Chapter IV – Part IV

March 25, 2016

They called it the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule.” The Alliance of Railroad members did not look each other in the eye when they approved it. The stated purpose of this Alliance was to “protect the welfare of the railroad industry” by making each member comply with the majority rule of the body. While some had suggested that the reason this body is needed is that shippers and supply manufacturers might try to take advantage of them, nobody, apparently, is really clear on what any union might ever actually be needed for.

Apparently, none of the members liked this particular rule, but like lemurs they voted for it anyway.

They don’t mention specific railroads, they just talk about public welfare. They decry competition, and suggest that younger railroads will find future fortune by running through blighted areas. This is not about the idea that infrastructure might spur development, but rather about putting public service to “struggling inhabitants” ahead of profits.

Rand goes on to explain the argument that, “large established railroad systems were essential to the public welfare; and that the collapse of one of them would be a national catastrophe; and that if one such system had happened to sustain a crushing loss in a public-spirited attempt to contribute to international good will, it was entitled to public support to help it survive the blow.”

…so we get to the explanation of this rule – it’s meant to undermine “’destructive competition’; that in regions declared to be restricted, no more than one railroad would be permitted to operate; that in such regions, seniority belonged to the oldest railroad now operating there, and that the newcomers who had encroached unfairly upon its territory, would suspend operations within nine months after being so ordered; that the Executive Board of the National Alliance of Railroads was empowered to decide, at its sole discretion, which regions were to be restricted.”

The first seems to indicate that Taggart should be somehow compensated for the loss in San Sebastian – which might make sense if it was part of the US government’s way of insuring his participation in an international program. The second is clearly an assault on the Phoenix Durango and its entrepreneur Dan Conway, again to the benefit of Taggart. Only five voted against the law. The rest seemed to hope that someone else would. The members leave quickly and quietly after the vote. Conway seems shell shocked.

Boyle runs into Taggart and says ominously that he’s done his part, now it’s Jim’s turn.

Chapter IV – Part III

March 23, 2016

His stage face gone, Jim meets with Orren Boyle who reports that D’Anconia lost his money, just like Jim. Jim is surprised that this brilliant man who has “outwitted some of the slickest combinations of money grubbers on earth” would now be “taken by a bunch of Greaser politicians.”

Orren says he should call his friend and ask. Jim says he hates him, but has clearly tried. His male secretary of fading youth and well-bred impoverished manner enters, worried about the response he received from Francisco’s secretary:

“’He said that Senor D’Anconia said that you bore him, Mr. Taggart.”

Chapter IV – Part II

March 21, 2016

Back to James, with a headache in his living room, too lazy to find shoes or his watch, or even to remember that he wanted to know what time it was. There’s a woman there, and the description of their relationship makes the lascivious sight Dagny noticed earlier seem somehow better. These guys aren’t even up to lust, let alone love. They copulate merely out of some sense that this is what people do.

Apparently the only things this one, Betty Pope, inherited as a member of “one of the very best families” is a sense of self importance and a condescending attitude. She laments her boring existence, asks Jim to take her to dinner, and chides him that she hears his sister is more the man of the family than he is.

Jim is rushing her out…not allowing her to clip her toenails. She doesn’t mind him coming in to the bathroom to do his business, too, as she twists herself into her clothes. Her day will be empty. He’s got a mission, though. He’s on his way to get Dagny upbraided for ordering that rail. The thought of undermining her progress lifts his mood…maybe he will take Betty out to dinner after all. She doesn’t like Dagny, either.

Then he receives a phone call. The caller, eager to make clear that this isn’t his fault, informs him that his pet San Sebastian line, as well as D’Anconia’s mines, have been nationalized.

Jim is quick to assure the board that his friends in Washington have his back, and that proper compensation will be awarded. He then proceeds to take full credit for Dagny’s reduction of equipment and service, while requesting the heads of a few folks he now blames for building the line.

“The men sat around the long table, listening. They did not think of what they would have to do, but of what they would have to say to the men they represented. Taggart’s speech gave them what they needed.”

“Motive power  — thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight. – was its first need;  motive power, to keep that building standing; movement to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.”

Dagny has returned from a personal visit to those who should have provided those locomotives some year or so ago. The man spoke for two hours, seemed to find direct questions a sign of ill breeding, and in return had no clear answers to offer. Dagny shudders at the sight of precision machinery left to rot…the type of thing capable of magnificent works that it seems no one is any longer capable of taking care of, let alone producing.

She returns to the office to find a shaken Eddie who has more bad news: McNamara, the man who was to lay the Rio Norte’s tracks, is gone. With contracts left unfulfilled, the best contractor in the country has disappeared. No explanation. He just up and quit. Dagny is desperate to scream, but retains her composure. She’ll figure something out.

Hours later, she leaves the office. Normally satisfied to be the architect of her own satisfaction, this day has left her starving to see something of merit that someone other than she has created. The streets of New York offer nothing…screeching noise called a symphony, a book called “The Vulture is Molting”  about the depravity of corporate greed (which we are to believe is pure slander out to trash noble ones like her), a mindless movie, and a young woman with her dress hanging too low…not in daring but in disarray, the young man holding her arm not to romance her but “out to write obscenities on fences”.

She retreats to her apartment and the Fourth Concerto of Richard Halley. Through this art, Rand speaks her anguish:

“The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion,. It was a ‘No’ flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: ‘There is no necessity for pain – why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity? – we, who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?….The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything “was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion – and of a desperate quest.”

…”The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams – a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried – the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.

The critics, it seemed, thought his heroics and ecstasy passé.

His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter.

However…Halley, it seems, lived to see a small taste glory. When he was 24, he wrote an opera. Phaethon. This was an adaptation of the myth where the reckless son of a permissive father did not crash and set the Earth afire, but succeeded. The booing and catcalls back then led to a depressing search for answers which he could not find.

At 43, however, a second opening night met a far different response. Dagny was there as the applause overtook the opera hall and spilled out into the streets. Halley stood there, with an odd and questioning look on his face. The next day critics credited his work “as the product and expression of the greatness of the people”. They say that it’s only right he should have suffered so long; that his suffering was proud and noble. Soon after, Halley quits, selling rights that could have ensured him a comfortable retirement for a modest sum and disappearing without a trace.

…Speaking of suffering, Dagny, lost in the brief ecstasy of this kindred composer, happens to glance at that paper she purchased. Francisco D’Anconia is coming to town. She tries to resist reading it, especially not to the music, but cannot. In it she reads that he says he’s coming for some hat check girl and a good liverwurst sandwich. He will grant an interview with the press, but has nothing to say about a divorce trial that he in the center of, having apparently been an attempted murderess’ lover and inspiration. The press is delighted. They thought he’d avoid this scandal. When asked about the allegations he says that he never denies anything, and adds one more reason for coming: “I want to witness the farce.”

Apparently, while neither the crumbling railroad nor her crippling solitude in competence can break our heroine, this guy can. Dagny collapses into silent, shaking tears.