John Galt (b. 1980) is the mysterious protagonist, or more accurately anti-villain, in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. For much of the novel he is merely a name without a face, about whom people ask, "Who is John Galt?" without knowing what or whom they're talking about. Eventually John Galt answers them directly, in a manifesto for individualism and capitalism. More to the point, he is an inventor, a philosopher, and a political movement leader, though not a politician in the usual sense, because he functions neither as legislator nor as administrator.
John Galt resembles Henry Galt, the main character in a 1922 novel by a Garet Garett (1878–1954), a leading conservative economics writer of the day. It tells the story of a Wall Street financier, Henry Galt, a shadowy figure who stays out of the limelight as much as possible until he unleashes a plan that had been years in the making: he uses his extraordinary entrepreneurial talent to acquire control of a failing railroad.
- 1 Back story
- 2 Stop the motor
- 3 The first recruits
- 4 Life in New York
- 5 Galt's Gulch
- 6 The last three years
- 7 Recruitment of Quentin Daniels
- 8 The scab
- 9 The consummation
- 10 The recruitment of Hank Rearden
- 11 The great speech
- 12 The unraveling
- 13 The rescue
- 14 Analogous situations
- 15 Present day
- 16 Feasibility
- 17 References
His birthplace was a nondescript town that Hugh Akston described as a "crossroads." His father was an automobile mechanic who worked at one of the first automobile "service stations."
At the age of twelve he left home "to make his own way." How he came to the Patrick Henry University (not to be confused with the actual Patrick Henry College set up by Jerry Falwell), Akston does not tell, but Akston describes him as "out of nowhere, penniless, parentless, tie-less." He came determined to pursue a double major: physics and philosophy, the science of the world and the science of the mind. While at PHU, he met two other students who entered when he did, each of whom had a background radically different from his. One was Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia, the current descendant of a famous Spaniard who established the family fortune by digging for copper in the Andes Mountains of Chile. The other was Ragnar Danneskjöld, a Norwegian aristocrat. The three, remarkably, were sixteen years old.
Remarkably, all three pursued the double major in physics and philosophy. The three men also became fast friends.
The chairmen of the two departments they had chosen to major in—Robert Stadler of the physics department and Akston of the philosophy department—recognized at once the brilliance of these three students. Akston knew this when the three walked into a postgraduate philosophy course, and Galt asked a pointed question about Plato's metaphysical system that Akston would not have expected even one of his scholarly colleagues to be able to answer. Stadler and Akston allowed the three to pursue the double major, and suspended a number of rules that normally would have prohibited such a curriculum—but they gave the students to understand that they would have to work for it. Work they did, and graduated with distinction in both subjects.
In addition to his coursework, John Galt had to work to pay the tuition. He worked at a roundhouse in the Cleveland rail yard. (Whether this yard belonged to the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad is only an inference, based on the likely route for the TTRR's transcontinental traffic at the time.)
Not a man among the three suspected how closely they would be working together after they graduated.
John Galt stayed on at PHU after graduation, to begin postgraduate training under Stadler's advice. In two years he had his Master of Science degree, and he began working on his PhD. But in 2004, Stadler endorsed the establishment of a State Science Institute. Appalled, Galt asked for and got an appointment with Stadler in his office. Galt began at once to tell Stadler that he was making a very serious mistake, that "abstract" and "applied" science should never split, and that under no circumstances should the government fund scientific work. To his surprise and immense disappointment, Stadler was having none of this. The meeting turned more acrimonious with every passing minute, and finally Galt left the office. He also left PHU, never to return. Stadler's rejection of his advice was something that Galt would never forget or "get over." It was also something that he would never understand, not even later, when Stadler would try to explain himself to him. (See below.)
Stop the motor
John Galt signed on as a junior engineer with the Twentieth Century Motor Company in Starnesville, Wisconsin. There he conceived the idea that he could extract static electricity from the atmosphere and use it as an almost limitless source of energy. In 2007 he actually completed a prototypical electrostatic motor and prepared to demonstrate it to his employer, Gerald "Jed" Starnes. His boss, William Hastings, would later provide the temporal clue to Dagny Taggart that Galt was twenty-six years old when he built his prototype.
Then disaster struck. Gerald Starnes died, and his three children—two brothers, Gerald Jr. and Eric, and their sister Ivy—proposed a radical change in management for the factory. Under this system, people would work according to their ability, but be paid according to their needs.
The employees actually voted in favor of this plan, with no conception of what it would mean. This vote took place in the main assembly bay of the factory. After this vote, Gerald Starnes, Jr. stood up to announce the results. According to the skilled lathe-operator and shop foreman who witnessed it, Mr. Starnes said the following: "This is a great moment in the history of our country! Remember that none of you may leave this place, for you are all bound here by the moral code which we all accept!"
"I don't," said John Galt, who quietly stood up in his place. Every eye sank when it beheld him, because "he stood like a man who knows that he is right."
Galt went on, "I will put an end to this once and for all." Then he turned to walk out of the bay.
Gerald Starnes called after him, "How?"
Galt turned and said, "I will stop the motor of the world."
To understand what John Galt meant by that provocative statement, one needs to understand what is the motor of the world. Ayn Rand's point was that man's mind is the motor of the world—and if you punish a man for using his mind, then sooner or later the mind will refuse to move the world. Thus John Galt proposed not only to quit the factory (which he did, after deliberately wrecking his prototype and removing most of his notes, leaving only enough notes to remind people of what might have been) but also to quit a system that, even beyond one factory with three misguided heirs running it, rewarded failure and punished success.
John Galt's plan was simple: he would approach men when they were most vulnerable, when the world socialistic system had meted out one insult too many, or one injury too many, and then he would tell them, "Why put up with this? Go on strike." This, then, was the essence of how John Galt planned to stop the motor of the world: tell men of the mind, like himself, to go on strike against the collectivistic system that thanklessly exploited them.
At first, the strike rules were as simple as the plan itself. Anyone having savings to retire on, retired. Any other man would take the lowest job that he could find, a job bringing in just enough to put food on the table.
The first recruits
The first two men whom he recruited to join him in this strike of the men of the mind were his two former fellow students, Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjöld. He summoned them to his garret-like walk-up apartment in the run-down brownstone he had found. He told them the situation and his plan. Then he gestured out the window, toward the lights of New York. "When you see those lights go out," said Galt, "then you will know that our job is done."
