Atlas Blogged #22: Valley of the Child Killers

September 14, 2010

Part 22 of blogging my way through my first reading of Atlas Shrugged. You can find the first part here.

Chapter 22: The Utopia of Greed

Dagny is having a lovely time in the valley of the lost industrialists, but her compulsion to build railways makes her decide to head back to the world in an effort to save it, despite the other industrialists pointing out that the plebs outside the valley still haven’t learned their lesson and that she’s only helping them. She also develops a massive crush on the libertarian messiah, John Galt.

That’s pretty much the plot of this chapter, but as the title of the post rather gives away, there’s a useful illustration of the contradictions not simply in Rand’s philosophy but within her plotline itself. In the previous chapter, Galt borrows the car of his good friend Midas Mulligan – but given this is the ‘utopia of greed’, Mulligan can’t simply lend him the car, as nothing can be given, so Galt has to pay 25 cents per day to borrow it.

Nothing can be given without payment in kind – there’s a rather unpleasant reference to the ‘wives’ in the valley paying their way in the oldest way possible. However, Rand fails to acknowledge the impact this has on children. There are a couple of children in this chapter – their mother refers to them as ‘her work’ – but no reference to the fact that the inability of a baby to pay for milk means that it must clearly be left to die. If you can’t give without reward, how can you look after children? ‘Social convention’ clearly can’t be used to define when a child becomes an adult and thus liable for this morality; such convention runs counter to everything Rand’s been avowing for the last thousand pages. It’s therefore clear than any pure libertarian society wouldn’t last beyond seventy years. A mother’s compassion is the key the survival of the human race; and Rand would seek to make it an evil.

Part 23 is here.

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