I am John Galt

One of the most common criticisms of Ayn Rand’s books is that they are far removed from real life – that people cannot relate to them. Howard Roark, John Galt, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart – a lot of people who read the books think these people cannot exist in real life. This is primarily due to the fact that the values and philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand are so radically different from the philosophy that most people are used to.  Most people have a very moderate philosophy for their lives, and in most cases they do not even care to articulate it to themselves. Their belief that a philosophy such as Objectivism is not practical leads them to believe that people who follow this philosophy (which is most of the characters in the novels), by extension, cannot exist.

This is primarily a function of their values – and them not being able to comprehend Objectivism fully. The people who fully understand and believe in Objectivism would also believe in the characters. It is also about definitions. If a person believes the traditional definition of selfishness to be correct, he would not be able to relate to characters like Howard Roark and John Galt, as they would not fit into his moral frame of reference.  Looking at the characters in Ayn Rand’s books, especially the heroes, and saying “life’s not like that” is a fair opinion for a lot of people. This is because the characters in the books have absolute clarity about their beliefs and philosophy, and there are no contradictions for them. However, for most people, contradictions are a way of life.

It is important to see the characters in the books as a reflection of what our true potential could be and, understand that if we reach that level of non-contradiction and self-actualization in our own lives, these characters would not seem too far removed from real life. This excerpt from Ayn Rand’s introduction to ‘ The Fountainhead’ sums it up:

“It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of  man’s proper stature–and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning–and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray: it is their own souls.”

22 thoughts on “I am John Galt

  1. I’ll likely be bashed to death bringing this up on a page like this but what the hell. What’s a life not lived on the edge!

    I think you are taking a very narrow view of the whole thing. People don’t think Objectivism is far removed from reality just because they can’t imagine a world like that. I can imagine it, i would just rather not be a part of it. Simply because for one, the world outside isn’t half as bad as it’s made out to be in the books, ergo the gulch not as glorious positioned next to reality as i see it.

    It may also be for the fact that beneath the glossy facade shaped by the “perfection” of Galt, Roark and ilk, there are unanswered questions and a bunch of things people may choose to disagree with. Some of them:

    1. General idea that man is ‘meant to be’ at the pinnacle of perfection, and everything that came before (and will come over time) is a tribute to the high altar of mankind. Corroborated by how she talks of mankind well, all the time. The universe does not revolve around man and we should really stop taking ourselves so seriously (maybe not be half as conceited too, while we are at it)

    2. It may just be me but the way she talks of industrialization – the granite quarry and steel mills doesn’t make any sense and exposes an underlying deeper flaw of a potentially warped philosophy. I get the attachment with creating something new and amazing (the buildings, rearden metal, galt line, the sculpture and the temple to Mankind) but there’s something off about it that i can’t quite put a finger on(maybe the fact that there’s a temple to mankind? I’m mot religious, don’t give two hoots to blasphemy but temple to mankind?) Linking back to 1, nature isn’t made beautiful/important by man. I don’t remember exactly where i thought she was making this point but i remember feeling horrendously repulsed and flattered simultaneously. (It’s amazing how she’s so convincing and without appearing to be that. Everything is stated like an obvious, scientifically proven factoid one won’t think of questioning until one does).
    Anyway, there was life before us, and there will be life after us. You don’t an eye to appreciate it for beauty to exist.

    3. Capitalism. At this point i feel the need to assert my love for her books (and her style of writing!) and the fact that she made me feel better about being a “capitalist, sell out pig”. Her brand of capitalism is as inaccessible and flawed as the socialist agenda. It sounds perfect and beautiful but imagine being born and living in a place like Galt’s Gulch. And i don’t mean the cool stuff but what it represents. In a lot of ways, it is an elitist society with no room for imperfection or for the average. The way i see it, it’s a place for perfect people, with perfect goods (tangible and untangible) to trade and hence make a living. There are no poor or the lazy or the weak (keating, toohey, a whole bunch from AS you name it) “mooching” off of the labour of the hard working and the intellectuals but there are no “normal” people either. The type that wants to pack fun and varied experiences in their 60 years of life, live a balanced life with a job without being a burden on the society. The kind who have the brains to do ground breaking research at MIT but they’d much rather keep a 45hrs a week job and take vacations to just sit and drink by the beach. Because that’s all they want to be happy and relaxed. (Or so they told me anyway) These people in the Gulch would be “reprimanded” for not living up to their full potential.

    4. Contradictions: i think they add colour to life and are integrant to an individual’s development. There’s a charm to our world where there is more than one “right thing”. Where there’s more agency, hence power to man (we all love that part in all speeches, don’t we? 🙂 ). Or maybe it’s just something to do with pushing oneself and exploring new frontiers. Whatever floats your boat! (Oh and that’s one favourite expression i believe would be quite useless in the Gulch)

  2. 2- “nature isn’t made beautiful/important by man.” Beauty is a man-made concept, so YES it IS. What doesn’t make sense about industry? Look around you, it all came from industry. You’re using a computer made by industrialists. I don’t get your point.

    3- Galt’s Gulch was never meant for society as a whole. And there were normal people there like the bakers wife who was raising her children away from the irrationality of the outside world. If “Normal” people are irrational, and I’m an “Elitist” for wishing to be rational and improve myself, than that’s simply fantastic.

    I am not going to address your other parts because I don’t understand what you’re talking about.

  3. It must be emphasized that the novels are representations of reality. Rand chose to highlight certain aspects of each character to bring out a lesson.
    And it is inaccurate to say that Rand’s characters were “perfect”. Dagny did not understand the contradictions she encountered. Hank had trouble applying the values he used at work to his personal life. Dominique has a horrible outlook on life at the beginning of The Fountainhead. Steven Mallory was a drunk when we meet him. Rand uses these characters to illustrate the particular problems and then shows the reader how to work though them.
    Finally, Rand’s ideas do not preach that everyone should be perfect, let alone perfect at everything they do. Her main point is that you should strive to excel – but more importantly others do not have a right to impede you. Said another way, you have no right put obstacles in someone’s way. If a high school student wants to take an after school job in field that interests her, the school district does not have the right to demand 100 hours of community service as a condition of her degree (as an example).

  4. wow! I am just glad I found this blog! this will be a lot of fun to read and observe! In my opinion, the only flaw with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of ‘Objectivism’ is just that – it’s an ‘objective’ way of life. There’s no space or scope for people to interpret or experience it in their own right. You’re either a part of it if you believe all of it, or you aren’t! There’s no half-way and there’s no 99%s; it has GOT to be a 100% affirmation.

    While I am a firm believer in integrity with creative or intellectual property. I hate it when I write something and someone assumes self-imposed power to modify and edit it! Yet, I believe there’s genuine scope for people to be allowed to experience something as tangibly life changing as this theory is, in their own way. Adopt and exercise in your own way! There’re no trophies being handed out to people who are ardent Objectivists, nor does the ‘other half’ get any toffees for not being part of this seemingly elitist group. I think life and society has changed drastically since the times Rand wrote these classics. These books have had a life-changing impact on me, and yet sometimes I believe she went overboard and lost faith in humanity far too soon.

    Also, to address one point in this conversation, man is a part of nature – a part of the whole. Yes, by the gifts provided to us by evolution, we also carry the unenviable duty of enhancing and harnessing nature’s bounty to our own and everybody else’s benefit, but eventually, these things were handed down to us by a greater force – whatever that may be. Rand’s work has seldom addressed the issue of our beginnings. What would we do, if we weren’t presented by nature’s gifts? What do all the men and women, who were born without the exceptional talents of our protagonists do? How do they answer the question ‘Why Me’? What about the massively daunting sense of unfairness of our beginnings? We don’t really have control over what we are born with and without do we?

    There’s a lot that goes unexplained with Rand’s work, and yet, her’s is the most sublime piece of work I have read in all my ripe 22 years of life. Kudos to everything she imagined, created and observed – there’s one woman who certainly knew what she believed in and stuck by it fearlessly 🙂

    1. I can understand why some intellectuals who have read all of Rand’s work and understood it from its simplest from to the most complex concepts see ‘Objectivism’ as more of an Ideology than a Philosophy. But for someone who was born and raised in a way of life where he has always asked “Why?” in everything and reasoned every “word”(Love, Marriage, Sex, Work…etc,.) of its meaning.. and then reads Ayn Rand could easily corrolate and understand when and why ‘Objectivism’ could be an ideology or philosophy. Thanks for your response Sanket.

      1. Maybe I need to reiterate what I said below with an addition for the students of Objectivism! Everyone goes through a process of waking up. I did, you first discover something then start down that road of discovering ideas. Most people usually first discover conservativeism, then libertarianism then objectivism. But students of Objectivism from Kelly’s or Peikoff’s camp both need to http://www.readthebooklist.com to fully understand what she wrote otherwise they make mistakes like Sanket, David Kelly, and apparently the editor of The Objectivist Observer on principals discovered by Ayn Rand!
        The reason why is they skim over important parts not understanding the depth and miss many connections to fully integrate. But by reading the historical background in Economics, Political Science. Sociology, Psychology, and Philosophy presented in http://www.READTHEBOOKLIST.com it gets you to the point of full understanding or full integration of what she discovered. Then as you discard the rest of your previous intellectual baggage, misunderstandings or what simply is not true! Or just learn for the first time what is true you move further down that road to full understanding.
        Ayn Rand Applied the scientific method to philosophy for the first time and gave everyone the ability to figure out for themselves if an idea is correct or not! She even started at the axiomatic level with how ideas are formed and worked up from their in her works! So it is the act of understanding that process is first necessary. Figuring out that she is 100% correct and agreeing with her 100% is simple after that. ;]
        Rand was correct in everything because she started from scratch and figured out from the axiomatic level what is in reality right or wrong in ideas. Then applied them in her books and her life. The only thing that separates any of us is misunderstandings so you have to put in the work you do have to read and figure it out then you come to your own conclusion but with the knowledge to do so this time haha! So read the booklist https://www.facebook.com/readthebooklist
        Do not believe anything anybody wrote. Understand it! When you read all of Ayn Rand and both sides of the booklist http://www.READTHEBOOKLIST.com Only then can you understand that 100% of what she wrote is correct!
        You see guys, its not about being smart or perfect or always right or getting trophies haha…its about understanding and not allowing yourself to do anything immoral. The rest is pursuing your own happiness and that’s it. She gave us a way to do that perfectly haha!

  5. The Problem with everyone that disagrees with Ayn Rand’s ideas in her works is just understanding. I read all of her works in a short period time and all of philosophy history political science sociology psychology thousands of books in a 4 1/2 year period. When I woke up I found myself in a world that was upside down and backwards. Everything that I have been taught was good, moral, just, right, beautiful etc. was wrong, ugly, bad, and is horrible. It was like I was in a horror movie.

    When you finish reading all of her works you will want to read basically everything she wrote and listen to everything she said. You will completely understand beyond any shadow of any doubt! You will understand that everything she said was right because she thought about it and fixed all the mistakes for 60 something years ha ha. Plus the fact that she read everything too like I did. She stood on the shoulders of Giants. In philosophies case there was only one…Aristotle.

    This will help all of you, to go to http://www.readthebooklist.com and read the capital side of the booklist. The main problem is that the socialist side of the booklist has been conditioned, indoctrinated, and smashed into your brain. By osmosis, by guilt and by force because everybody and every institution from religion to schools and your parents have all taught you that what was wrong, socialist or slavery is actually right.

    Everyone goes through a process of waking up. I did, you first discover something the start down that road of discovering ideas. Usually first conservative, then libertarian then objectivist as you discard all your previous intellectual baggage or what simply is not true! Or just learn for the first time what is true.

    Rand was correct in everything because she started from scratch and figured out from the axiomatic level what is in reality right or wrong in ideas. Then applied them in her books. The only thing that separates any of us is misunderstandings so you have to put in the work you do have to read and figure it out then you come to your own conclusion but with the knowledge to do so this time haha!

    We always say at http://www.readthebooklist.com read both sides then decide! The choice is clear its freedom or slavery life or death it really is that stark and sheer.

    You see its not about being smart or perfect or always right…its about understanding and not allowing yourself to do anything immoral. The rest is pursuing your own happiness!

    1. Ty Price – I do not claim to be in complete understanding of Ayn Rand’s concepts. I’m very fascinated by her work, but I must concede that her stuff is emotionally too taxing to read at a stretch. I generally need a dosage of light reading between two of her books in order to really do justice to her stuff.
      However, in my acceptedly limited understanding of her concepts, I have a question for you! Let’s say I exist with a limitation by birth – say a handicapped body or an under-developed mind. Please explain my role in an Ayn Rand-istic society and explain how I am at fault for my condition. My greatest question mark with her work, is simply this – it is all good and easy to mention that we should all get what you deserve, our worth should be determined by our abilities and standards and I agree willingly; but explain which part of any of her major books explain the causality of our beginnings. You’re only born with what you have! You may be born ridiculously poor and stupid – does that mean you will be stamped out by those superior than you are? What is to be their role? How are they to step out of their predicament, if they are not provided by the means of nature? You do understand, our world doesn’t provide easy opportunities to even the gifted, what exactly is the mode of survival for the destitute and gift-less?

      1. Also, I want to re-iterate here, I am not an anti-Rand-ist! In fact, I really REALLY am pro objectivism. I just feel there are some aspects of our society, our beginnings and our existence, that her work do not clearly explain. And if they do, then maybe I’ve missed a point and I would only be grateful to whoever can point them out to me!

      2. Haha, I think you are asking the wrong question. You should ask what do I want to do as a limited or handicapped individual at no fault of my own. Their are no rolls in a truly free society. Where everyone is equal under the law. Capitalism is simply the result of removing force from human relationships. Or Liberty and freedom put into political practice. That’s it. As a limited or handicapped individual you do what you want to. Rise to the highest level you can based on your abilities. Benefiting massively from all the freed geniuses around you! In a truly free society their is no poverty or unemployment. Just reference the US in 1860 and Hong Kong even still today. Both were not fully free/capitalist but were and are relatively close. Both had to massively import labor to fill needs.

        “In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.

        When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.

        When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing.

        The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time. If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics’ Middle Ages, the whole of your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your hands in days and days of effort. How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by your physical labor and that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.” Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

        The questions you ask are answered throughout Rand’s fiction and non fiction. And put together cohesively in a book written by Leonard Peikoff called Objectivism The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). Rand made him re write it 4 times so it was really her book. That book starts at the axiomatic level and works up in all aspects of philosophy. I recommend your read all of her fiction and non fiction first because it is heavily referenced.

  6. i think what causes some people to be so anti Ryan, is that, on some level, they recognized it’s all about ” assuming self responsibility ” and they are not ready for that.

    1. I’m not sure they recognize it. Maybe sense it. Do you think it’s easier for young people to take that responsibility?

  7. “The universe does not revolve around mankind”. But what about the universe in relation to the individual? Things exist. How are they to matter to me if I dont’t look at them, learn about them, think about them? After all, all of these things somehow relate/revolve around me. I can not be omnipotent. The point is to understand as much as possible to quench my taste for life. If i dont’t at least try to do that, then what’s the point of living at all? That’s what all of Rand’s heroes did. They just did it really really well. If you read Romantic Manifesto, you understand that she views art as an ideal. She makes it as beautiful as her mind allows. It’s not a prescription we must follow. But, the laws of nature are a prescription. ” I am, I think, I will.” You exist, you chose what you think about, and then you chose an action. Man has this unique ability. Just like a flower grows toward sunlight, we thirst for knowledge. Embrace it, and you’ll be happy.

  8. Considering that I invented a much more efficient engine which solves the gas turbine temperature problem and considering that I have worked out the details of a unified, general theory of the universe, the Reciprocal System, I could be you know who–or a close relative….

  9. Dear Readers ( both who agree or disagree with the classics of Ayn Rand ) , I am happy to see that such a page exists on Internet where a responder named Sakshi could write what she didn’t believe in the Ayn Rand works. well all I would say is the following:
    We may agree to disagree, Sakshi tried doing it , its good for her , yet the masterpieces from Ayn Rand and the underlying philosophy remains timeless. Even though in minority , but Howard Roak do exist in our society today in various forms. I am glad I read both the novels , the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. These two books were gifted to me by a close friend 4 years back. I was told to read the books well to understand why do I face, whatever I face and whatever goes on inside me. It was hinted to me that few of my beliefs are similar to the main lead in the book fountainhead and that I need to read the first novel so that I can start accepting who-ever I am and whatever my beliefs are. After reading the novel, which took me quite sometime, I went through it very slowly, I called up my friend and told her that I don’t think I am like Howard Roak, the character is too idealistic.Then she told me that it seems I couldn’t get a bigger picture of his personality and I should read Fountainhead again. I even downloaded the movie on the same novel and with the same name. Once I saw the movie and read the novel again, it started sinking in me and then realized and could correlate with whatever I faced in my life till date. I could begin to understand why i am mis-understood so much , why I cant go along with some people. I am glad, I read the 2 novels. I feel I know myself better now. Regarding this page, I shall stay in touch with the readers here-on. thank you all, have a nice day. God Bless

    1. The works of Ayn Rand saves the lives of creative geniuses. In our world wide socialist society which tries to cut down the tall poppies etc., creates insanity in some and death in the most intelligent. I have a friend who after reading her works said he was literally going insane.

      He had figured out certain thing were correct even though everyone around him were saying it was not true and even very wrong. It caused him to continually question himself and re evaluate his conclusions. But always coming to the same conclusion, at the same time thinking he could not be right when everyone was so passionately accusing him of doing wrong. That is when he read and understood what a nightmare he was enduring!

      Living in a situation like this will make you sick and eventually kill you. Being under the stress of dealing with people like that, the consistent re evaluation, and the immense pressure his massive business placed on him etc. He said I literally saved his life by introducing him to the philosophy of LIFE (Objectivism)! The massive stress I described here is why Steve Jobs is dead he lived in the exact environment!

  10. Interesting discussion, I’m not a total convert though for two reasons: in her two most famous works she never talks about the role of parenting and the that Rand dodges or glosses over he organizing principle in a thriving society.
    .There must be certain collective understandings between people in order for the individual to thrive. Some compromises seem necessary.

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