Atlas Shrugged Chapter 4: The Immovable Movers

I’ll admit, I had to look the meaning of the title chapter up. Rand makes it clear in the next chapter that it’s an Aristotle reference, but she doesn’t elaborate. I know that people used to study the classics more than they do now, and so perhaps the concept was considered common knowledge at the time, or perhaps Rand was being pompous. Since I’ve looked it up: Aristotle posited that there must be some force that started all motion in the universe into motion, and that that force must itself be unmovable (since, after all, it began the notion of movement).

Chapter summary: The railroad bigwigs vote for the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog policy, which is ostensibly altruistic, superficially collusive, and effectively monopolistic in that it pushes Dan Conway’s more successful line out of Colorado in place of the Taggerts’ failing line. Dagny has an existential crisis. We learn more about Richard Halley.

The Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog policy is an excellent demonstration of Objectivism’s thesis that altruism is generally a disguise for self-interest. In this case, the self-interest is particularly noxious, as the railroad barons collude to protect Taggert International. While the railroad aspects of Atlas Shrugged are dated nowadays, the issues can be mapped onto the oil industry or the banking industry; the phrase “too big to fail” came to mind when reading this chapter.

On a separate note, I thought I would be annoyed by repetitions of “Who is John Galt?”, but I’m getting more annoyed at the references to Richard Halley. Independent of whatever qualities she might have as a philosopher, Rand is a bit ham-fisted as a fiction writer (more on this in the next chapter, which I’ve read most of at this point).

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