Francisco was devastated. He could not argue with his old friend's logic. But for him personally, the logical endpoint was that stepping down as head of D'Anconia Copper SA would not be enough. He must deliberately destroy the family enterprise. As he would later say to Dagny Taggart, the last holdout among the people of the mind, "I am not merely leaving it as I found it; I am leaving it as Sebastian d'Anconia found it. And let the world try to get along without him or me!" As cover for his activities, Francisco d'Anconia cultivated a reputation as a typical "millionnaire playboy," or what is sometimes called a "trust fund kiddy." Thus people regarded his actions as irresponsible. No one would suspect, until far too late, that his actions were in fact deliberate and calculated.
Ragnar Danneskjöld followed his own chain of logic, but also was driven by towering wrath and indignation. Like Francisco d'Anconia, he did not believe that merely quitting the world was sufficient. He proposed to go to active war with it. The world system robbed men of the mind; he, therefore, would take back from that world and give back to them whom the world had robbed. Thus he became a privateer, and for the next twelve years he built a reputation as the scourge of the high seas. John Galt did not ask him to do this. In fact, Galt worried himself sick over Danneskjöld every year. But John Galt did not actively oppose him, either—for if anything, Ragnar Danneskjöld was an even more competent philosopher than Galt was. (Ragnar's seven years of graduate training in philosophy saw to this.)
Francisco gave Galt his answer on the morning of the day after their conversation. Ragnar gave his own answer a few hours later.
Ragnar did accompany John back to Cleveland. John asked him to, because he wanted Ragnar's help in recruiting Hugh Akston into the strike. Dr. Akston joined after one evening of conversation.
Life in New York
When Galt first quit the Twentieth Century, he moved to New York City and signed on as a track walker for the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. His assignment: the underground tunnels of the Taggart Terminal.
He took all his meals in the underground cafeteria in the Taggart Building. Not long after that, he noticed a junior executive taking his meals in the same place. He didn't take long to cultivate that executive as a friend. His name, of course, was Eddie Willers.
Two years into his strike, he recruited the manager of the Taggart Terminal into his strike. One week later, the replacement for that manager made some careless errors that snarled the traffic in and out of the terminal. Dagny Taggart came to the terminal, dressed in evening clothes, to straighten out the mess. And that is when John Galt saw her for the first time.
He fell hard in love with her, and from that day forward would pump Eddie Willers for information whenever he saw him. He would maintain that contact until June of 2019—the last "vacation month."
Every year in June, Galt would meet somewhere with Francisco, Ragnar, and all their recruits. He labored for a year to persuade William Hastings, his former immediate superior at the Twentieth Century Motor Company to join the strike. Hastings joined in the springtime of 2008, the second year of the strike. Next he recruited a composer named Richard Halley. He joined about a month after Hastings joined. (He did not try to recruit Robert Stadler. Though he never understood Stadler's real motive, he understood Stadler well enough to realize that any effort by Galt to recruit Stadler would be worse than useless.)
For three years, John Galt recruited relatively minor figures into his strike. Then he recruited a man who changed everything, and radically.
Midas Mulligan, a banker by trade, became embroiled in a lawsuit after he refused a business loan to one Lee Hunsacker, who had bought the old Twentieth Century Motor Company in a fire sale after the Starnes heirs finally ran that company completely into the ground. Hunsacker sued Mulligan. The original trial judge (Judge Narragansett) gave the jury a charge that was more like an argument for jury nullification. The jury found for Mulligan, but an appellate court reversed that judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, before a different judge. The jury in that trial found for Hunsacker. Naturally, John Galt approached Midas and Judge Narragansett and encouraged them to go on strike. Mulligan "took fifteen minutes" to join; Narragansett would join six months later.
Mulligan's answer was to liquidate his bank totally, though he made sure that no depositor lost any money in the liquidation. But Mulligan had also bought out the entire town of Ouray, Colorado, and several miles of the Uncompaghre River Valley, both upstream (south) and downstream (north) of Ouray. He did this after Ouray, having previously lost its mining trade, now lost its tourist trade in the gradual sinking of the American economy. Now Mulligan took the proceeds of the sale of his bank, built a home in what now became known as Mulligan's Valley, and sought to cut off most avenues of approach, and stock the valley with livestock and other supplies sufficient to let him retire there for life.
But Mulligan had a problem. He dared not hire anyone to do any of this work who was not part of the strike. So John Galt now got his first job apart from his "strike job" at the TTRR: as general contractor to Midas Mulligan to make the first "improvements" to Mulligan's Valley.
Galt built a refractor-ray-based cloaking system to project a false image of the valley to any overflying pilot, and thus conceal the valley completely. (By then, no one even remembered that Ouray had ever been a tourist trap, or even where it was located.) He also built a powerhouse to provide it and Mulligan's house with electric power. He based that powerhouse, of course, on a larger version of his electrostatic motor. He gave Francisco a sub-contract to cut off and obliterate the Million Dollar Highway, south of Ouray. (Francisco wanted to prospect in the Red Mountain Pass, so erasing the Million Dollar Highway would be incidental to his prospecting and mining operations.) Then Galt, Francisco, and Ragnar each built a house in the valley in June, the vacation month.
That fall, Judge Narragansett joined the strike, and Midas invited the judge to come and live in his valley permanently. The judge built his own house and also cleared enough land for farming and set up a dairy and chicken farm. Richard Halley then came to the valley, built a house for himself, and planted an orchard.
The economy of the valley was very simple. Francisco's copper mine was the only industry that the valley had, other than agriculture and a kind of tourism. Specifically, the strikers could come to the valley in June, take in a Richard Halley concert, and buy a pack of the best cigarettes available on earth: the dollar-sign brand of the Mulligan Tobacco Company (which "company" consisted of Mulligan and Hugh Akston as principal members). They would use only gold and silver coin for their purchases. Mulligan produced both at a mint that he established. He also re-established his bank, into which Ragnar would deposit the fruits of his "plunder" every year.
