Chapter III — The Top and The Bottom, Part I

February 1, 2016

We are set in a sky-high basement lounge, a penthouse bar that is dark, dank, shallow and fitting for powerful men of base intentions, where eye contact is avoided by design. Here we find Orren Boyle, James Taggart, Wesley Mouch and Philip Larkin.

The description of Boyle evokes images of well-fed swine. We are told he is a recent tycoon due to a massive government grant and small personal investment. This silver spoon enabled him to devour smaller companies, earning the public acclaim he gives as proof of his value. He complains about a natural exhaustion of the mines, worn down equipment, and other material and logistical shortages that hamper any actual achievement.

Phil Larkin – our clinging friend of Rearden’s from the last chapter – clarifies that a crumbling of the ore industry is having a domino effect on other business. We are to take Boyle’s complaints about the successful few as petulant whines and Larkin’s statement as partial logic that fails to seek an obvious remedy: Competence.  The idea that ore might actually be a limited natural resource is given no consideration.

The passage is littered with phrases intended to articulate these men’s philosophy, and to associate them as the “true” motivators of, not only socialism, but any proposed regulation of the market:

“Disunity,” drawled James Taggart, “seems to be the basic cause of all social problems”

“It’s my absolute opinion that in our complex industrial society, no business enterprise can succeed without sharing the burden of the problems of other enterprises”

“It’s generally conceded that the free economy is now on trial: Unless is proves its social value and assumes its social responsibilities, the people won’t stand for it. ”

“The only justification of private property,” said Orren Boyle, “is public service.”

It is hard to imagine that, for all their talk of the public, these men care for anyone but themselves.  We are offered classic Orwellian twists with an extra oomph that is intended to subsume the center as well as the extremes in communist fallacy. Boyle says he’s for the preservation of free enterprise, so long as free enterprise is slowed to his pace. Taggart, our patriarchal nepotite instists, “Since I hold purse strings, I expect to get my money’s worth and at my pleasure.”

The toxic cocktail offered is a partnership in slime. They complain about both monopolies and unbridled competition. Moderation is what they claim to advocate. However, it seems that any act of moderation is done to open a loophole either in their interest or as a favor.

They speak on the general rejection of Rearden Metal, claiming it a shame that one man be allowed to make irresponsible experiments on precious ore. They offer dogmatic refusal to believe that his composite could be so light and yet so strong. We read that there is a council devised to explore its danger.  We are to assume this council is purely political; that such demonizations of untested materials are never based in fact but only ever the self-interested propaganda of a small-minded status quo.

We are shown relationships being given value at the expense of reality. Taggart will lean on legislators for “progressive social policy”. Boyle will lean on the National Alliance of Railroads to hamper the Phoenix Durango that is competing with Taggart.  Larkin is asked to lean on his friends – presumably to betray Rearden via the previously mentioned, apparently pseudoscientific council. Larkin balks, weakly, and then submits.

Wesley Mouch is a man whom it is said no one listens to, but Larkin clearly fears. Is he alone? He seems to be the ominous part of Larkin’s patently weak threat to Rearden in the previous chapter. We are told, in the end, that Mouch is Rearden’s man in Washington. Clearly Hank has no sense when it comes to choosing relationships. These man do not share his interests or have his back as anything but a target.

They speak of the San Sebastian Mines in the People’s State of Mexico.  Their hypocrisy is evident, as is their stupidity. They are thrilled that the mines are a last bastion of private property in communist Mexico. Like the salesman who falls for every huckster he meets, Boyle assures them it will remain so with reports on dining with Mexican Ministers whom, the reader can clearly see, have every interest in swindling them .

Boyle notes that in addition to the sickening food meant as a literary clue to the reality in Mexico, the only other problem is that there aren’t many trains running there. Those that are, Boyle describes as archaic. Taggart is surprised. Concerned. Plying their primary trade, he sells them an excuse about an unavoidable lack of motive power, and hurries away.

Out of his sky-high dive and back into the sharp sunlight Jim goes, probably with a headache. He needs to return to the office.

 

bourbon

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