Atlas Shrugged: The Speech and Its Core Message

I’ve finally finished reading the infamous John Galt speech :D

My impression is that I generally agree with him, apart from a few points.

He focuses on having a healthy sense of selfishness, and always using your mind. He also says that morality is when you always use your mind, never stay willfully ignorant and never do anything you know to be evil. He also insists that practicing such morality is not hard – in fact the happiest moments of your life are probably those when you followed his code.


According to Galt, every human interaction must be done as a trade, and never as a sacrifice.

Sacrifice is when you give a dollar and receive a penny – you give up something of larger value and receive something of smaller value (sometimes even negative value). Going without a meal to feed your child is not sacrifice – if you value your child more than your health. Even dying while fighting for some cause is not really sacrifice, if you love that cause so much that you’ll have it or die trying. But giving your food to a neighbor’s kid and letting your kid starve is a sacrifice. And dying for something you don’t believe in is sacrifice. The less you get out of your giving, the more of a sacrifice it is. Giving to the people you love does not count. The biggest sacrifice of them all is to give to people you hate.

Even when you give to charity or help someone out “for free”, it must be a trade. If you choose to help someone, do it because that person is suffering unjustly, and you’re fighting against injustice. Or do it on the ground of his virtues or his fight to recover. Don’t help some asshole with no virtues or willingness to get better, who demands your help – to help such people increases evil in the world.

I generally agree – sacrifice sounds downright absurd when you take it to its logical conclusion. I think sacrifice takes more away from you, than it gives to the other person. It’s not a virtue to build a happy world upon. And it’s not a virtue to build your self-esteem upon.

I also generally agree that one shouldn’t reward assholes. You get more of the behavior you reward. Although sometimes, a seemingly useless person has hidden virtues that are not apparent at the first glance. My grandfather often put various alcoholics and unemployed young men to work, and they got better. I suppose he saw they had something to give, and made his investment first. I think in John Galt’s logic, this would fall under “helping someone on the ground of their virtues”.

Using Your Mind

Galt says nothing but moral perfection will do, but it’s not as hard as it looks. You just have to always use your mind, never be willfully ignorant and never do anything you know is evil.

Do not listen to those people who say human knowledge is limited and fallible and therefore can’t be trusted – our knowledge might be limited, but there is no better alternative. Even if you know very little, that knowledge is yours. And no matter what ideologues, leaders and politicians around you say, your mind is the last decision-maker on whether you believe them or not. In short, have a little confidence in your judgment. Being a know-nothing is even worse than being a know-it-all.

Galt also said that morality and reason are the same thing. And happiness is proof of living morally and rationally. I think as an approximation, it’s sort of true. At least, for most normal people in most life situations it would make sense. If you’re normal, you have a conscience. You feel guilty when you screw people over, and it doesn’t contribute to your happiness as much as you hoped. It can also make people less likely to trade with you, and someone might take revenge. On the global scale, contributing to evil will make your world worse, and that will cause you harm. If you wanted as few problems as possible, you’d at least eliminate the self-imposed ones. And if you wanted as few of your problems to come from yourself, you wouldn’t contribute to evil. You have to rationally realize that, and act accordingly. Unless you have abnormal psychology. If you’re a sociopath or a psychopath, you won’t feel guilt or anxiety about your wrongdoings. You’re probably good at lying and might get away with this for life. Might even get a high power position due to your charm. Does that mean that for a psychopath, it’s moral and reasonable to screw people over?

And that is the problem with trying to find objective morality – something based on feels can’t be totally objective, even if the majority of the feelers have the same psychology and therefore agree about what’s moral. There will always be a psychopath. Or a person who insists that the color of his neighbor’s house violates his rights. How are we to prove to him, that it doesn’t? The best we can say is that he’s not normal and the law will not cater to unreasonable men’s offenses.