John Galt did not act as any sort of "mayor." Instead, he, Francisco, and Ragnar formed a three-man Committee of Safety that was the closest thing to a state that the valley had. (Strictly speaking, Galt acted as Midas Mulligan's proxy in this Committee.) Galt called the place Mulligan's Valley (because Midas Mulligan actually owned the land). The other strikers called it Galt's Gulch (because John Galt was still their spiritual and political leader, as chairman of the Committee of Safety, and because John Galt's electrostatic motor gave the valley an actual source of physical power).
John Galt was also the chief utility provider—because his electrostatic motor was now the main power plant of the valley, which he housed in a blockhouse guarded by a sound lock that would respond only to a repetition of the Oath of the Men of the Mind that he had coined:
|“||I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.||”|
This blockhouse was the closest thing to a temple that John Galt ever built—a temple to the human spirit, and to human liberty and trade.
The judicial power rested with Judge Narragansett. Legislation was nonexistent. The only by-laws were the lease contracts, or the occasional deed, that Midas Mulligan signed.
So now, joining John Galt's strike meant leaving a punitive political and economic system, and joining a true republic (actually a voluntary association of a landlord and his tenants) in which capitalism and property rights were paramount.
Yet John Galt did not spend all or even most of his time in the valley. He spent the month of June of every year in the valley, like everyone else except for Midas, Richard, and the judge. He spent the other eleven months of the year in New York, pumping Eddie Willers for information (while never letting Willers suspect him of doing anything but letting Willers talk), and watching Dagny.
In the last three years of the strike, he would find an even more lucrative, and consequential, use for those eleven months.
The last three years
John Galt's last three years, beginning in 2016, were his busiest. In those years he accomplished his most numerous and most consequential recruitments. The consequences were, quite simply, devastating for the world system. As the United States government added outrage after outrage (with names like "Equalization of Opportunity Act" and "Directive 10-289," both of which presaged Richard Nixon's wage and price controls and Barack Obama's present program), John Galt found recruitment that much easier.
The year 2017 saw the passage of the Equalization of Opportunity Act, the last consequential thing that the unicameral Legislature (which had replaced the United States Congress after the runaway Constitutional convention of 2000) actually did. Nevertheless, Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden went forward with their plans for building "The John Galt Line" in Colorado. When the Line opened (July 22, 2017), businesses began to relocate there. But then the Legislature empowered the Bureau of Economic Planning and Natural Resources to issue directives, with the force, not only of Executive Orders from the Head of State, but of law. The BEPNR issued several directives that effectively destroyed the economy of Colorado. They included:
- A speed limit of sixty miles per hour on all trains, even though the John Galt Line could easily handle trains moving twice as fast.
- A train consist limit of sixty cars per train.
- A surtax on all of Colorado's businesses. This of course would violate the United States Constitution (see Article I, Section 9, Clauses 4 and 5). But, in this alternate history as in the real-life present day, nobody cared.
- A limit on the production of Rearden Metal (see below) to the amount of special alloys that other steel producers made (later adjusted), and
- A Fair Share Directive forbidding any one customer to receive any order larger than any other.
Those directives came down in November of 2017. In response, Ellis Wyatt blew up his shale-oil fields and joined John Galt's strike. Andrew Stockton followed. Lawrence Hammond, the automaker, was third. Several other Colorado businessmen followed. (Ken Danagger would quit in 2018.) The Colorado strikers converted everything they could into gold and/or machinery, and brought these to Mulligan's Valley. Now the valley became a thriving economy. The next time John Galt's long-term strikers came to the valley on vacation, many of them stayed to work for Wyatt and the others. One of them was the actress Kay Ludlow, who had married Ragnar in 2015; she now lived in Ragnar's house full-time and opened a restaurant.
Andrew Stockton opened a foundry in the valley, and that gave Galt an idea. He designed several pieces of laboratory equipment, and asked Stockton to make them. These he moved into his New York apartment, where he outfitted a complete physics laboratory. He installed one of his electrostatic motors for electric power, so that no one need question why the tenant of such a run-down apartment was using so much "juice." And so for eleven months out of the year, John Galt would extend the body of knowledge of physics as much as he could by running a one-man laboratory. Then, every June, he offered a course of lectures, at ten dollars (in gold) per person, to men whom he could be sure would apply his knowledge most effectively in their own designs.
His two most important prospects continued to elude him, and to resist the efforts by his friend Francisco d'Anconia to recruit them. One was Dagny Taggart, with whom he had now been in love for ten years, a state that he might have feared would cloud his judgment. The other was Henry Rearden, the owner of a steel company who had developed his own new version of steel that included copper as well as iron. (The government had in fact confiscated the formula for Rearden Metal, but the only steelmaker to try to copy the formula had to abandon the attempt after Ragnar Danneskjöld shelled, or more likely bombed, his factory to ruins.)
Recruitment of Quentin Daniels
On or about the night of May 22, 2019, Eddie Willers let slip to Galt that Dagny Taggart had abruptly quit the railroad following the promulgation of Directive 10-289. Galt pumped Willers further and from him learned Dagny's precise location. Galt passed this on to Francisco d'Anconia, saying that Francisco had "earned" the chance to rekindle his old romance with Dagny, a thing that Galt had learned from Francisco twelve years earlier.
On May 28, Dagny was back at her office in New York. Galt waited in the Terminal cafeteria for Willers to appear, and had to wait unusually long—because Willers had seen Dagny off on the Taggart Comet. Willers revealed the reason for Dagny's abrupt departure: an engineer named Quentin Daniels had attempted to reverse-engineer his electrostatic motor, but now had abruptly refused to work on the motor any further. His reasons: he did not wish to work for a society that regarded him as a slave, and would not martyr himself to a society to whom he might give an "inestimable benefit."
When Galt heard those words, he laughed. Willers asked for an explanation, and he gave it: that Quentin Daniels had figured out, for himself, "the whole secret." By which Galt meant (though he did not say this out loud to Willers) that Daniels had worked out, independently of Galt, the very reason that Galt had called his strike.
But that was not what was clearly troubling Eddie Willers. Galt pressed further, and then learned something that devastated him: that Dagny Taggart had been having an affair with Henry Rearden. At that news, Galt abruptly stood up and left the cafeteria without finishing his meal. He would never see Eddie Willers again.
