc. But as soon as the subject turns to the world economy, it collapses.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    And have you seen what it can do for grass stains?

  • Doug Langley

    Dear God – you want the book to be LONGER??

  • Doug Langley

    It’s a floor wax! It’s a desert topping!

  • Cerebus36

    “That they feel no responsibility and do not acknowledge any
    responsibility for the gathering catastrophe is clear evidence that her
    `”Heroes” have Sociopathic tendencies.”

    What amuses me is they claim they’re “going on strike”, all the while admitting they’re misusing the phrase. Calling it a boycott would be a little more accurate, but if they really want to call it what it is, they’d call it a “genocidal temper tantrum.”

  • Annerdr

    I heard that it can cure the common cold. And cancer! Damn those looters!

  • Now I’m picturing Ragnar as played by Vincent Price in Master of the World.

  • PremiumOsmium

    Maybe he got his hands on the teleporter from the Philadelphia Experiment? Or, knowing Rand’s protagonists, he probably invented one.

  • Donalbain

    At least we know the outcome of the upcoming referendum. RandLand has an independent Scotland!

  • Donalbain

    Hang on.. they actually specify that he has ONE ship? I did not think this book could be any dumber!

  • Science Avenger

    Ah, but you see, if the populace was properly rational, they would have wanted what Roark was building. In Rand’s world, making products born of irrational desire merely feeds the irrationality that is killing the world.

  • Science Avenger

    They are left out so far because they still think they can fight the looters on the looters terms and win. Dagny as much as says so directly at one point, though where exactly I forget.

  • Cerebus36

    At the very least, if the U.S. didn’t provide an armed escort, you can bet the shipping industry would.

  • Cerebus36

    It’s almost as if Atlasworld has a much smaller world population than the world population of the 1950s. Almost like she envisioned the U.S. as a village. A very spread out village, yeah, but a village or hamlet with one or two blacksmiths, one or two miners, etc.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    As frightful as a longer version of AS would be a brief encounter such as that would at least make the story explicitly fantasy. I mean, we already have magic ships, magic motors and magic people who can enforce their will upon reality so why not just make the leap already? Hell, it’d probably help the story make sense.

  • Chris

    I am always amazed at just how bad Rand is at portraying a libertarian/dystopian future.

    Those of us with serious misgivings about the philosophical and ethical basis for libertarianism can still relate to stories with “libertarian” protagonists. Who hasn’t imagined lucking into a stash of weapons when facing a Zombie Apocalypse? We can easily imagine the difficulty in a situation like this in deciding when to cooperate or when to shoot first and ask questions later (because we can see ourselves as some modern super hero) But we don’t pretend (and the authors don’t expect us to) that our ability to stave off hordes of rampaging zombies in our fantasy equates to how we should live our daily lives. That is why our stash of weapons remains a fantasy.

    We can imagine a world like that depicted in the silly Hunger Games trilogy (but compared to Rand is a veritable Steinbeckian masterpiece) where rebellion to secure our personal freedom is a rational choice because the leaders of society are tyrannical. But these stories eventually return to the needs of the many. You cannot secure your own rights without buy-in from the masses which doesn’t happen (and the author doesn’t believe it should) unless we all share in the spoils. The revolution doesn’t happen without mass support. That is where these differ from a pure Randian fantasy.

    Someone asked, “Why are Randian capitalists so crappy at capitalism?” It is because to Rand, capitalism (and the free market) is not a means to making things better for everyone, it is a means to allow the few elite to trade with each other while the masses toil in quiet servitude–essentially feudalism. But, because Rand ignores the point of the idealized notion of the free market-letting people be selfish in the quest for profit allowing a system to develop organically that ultimately makes everyone better–the characters act in such transparently stupid and evil ways.

    I suspect Rand was simply reversing what she saw as the sins of Russian Communism. Russia essentially skipped the capitalist stage and went straight to communism. She simply wants to reverse that back and pretending the elitist, anti-democratic Feudal society she envisions is really this thing called Capitalism.

  • AstroUltra

    All while paying his workers higher than any union wage scale, according to a scene later in the book.

  • AstroUltra

    Yes. At the very end of the book, once all society except for John Galt’s valley has collapsed, Ragnar says that he plans to eventually convert his ship into an ocean liner/cruise ship to take people across the ocean in comfort.

    It’s not explained which people those would be, or where they’re going when the whole world is in ruins, but that’s his plan.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    “I am at a loss to understand how Ragnar Danneskjold can operate as a international pirate.”

    Here’s how. In Part III, Ragnar will explain his success as nothing more than the expected result when “brute force” encounters “force ruled by a mind.” In other words, this scion of Norse nobility (who majored in philosophy) is such a tactical genius that he is able to outsmart the US Navy, and every other Navy, Coast Guard, and merchant marine organization, for years on end. Doesn’t matter how much force Ragnar’s adversaries can bring to bear; he always wins because he has The Mind. It’s like a superpower.

    And indeed, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is said (by its author, who should know) to be “the role of the mind in man’s life.” If we look at the story in these terms, the message seems to be that “the mind” is the essential and only thing you need in order to accomplish, well, anything you choose. If you are a “man of the mind,” such as Ragnar, there is nothing you can’t do—unless the evil looters’ government gets in your way.

    If you’re not a “man of the mind,” or willing to let them do whatever they choose, well, sorry, but you’re just going to have to starve (or freeze) in your own hopeless ineptitude. Even Eddie Willers can’t make it on his own.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    As I recall, somewhere in all her handwaving about realism in Atlas Shrugged, Rand admitted that in the real world, you couldn’t just yank out one man and have a whole industry collapse. But for her story to work, she needed a few indispensable men. So that’s one of those “stylized” or “essentialized” bits: the “romantic” part of the “romantic realism” Adam mentioned above.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Galt invented it, in his secret lab in New York.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    “Clearly, Boyle IS capable of manufacturing steel, he’s not an incompetent.”

    Oh, but in the last chapter, we were told that the steel girders Boyle provided for some workers’ housing project collapsed, killing a bunch of people. So I wouldn’t assume the steel he produced in this chapter was actually any good.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    I think it’s to Galt that she says it’s only a matter of time until she wins.

    Dagny reasons as follows:

    (P1) The looters want to live
    (P2) If they want to live, they must eventually realize that the only way they can live is by lifting all the regulations that have “enslaved” the producers.
    (C) Therefore, she will win.

    Dagny quits when she comes to see the error in her reasoning. (Hint: P2 is not the problem, not in Rand-land.)

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Well, there’s steel made by Rearden, and then there’s Rearden Metal (the magical alloy that does everything and is cheaper and lighter than steel and has a beautiful green-blue color). Let’s not confuse them.

    Among the stupid regulations rolled out at the end of Part I were two that severely limited Hank’s production and sale of Rearden Metal but apparently did not limit his production and sale of steel. So to keep his plant operating at full capacity, he’s making his quota of Rearden Metal and also making steel. Thus, Dagny had ordered steel for the rail Rearden failed to deliver … but he was planning to illegally substitute Rearden Metal.

  • GubbaBumpkin
  • EchoChamberEscapee

    “One of the bizzaro world issues with the world Rand depicts as well is a system where supply and demand seem completely seperate from need.”

    Exactly.

    This shows up over and over in Atlas Shrugged. Rearden’s choice of what to produce is dictated by the looters (there are regulations limiting the output of Rearden Metal). But Rearden will continue to run his plant at full capacity up until the bitter end, long after the economy is so far in the toilet that it’s hard to fathom who is buying all of whatever alloy he’s producing. Dagny Taggart continues to run a transcontinental passenger train service with daily departures, despite the fact that no one has money to go to the theater; who is buying train tickets? In Galt’s Gulch, Stockton gleefully predicts that Rearden’s arrival will “triple everyone’s production” … even though the market for what most of the denizens are making (food, cigarettes, oil) isn’t suddenly going to get three times bigger.

    Rand assumed that if you just leave the rational producers free to be rationally productive (and reap the rewards due them), all needs will be supplied. She criticized mainstream economists of her day for focusing on the problem of distribution (i.e., how do we best allocate resources in the face of scarcity, which is sort of the fundamental issue of economics) and ignoring the problem of production. She assumed that just freeing up production from regulation or taxation would lead to a world of unlimited resources, so issues of distribution would take care of themselves.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s powered by Galt’s motor surely.

    Seriously, when I first read AS, Ragnar was one of my favorite characters. But having made military history a hobby since, I can’t fathom (heh) how anyone could write such a character in a story not dated before 1900 or so. The only way it could work if he had a spy network or something, but one ship, covering all the oceans?! Bah!

  • Doug Langley

    Now that you bring it up, that’s a really good analogy.

  • Science Avenger

    It almost sounds like Rand believed in psychics.

  • Doug Langley

    But if that’s true, isn’t it good that he didn’t send it to Atlantic Southern?

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Tough call. As events unfold, the Atlantic Southern’s bridge collapses, killing a bunch of people, because Boyle failed to deliver the steel they needed to make repairs. Of course, had Boyle delivered the steel, it would have been defective, and the bridge would have collapsed, killing a bunch of people.

    Either way, a bunch of people end up dead and it’s all Boyle’s fault.

  • And “rational” means “whatever Rand liked.” Seriously, even her personal tastes in music were somehow the only rational, objectively valid ones.

  • Doug Langley

    “. . . this scion of Norse nobility . . .”

    Anyone else notice this? Rand had something of a fetish for royalty, at least in her fiction. It’s on an emotional level, almost unconscious. Fransisco is the same way. he’s described as if a cape was billowing behind. But he’s an industrialist. But he’s a dashing prince on horseback. But he’s a businessman. What the heck is he?

    I get the impression she read stories in her childhood with handsome, heroic characters and it stuck with her.

  • Doug Langley

    Actually, there is a union at Reardon Steel, mentioned very briefly later on. It’s a company union. The union agrees to provide the best workers while Reardon agrees to pay top wages. It’s the only time I know of where Rand approved of unions.

    Ah, if only things work like that in real life.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Your impression is correct. At the age of nine, Rand fell in love with a French children’s story called “La Valee Mysterieuse.” Throughout her adult life, she gave this story credit for inspiring her heroic vision of man.

    In the 1990s, an enterprising Objectivist tracked down a copy of “La Valee Mysterieuse” from 1915, translated it from the original French (which Rand read it in), and published it as “The Mysterious Valley.” (I’m not sure how accurate the translation is, since the translator confesses to “alter[ing] a few phrases that may only confuse a young mind,” but it was a best-seller in Objectivist circles.) The story is about brave, heroic British officers in India, pitted against evil natives. There’s torture and rescue and “civilization” versus “barbarism,” and of course a mysterious valley. The central hero is Cyrus Paltons, who is both handsome and, well, heroic; Rand fell madly in love with him, in the way that only a nine-year-old girl can. Unfortunately, unlike most nine-year-old girls, she never grew out of it.

  • Doug Langley

    “. . . cronyistic corruption is indistinguishable from genuinely selfless altruism . . .”

    This is a significant point with Objectivists. It’s easy to dismiss Atlas Shrugged as not portraying businessmen accurately. But the supporters respond, “She DOES depict real businessmen! They’re Orren Boyle and James Taggart!”

    There are two types of businessmen here. One is the “real” businessmen seeking government favors and the other is the “ideal” businessmen who spend all their time creating and producing and eschewing any government association. Rand’s solution is to shrink government to the point that the evil businessmen shrivel away and the heroic businessmen prosper.

    You can’t win an argument with Objectivists by claiming Rand didn’t recognize “real” businessmen. You have to realize the flaws in the basic argument. One. Even in laissez-faire, bad businessmen flourish. Bernie Madoff swindled countless people, and no regulation gave him the power. The marks threw money at him of their free volition. Two. The most ethical businessman (by Rand’s standards) still can’t flourish, even in laissez-faire. Someone will out-compete, someone will do it better or cheaper or first. Nobody is so brilliant that they don’t slip up. Henry Ford Sr . . . Walt Disney . . . Steve Jobs . . . it doesn’t matter, they fall behind eventually. Either they accept their new status as second fiddle or they run to government to get special consideration to stay ahead.

  • Loren Petrich

    “Better than the combined strength of all the world’s naval fleets”??? I don’t see how that can possibly work.

    She may have been thinking of a classic sort of naval battle, the sort that’s familiar over the last half millennium. That’s where each side’s ships try to pound the other side’s ships into Davy Jones’s Locker. But in World War II, that paradigm became obsolete, as is evident from the fate of the Japanese battleship Yamato, one the the largest ones ever built. It was designed for such battles, but it never fought in any of them. Instead, it was sunk by bombs and torpedoes dropped from American warplanes with American ships staying well out of the range of its guns. It took over 6 bombs and 11 torpedoes to do it, but it got sent to Davy Jones’s Locker.

    Another way to avoid losing battles is simply to avoid battles. However, that requires great speed, so Ragnar would need a hovercraft or some similar fast boat. But even a hovercraft can’t travel as fast as an airplane.

    There’s also the question of operating in Delaware Bay. Even if he had a hovercraft, his ship would become target practice for warplane pilots *very* quickly. They’d have an easy time flying out of Dover Air Force Base, for instance.

  • Doug Langley

    In the story, Galt not only invents the magic motor, but also a camouflage device which cloaks the valley and a gizmo jamming radio broadcasts. So we could assume Ragnar’s ship has a cloaking device and a gadget to jam SOS transmissions.

  • Cerebus36

    The cloaking device for the valley is based on really, really bad science. It’s said to work on the same principal as a mirage of an oasis. The trouble is, seen either up close or from another angle, the oasis will vanish. Thus, one would assume that if somebody got too close to Galt’s Gulch or saw from another angle than from above, it would be visible. Strangely, that isn’t so. Worse, it’s some kind of force field that if an unwanted object passes through it, it damages the projector’s engine. (I think I got that right. It’s really crappy science. Like much of the other science in AS.)

  • Cerebus36

    “These niggling little implausibilities are a constant barrage, and
    ironically, they can’t help but weaken the author’s own argument. Rand
    considered her genre to be “romantic realism“, presenting the world as she thought it should
    be. But the more blatantly unrealistic and inhumanly perfect she makes
    her protagonists, the more her narrative recedes from reality, and the
    less confidence we ought to have that the principles she advocates in
    this book have any relevance to our own lives.”

    Agreed. And this is why nitpicking the book is fair game. If “Atlas Shrugged” is Rand’s version of “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto”, if it is supposed to illustrate how wonderful and perfect and perfectly logical Objectivism is, it should do so in a coherently logical fashion. It should present good, strong opposing arguments to the philosophy and readily defeat the arguments. Instead, the book is filled with strawmen, false premises and weak opponents. This doesn’t make Objectivism look like anything but a weak, flawed philosophy that must be artificially propped up in order to work.

  • Cerebus36

    I think that’s a very poor/bad decision on her part. It’s a core part (the Strike), if not *the* core part of the book, but to make it work she has to play fast and loose with reality. Whether she realizes it or not, it helps destroy the credibility of “Atlas Shrugged”.

  • Cerebus36

    Right. Rearden Metal. That’s what I meant. A poor slip on my part. Mea culpa.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    I agree. Rand thinks it’s perfectly fine because she thinks it’s not only possible but also necessary to reduce reality to a set of black-and-white dichotomies (pretty much all of which are false). It’s part of her practice of “thinking in essentials,” which really amounts to simplistic, distorted thinking and has basically zero persuasive power outside Randroid circles.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Which means that in the real world, the opposite will happen ….

  • Hawker40

    So, he uses The Force (tm, G. Lucas) to hide his ship from searching planes and radar? His incredible psychic powers, amplified by his Lens, enable him to defeat the convoy’s escorts, force the merchies to surrender without transmitting thier location and that they’re under attack?
    Sure they do.
    There’s a reason why the “Golden Age of Piracy” ended before the American Revolution. But Rand doesn’t know that.

  • Doug Langley

    Problem: if the force field directs light rays away from the valley, no sunlight reaches the valley and it remains in gloomy darkness. Yech.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Almost. Except for the part later where she insists there’s no such thing as the supernatural.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    That’s the idea. It’s all done with “refractor rays,” some of which “are the kind that kill magnetic motors.” You know, that kind.

    Sigh. It would be less implausible if Rand had just said it was magic.

  • Improbable Joe

    I’ve done industrial work… Rand is dead wrong on that level too.

  • Nemo

    One thing I’ve wondered for a while about Ragnar, that I was hoping Adam could answer: do we ever see Ragnar carry out an actual raid? How does he do it? Does he have a crew of people working for him? Or does he operate a single small boat with which he single handedly stops global shipping? If the latter, how is it possible that nobody on those ships has a gun? Eventually, a shot would hit him. And if he does have a crew, where did he get them? What is their motive?
    Also, hardcore, legit threatening piracy in the modern day? Seriously Ayn? Sure, there’s Somali pirates, but they’re pretty easy to deal with and can’t pose any serious challenge to the military.

  • Azkyroth

    Those of us with serious misgivings about the philosophical and ethical basis for libertarianism can still relate to stories with “libertarian” protagonists. Who hasn’t imagined lucking into a stash of weapons when facing a Zombie Apocalypse?

    The true essence of libertarianism, indeed!

  • Doomedd

    While I have not any expertise on military matters, I can imagine many problems with Ragnar’s ship. The first is simple logistics. Yamato class battleships were designed to be operated by about 2500-3000 crewmembers. Nimitz class supercarriers are crewed by 3200 regular crew plus 2480 men air wing. There are nearly 5700 people on those monsters boats, a small city of hungry people. Add ammo, jet fuel, nuclear fuel, spare parts. If anything is lacking, combat capacity or simple survival WILL be impaired.

    I didn’t account that the “Ragnarok” is supposed to overpower any ships. I’ll raise the crew to 8000 to make it a Supercarrier-Mega-Battleship. I’ll raise it to 10000 or I am not sure about the anti-air. Be scared of logistics but this ship can beat any ships.

    Just for fun, I’ll add 5000 men to give this ship a decent capacity to manufacture ammo, missiles, planes and any needed replacements. Somehow, I think that they can’t steal planes and reactor grade uranium/plutonium.

    This monster needs to be supersized again to win against the combined navies of the world. At this point, I don’t think that alien tech can save or feed poor little Ragnar.

  • Pacal

    Wow!! That is just so dumb!! To quote a cliché “The stupid it burns!!”

  • Doomedd

    Would suicide booth fix P1? Is not like looters want to live.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_booth#Futurama

  • Doug Langley

    Science fiction stories in the 30’s were filled with “rays” and “ray technology”. Real life scientists were discovering X-rays and radiation and all that, and the pulps ran with it.

    Weird, though, that Rand thought she was being novel by rehashing stuff 20 years old.

  • Doug Langley

    No, we never see it. No description or details of how it works. Just people talking in hushed voices about the god-like Ragnar who once again outwits the looters. He has a crew, but no explanation of how he recruits them and they never spill the beans to their families.

  • Cerebus36

    Probably because “rays” was still in contemporary use in the Fifties in the lesser works of science fiction, particularly any visual presentation of the genre: movies, TV shows, comic books, etc.

  • Doug Langley

    True, but I wish Rand wouldn’t try to pass off her stuff as fresh and revolutionary.

  • Cerebus36

    What annoys me isn’t that she’s trying to pass it off a fresh and revolutionary, it’s that it’s just plain lazy. There is simply no attempt to learn or understand any real science. If anybody reads this and thinks they’ve read real Science Fiction, it might leave a bad taste in their mouths because the science is so blatantly bad. When it comes down to it, “Atlas Shrugged” is crap as Science Fiction, crap as a Mystery/Thriller and crap as a Romance Novel.

  • Those numbers are definitely plausible for a large combat ship, which just goes again to show that Rand had no sense of logistics. At the end of the book, Ragnar and his crew mothball their ship and join the strikers in Galt’s Gulch, which Rand said at one point contained something like a thousand people, total. There’s no indication that Ragnar’s crew arrives in a great wave outnumbering all the other people there; they seem to fit seamlessly into life in the valley.

    In fact, he says that he plans to repurpose his ship as “a transatlantic passenger liner — an excellent one, even if of modest size.” I get the impression that Rand thought you could run a military vessel with a crew of maybe fifty to a hundred people at most.

  • Ironically, this would also explain how Ragnar manages to be so effective at throttling commerce: there’s probably only one cargo ship sailing the world’s oceans at any given time, he just has to find it.

  • As Doug says, we never see one of Ragnar’s raids happening. We’re only told about them second-hand.

    What makes this even more implausible is that he says he doesn’t attack military ships – because he considers that to be a philosophically proper function of government. So not only does he repeatedly raid and sink cargo ships without ever getting hurt, he does it without even harming the military escorts they must have. It’s impossibility piled on top of impossibility.

  • This is really the most astonishing part of the book. Even though Rand tells us numerous times that her heroes are faultlessly ethical and principled, what she shows is something completely different: that if someone you’re doing business with decides he doesn’t like you, then he’s entitled to do everything in his power to defraud and ruin you, and apparently it will be your fault for not knowing better than to trust him.

    Francisco builds shoddy homes, knowing that people will be living there when they come crashing down; he intentionally mismanages his own company to ruin the people who invested in him; and he makes arrangements with a pirate to intercept and destroy the legitimate orders that people place with him. None of this, it seems, is meant to alter our evaluation of him as a heroic and righteous capitalist. (Nor is it meant to give anyone else any reason to distrust him or refuse to do business with him when he finally leaves the outside world behind and sets up a new mining company in Galt’s Gulch.)

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Unfortunately, unlike most nine-year-old girls, she never grew out of it.

    Given some other things about about her, I think that line could be the summary of Rand’s life.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    Later in her life, she claimed that she had held the same essential ideas since the age of roughly two. Talk about arrested development!

    And in a lot of ways those two words sum up my years in Objectivism.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    This is really the most astonishing part of the book. Even though Rand tells us numerous times that her heroes are faultlessly ethical and principled, what she shows is something completely different ….

    This really was the most astonishing part to me, when I reread the book as an ex-Randroid. I realized just how much Rand’s followers focus on what she tells us, and the extent to which they ignore that what she shows us is something quite a bit different. This is characteristic of Objectivists. Much like Rand herself, they start with “observing reality,” latch onto a few convenient facts, dismiss all the rest of reality as nonessential, and start piling words upon words to build elaborate theories of how things should be. Then they are baffled that no one else sees what to them is so clear.

  • AstroUltra

    Don’t forget that he also has spies planted in the IRS, as he tells Dagny in part 3.

    See, that’s what he’s actually robbing the relief vessels for. He doesn’t take the cargo itself back to the Gulch. What he does is trade it with black marketers in Europe for gold, and he uses the gold to reimburse the industrialists of the Gulch for the income taxes that were ‘extorted’ from the before they entered the Valley. He will later explicitly declare himself to be an inverse Robin Hood; whereas Robin Hood robbed the rich and gave to the poor, he’s robbing the ‘looters and moochers’ to return the goods to the ‘productive’ rich.

    He goes into a long dialogue with Dagny about how exactly he calculates everyone’s taxes in part 3 when he’s discussing this, though it’s thankfully glossed over (Dagny just wonders at a pirate being such a thorough accountant).

  • Doug Langley

    Considering that Rand wrote the book just after WWII with graphic descriptions of naval battles, she couldn’t claim ignorance of how naval warfare worked.

  • Doug Langley

    Not to mention arrogant. He’s convinced that in any encounter between him and a military vessel, he will emerge triumphant always. “Ahoy, battleship! Be grateful that in my great mercy, I have chosen to let you live today!”

  • Doug Langley

    And it’s really convenient that the black marketers give him just exactly the right amount of gold to reimburse the Gulchers. (Unless he takes a cut for himself . . . hmm, just how does he pay his crew?)

  • Doug Langley

    Actually, that’s a good description of Galt’s Gulch.

  • Hawker40

    I’ll add in… He’s not merely defeating warships, he’s taking prizes. He needs spare crew he can trust to man the merchies he captures. Then he’ll need to protect these slow, vulnerable merchies from rampaging warships trying to take them back. Then he needs to take them to a port full of people he can trust not to sell him out for money to sell his ill gotten gains. This port needs to be kept secret, to prevent the navies of the world from dropping a marine regiment on them to take it from him.
    Logistics, hell. The concept fails in plain logics.

  • Hawker40

    I strongly suggest reading “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” for a graphic description of what happens when battleships run across destroyers willing to die to protect thier charges.

  • Iphigenia

    Rand can only present straw men because she doesn’t understand the actual positions of her ideological opponents. You need empathy – the ability to understand why others think and feel the way they do – in order to properly respond to their arguments. Not only did Rand not have empathy, she also thought it was a bad thing to have!

  • Doomedd

    As far as I know, pirate ships are vulnerable to « Trojan horses ». I can think of 2 ways to ruin an otherwise invulnerable ship.

    1) Use a cargo ship with minimal crew. Hide an H-bomb in the cargo bay. Let the ship get boarded. Then Epic boom! 500 times too hardcore for you? Use a mere fat man. You don’t like nukes, throw 20000 tons of tnt and you will get the same devastation. There are ships that have over 200000 gross tonnage.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_world%27s_largest_ships_by_gross_tonnage

    2) If you want to preserve the ship for reverse engineering and don’t mind some nasty warfare or want to know how objectivist would deal with epidemic outbreak, I have a plan. You need a pathogen and a food transporter (or anything that pirates might consume).Contaminate the food. Let the cargo ship get captured and let the pathogen work.

  • Hawker40

    Rather than going WMD on him, fill the cargo hold with Marines. Who’s boarding who?
    In both World Wars, both Germany and Britain used “Armed Merchant Cruisers” or “Q-Ships”. Guns hidden behind collapsable panels, torpedo tubes beneath the waterline, oversized crews for boarding actions, and those crew visible ‘on deck’ disguised as innocents (‘women’ pushing strollers were popular.) HMAS Sydney was sunk by a German Q-Ship in broad day light with no survivors.

  • Actually does Rand ever mention wages in this book at all? I get the impression that she classes common workers with the looters, so paying them would not necessarily be a high priority.

  • Cerebus36

    IIRC, she does mention wages, but in an off-handed, vague way.

  • Doomedd

    Yeah, I admit I go a little far. I blame my lack of military experience and the many hours I wasted playing Ufo: enemy unknown.

    I did assume the “Ragnarok” is bigger than real ship to be able to act as a battleship and aircraft carrier. I don’t know how many marines you can put in a Q-Ships but I assume those marines WILL be outnumbered.

    I also assumed that, somehow, the Ragnarok have sci-fiction equipment, about a century more advanced that anything it face. Ragnar is just that kind of genius.

    Also…forget it. The Ragnarock wins any fight by Rand’s decree. I just chose to bypass the decree and disable it without a fight. Is it funny how lame Ragnar would be in real life. Is it also funny how many artistic licenses are used on a minor character. There is so many insanities here that, if Adam writes about a fight between Godzilla the collectivist and Cthulhu the champion of industries, I would think Adam is serious.

    The insanity of AS is off the charts.

  • Doomedd

    Seriously, I read that pirates never had the equipment or the training to face military or mercenaries. They mostly fought non-combatants or target of opportunities. Privateers were sometime better equipped since they had support from a nation but were at disadvantage against real military ships. They didn’t profit much from them either.

    Technology and training are even more important today, things that pirates would not have access. Just take a look at Somalians pirates, they simply can’t fight military vessel. They have RPGs that fare poorly against modern tanks and, I think, would barely damage the paint of light military vessels. They have AK that, as far as I know, are just too heavy to be effective in CQC. I wouldn’t bet on pirates even if they have a 10 to 1 advantage.

  • Doug Langley

    It makes for bad philosophy and bad writing. A good writer should understand the views of all her characters, even if she doesn’t agree with them. Rand couldn’t get why the “statists” do what they do – so they just must be evil.

    My sister is a writer, recently turned pro. She told me once how hard it was to write a scene between two character who are totally different. You have to switch gears constantly during the conversation.

  • She believes in the divine right of kings, she just doesn’t want to admit it. Some people are born to rule, and you can tell who they are just by looking at them (they’re angular) and the rest of us are born to be serfs.

    This might be part of why Atlas Shrugged is so popular with a certain segment of young male readers: if you read a bunch of swords-and-sorcery fantasy you wind up identifying with people Born To Be The One True King and thus end up identifying with Hank Reardon, who in true high fantasy style is indeed born to be a hero and spends much of the novel learning this.

  • Cactus_Wren

    I also note that Ayn Rand seems to think that starving and freezing people “deserve” to starve and freeze.

    Ayn Rand thinks that little children “deserve” to suffocate in an improperly ventilated railway tunnel if their parents are looters.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    She mentions wages in connection with Rearden’s employees. Also random things here and there about the railroad workers’ union pushing for a wage increase.

    There’s also this, which pretty much sums up her attitude on the subject:

    “When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible …. Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by the physical labor of your muscles? The standard of living of [a medieval] blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.”

  • Hawker40

    I think I prefer my Heroic Fantasy Stories to not pretend to be about real life.

  • Doomedd

    I’ll summit a correction.

    “”When you administer in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the innovative geniuses which has made that factory possible …. Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by the labor of your mind? The standard of living of [a medieval] king is all that your subjects are worth; the rest is a gift from those that precede you.”

  • Science Avenger

    LOL Yeah, where Beethoven was anti-life, but the Partridge Family theme “Come on Get Happy” was greatness. Really.

  • Jeff

    It’s presumably made undetectable by the same cloaking device that hides the gulch. Because John Galt has invented cloaking devices.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Now that I think of it, it’s pretty increadible that she actually titled a chapter “Miracle Metal.” I thought she was against miracles — and I can’t believe she’s all that much in favor of metaphorical language, either.

  • Doug Langley

    That was the name the villains gave it.

  • Doug Langley

    That’s a blatant claim that workers have no intelligence at all, they’re just mindless clods of muscle.

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    It’s also an insult to blacksmiths.

  • Science Avenger

    Well she does have a point, that we all owe a debt to those who came before us for making our efforts more productive because of the knowledge, culture, and tools they left behind. The problem is that she ignores this with respect to her heroes and pretends that they achieved all that they did ex nihilo. Without Archimedes, Hank Rearden wouldn’t accomplish shit.

  • Doug Langley

    She hated “The Blue Danube” and loved Mickey Spillane. Seriously?????????

  • Cerebus36

    Just that sampling of her tastes explains, in part, why “Atlas Shrugged” is a crappy novel. It looks like she tended towards the lower levels of pop culture.

  • Cerebus36

    God, it just occurred to me; If Rand preferred the Partridge Family over Beethoven and “The Blue Danube”, exactly what kind of crap did Dagny’s favorite composer Richard Halley write? How badly did Halley’s Fifth Symphony really suck? (No wonder the looters and moochers initially rejected him.)

  • EchoChamberEscapee

    I believe it sounded like Rachmaninoff, who was Rand’s favorite composer.

  • Cerebus36

    Oh, so she did have *some* taste.

  • Doug Langley

    She liked stuff that was “heroic” with happy endings and eschewed anything that was depressing. And since the vast majority of serious literature is the “life sucks” type, she shunned it.

  • Cerebus36

    Ironically, so much of “Atlas Shrugged” is of the “life sucks” type.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    That’s a good point. My understanding is that blacksmiths, along with masons, were just about the most skilled laborers in the medieval period.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    What’s interesting about this to me is how the “casual Objectivists” don’t get this argument. A casual reader doesn’t recognize that the vast majority of businessmen in the book are villians, so the lionization of businessmen from the likes of Paul Ryan is totally misplaced.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    That’s pretty damning. If inconvienient fact can be written off as inessential, it amounts to a philosophical get-out-of-jail-free card.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Which is odd — as much as I like Rachmaninoff, he can hardly be called “life affirming.” He was pretty much a gloomy Gus.

    I wonder how much she cottoned to his biography — an upper class Russian who lived in exile.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    Heroic with happy endings pretty much describes Beethoven’s 5th and 9th symphonies. I wonder sometimes whether she actually listened to Beethoven.

  • KennethJohnTaylor

    Coincidentally, I stumbled upon this quote from Henry Ford yesterday. Not sure of the authenticity, but it applies here:

    “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense.”

    If he indeed did say/write this, it would mean that even Henry Ford — who very much embodied the spirit and ambition of Rand’s corporate ubermensches — regarded her philosophy as total bollocks 50 years before she wrote it.

  • Doug Langley

    But it has a happy ending.

  • Cerebus36

    She might’ve liked “heroic” stuff, but I’m not sure she truly understood it or what makes that sort of story work. The most important thing is a credible villain, one that truly challenges the hero. For another thing, the hero should be put into deadly situations where they narrowly escape. This happens only once in “Atlas Shrugged”, when John Galt is kidnapped. Unfortunately, his rescue is so comical it undermines the seriousness of the situation. Rand might have liked that kind of tale, but she clearly didn’t know how to properly put together a good adventurous heroic tale. Somebody should have given her a few Edgar Rice Burroughs books. His heroes may have also been uber-competent, but their advesaries, though “weak” and “cowardly” put Tarzan, Carson Napier and John Carter through their paces. Rand might have learned how to structure a heroic tale better from exposure to ERB. (Or even Robert E. Howard for that matter.)

  • Hawker40

    The only Robert E. Howard stories I’ve read were the “Conan” ones (my Dad had all the original paperbacks). And Conan’s enemies were never weak or inneffectual. Howard would spend pages describing how big, nasty, skilled, and awesome Conan’s current opponent was.
    And then have Conan kill him in a paragraph. Rarely two.

  • Doug Langley

    ” . . .Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by the physical labor of your muscles? . . .”

    Let’s do the math. A blacksmith could forge maybe 20 pounds of tools a day. A worker in Hank Reardon’s blast furnace mill could turn out 200 tons of steel a day. So his paycheck should be ten thousand times that of a blacksmith. Right? Right?

  • Cerebus36

    Yeah, the weak and cowardly villains were more a staple of Burroughs’ work than Howard’s. I didn’t mean to imply that Conan fought such characters. I mention Robert E. Howard as another example of heroic storytelling.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Opening Sept 12, 2014 at a cinema near you: Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?
    (aka Atlas Shrugged part 3)

  • TBP100

    I can hardly wait to miss this one, just like I did the first two.

    Does it also have a completely different cast than the first two?