Galt’s idea of moral perfection is easier than it initially sounds, but harder than he thinks. Always using your mind and never being willfully ignorant are fairly easy. But never doing anything evil is harder, and I’m not sure how to reconcile it with the rule that you must never sacrifice yourself. In the book, there was a little character called Tony, or the Wet Nurse as they called him. He was a bureaucrat installed at Hank Rearden’s mills. He was educated in looter philosophy in his college, and thus emerged from there stupider than he was before. Through interaction with Hank Rearden, he gets better. He helps Hank avoid following stupid bureaucratic rules and even wants to give up his government job to work for real in Hank Rearden’s mills. But it’s not possible – the government doesn’t let you go. Eventually, thugs attack the mills and try to make Tony sign some papers to make the attack legit. He refuses and tries to run away, but they shoot him and kill him. How could this character have acted to avoid martyrdom, and also acted morally right? The book only lets us know the reaction of Hank Rearden. He’s very angry at the school and college teachers who doomed this guy to the wrong path right from the start. Just like growing up in a gang-ridden territory might doom you a life of crime, jail or violent death, growing up as a legal looter can doom you, too. Even if you try to leave. Or especially then… The guy wasn’t to blame for his brainwashing and everyone (the book, the reader, Hank Rearden) has sympathy for him, but he simply couldn’t get out of the shit he was in. It’s correct that he should never have been in that situation in the first place, but how to act when you are stuck? This isn’t the first time the book describes how some regular guy, stuck in the system, is forced to choose between two horrible choices, both having unacceptable consequences. The book doesn’t seem to condemn them no matter what they choose, perhaps because they had limited responsibility for ending up in that situation, but I’m not sure. Dr. Stadler gets no such sympathy, when he is forced to choose between himself and lives of other people – he knew what he was doing.

What core message did you get out of the speech? :) Do you agree or disagree?

Posted in Books, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Can People Like James Taggart Exist?

James Taggart is one of the most fun characters to read about. The heroes are great and interesting, but at times, they seem a bit too infallible and characters like James are a nice change of scenery. He’s a villain and ruins everyone’s day, but he’s also pathetic and kind of pitiable. He’s jealous of people who are capable and proud of it, and wishes to destroy them. Yet even when he succeeds at this, he’s never really happy.

James Taggart’s Motivation

At first, I thought he’s simply feeling inferior and is trying to win the game of life by bringing people down. That is plausible. Even when Dagny, Francisco and James were children, James was jealous of them. While it’s not clear why he’s jealous and unfriendly, it could be because they were more talented than him and he could never measure up. The desire to win using dishonest means is certainly plausible when one thinks honest means will not work.

However, I think Rand means for us to think that James is actually motivated by destruction of good productive people, unbeknownst to himself. He’s not just some guy with an inferiority complex, who is tired of losing to his talented sibling and childhood friend. He doesn’t just want to win all the money and fame for himself. He wants to bring everybody down, but can’t admit that to himself.

Towards the end of the novel, he is walking around after a party, and realizes he wouldn’t care if he became a beggar tomorrow. The only thing that makes him feel real gratification is ruining people like Francisco, by making sure his copper mines get nationalized and taken away. However, he doesn’t allow himself to get too close to this realization, and prefers to never define what he wants. Knowing his real motivation would be unbearable and cause a mental breakdown:

“This is the way he had lived all his life – keeping his eyes stubbornly, safely on the immediate pavement before him, craftily avoiding the sight of his road, of corners, of distances, of pinnacles. He had never intended going anywhere, he had wanted to be free of progression, free of the yoke of a straight line, he has never wanted his years to add up to any sum – what had summed them up? – why had he reached some unchosen destination where one could no longer stand still or retreat?”