Galt first waited outside the Wayne-Falkland Hotel to spot Rearden coming out of a meeting of the nation's industrialists. Galt watched Rearden, saw his supreme self-confidence, and for a split second saw the scene out of context and wondered whether he, Galt, had made a mistake in calling the strike. The moment swiftly passed, and Galt recognized again that Rearden was still soldiering on, as far as ever from realizing that going on strike would be the best thing he could do. Still, Galt was determined to recruit him. Galt also put aside his envy of Rearden's intimacy with Dagny. Indeed, Dagny Taggart would never have chosen any other man to have an affair with.
Galt then set out toward Afton, Utah, to recruit Daniels in earnest. He was in a hurry—he had to get there before Dagny Taggart did. He flew to Afton, landed there, and set out for the long-defunct Utah Institute of Technology. He found Daniels still trying to scratch out a solution to the motor. Galt took an eraser and rubbed out much of what Daniels had written, equations that were the same blind alleys down which Galt himself had blundered, twelve years ago. He then wrote the one equation that, for him, had been the key. A shocked Daniels cried out, "You found it! How?"
Galt answered, "I'm the man who built it in the first place."
Daniels eagerly signed on with Galt within a few minutes' conversation. The two men drove out to the airport and took off. Galt watched another aircraft circle for a landing. He would not realize until too late that that same aircraft would take off again and latch onto his "six-o'clock."
He flew to the valley, as usual, and ducked behind the refractor-ray screen, at an altitude of 700 feet above ground level (8700 feet above sea level). During the entire flight, he and Daniels "talked physics all the way down," as he would later explain. (In fact, he would not only enroll Quentin Daniels in his lecture course, but would also give him a time-payment plan, the first and perhaps only time that he would do this for any student.) Perhaps the animated conversation caused Galt to fail to notice that any aircraft was following him.
He landed, met Midas Mulligan at the airfield that an earlier recruit, Dwight Sanders, had built, and asked Mulligan to take charge of Quentin Daniels. Unique among his recruits, Quentin Daniels would not need to spend the night in the "anteroom," the special guest room in Galt's cabin where all recruits passed their first night in Mulligan's Valley, so that he could reassure them that they were making the right choice.
Midas dropped Galt off at his cabin, which was located on the southern or upstream end of the valley, slightly downstream of the waterfall by which the waters of the Uncompaghre River entered the valley. Then he noticed, to his horror, the aircraft he had originally seen back in Afton, now spiraling down in a flat spin. He called Midas at once, told him what he'd seen, and then, because he was closest to where the pilot was about to crash, set out upstream and up-slope on foot.
The pilot made one last desperate control input before crash-landing in a pasture. To Galt's further horror, Dagny Taggart was the pilot. To his immense relief, she survived with nothing more serious than a broken ankle.
Having little choice, John Galt hand-carried Dagny down a winding dirt trail from the crash site to the roadhead, where Midas and Hugh Akston drove up to meet them. He did not delude himself into thinking that she would join his strike immediately, and so he introduced her as "the scab." He consulted Dr. Thomas Hendrix, whom he had recruited six years later, to treat Dagny's injuries. Then he rented Midas' automobile and gave Dagny a tour of the valley and its town.
That evening, he brought Dagny to a dinner party at Midas' house. There Galt allowed the townspeople to speak for him. Each one told her why he or she had quit the world, and also showed her some of what they had invented in the valley. Galt and Mulligan also shared with Dagny a short history of the strike and the valley.
Ragnar Danneskjöld came to the valley on time. Galt always worried about Ragnar, though Ragnar told him not to. Galt would not allow Ragnar to speak, in front of Dagny, about his meeting with Henry Rearden after the passage of Directive 10-289. Ragnar did speak of his privateering operations and his proposal to refund the income taxes of all the strikers. Dagny indignantly refused to accept any of Danneskjöld's money and asked John Galt to hire her as his cook and housemaid, so that she could earn her room and board. Galt, beside himself with mirth, accepted the proposal.
Francisco d'Anconia came late to the valley that year, so late that Galt worried about him. When Francisco showed up, he was extremely careworn. Galt told Francisco that he had a scab staying in his house. Francisco, his curiosity thoroughly piqued, forgot his troubles and went in to see the "scab." That person was, of course, Dagny. When a very relieved Francisco came out, with Dagny in tow, and told Galt that he had been searching for Dagny outside (thinking that she had crashed in the mountains), Galt was not surprised.
Dagny came close—very close—to joining the strike when Francisco showed off his copper mine that he was driving into the mountainside. Francisco was using teams of mules to carry his copper ore to the valley floor, "wasting an unconscionable amount of time and manpower," as Dagny put it. Dagny started then and there to propose to build a narrow-gauge railroad from the mine to the valley. But in the middle of her proposal, Dagny broke off, saying that she could not lay three miles of rail and abandon an entire transcontinental system.
The valley dwellers had one occasion to be alarmed about three weeks into Dagny's stay: another aircraft dipped into the upper reaches of the cone that formed the valley, in an obvious search for Dagny's aircraft. Dagny gave a start of recognition, but denied it to Galt. Whether Galt was fooled by this, the story does not make clear—but in any case he would obviously learn later that the pilot of this search aircraft was Henry Rearden.
In the end, Dagny Taggart did not consent to remain in the valley. So John Galt took her out to the nearest airport—blindfolded, so that she would not be able to find the valley again. (The most likely airport where he dropped her off was that of Melrose, CO.)
On September 2, 2019, the parliament of the People's State of Chile prepared to nationalize the D'Anconia Copper Company. But in synchrony with the striking of the speaker's gavel to call the parliament to order, Francisco d'Anconia blew up the last of his facilities. Francisco then went to work at the Rearden Steel Company, under an assumed name, as a furnace foreman. John Galt would learn of this much later.
On the night of October 15, the signal interlocking system in the Taggart Terminal failed. Dagny rushed to the terminal, still in evening clothes, and gave orders to the unskilled labor force to move the trains in and out using hand-held signal lanterns. That was when John Galt took his chance. Pushing his way to the front of the crowd, he let Dagny see him. As he expected, Dagny finished giving her orders, and then walked down an abandoned tunnel (where, Galt knew, she had stored his own abandoned prototype that she had recovered from the ruins of the Twentieth Century Motor Company). There the two lovers consummated their relationship. Galt knew as he did this that he was putting his life on the line from that day forward. He took a calculated risk for commensurate gain: he wanted to win her heart, and this was part of his plan.
