Atlas Shrugged Chapter 12: The Pull of Aristocracy

The man up in the tower was enjoying the show. — Planet P, “Why Me?”

Chapter summary: Most of the action of this chapter takes place at Jim Taggert’s wedding reception. The highlight is a monologue by Francisco on money not being the root of all evil. There are also confrontations between Dagny and Jim’s new wife, between Dagny and Hank’s wife, and between Hank and Francisco. The reception ends with Francisco setting off a panic by suggesting that d’Aconia Copper will be insolvent by morning.

I enjoyed this chapter, overall. It worked much better for me than the previous chapter in which Rand threw all her characters together; it seemed more plausible in this case that all these people would be present, either from desire or obligation.

Francisco lays out a reasonable argument about money being generally more a force for good than for evil, although it does have weaknesses. I agree with the general sentiment that the love of money is productive while the lust for money is destructive. His argument does have weaknesses, particularly when it comes to the notion that some people deserve inheritance; it seems like Rand is trying to reconcile the “self-made” aspect of her philosophy with the existence of the inherited-rich, and I don’t think she succeeds.

At one point during his speech, Francisco says, “When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.” While he’s speaking of money, this sentiment is not so limited. On the other hand, the nature of evil itself can be subjective. Francisco (and by implication Rand) characterizes evil as taking something without earning it… and then excuses the inherited rich, deciding that such people who have money but don’t respect it will be destroyed by it.

Theft is generally evil, but there are other evils in the world as well, such as letting people starve while you sit in your counting house with egregious excess. As far as I can tell, neither d’Aconia nor Rand would agree.

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