His real motivation also shows itself in his choice of wife. He gets married to a poor shop girl Cherryl Brooks, despite being rich and powerful. Cherryl is the type of girl who deeply admires heroes, and mistakenly believes James to be one (the famous and controversial John Galt train track was actually built by his sister). The marriage doesn’t work out, because James is never happy with anything Cherryl does, and refuses to explain what she’s doing wrong. He condescendingly tells her “If you have to ask what you did wrong, it’s useless to explain”. In the end, he’s so annoyed by her questions that he does explain what he wants, to the best of his knowledge anyway (remember, he doesn’t know he’s actually motivated by destruction of good people). He says he just wants to be loved for himself – not his money, looks, achievements, thoughts or actions. He wants love to be totally unearned, or else it’s just a cold, soulless transaction. Essentially, he married low-hanging fruit so she’d appreciate him and they could both give the finger to self-improvement, and be their rotten selves around each other. Cherryl sees through Jim’s real motivation:

“You’re lying, Jim.”

His answer was only a startled glance of astonishment.

“Those girls that you used to buy for the price of a meal, they would have been glad to let their real selves become a gutter, they would have taken your alms and never tried to rise, but you would not marry one of them. You married me, because you knew that I did not accept the gutter, inside or out, that I was struggling to rise and would go on struggling – didn’t you?”

“Yes!” he cried”

And this is when we find out that he married a girl just to punish her for hero-worship, and thus indirectly harm the heroes. Again. How can someone be so venomous? Is it possible in real life?

Real People Who Were Similar

1.James kind of reminds me of my mom’s second husband. He was a high earner, but was constantly worried that his money was being taken. He stole forks at restaurants and often traveled without a bus ticket, and was pretty amused by it. He knew he was marrying a woman with a child, yet he did so anyway and was soon very unhappy that we needed clothes and food. He was always saying I eat too much, even though I weighed about 50 kg in my teens and even dieted. To his friends, he lied about how much he really spent on specific things. He was negative and stressed us out, yet I also often felt sorry for him. For a while, I really did feel like I was causing him harm, and tried to avoid it as much as possible. My efforts weren’t really working though, so eventually I gave up and got hostile, too.

I’m still confused about why a man so scared for his money would marry a foreign woman with a teenage daughter. This was his third marriage. He complained how his second wife received some of his furniture in divorce, and we likewise received some furniture. What was his motivation? Could it have been similar to James’? I’ll probably never know.

2.Some people really are motivated by destruction. But I think this only happens when a person has no hope of achieving any positive goals. They could be lonely. Perhaps an incel. Or unemployed, stuck in a dead end job and disgruntled. However, that motivation to destroy would dissipate the moment such a person got love, friends, a better job or realistic hope that things are on their way up. I don’t think either James or my mom’s second husband were one of these people.

What do you think? Have you met anyone like James Taggart? Do you think he could exist?

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Preferences Are Not Just Preferences

This is my first post where I will criticize something in Atlas Shrugged. That something is Rand’s views on people’s sexual and artistic tastes.

I think Rand believes people’s morals and thoughts cause people’s tastes. A person who thinks and acts with integrity will not have “depraved” tastes. Such a person will like only the best art and only have sex with a few chosen people. Likewise, a person who thinks or acts without integrity will enjoy modern art and be indiscriminate and promiscuous.

Here’s what Richard Halley, a composer and one of the strikers, says about his art:

“I do not care to be admired causelessly, emotionally, intuitively, instinctively – or blindly. I do not care for blindness in any form, I have too much to show – or for deafness, I have too much to say. I do not care to be admired by anyone’s heart – only by someone’s head.”

Then he says that he has more in common with tone-deaf businessmen like Ellis Wyatt, than modern artists, and his creation process is very similar to creation processes of engineers. That is, reason and thinking are used extensively, while using pure feeling is just as bad in art as in engineering.

Here’s what Francisco says about sexuality:

“But, in fact, a man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I’ll tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself.”


“He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience – or to fake – a sense of self-esteem. The man who is profoundly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer – because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut.”


“He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it. There is no conflict between the standards of his mind and the desires of his body. But the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to the woman he despises – because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from his moral code that damns him.”