The recruitment of Hank Rearden
Francisco kept Galt posted on the doings at Rearden Steel. So Galt knew when the union local had petitioned the Unification Board, and not Rearden himself, for a raise. He knew when the Board rejected the request. He read the same papers that everyone else read, full of pity-party stories about Rearden's workforce. And he knew, almost as well as Francisco did, that several workers had joined who had no business working at a steel mill; they were shills for the Unification Board.
Then on the evening of November 4, Rearden met five government men at the Wayne-Falkland in New York. Galt knew about the meeting, and knew (possibly from spies working for Francisco, Ragnar Danneskjöld, or both) that those government men would try to force Rearden to accept participation in a Steel Unification Plan, by which all the steel producers would work according to their ability but be paid according to their needs. Galt did not doubt for one second that Rearden would definitely refuse, just as Galt himself had refused to sign on to a similar plan at the old Twentieth Century Motor Company. So Galt rushed, as fast as he could, to Pennsylvania and the Reading Airport, where Rearden kept his personal plane. And there he waited.
He did not have to wait long. A staged riot broke out at Rearden Steel, and Francisco led a contingent of regular workers to defeat the rioters. Henry Rearden was injured in the incident, and Francisco rescued him. Francisco talked to Rearden after he regained consciousness and finally persuaded him to join the strike.
Francisco notified Galt immediately, and Galt signed out Rearden's aircraft, had it fueled, and waited on the taxiway. Rearden's car, with Rearden as a passenger, arrived at about midnight. Galt greeted Rearden for the first time, sent the driver of the car on his way to the valley (with some of the last of the cash that Rearden had on him, to buy fuel en route), and helped Rearden aboard his plane. Rearden thanked Galt, who then said that because he, Galt, had acted in furtherance of his own plans, no thanks from Rearden was necessary. Rearden then said, "That is why I thank you."
Galt flew Rearden to the valley, summoned Dr. Hendrix to tend to Rearden, and let him rest in the "anteroom" of his house. Rearden did not pass a sleepless night, as so many of Galt's recruits had done. He was ready to join the strike and start at once to rebuild Rearden Steel—in Mulligan's Valley.
Galt introduced Rearden to Midas Mulligan's traditional "welcome home" dinner. Rearden did not disappoint; he spent about half his time taking orders for the first heats of Rearden Metal that he would be able to pour from his new installation, as fast as he could build it and bring it on-line.
Galt then announced a special edition of his physics lecture series, and enrolled a class consisting of Henry Rearden, Ellis Wyatt, Andrew Stockton, Dwight Sanders, Owen Kellogg, Quentin Daniels (who by now had earned enough money to pay tuition up-front), and a few others. He also, with Francisco's help, recruited Rearden into the Committee of Safety after seeing the kind of defenses Rearden set up on his new leasehold.
After ten days (and five lectures), Ragnar Danneskjöld returned to the valley, with a cargo of gold, as usual. Ragnar was furious to find out that Henry Rearden had been injured. He then turned to Galt and said, "You see, John? I recall telling you that I was safer at sea than a corner druggist under Directive 10-289. It turns out that even Henry Rearden was not as safe as I." But Ragnar was pleased to hear that Rearden now served on the Committee of Safety.
That Committee met that very night, at Rearden's leasehold (with Gwen Ives, Rearden's long-time secretary, now taking the Committee's minutes). At that meeting, Ragnar gave Galt a sobering piece of intelligence: Mr. Thompson was going to make a speech to the country "on the world crisis" on November 22. Galt then made a snap decision: he would pre-empt Mr. Thompson's time and deliver his own speech.
But that speech would be more than a manifesto. He would be crying out his love for Dagny Taggart, in a form that only she would recognize.
It was a desperate gambit. But Dagny Taggart was still in the larger world. John Galt wanted her very badly—in fact, she was now the one value that the outer world held that he wanted, and he was going to have her, price no object. So now he prepared to take his greatest risk.
Accordingly, Galt told his class that he was accelerating the lecture schedule. From then on, he gave one lecture every evening, for an hour and a half instead of the usual hour. He "graduated" this special class on November 21.
The great speech
Mr. Thompson, the Head of State, prepared to make a "report on the world crisis" on every radio and television channel, on November 22. But at about 5:45 p.m., John Galt simply jammed the airwaves with his own signal that overrode every carrier wave. Then, promptly at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time (or 6:00 p.m. Mountain time), John Galt delivered his message: on voice only, but clear, distinct, and, depending on the listener, either inspiring, infuriating, or terrifying. In three hours, John Galt expounded on the strike of the men of the mind and his reasons for calling it. He made no demands. Instead he made a simple suggestion to any man of the mind still left in the world to go on strike himself, each in his own way.
The abridged text
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Thompson will not speak to you tonight. His time is up. I have taken it over. You were to hear a report on the world crisis. That is exactly what you are going to hear.
For twelve years you've been asking "Who is John Galt?" This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus destroyed your world. You've heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis and that Man's sins are destroying the world. But your chief virtue has been sacrifice, and you've demanded more sacrifices at every disaster. You've sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty. So why should you be afraid of the world around you?
Your world is only the product of your sacrifices. While you were dragging the men who made your happiness possible to your sacrificial altars, I beat you to it. I reached them first and told them about the game you were playing and where it would take them. I explained the consequences of your 'brother-love' morality, which they had been too innocently generous to understand. You won't find them now, when you need them more than ever.
We're on strike against your creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. If you want to know how I made them quit, I told them exactly what I'm telling you tonight. I taught them the morality of Reason -- that it was right to pursue one's own happiness as one's principal goal in life. I don't consider the pleasure of others my goal in life, nor do I consider my pleasure the goal of anyone else's life.
I am a trader. I earn what I get in trade for what I produce. I ask for nothing more or nothing less than what I earn. That is justice. I don't force anyone to trade with me; I only trade for mutual benefit. Force is the great evil that has no place in a rational world. One may never force another human to act against his/her judgment. If you deny a man's right to Reason, you must also deny your right to your own judgment. Yet you have allowed your world to be run by means of force, by men who claim that fear and joy are equal incentives, but that fear and force are more practical.
