Chapter III — Part IV

February 9, 2016

Not all of the Taggart Transcontinental Directors share Dagny’s stubborn loyalty. Two Directors and the Vice President of Operations immediately resign. The latter is replaced by a crony of Jim’s.

The juxtaposition comes to life: A beautiful rail line is laid through Mexican desert, while the Rio Norte line is left in increasingly dangerous and debilitating disrepair. After a fiery accident caused by a split rail that Jim labels an “Act of God” Ellis Wyatt, the man who somehow made oil spew where everyone thought things dry, abandons Taggart Transcontinental for the Phoenix Durango. This rival is a small, but apparently far more sensible rail line.

After three years of struggling in vain to keep things running under Jim’s indecisive, ineffective man, Dagny demands that they credit the work she’s done against all odds with a proper title and authority as head of Operations, or she’s gone. Jim protests — She is a woman! Dagny doesn’t understand why, but the Board of Directors votes unanimously to keep her.

At this point, the San Sebastian line is three years in and one third complete with the budget spent. Dagny fires the cronies, finds a decent contractor, and gets the job done in less than a year. Meanwhile, Francisco D’Anconia, claims his mines are still in development. There is nothing else to feed that rail.

Now we are in the novel’s present. The hemorrhage continues, but at least Dagny can now focus on the puzzle of saving the system. If she can save the Rio Norte, she can redeem the rest. Rather than focusing on the folly, she turns to innovation and makes a phone call:

“Hank, can you save us? Can you give us rail on the shortest notice and the longest credit possible?”

This man we were told is known as ruthless answers, “Sure.” Should we be fearing that he will take the greatest advantage to exploit the opportunity? Apparently, not. Rather, “There was one thing, at least, that could be counted upon not to crumble when needed.”

[Okay…so…here we are and I need to comment. I feel for our heroes deeply, and loath those who are sucking their souls. At the same time, I feel like I’m being led to believe one thing, when I’m actually seeing another.

On one hand, I agree with Rand that we should observe people carefully: Yes, this is what they say, but watch what they actually do. We’re supposed to recognize that Hank is not really ruthless. If he was, his familial deadbeats would be out on their ass, his wife would be replaced with a new trophy, and there would be a list of abuses suffered by his employees and the environment. At this vulnerable moment in the story, he would likely smell Dagny’s desperation and demand a little bit of her soul. I mean, yeah it’s his first sale, but this guy is clearly not written to be the cruel, opportunistic psychopath that we are told is his reputation. Neither does Dagny seem particularly selfish …well, yeah, maybe she’s a little bit conceited and doesn’t particularly care to know, help or understand anyone else. I’m already wishing she seemed to appreciate Eddie more. I suppose it also seems highly unlikely that anyone could build what Hank has all by his lonesome. He must be overlooking some credit where it’s due…So, perhaps these characters deserve more of what they’re getting than is made obvious. Still, I think Rand wants us to accept that they’re wrongfully maligned because they are noble, competent  and focused. At the very least, they clearly work their asses off to provide useful products and services to the world, with Dagny herself more or less happy to toil away in the unappreciated shadows until she just can’t take the futility of that anymore.

Then there are the jerks these guys are surrounded by…Yes, people are often not what they seem. Many get what they selfishly want by giving reasons they know folks want to hear. They make excuses and shirk responsibility. People can be hypocritical, deceitful, sometimes plain old foolish. Politics can be petty and corrupt. Some people are adept at climbing ladders without merit, and others reward people for their own selfish reasons while ignoring entirely the actual responsibility that is their job. Power gets abused. All of this often comes at great cost to others. We should take care to avoid rewarding poor behavior, and look to notice those who deserve merit. Yes. I agree.

Are we to believe, however, that all captains of industry who are criticized are wrongfully maligned? That all those who claim to be thinking about more than themselves are actually selfish and irresponsible? Really? I feel like that’s the conclusion I’m being asked to jump to…It’s quite a leap! Anyway, let’s keep reading…]

So, now James comes, swaggering up after the bar, only to lose his mojo when he reaches Dagny’s desk. He asks about how she expects the Mexicans to develop with the relics she’s got running on the San Sebastian line. She says she doesn’t expect them to do anything, much less support what she’s got on there, warning that they will just take the line over for themselves whenever they think they can steal the most from it. She further explains that if he’d read any of her reports he wouldn’t have had to find out about how she equips the San Sebastian line from Boyle. Jim demands she change it. Dagny demands that he tell her what line she should take the requested resources from. He says she’s turning things around on him. She calmly explains that she’s awaiting orders. Jim, in what promises to be characteristic instant hypocrisy, then threatens to bring her before the board for overstepping her authority. We can imagine her rolling her eyes. Go for it, she offers. “I’ll answer for it”

We learn something, too…Dagny didn’t always think Francisco was a bum…Not at all…

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