When we see something, the signal is seen by both the rational brain and the lizard brain. We don’t rationally consider something first, and then decide how we feel about it. Our preferences cannot be the sum of our convictions – a lot of it is governed by our animal brain. Because of this, I think people often can’t explain why they like something. And if they try to explain it, a bunch of rationalizations come out, which may or may not hit the real reason on the mark.

A man with great self-esteem and self-respect might admire a heroine, but only be attracted to her if she’s physically hot. If she’s not, he might love her, but not be in love with her. And he will fuck “brainless sluts”, if they add pleasure to his life and don’t subtract from it. And it wouldn’t be inconsistent. In general, I think Rand projects her own type of female sexuality onto men, and that’s just incorrect.

And even if someone has more unusual sexual preferences, it doesn’t necessarily say anything about their character. I myself like sexually impoverished beta males and have a fetish for charity sex, but lean towards libertarianism politically. There are tons of people who are aroused by causing pain to consenting partners, yet they are not evil.

To be fair, sometimes someone’s sexuality is strikingly in sync with their other values. Many serial killers are aroused by other people’s pain. But it’s kind of like pointing out that some school shooters played violent video games or watched horror movies – dangerous psychos often love dark stuff, but so do huge numbers of normal, peaceful people.

While I like that Rand is against the idea that sexual desires are dirty and evil, I don’t like that she defines some sexual desires as signs of low self-esteem and lack of integrity, when it simply isn’t true. The implication is that you must train yourself into the right type of desires and start liking the right type of art, if you want to be a better person. I think this is a very limiting belief. It’s just another way to imprison your soul, or accept that you’re evil somehow. It sounds like modern feminism. Or Catholicism. I’m just glad it’s not a major point in the book and I can ignore it and enjoy the rest of the philosophy.

While I like that Rand values the mind so much, it seems she devalues intuition and the animal side of humans. I believe that to be reasonable, one can’t deny that one has an animal side, or try to eliminate it. Knowledge is power. And fighting a large part of yourself is very weakening. That part evolved for a reason. I won’t generalize my experience to everyone, but I became much stronger and happier by becoming friends with the “beast” and using it to my advantage. I find that being friends with my dark and irrational side sets me free from self-disappointment and pressure to be perfect. Using the dark and irrational side helps to understand other people better than using the mind alone (that’s called trusting your gut by the way, and I think it’s tragically underrated by those who only respect the mind). Last, but not least, accepting that side makes it have less power over me. And I think this is true for many other people.

And because of that, I’m all for dark, ugly art. I’m all for weird sexual fantasies. As long as you’re living a life of principles and integrity, that is :) I don’t want people to just use their head when looking at my art – I want to make them feel something (with their gut or even heart), because art that leaves you indifferent also doesn’t make you think.

Posted in Books, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Were the Passengers Responsible for Their Deaths?

If the train crash scene didn’t prove that Atlas Shrugged is actually a horror book, I don’t know what will. As the cronies start imposing more and more restrictions and artificial obstacles on productive people, the more productive people quit, leaving the infrastructure to take care of itself. Infrastructure gets broken, people die in accidents, starve and freeze to death. It’s not very surprising that it happens, when things are no longer being run properly. But does it mean the passengers on board the Comet brought their deaths on themselves?

I will remind you what happens in that scene. Some very important politician named Kip Chalmers is on board the Comet, the fastest train in Taggart Transcontinental. The best employees of that company quit a long time ago, when the Directive 10-289 was issued by the government, making it illegal to quit your job, get a new job, or pay/get paid more than you did in the previous year. Some good employees are left, but those who are gone were replaced by lazy people who love the job security that Directive 10-289 brings. This sad state of affairs leads to poor company performance, and the Comet’s Diesel engine goes off track. It can’t be repaired, and another Diesel engine can’t be acquired any time soon. The only engine available is a coal-burning engine… but it can’t be used, because an eight-mile tunnel is ahead, and a coal-burning engine inside a tunnel is a deadly combination.

