Atlas Blogged #15: Chickens, home, roost

August 30, 2010

Part 15 of blogging my way through my first reading of Atlas Shrugged. You can find the first part here.

Chapter 15: Account Overdrawn

All those dreadful things the Government has been doing in the previous chapters have led to the near-breakdown of society, as commerce falters and state action is unable to take its place. The management of the key commodity concerns (i.e. the ones whose talents have resigned) begins to collapse. The Government responds by placing even more onerous demands on the remaining enterprises; Taggart Transcontinental is threatened with simultaneous demands for higher wages and the refusal of the Government to countenance higher rates for freight and passengers. To attempt to forestall this, James Taggart tries to use Lillian to deliver Rearden into the hands of the Government.

Lillian sets up a rather pathetic scheme in an effort to identify Rearden’s lover, and discovers that Dagny has been his mistress all along. Suddenly, Lillian’s evil twin is revealed…

Okay, I made up that last sentence, but this chapter is almost pathetically soap opera-like in character. It’s a set-up so that Rand can have Rearden realise again that no-one has any call on you based on their need alone, and this applies to lovers too. You can’t commit to anything unless there’s been an exchange of equal value. Once more, I can see why this creed appeals to stroppy teenagers unable to determine an appropriate balance of self-interest and subjugation in their romantic adventures.

Analysis

This chapter is largely a retread of old ground; the only item of note being the onset of Rand’s socialist dystopia. This allows us to compare it to other dystopian classics like 1984 and Brave New World; the obvious point is that AtlasWorld doesn’t contain recognisable humans – rather impossibly adept titans and spiteful shades. This is a similar flaw to communism; you can’t develop a political philosophy to be used for the government of humans without basing it on, well, humanity.

Part 16 is here.

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