You've allowed such men to occupy positions of power in your world by preaching that all men are evil from the moment they're born. When men believe this, they see nothing wrong in acting in any way they please. The name of this absurdity is 'original sin'. That's impossible. That which is outside the possibility of choice is also outside the province of morality. To call sin that which is outside man's choice is a mockery of justice. To say that men are born with a free will but with a tendency toward evil is ridiculous. If the tendency is one of choice, it doesn't come at birth. If it is not a tendency of choice, then man's will is not free.
And then there's your 'brother-love' morality. Why is it moral to serve others, but not yourself? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but not by you? Why is it immoral to produce something of value and keep it for yourself, when it is moral for others who haven't earned it to accept it? If it's virtuous to give, isn't it then selfish to take?
Your acceptance of the code of selflessness has made you fear the man who has a dollar less than you because it makes you feel that that dollar is rightfully his. You hate the man with a dollar more than you because the dollar he's keeping is rightfully yours. Your code has made it impossible to know when to give and when to grab.
You know that you can't give away everything and starve yourself. You've forced yourselves to live with undeserved, irrational guilt. Is it ever proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty that you owe him. Yes, if it's your own free choice based on your judgment of the value of that person and his struggle. This country wasn't built by men who sought handouts. In its brilliant youth, this country showed the rest of the world what greatness was possible to Man and what happiness is possible on Earth.
Then it began apologizing for its greatness and began giving away its wealth, feeling guilty for having produced more than ikts neighbors. Twelve years ago, I saw what was wrong with the world and where the battle for Life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality and that my acceptance of that morality was its only power. I was the first of the men who refused to give up the pursuit of his own happiness in order to serve others.
To those of you who retain some remnant of dignity and the will to live your lives for yourselves, you have the chance to make the same choice. Examine your values and understand that you must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil.
If you've understood what I've said, stop supporting your destroyers. Don't accept their philosophy. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, and your love. Don't exhaust yourself to help build the kind of world that you see around you now. In the name of the best within you, don't sacrifice the world to those who will take away your happiness for it.
The world will change when you are ready to pronounce the oath that I took at the start of my battle:
I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine. 
Thousands of listeners took John Galt's advice. They could not contact him, so they could not come to Mulligan's Valley. But many of them set up their own versions of Mulligan's Valley, chiefly armed camps in various forests and other "wilderness" regions.
John Galt now made his almost-fatal mistake. He could have stayed in Mulligan's Valley and relied on Francisco, or Ragnar, or both to watch for signs that Dagny was ready to quit, and bring her to him. But he had promised Dagny that all she need do was draw a dollar sign in chalk on the plinth of Nathaniel Taggart's statue in the Terminal, and he would come for her that evening. True to his promise, and perhaps not willing to hire either of his friends to do what was his own private business, he returned to New York City and stayed long enough for Dagny Taggart to come to him. (Before he did, he retrofitted Hank Rearden's aircraft with an electrostatic powerplant. He couldn't have known how valuable that would be, but he would want to be prepared. Besides, Rearden would certainly have ordered such a retrofit.)
He waited for nearly three months, during which time Rearden Steel of Berks County, Pennsylvania, deteriorated under successive mismanagement (not to mention embezzlement) and finally died in an act of sabotage on January 22, 2020. Galt passed the information back to the valley, via short wave. Hank Rearden had to know about it, per Galt's own rigid code. The word he got back was that Rearden took it all in stride.
On February 22, 2020, Dagny Taggart did come to him. But, unknown to her, she had the FBI on her tail, and in consequence, John Galt was arrested, as he knew he would be.
The authorities could not charge him with anything. Instead, Mr. Thompson tried to urge him to take the post of "Economic Dictator" of the country, a suggestion that Galt found laughable. To illustrate the absurdity of the proposition, Galt said that his first order would be to abolish all income taxes and fire all government employees. Naturally, Thompson rejected those proposals.
A steady stream of Mr. Thompson's hangers-on, including James Taggart, Chick Morrison, and Fred Kinnan, tried to plead with Galt, to no avail. Floyd Ferris of the State Science Institute did not plead; he threatened. Specifically he threatened to institute a program of executions of "unproductive citizens," a program he said would be necessary if Galt did not cooperate. Mr. Thompson was horrified and said that Ferris was not serious. Galt was having none of that. He said,
|“||Oh yes, he did mean it. Tell that [illegitimate son] to look at me, and then look in the mirror, and ask himself whether I could ever think that my moral stature was at the mercy of his actions.||”|
The last person to see Galt, and this at Galt's seemingly incongruous request, was his former chairman of physics at PHU, Dr. Robert Stadler, now the (nominal) Director of the State Science Institute. Galt said nothing; he merely allowed Stadler to babble at him about how much he wanted a laboratory and what he could have done with it. But Stadler talked too much, and revealed his conclusion that Galt was now the man who had to be destroyed. Stadler tried to take that back, but Galt said to him,
|“||You have said everything that I wanted to say to you.||”|
The authorities left him in solitary confinement in the Royal Suite of the Wayne-Falkland for another three days. Then they put on a television show and announced a new "John Galt Plan for Peace and Prosperity," and ordered Galt (at the point of a gun) to dress for the occasion and appear on camera. Galt cooperated until at last the time came for him to speak. And then, moving swiftly enough that the viewers could not miss the gun aimed at him, he rushed to the on-stage podium and said,
|“||Get...out of my way.||”|
The authorities stopped the show immediately and then took Galt to the New Hampshire campus of the State Science Institute. They then tried to examine him under torture by electric shock—but Galt was prepared for it, and knew in advance that they would not dare deliver to him a lethal shock.
Then the electroshock generator broke down, and the operator could not repair it. John Galt himself gave the diagnosis of the trouble and suggested a repair, and the rich irony of the situation caused the operator to flee in terror. The three interrogators also fled, after one of them (James Taggart) cried out that he wanted "to make him scream," and then screamed himself, now that he realized exactly what sort of man he had become.
Ferris and Mouch half-carried Jim Taggart from the torture chamber, and did not come back. Thus Galt waited alone, lashed to a mattress, but supremely confident that all he need do was wait.
He did not have long to wait. Fifteen minutes later, he heard gunfire and the sound of crashing glass on the floor above, echoing down the single stairwell. Then he heard a voice he recognized as that of Francisco d'Anconia ordering a guard to surrender himself. Then the hurried footsteps of four people pounded down the stairs to the single door. Galt heard several knocks on the door, and sounds of someone picking the lock.
Then the door flew open. Francisco d'Anconia rushed in, held his arm out to bar the entry of those behind him, and surveyed the scene. Galt caught his eye and smiled at him. Francisco lowered his arm, and then Dagny Taggart, Henry Rearden, and Ragnar Danneskjold raced in. Dagny rushed to his side and embraced him, while Ragnar and Henry cut him loose. Francisco offered him brandy, and Galt asked for a cigarette.
He and Dagny understood one another well enough for her to know that he was unharmed. Francisco needed a bit more reassurance, and Galt gave it to him. Francisco then threatened to hunt down Galt's torturers and kill them, but Galt told him,
|“||If you find them, you'll find that there's nothing left of them to kill.||”|
Ragnar concentrated on smashing the torture equipment to smithereens. Then the rescue party helped Galt to dress, and left the chamber. Galt took note of the signs of the battle, such as it had been, that his four rescuers had fought: five enemy dead, one "friendly" wounded (Rearden, who had sustained a flesh wound), a window broken in, and some other minor damage. As clean a rescue as he could have asked for.
The five made their way to Francisco d'Anconia's plane and took off in it at once, with Ragnar at the controls. Once they were in the air, Galt turned to Rearden and thanked him for his rescue. He and Rearden then repeated what they had said to one another last November, faithfully in reverse. Then Galt heard Ragnar giving a radio report, and Francisco told him that half the men in the valley had come to help rescue him. Galt spoke to one of those men: Hugh Akston. Galt didn't ask how Ragnar could have allowed such an oldster to take part in a mission more appropriate to a man half his age. Hugh Akston was the one such "oldster" who could have insisted.
As their escape plane overflew the Eastern seaboard, the entire ground fell dark in an instant. The collapse of the world system was now complete. Galt said only one thing: he told Dagny, seated next to him, not to look down.
Galt returned to Mulligan's Valley and finished out the winter there. He married Dagny, with Judge Narragansett presiding. He watched with pride as she built the narrow-gauge railroad for Francisco, and even accepted an order to build the world's first electrostatic locomotive for it.
Eventually, spring came, and the last of the government radio and television stations fell silent. John Galt then declared that the world couldn't threaten them anymore, and it was time to come back.
Spoilers end here.
The Northeast Blackout of 1965 is especially memorable to anyone who called himself a student of Objectivism at the time. Nearly everyone with a passing familiarity with Ayn Rand's work spoke only half-jokingly of trying to tune in their radio to see whether they could catch someone saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Johnson will not be speaking to you tonight. His time is up. I, John Galt, have taken it over."
With the election of Ronald Reagan, any thought of replicating the John Galt Strike was abandoned. The Objectivists had only one quarrel with Reagan, and that concerned the issue of abortion. On every other point, they agreed with his stated principles, and many rejoiced to see the Reagan principles in operation.
Sadly, George H. W. Bush did not follow those principles, and neither did his immediate successor, Bill Clinton, or even his son, George W. Bush. But not until the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama did any Objectivist think seriously that the time might have come to do in real life what John Galt does in the novel.
Today, the Ayn Rand Institute has enjoyed frequent citations on the Fox News Channel and especially by commentator Glenn Beck, who has interviewed its current head several times on his program. Beck has not been known to mention the name of John Galt, but he has mentioned the name of Henry Rearden, the novel's hero who becomes a reluctant member of John Galt's strike and the society that he builds.
More to the point, "to go Galt" has now become a catch phrase for quitting a system that now begins to look like the extremely collectivistic system that Ayn Rand projected in her novel. The most salient case-in-point today is the finding, published in Investors' Business Daily, that forty-five-percent of doctors surveyed would seriously consider quitting their profession if the Obama Administration's proposed socialization of health care were to be enacted into law.
Regardless of multiple accusations in the liberal media, no one has—yet—proposed to "go Danneskjöld", i.e. turn privateer and make an active, not merely a passive, war.
The electrostatic motor
Electrostatic motors do exist, chiefly as tutorial demonstration projects. However, in 1997, William J. Beaty published to the World Wide Web a short essay discussing the feasibility of electrostatic motors, especially for applications in the vacuous conditions of outer space. Beaty also suspects that the power of an electrostatic motor might vary with the length and inductance of its collecting coil. Beaty reports that one researcher managed to achieve 1/16 horsepower with his motor, using a lightning-rod-like collector carried aloft by a weather balloon. (When Dagny Taggart first sees John Galt's wrecked prototype, she spots the collecting coil and realizes its significance at once.)
According to Beaty, the recently discussed "micromotors" created on silicon chips are actually electrostatic motors. Furthermore, he suggests that electrostatic motors would be much lighter in weight and thus much easier to deploy in space. He also asserts that bacterial flagella and cellular cilia run on rotary electrostatic motors, and that all muscles are in fact linear electrostatic motors.
From the above, an electrostatic motor, as used in Atlas Shrugged, might have been feasible. At least one anonymous source, writing in Wikipedia, suggests that an electrostatic motor would require a recharge every half hour. However, the collecting coil would be a source of continuous charge, so that becomes a moot point. The chief limitation would be on the size and inductance of the collecting coil.
The novel specifically states that John Galt built an electrostatic dynamo to provide electric power for all of Mulligan's Valley, and also built a much smaller version to provide electric power for the laboratory that he maintained in his apartment in New York City. It further states that when the strike was over, John Galt proposed building locomotives that would be powered by his invention. That Ragnar Danneskjold would try to retrofit his vessel to run on an electrostatic powerplant is only logical to suppose.
Ayn Rand is not the only author to propose that an electrostatic motor would have such widespread application. Jules Verne initially proposed that the submarine called Nautilus, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, would have an electrostatic powerplant. (The motion picture adaptation of that novel assumed that the Nautilus would be a nuclear-powered submarine, and indeed the very first nuclear-powered submarine in the United States Navy was named Nautilus in Verne's honor.) In the motion picture Master of the World, the helicopter airship Albatross also had an electrostatic powerplant.