Kip Chalmers doesn’t want to understand any of that. He has a very important political campaign coming up, and needs to be in San Francisco on time. He demands that an engine is given to him immediately, and threatens to have employees fired if they don’t comply with his wishes:

“ Slowly, patiently, with contemptuous politeness, the conductor gave him an exact account of the situation. But years ago, in grammar school, in high school, in college, Kip Chalmers had been taught that man does not and need not live by reason.

“Damn your tunnel!” he screamed. “Do you think I’m going to let you hold me up because of some miserable tunnel? Do you want to wreck vital national plans on account of a tunnel? Tell your engineer that I must be in San Francisco by evening and that he’s got to get me there!”


“That’s your job, not mine!”

“There is no way to do it.”

“The find a way, God damn you!”

The conductor did not answer.

“Do you think I’ll let your miserable technological problems interfere with crucial social issues? Do you know who I am? Tell that engineer to start moving, if he values his job!””

Kip Chalmers thinks the employees are just not working hard enough, and if he threatens and presses them hard enough, they will produce the engine they must be hiding away, and give him what he wants:

“Years ago, in college, he had been taught that the only effective means to impel men to action was fear.”

The employees thus are in a lose-lose position. If they refuse to give Kip Chalmers what he wants, they will lose their only allowed jobs and starve along with their families. If they comply, they will send hundreds of people to their deaths, and possibly be blamed for it, too. And thus the fate of the passengers is decided – the employees give them the coal burning engine, and send them into the tunnel. Each employee carefully avoids being seen as the decision-maker, and thus the “fall guy”. Eventually some naive young boy becomes the fall guy. The passengers suffocate inside the tunnel, then an army train crashes into them, the whole tunnel explodes and collapses. Who’s to blame? No one, and everyone. I believe this scene demonstrates what kind of disaster collective lack of competence or responsibility can lead to.

Here is what Rand has to say about the passengers on board the Comet, and this is what many critics find cruel and outrageous:

“It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.”

Then Rand describes some of the passengers. One was an elderly teacher who taught children they must always submit to the majority (what a life-ruining hag, I must say). Another is a journalist who wrote that it’s good to use any force necessary “for a good cause”. A third one is a person who thinks they have the “right” to transportation, whether a transportation company wanted to give it or not. The list goes on. And “there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas”.

I believe Rand does imply that everyone on board was at least somewhat to blame for their own deaths. Notice she never uses the word “deserve” in that sentence, and there is a huge difference between being deserving of death, and bringing it upon yourself. You can be a good person, get drunk, and get run over by a car. You wouldn’t deserve it, but you’ll surely be at least partially to blame. I believe lots of people, including the critics of this scene, confuse being responsible with deserving, and draw incorrect conclusions.

Is Rand right that the passengers were to blame for their deaths? To answer that question, it’s important to find who was the most to blame. Was it the employees? They were forced by the threat of starvation or jail. Was it the guys who created Directive 10-289? They’re surely guilty of unconstitutional laws and power-grabs, but they didn’t foresee the unintended consequences such as train-crashes where their own political helpers die a horrible crispy death. Was it the media and academia figures who promote the ideology that gives corrupt politicians their power? They are just people with opinions.

And thus, no one is to blame for the disaster.. and everyone. To contribute to a disaster, you don’t only have to attach a train to a coal-burning engine and send it off into a tunnel. You could also do it by passing laws, if you’re a politician. And if you’re just a “small” person, you could do it by supporting the ideology that helps corrupt politicians retain their power. Or even just by keeping status quo and not speaking against the injustice. You have probably heard this quote:

“”First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me””

Yes, the passengers did contribute to their own deaths. Kip Chalmers, and all the passengers, they were all hoist by their own petard. This might be a harsh message, but it cannot be powerful if it was soft. The moral of the story is this: Don’t Dig Your Own Hole. Don’t contribute to injustice, or you might just have to live your principles.

