By Ayn Rand
In previous chapters, Rand dismissively called characters “college boys,” which I had figured was her shorthand for young adults who were long on theory and short on practice. This chapter, however, really brings out all the anti-intellectualism in force with quotes like:
“Walter Mouch came from a family that had known neither poverty nor wealth nor distinction for many generations; it had clung, however, to a tradition of its own: that of being college-bread and, therefore, despising men who were in business.”
and, “I know what I’m talking about. That’s because I never went to college.”
So, the intellectuals (and one ‘working joe’—head of the unions—to play devil’s advocate) meet to decide how to fix the economy and they establish an eight-point plan, which I normally wouldn’t enumerate, but it is so ridiculous that I have to share it:
- All workers are now confined to their current jobs and cannot quit or be fired.
- All companies must stay in business and cannot close or be sold.
- All patents and copyrights must be handed over to the government to dispense across the board.
- Nothing new can be researched or invented.
- All businesses must make exactly the same amount of product as they made in the previous year.
- Every individual must spend the same amount of money as they did in the previous year.
- All wages must also be frozen to what they were in the previous year.
- All issues pertaining to these points will be settled by the newly established Unification Board.
It reminds me a bit of Catch-22, but that novel did a better job of tying the satire to reality. This is just totally bizarre.
Upon hearing the new policy, Dagny Taggert promptly quits and retires to an old and little-used family hunting cabin. Hank Rearden is approached by one of the board members to turn over his patent for Rearden Metal. He is threatened that if he does not, they will publicize his affair with Dagny, revealed to the board by Lillian for exactly this purpose.
Hank then enters a sort of fugue state that is very tiresome to read about, where he remembers the first time he ever saw Dagny, overseeing one of her construction sites, and how he wanted to have sex with her right then and there. He had felt so ashamed of those feelings until Dagny taught him the true virtue of personal gratification, and his reflections come very close to Victorian Era abstract thinking, ‘ministering angel’ and all that.
Hank decides that while he doesn’t care who knows of his affair, he cannot expose Dagny to the sheer torture that her life would become if people thought she was no better than she should be. He signs over his patent, and I am very disappointed in him. If he truly believes his epiphany that guilt cannot be used against someone who feels no guilt, and if he truly respects Dagny as an equal (he doesn’t), then he would have known that she was more than capable of facing the scandal. (Rebecca and I have a bet going on whether Dagny will be mad at him; I’m betting she will at most have a token statement of anger before making violent love.)
Next is Chapter 7, which I’m actually looking forward to, because it has the best name ever: THE MORATORIUM ON BRAINS!