However, no engineer has yet proposed to build an electrostatic motor that would be nearly as powerful as Ayn Rand suggested.
The quantum motor
The motion picture adaptation, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, proposed an entirely different sort of revolutionary motor. In the film, Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart mention the Casimir Effect, which classically is an attraction between two metal conducting plates brought close together in a quantum vacuum.
In fact, Alexander Feigel, of the Soreq Nuclear Research Center, Yavne, Israel, actually proposed building a "quantum propulsion engine" that employs the Casimir Effect, or something close to it. To be more specific, Feigel proposed introducing an array of nanoparticles into a quantum vacuum and rotating them at critical moments. Usually, the Casimir Effect is too small to be of practical consequences, and the related Lorentz forces cancel one another out. Feigel's proposed nanoparticle-rotation scheme would cause the Lorentz forces to add up to a resultant that would be strong enough to do useful work.
Feigel used the phrase "quantum propulsion machine." A more compact term would be a quantum motor, because it uses quantum forces to move things.
Some of the terms that the film's script uses are wildly inaccurate, and are probably a weak attempt to conflate the concept of an electrostatic motor with that of a quantum propulsion motor of the type that Feigel proposes. But their use of the term "Casimir Effect" provides the clue to what they actually propose. (Perhaps the oversimplified explanation that Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden give in the film would be an accurate portrait of an attempt by any layman, not familiar with quantum mechanics, to explain what would be, to them, a shocking discovery.)
The model that Feigel proposed, and others have elaborated on, does appear to be quite feasible. The references describe a practical application in outer space, to replace the classic "reaction control"-based attitude systems on spacecraft with quantum thrusters. But this does seem to have a down-to-earth application as a replacement for any engine that relies on turning a shaft to provide motive power. Such an engine could replace those in automobiles and locomotives, and could also replace the turboprop engines in slower-moving aircraft. It could possibly serve to design a more-efficient turbofan jet engine, thus extending the range of current jet aircraft. (It could also replace the "auxiliary power units" that current jet transports carry. These are miniature turbofan jet engines that provide no motive power to speak of, but serve only to provide electric power while the aircraft loads, until the pilot starts his main engines. A Casimir-Lorentz quantum engine would be a logical replacement.)
The strike as a political movement
History has seen examples of men defecting from their countries of origin in order to live in other countries that have far more lenient taxation and other policies. The history of the United States also has examples of some States drawing population and sometimes jobs from other States on account of differential tax, regulatory, and other policy. Still, the prospect of a total defection from organized society, and a retreat to a secluded mountain valley, provoked derision from reviewer Whittaker Chambers and others, and few persons have proposed such a thing and actually expected people to take them seriously. But few indeed have been the instances in history in which the provocations were as great as Atlas Shrugged describes. Some suggest that the current policies of Barack Obama and the United States Congress now under the complete control of the Democratic Party might indeed provide just such provocation.
Nor would "going on strike" necessarily require building anything as elaborate as Galt's Gulch. The spontaneous organization, after John Galt's speech, of the "miniature Mulligan's Valleys" in various forest and similar regions is a far more likely scenario.
A new theory of abstract science
Galt's lecture program, and the private research program that it supported, illustrate Ayn Rand's radically new theory of the pursuit of abstract science. Today, government and other "non-profit" grantors support the development of "abstract knowledge." Rand was having none of that. To her, all knowledge is practical, and all knowledge can find practical application. That application need not be immediate, so long as men of business—men of this earth—had the good sense to educate themselves on it.
Accordingly, John Galt runs his own research program in abstract physics. Then he publishes his findings, not to "peer-reviewed journals" that pay him no remuneration, but to industrialists who might find a direct application of his discoveries in their own industries. This was something that Robert Stadler would never have done, of course—which was why he sought grant monies to begin with, and why he inevitably would "sell out" to the government. And it is something that modern "pure scientists" never do, convinced as they are that "pure knowledge" has no practical value.
Thus, in the Ayn Rand system, "spinoffs" are the natural product of any research program, and are in fact its object. Rand refused to distinguish between "pure" and "applied" science. She reminded her readers rather sharply that even "pure science," in the hands of the government, often finds very dire applications.
The chief defenses of the John Galt strike are the seclusion of Mulligan's Valley and the utter incompetence of those who remain in governmental power. Whittaker Chambers simply did not believe that anyone in authority would ever show the kind of abject incompetence that leaves the "looter society" vulnerable to privateering activities (by a single ship!) and, at the last, a raid on a guarded installation. But some observers suggest that Barack Obama and some other officials have been conducting themselves in just such an incompetent fashion as Atlas Shrugged depicts on the part of its villains. Perhaps, then, a modern-day John Galt, perhaps able to build a quantum motor as described above, could indeed lead a movement of the magnitude of the strike of the men of the mind, and even lead such a movement to political victory by default.
- See The Driver (1922) online; [ Jeffrey A. Tucker, "Who Is Garet Garrett?," Mises Daily 10/25/2007 ]
- The full text of the speech is available here.
- Jones T, "45% Of Doctors Would Consider Quitting If Congress Passes Health Care Overhaul," Investors' Business Daily, 16 September 2009. Quoted in "Doctors Threaten to Go Galt if ObamaCare Passes,", Stop the ACLU, 16 September 2009.
- Beaty WJ, "Electrostatic Motor: What Is It Used For?" The Science Hobbyist, 1997. Accessed May 2, 2009.
- "Static electricity." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2 May 2009, 02:14 UTC. 2 May 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Static_electricity&oldid=287371163>.
- Feigel A, "A magneto-electric quantum wheel," Quantum Physics, 5 December 2009. Cited in "A Blueprint for a Quantum Propulsion Machine," Physics ArXiv Blog, 9 December 2009. Cited in turn in Dillow C, "Practical Steps Toward a Quantum Propulsion Machine," Popular Science, 9 December 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- Chambers W, "Big Sister Is Watching You," National Review, December 28, 1957. Hosted at National Review Online, published January 5, 2005. Accessed May 1, 2009.<http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp>