Atlas Blogged #28: The entire world instantly believes everything Rand has to say
November 8, 2010
Part 28 of blogging my way through my first reading of Atlas Shrugged. You can find the first part here.
Chapter 28: The Egoist
The chapter opens with Rand’s pantomime socialists all standing agog at the sheer wonder of Rand’s arguments in the previous chapter. Naturally, nothing has anything to say in response beyond the pathetic ‘It can’t be true!’ and ‘We don’t have to believe it, do we?’.
Wow, I wish it was this easy to persuade people in the real world.
Society continues to break down in the absence of Rand’s aristocrats of talent. The Government entreats John Galt to come and tell them what to do. In his absence, Rand has a sly dig at various forms of non-material socialist reward systems, which are simply declared to not work.
This deserves a little further explanation. Some of Rand’s contemporary socialists argued that the problem of the lack of individual incentive in a planned/non-monetary economy could be overcome by instituting non-material reward systems – the example given here is of productivity ‘medals’. Rand simply asserts that these would not work; to be fair, her opponents in this regard simply asserted that they would. A no-score draw, I would argue.
Dagny tracks down Galt, and they congratulate each other on how society clearly requires people like them to function. Unbeknownst to Dagny, she’s been tailed by Government agents, and Galt is captured.
The Government attempts to bribe Galt into serving in office to get them out of their present predicament. He refuses. They try various means of persuasion, including sending in Dr Stadler, the once-great scientist. Stadler enters Galt’s room and immediately has a breakdown.
I’ve said this repeatedly, but Rand’s denunciation of science as a public good doesn’t make sense, even under her own system of morality. She’s wedded to the idea of an accessible objective world, the understanding of which is necessary for survival. This is the case for every single human – it is the responsibility of everyone in AtlasWorld to ensure that they are interpreting the world correctly. Therefore, everyone needs access to science. Unless you’re meant to reconstruct the entire scientific knowledge of the human race yourself every time, you’re going to need to have access to the scientific work of others. Therefore, you need scientists. Rand’s objection seems to be based on the funding of science from taxation being wrong and inevitably leading to weapons development. But specialisation requires focus, and blue-sky research is never paid for by the private sector. The oldest example of structured scientific research in the UK – the Royal Society – was based on Bacon’s ‘New Atlantis’ tale in which science was funded by the state. We can therefore conclude that in a purely libertarian society, the scientific revolution necessary to the industrial revolution would likely never have happened.
The Government, despairing of attempts to persuade Galt to join them, simply put him on television and pretend that he has. This is undermined by him being publicly asked about what to do next, and him replying, ‘Get out of my way!’
Part 29 is here.