Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter VIII: The Egoist


“You do not become an author just by using the language to call a cabinet minister unfit for office.”

“There are writers who can express in a mere twenty pages things I sometimes need two whole lines for.”

Karl Kraus (1874 – 1936)

Reflections: The nature of fictional storytelling requires emotional and narrative pay-offs.  Starting with John Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged moves into the dénouement.  This is where all the deck-stacking and intellectual dishonesty of Rand’s project reveal the flaws and fractures within her attempted “philosophy.”

While all the characters get shuffled into place, John Galt prepares to escape the clutches of the evil looters.  The looters, in their idiotic desperation, call for John Galt’s help.  The tables are turned and the looters are revealed as having a bankrupt philosophy.

When Galt is finally detained by Thompson’s men in a section of the Wayne-Falkland Hotel brimming with military men, Galt still refuses to help.  Despite Galt’s two-hour speech, Mr. Thompson still doesn’t get it.

In this exchange between Galt and Thompson, we get to the essence of Atlas Shrugged, the very nubbin for why it exists in the first place.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.  You want me to become Economic Dictator?” [Galt]

“Yes!” [Thompson]

“And you’ll obey any order I give?”

“Implicitly!”

“Then start by abolishing all income taxes.”

“Oh, no!” screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet.  “We couldn’t do that!  That’s … that’s not the field of production.  That’s the field of distribution.  How would we pay government employees?”

“Fire your government employees.”

“Oh, no!  That’s politics!  That’s not economics!  You can’t interfere with politics!  You can’t have everything!”

Galt crossed his legs on the hassock, stretching himself more comfortably in the brocaded armchair.  “Want to continue this discussion?  Or do you get the point?”

Do you hear that?  It’s the sound of a balloon deflating.  This alleged confrontation distills the philosophies of both camps, yet it’s so … so … anticlimactic.  Galt is so perfect, smart, and heroic; Thompson is so conniving, weak, and contradictory.  It is the immovable Idealist versus the unstoppable force of the Looter Hordes.

Narrative sterility aside, the essence of Objectivism is now revealed as Rand’s distaste for the income tax.  The fucking income tax!  I read over one thousand pages for this!  Seriously!  (I feel like James Taggart, all exclamation points and apoplexy.)  Nevertheless, let’s take a step back, since I don’t want to give myself an aneurysm, least of all for this book.

Yes, yes, the gulags and purges were terrible, but look!  Don’t you see!  Their taking away my income!

Like anyone who has had to pay taxes, I understand the resentment and hatred people level at the Internal Revenue Service.  Money earned through hard work, etc.  But to write a 1100 page book against the injustice of the income tax is sort of silly.  Like building a cathedral to why Justin Bieber sucks.  It’s ridiculous and rather petty.  Added to this is the Randroid perception that this is the Greatest Novel of All Time.  (It would be, if you’ve never read any other book.  One would also think it the Greatest Novel of All Time as a natural and logical opinion.  Don’t worry, Objectivists, Scientologists hold the same opinion about Battlefield Earth.  They’re both good at buying in bulk and rigging literature polls.  But Objectivism is totally, totally not a cult.  ***Stifled laughter***)

The trick is buying the books in bulk.  Also works when selling subprime mortgages as loans.

Ironically, Rand’s philosophical novel resembles the logorrhea of Dave Sim, except Sim has talent as a comic book artist.  Ayn Rand (neé Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum) is just another paranoid megalomaniac who changed her name to sound tougher to her adversaries.  Wait a second … paranoid megalomaniac … name change … sounds a lot like this guy.

“Complain about the income tax all you want, I’ll be pummeling the Nazis into a slurry and sending the first man into space … with the occasional famine and purge.  Have to think of the bottom line in all this.  It’s not personal, it’s business.”

To adapt Stalin’s quote to the parlance of our time, “One unemployed person is a tragedy, a million unemployed people is a statistic.”

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