I personally do think everyone was to blame to some extent, although most of them did not deserve death. I think that teaching lady just deserved to be fired, really. I also know that in real life, people often get away with performing injustice, while people who do the right thing have bad things happen to them. But I would rather be as just as I can be, as I want as few of my problems as possible to come from ME. I also don’t expect people to speak out under the threat of death or torture. It’s an extra achievement, but I can’t say people dig their own hole if they refuse to do it.


I also believe this is the type of disaster that can happen when the employees are motivated by fear. Introductory psychology will tell you that fear of punishment “works”, but not as well as anticipation of reward. When you motivate your kid, your pet, or your employees by punishment, you are also teaching them to fear and distrust you. People motivated by fear of punishment will lie their way out of consequences if they must. They will pass the buck. And sometimes, they will be so scared that they will fuck up, instead of performing better. I think this real-life event is a good example of what culture of fear can lead to:

Yet there are people who think fear is the greatest way to motivate people.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Why Are All the Main Characters Rich and Powerful?

I think a lot of critics don’t like that the main characters in Atlas Shrugged are all rich, powerful, and have fancy titles. I think the reason why the main characters had to be wealthy and powerful is in the title of the book – the book is mostly about specific people becoming the next new hope for the broken economy… and then disappearing and taking their industry with them, leaving the country to fend for itself and find the next new hope. They are the people who extract/produce stuff we all depend on – fuel, raw materials, the infrastructure. When they shrug, bad shit happens. A lone worker or an academic shrugging wouldn’t have the same effect.

However, it doesn’t mean such a person’s story is not worth telling. I think this happens to philosopher Hugh Akston. He was a professor at a university, and a known advocate of reason. After a while, reason fell out of favor and his teachings were no longer marketable. Not only that, but John Galt calls on him to strike and contribute at little as possible to the world. So Dr. Akston gets a job flipping burgers. He’s extremely good at it. Dagny finds him and can’t believe a philosopher would work as a cook. She tries, unsuccessfully, to get him to work for her, for a much higher pay.

“ ”But . . . but what are you doing here?” Her arm swept at the room. “This doesn’t make sense!”

“Are you sure?”

“What is it? A stunt? An experiment? A secret mission? Are you studying something for some special purpose?”

“No, Miss Taggart. I’m earning my living.” The words and the voice had the genuine simplicity of truth.

“Dr. Akston, I . . . it’s inconceivable, it’s . . . You’re . . . you’re a philosopher . . . the greatest philosopher living . . . an immortal name . . . why would you do this?”

“Because I’m a philosopher, Miss Taggart.””

What I like about this is that Dr. Akston abandons his fancy title for a low-status job, for justice. When he says “Because I’m a philosopher”, I hear “Because I live my principles”. Although the first time I read that, I interpreted it as “I can’t just be a philosopher, getting a monthly paycheck from the government, I’d rather do something real people are willing to pay for”. And perhaps my original interpretation is not entirely wrong. Even while he’s striking, Dr. Akston is doing a great job at work. I think someone who values competence and reason can’t stop themselves from living up to those values, even when their goal is non-contribution. They want to live off of something real people are willing to pay for.

Posted in Books, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Dagny Taggart and Feminism

“She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occured to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought – and never worried about it again.”

I find this quote to be right, and inspiring. If you’re a girl, you don’t need to be encouraged before you can pursue technology, STEM and whatever else male-dominated field you are into. Just do it. On the other hand, if the only reason you went for STEM was other people’s encouragement, your momentum will fall apart at the first sign of difficulty or lack of encouragement.

[EDIT]: For anyone who doesn’t know: Dagny did end up running the railroad and building her own.

Posted in Books, Feminism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Atlas Shrugged: Should We Condemn Hank Rearden for Cheating on His Wife?

I’ve finally started reading Atlas Shrugged. The following posts will be about Atlas Shrugged.

I find some people give the book criticism I don’t agree with, and that is part of why I want to express my thoughts.

The first topic is Hank Rearden and his infidelity. Should his cheating be judged as harshly as regular cheating? Some people seem to this his wife was the victim in all this, and he was a sociopath for treating her the way he did. I disagree.

First of all, I’m pretty judgmental about cheating. In my mind, it’s not okay to cheat if:

1.Your spouse got fat.

2.You got fat, and your spouse is reluctant to have sex with you.

3.You “drifted apart”.

It’s not okay to cheat if a problem arose, and you didn’t do everything you could to correct it. When something otherwise good has a flaw, you don’t just throw it out and get a new one. You try to fix it. And if nothing you do worked – then you can dump them, not cheat. I know some people would fight even harder to preserve a marriage, but I’m not a “stay married no matter what” kind of person. If you’re being abused, denied sex or cheated on, I wouldn’t judge you if you left – you only got one life, so live it. And there is only one situation where I find cheating totally okay – it is when you cannot get out of an unfixable relationship/marriage safely, or at all.

Hank Rearden marries Lillian because she was pursuing him while being hard to get, and because she seemed to like what he loved the most in life – his mills:

“It was Lillian’s austerity that attracted him – the conflict between her austerity and her behavior. He had never liked anyone or expected to be liked. He found himself held by the spectacle of a woman who was obviously pursuing him but with obvious reluctance, as if against her own will, as if fighting a desire she resented.”

“The look in her eyes, when she watched a heat of steel being poured, was like his own feeling for it made visible to him. When her eyes moved up to his own face, he saw the same look, but intensified to a degree that seemed to make her helpless and silent. It was at dinner, that evening, that he asked her to marry him.”

Although later, it turns out she’s neither into steel, nor into him. In fact, she makes him hate his own sexuality:

“She had never objected; she had never refused him anything; she submitted whenever he wished. She submitted in the manner of complying with the rule that it was, at times, her duty to become an inanimate object turned over to her husband’s use.

She did not censure him. She made it clear that she took it for granted that men had degrading instincts which constituted the secret, ugly part of marriage. She was condescendingly tolerant. She smiled, in amused distaste, at the intensity of what he experienced. “It’s the most undignified pastime I know of,” she said to him once, “but I have never entertained the illusion that men are superior to animals.””

This torturous marriage goes on for quite a while, and it looks like Lillian never says anything to Hank, unless it’s passive-aggressive and meant to tear down his self-worth. Critics would say that it’s all a result of Hank being workaholic and utterly uninterested in his wife’s interests, but I’m not so sure. Hank never pretended to like Lillian’s home decorating hobbies in the first place, while Lillian did act like she liked Hank’s steel business, when she really didn’t. I even dare to say was a subtle bait-and-switch.

I know I said one must work on the flaws in the marriage, but I also think some people should be avoided immediately after red flags start popping up. I think Lillian is one of them. Hank Rearden, for whatever reason, is simply too stupid to notice when he’s being eaten alive. Last time I had that problem, I was 7 years old. Something like 14 percent of people in my city have a personality disorder according to statistics. If someone feels off, they are probably not reasonable and you shouldn’t try to treat them like a reasonable person. You can’t make things work with those. Avoid.

But Hank has no sense of self-preservation, so he decided to endure the torturous marriage, believing he deserved it for having normal sexual desire. Bur he’s still human and wants a sexually healthy, willing woman, so he ends up cheating with Dagny Taggart. Ironically, it is his self-sacrifice that leads to cheating. If he were selfish, he’d dump the emotional vampire right away and never have to cheat.

So, was it wrong of him to cheat on his wife? Sort of. It was less of a crime against Lillian, and more of a crime against himself. The crime was tolerating torture and then taking the blame for trying to alleviate it. I don’t think you owe any sort of loyalty to someone who’s only there to hurt you. Even if you promised something to them, it’s pretty ridiculous to keep that promise while they are eating you alive.

Posted in Books, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments