The obvious objection against Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is that it promotes the kind of selfishness that most of us try to avoid. This objection can simply be overcome by actually reading the book, which argues for an alternative definition of selfishness: A self-interest that is a given, for you and me alike. Atlas Shrugged illustrates that our choice is not if but how we care for ourselves. Which depends a great deal on whether we fully own our self-interest authentically, or try to hide and deny it.

But if Atlas Shrugged just advocates making life more wonderful through embracing who we already are—which encompasses giving to others for our true fulfillment, rather than out of psychological-, social- or authoritarian pressure—how can anyone who praises a book sharing these spiritual values ever act out of extreme divisiveness?

An irresistible eagerness to find an answer to this question was fueled by several tragic events authored by people who affiliated with communities that claimed to be inspired by Ayn Rand’s literary work. Among those events were, for example, the 2011 Norway attacks and the Charlottesville car attack. This prompted me to read and study Atlas Shrugged, in the hope of either being able to discard a causal relationship between the book and these tragedies, or to learn something that could perhaps point to effective strategies for preventing further divisiveness, suffering and death.

To be sure, throughout Atlas Shrugged there is a strong “us” versus “them” attitude, combined with a black-and-white separation between the exaggeratedly-painted opposites. However, an exaggerated opposition between good and evil is pretty much the de facto framework for any story in which an archetypal hero is put up against a villain. And dichotomy can be a useful tool to explain important distinctions that are more subtle and nuanced in real life. This familiar attitude didn’t strike me as something particularly disconcerting that isn’t already part and parcel of our mainstream cultural appetite for a binary answer to the question “who’s right?”.

It is not until near the end of the book, however, that a far more insidious rhetoric starts coming out of the woodwork: A cunning twist to an ancient relic that is as old as the hills, which has repeatedly been used to justify any atrocity; irrespective of philosophy, religious creed or political faction. The rhetoric emerges as a philosophical resolution to a dilemma that threatened to blemish the absolute moral innocence of Altlas Shrugged’s protagonists. 


This article focuses on the psychological aspects of Atlas Shrugged. It is not meant as a critique on its political aspects, nor on its main philosophical thesis. On the contrary, I believe that the political and social issues discussed in Atlas Shrugged are very much relevant for dealing with contemporary issues, today.

One writer’s point of view is rarely 100% useful to anyone else but themselves. And whenever it does seem like that, maybe that’s just a sign that some more skepticism is warranted.  It’s your responsibility to pick out the cherries that seem useful to you and ignore the rest. Just because you respect someone, doesn’t mean you have to hold everything they say as true. And just because you don’t like someone, doesn’t mean that everything they say is the exact opposite of the truth.

Discarding an intricate and historical piece of work, just because it contains some elements you fear or dislike, may be a very unfortunate missed opportunity for learning and growth. By informing about what I see as psychologically dangerous in the rhetoric of Atlas Shrugged, and thus protecting potential readers through the power of awareness, I am hoping to let people feel safer and more confident in taking on an open-minded view of the story and benefit from the unique perspective it provides.

A Synopsys of Atlas Shrugged

In the story of Atlas Shrugged, the whole world has been taken over by a specific type of runaway socialism in which earnings are distributed according to people’s—and companies’—perceived need. Those who are the most productive are forced to give away their profits and work harder, without receiving any gratitude. The primary strategy for enforcing self-sacrifice is through social pressure at the individual level as well as by the mainstream media. This kind of social pressure has recently also been described as ‘cancel-culture’.

Because self-sacrifice is taken for granted rather than received with gratitude, it becomes more profitable to reduce one’s productivity, seem less capable and appear more needy. Negativity and denial of responsibility become the norm. The more one has to complain about, and the less control one claims to have over circumstances, the better one’s chances of getting a piece of the pie without others frowning upon the benefits one manages to obtain for oneself. Those who succumb to the attraction of this strategy are called “moochers” by Ayn Rand. Those who try to bend the rules of wealth distribution in their favor by leveraging their connections in the government are called “looters”.

To let companies with reduced productivity keep a ‘fair share’ of the market, legislation is put in place to limit the productivity of companies that are not yet running at a loss. The further the world falls into disarray and dilapidation, the more heavy-handed legislation becomes to equalize productivity towards the least productive company in each market. This obviously causes the economy to spiral down towards its inevitable destruction. It is not a question of if, but when modern society retrogresses back into pre-industrial conditions.

John Galt had witnessed the emerging trend of forced self-sacrifice from its inception at the company he was working for at the time. He immediately recognized the hopelessness and inevitability of the consequences, quit his job and disappeared. Rather than trying to fight an impossible battle, John Galt decided to hasten the process of society’s inevitable collapse—to bring about a full reboot from which to start over as quickly as possible—by organising a covert strike.

Galt’s plan is to persuade all of the capable industrial- and intellectual leaders to withdraw from society and take refuge in a secret village hidden deep within the Rocky Mountains. Most of them are easily convinced, since their efforts are not appreciated and their businesses are quickly becoming an impossible struggle for survival. Unfortunately, the woman who is single-handedly holding up the country’s most successful railway service—Dagny Taggart—turns out to be the most difficult, yet the most important person to be convinced to join the strike…

Jonn Galt’s Rejection and Condonement of Violence

Atlas Shrugged tries to offer a solution to achieve lasting peace, freedom and justice for all. I think most people would agree with the importance of these values. The only question is how the offered solution would work out in practice. In particular, one might fear a contradiction between freedom and justice. Crime and fraud are crucial issues to address by anyone wanting to move towards more freedom at the level of the individual. Dependence on a centralized authority cannot be overcome without an effective solution to prevent people from falling victim to cruelty and greed.

In his speech towards the end of the story, John Galt tries to address this by laying out a mandate about doing no harm:

[page 973] The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force.

[page 978] The political system we will build is contained in a single moral premise: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force. Every man will stand or fall, live or die by his rational judgment. 

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER VII: “THIS IS JOHN GALT SPEAKING”.

So no physical force is to be used against anyone… except… when the other started first… But how to judge what force from someone else warrants the use of physical force? And how to decide how much and what kind of counterforce is warranted? Luckily Ayn Rand provides some examples to go by. Such as from protagonist Hank Rearden, when he doesn’t appreciate his wife Lillian’s response to his affair with Dagny Taggart:

[page 490] “I should have known that she was just a bitch who wanted you in the same way as any bitch would want you—because you are fully as expert in bed as you are at a desk, if I am a judge of such matters. But she would appreciate that better than I, since she worships expertness of any kind and since she has probably been laid by every section hand on her railroad!”
She appeared to him suddenly as some inconsequential presence that had to be dealt with at the moment. “Lillian,” he said, in an unstressed voice that did not grant her even the honor of anger, “you are not to speak of her to me. If you ever do it again, I will answer you as I would answer a hoodlum: I will beat you up. Neither you nor anyone else is to discuss her.” 

Atlas shrugged Part two, CHAPTER V: ACCOUNT OVERDRAWN.

The message here seems to be that an unpleasant feeling, such as humiliation, can be regarded as caused by a psychological force coming from the person who’s actions were the trigger for the feeling. Furthermore, Hank judges that Lillian speaking of Dagny (the trigger) warrants physically beating her, in the future. Would this be the objectively right course of action, according to Galt’s mandate? Although Hank’s unpleasant feelings were not just focused on his own needs but primarily on meeting Dagny Taggart’s need for respect, the question still remains whether the proposed means should be viewed as the right course of action to meet those needs.

Another important question that is not answered here: what should Hank do if his physical beating doesn’t achieve the desired result of stopping Lillian from saying more things that trigger unpleasant feelings in him? This is also highly unlikely, since the story is that Lillian had made it her life purpose to psychologically destroy her husband.

If Lillian won’t stop, should Hank then keep beating her? Should he eventually have to beat her to death? That would indeed stop Lillian from triggering any feelings in him, once and for all. Would that also be the objectively right course of action, according to Galt’s mandate? Luckily, rather than trying to fully ‘correct’ the injustice he perceives in Lillian’s behavior, Hank opts for a divorce instead. 

Some examples of actual retributive violence are given by descriptions of how people get inspired by John Galt’s speech to stand up for themselves or others:

[page 989] The attendants of a hospital in Illinois showed no astonishment when a man was brought in, beaten up by his elder brother, who had supported him all his life: the younger man had screamed at the elder, accusing him of selfishness and greed—just as the attendants of a hospital in New York City showed no astonishment at the case of a woman who came in with a fractured jaw: she had been slapped in the face by a total stranger, who had heard her ordering her five-year old son to give his best toy to the children of neighbors. 

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER VIII: THE EGOIST.

Apparently, beating people up is the preferred kind of counter-force in Atlas Shrugged. And it seems like Ayn Rand’s idea of someone else starting the use of force allows for wide interpretation. If these are just Ayn Rand’s own ideas about what kind of start-force justifies retribution, can you imagine how a paranoid reader of Atlas Shrugged might apply Galt’s mandate, when they believe others are plotting against them?

Rather than providing a realistic resolution to a perceived contradiction between freedom and justice, so far this all basically just seems like nothing more than ‘good news about our bad habits’. It confirms that retaliation is okay. And that’s great, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the taste of a sweet old slice of revenge pie? Just watch any Hollywood movie and you’ll get the exact same message.

Nevertheless, giving a blessing to retaliation doesn’t change anything fundamental about the way someone justifies harming others. So although I don’t exactly regard Galt’s ideas of achieving justice to be peace prize material—and I find Hank Rearden’s threat with domestic violence deeply disturbing—it doesn’t really make Atlas Shrugged stand out to me as a major concern for inciting violence. By which I mean: no more so—but certainly no less—than the extent to which mainstream narratives already incite violence through not only justifying, but even glorifying retributive violence.

Unfortunately, Ayn Rand wasn’t done here, because John Galt’s condonement of retributive force doesn’t apply to knowingly making a decision that will cause suffering and death to people who didn’t deliberately or directly harm you. Something more was needed to fully sanction the protagonists’ course of action in the book…

The Moral Dilemma of the Story Plot

As I explained in my earlier blog Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand’s Unintended Advocacy for Collectivism, Ayn Rand needed to tie up two loose ends of her story: On the one hand, the strike by the protagonists of the story is painted as an innocent, righteous, moral withdrawal of consent with evil. On the other hand, the story rigorously emphasizes over and over again that the strikers are the only ones capable of providing the products and services that are essential for everyone’s survival. Hence the title “Atlas Shrugged”.

Therefore, the strike clearly cannot simply be regarded as a passive withdrawal. It has to be seen for what it is: an assertive action that inevitably leads to the large-scale loss of lives. Ayn Rand did not make any significant effort of denying this. In fact, to make it clear beyond doubt that she was fully aware of this possible objection, Rand let the antagonist Dr. Floyd Ferris almost literally spell out this moral dilemma in a futile attempt to pressure our hero John Galt into compliance:

[page 1020] “It’s the question of moral responsibility that you might not have studied sufficiently, Mr. Galt,” Dr. Ferris was drawling in too airy, too forced a tone of casual informality. “You seem to have talked on the radio about nothing but sins of commission. But there are also the sins of omission to consider. To fail to save a life is as immoral as to murder. The consequences are the same — and since we must judge actions by their consequences, the moral responsibility is the same. 

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER VIII: THE EGOIST.

Any Rand came up with a bulletproof answer (literally), and you’d probably never guess what it is. Or at least I may hope you wouldn’t…

To explain the moral dilemma of the strike in Atlas Shrugged in a way that is easier to understand, I thought it might be helpful to distil it into an extension of the popular Trolley Problem meme.  Below I will first shortly recap the original Trolley Problem before applying it to Atlas Shrugged.

The Original Trolley Problem

In the original Trolley Problem, a runaway trolley is about to kill 5 people on the main track. Yet it so happens that you, as the only bystander, has the choice to pull the lever of a switch that will divert the trolley onto a side track, allowing those 5 people to happily live another day. Unfortunately, your action would kill one person on the side track who could have lived a happy life, if it weren’t for your action.

In terms of avoiding guilt and aspiring innocence, the dilemma of the trolley problem comes down to the choice between two evils: Don’t do anything and let 5 people die in the hope of avoiding guilt by denying responsibility, or save 5 lives out of 6 while taking on an undeniable responsibility for the death of one, making it more challenging for yourself to experience absolute innocence.

In a study by J. D. Greene et al. people were found to be less uncomfortable to imagine sacrificing one person to save 5 by pulling a lever than to push a  large person off of a bridge by hand (with the large body of the sacrificed person preventing the trolley from killing the other 5). Apparently, causing a person to die remotely through a mechanical connection is generally found less disturbing than up close by physical touch.

And is it any wonder that many people are deterred by a close-up experience of causing harm to someone else? Is it hard to imagine that we carry a ‘selfish’ emotional instinct to enjoy seeing another being thrive and to protect them from harm? Such social assumptions about human nature don’t sound far-fetched or idealistic to me at all.

Our social instincts generally cause our short-term responses to contribute to better outcomes in the long run. But that doesn’t mean we should always act on them without taking into account broader and longer-term considerations as well. Better opportunities often emerge when viewing a situation from a more detached perspective.

The Trolley Problem of the Strike

As explained in the synopsis above, the world in Atlas Shrugged is slowly but gradually spiraling down towards its inevitable self-destruction, causing many people to eventually, in the long run, die of starvation or of negligence with respect to health and safety. Furthermore, the social pressure that is used to coerce people into compliance causes some people to commit suicide—exemplified by Cherryl Brooks and Eddy Willers.

John Galt’s strike is the choice to free himself and his fellow strikers from being forced to work harder and harder to compensate for the dwindling efficacy of those who have succumbed to the temptation of faking inability. The effect that the strike has on the rest of the world is twofold: On the one hand, the purpose of the strike is to divert the trolley away from the main track that represents the current state of society: oppression against the individual pursuit of creativity, purpose, meaning and prosperity, which leads to widespread unhappiness and loss of lives by suicides. On the other hand, the strike also hastens the mass loss of life caused by the consequential immanent collapse of society—represented by the larger number of people tied up on the side track of the trolley.

To be sure, the choice is not treated lightly in the book. The story tells about how some of the strikers-to-be had to go through a tormenting phase in which they had to face the dilemma—to only be allowed to remain in the refuge village if they were fully convinced of Galt’s solution.

It may seem that a worship of selfishness, the guaranteed eventual collapse of society and the potential to greatly enrich the lives of those who manage to survive, should be more than enough reasons to justify the protagonists freeing themselves to save what will be left of the world after the hastened societal collapse. However, this clearly still wasn’t enough justification to grant moral perfection to the protagonists in Atlas Shrugged.

Perhaps it was that Ayn Rand had the ambition to not just advocate for a lesser evil. That Rand hoped to offer a system of reasoning that not only achieves a better outcome for all, but also promises absolute innocence to those who act upon it. In other words: That Ayn was hoping to offer the Holy Grail of moral reasoning; to divert the trolley to the side-track without any remorse for the consequential loss of life over there. But I can only speculate, as I can only read Ayn Rand’s books, not her mind.

Assuming that we all agree that individual lives cannot be considered replaceable—that we cannot substitute any one particular person’s life with any amount of other lives—then the only complete moral solution to the Trolley Problem involves a way of reasoning that concludes that the value of the lives lost on the sidetrack equals no more—and possibly less—than zero. In other words: it’s not enough to value five lives as superior to one life, nor to value one life as superior to many others. In order to have one of the two choices of the Trolley Problem be a morally perfect choice, any single life that is lost has to be regarded as absolutely worthless. Not just worth less in comparison to the lives saved, but actually have no value whatsoever, in and of itself.

This is exactly what Ayn Rand has tried to do, by making it a presupposition that all strikers had to accept in order to (want to) join the strike.

Galt’s Argument for Worthless Lives

On the one hand, John Galt advocates doing no harm to others. On the other hand, his strike is undeniably going to cause the loss of many lives. As explained in terms of the Trolley Problem above, the only way to argue for the strike to be a totally immaculate moral action is to argue against the value of the lives that will be lost.

John Galt tries to achieve this by referring to the mainstream pursuit of zero. But, perhaps even more effective to solve the Trolley Problem, he argues that people are in the literal pursuit of death, without openly admitting that they are. During his radio broadcast John Galt repeats this several times. To give just a few examples:

[page 927] “(..) man’s desire to live is not automatic: your secret evil today is that that is the desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. (..)
   “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal.

[page 931] “Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict ‘It is.’ Non-thinking is an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out reality. But existence exists; reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper. By refusing to say ‘It is,’ you are refusing to say ‘I am.’ By suspending your judgment, you are negating your person. When a man declares: ‘Who am I to know?’—he is declaring: ‘Who am I to live?’
   “This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero.
   “To the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise directing his actions. To the extent to which he is irrational, the premise directing his actions is death.

[page 934] “(..) I am proud of my own value and of the fact that I wish to live.
   “This wish—which you share, yet submerge as an evil—is the only remnant of the good within you, but it is a wish one must learn to deserve.

[page 937] “You who are worshippers of the zero—you have never discovered that achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. (..)
   “You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.
   “You, who have lost the concept of the difference, you who claim that fear and joy are incentives of equal power—and secretly add that fear is the more ‘practical’—you do not wish to live, and only fear of death still holds you to the existence you have damned. (..) the greater your terror the greater your dread of the only act that could save you: thinking. The purpose of your struggle is not to know, not to grasp or name or hear the thing I shall now state to your hearing: that yours is the Morality of Death.
   “Death is the standard of your values, death is your chosen goal (..)

[page 949] (..) An action not caused by an entity would be caused by a zero, which would mean a zero controlling a thing, a nonentity controlling an entity, the non-existent ruling the existent—which is the universe of your teachers’ desire, the cause of their doctrines of causeless action, the reason of their revolt against reason, the goal of their morality, their politics, their economics, the ideal they strive for: the reign of the zero.


Later, the unadmitted lack of a will to live is illustrated when John Galt is held captive and his adversaries are trying to persuade him to cooperate:

 [page 1011] “Oh, that’s just theory!” snapped Mr. Thompson, a little too sharply; his eyes were roving about the room, in the manner of a substitute for pacing; he glanced at the door, as if longing to escape.
   “You say that if we don’t give up the system, we’ll perish?” he asked.
   “Then, since we’re holding you, you will perish with us?”
   “Don’t you want to live?”
   “Passionately.” He saw the snap of a spark in Mr. Thompson’s eyes and smiled. “I’ll tell you more: I know that I want to live much more intensely than you do. I know that that’s what you’re counting on. I know that you, in fact, do not want to live at all. I want it. And because I want it so much, I will accept no substitute.”
   Mr. Thompson jumped to his feet. “That’s not true!” he cried. “My not wanting to live—it’s not true! Why do you talk like that?” He stood, his limbs drawn faintly together, as if against a sudden chill. “Why do you say such things? I don’t know what you mean.” 

[page 1013-1014] “You’re a fine bunch of intellectuals, you are,” said Mr. Thompson scornfully. “I thought you could talk to him in his own lingo—but he’s scared the lot of you. Ideas? Where are your ideas now? Do something! Make him join us! Win him over!”
   “Trouble is, he doesn’t want anything,” said Mouch. “What can we offer a man who doesn’t want anything?”
   “You mean,” said Kinnan, “what can we offer a man who wants to live?”
   “Shut up!” screamed James Taggart. “Why did you say that? What made you say it?”
   “What made you scream?” asked Kinnan.
   “Keep quiet, all of you!” ordered Mr. Thompson.

Atlas shrugged Part THREE, CHAPTER VIII: “THE EGOIST”.

John Galt doesn’t just claim that people’s life-objective is obtaining a value of zero, but that they regard their own lives as having a negative value, because they’d rather be dead than alive. According to this reasoning, causing their lives to end doesn’t take anything they want away from them. It actually gives them what they are covertly pursuing anyway.

However, the character of Dagny Taggart is the epitome of the skeptic who thinks for herself; who never just takes someone else’s word on anything.  Not even the particular bloke she happens to be in love with at one moment. Thus, in a way, the entire story can be seen as carrying even the most  skeptic reader along on Dagny’s journey towards accepting John Galt’s moral solution to the Trolley Problem. Ironically, Dagny Taggart is the operating vice-​president of one of the largest railway companies of the United States. If anyone is capable of deciding about the best course of a trolley, it would be Dagny.

Dagny’s Ultimatum Against the Strike

Dagny Taggart is the personification of the perfect morality, in the eyes of Ayn Rand. The problem with Dagny is that she is actually a true socialist. Obviously not in the paradoxical sense of advocating for a superior authority to enforce equality. Instead, Dagny takes responsibility for doing what she does best with her railroad network in order to keep people alive for as long as she thinks she is helping at least one person. She doesn’t exclude anyone from her care. She doesn’t say: “except for moochers” or “except for looters”. And this is what makes it impossible for Dagny to join Galt’s strike and let society collapse in on itself.

The first time that this becomes clear is when Dagny stands in the secret hidden valley and she sees Hank Rearden’s plane flying away, after a failed search for her. Soon after, she makes her declaration about her reason to leave the refuge of the strikers and return to society:

[page 735] But the pull of the outer world, the pull that drew her to follow the plane, was not the image of Hank Rearden—she knew that she could not return to him, even if she returned to the world—the pull was the vision of Hank Rearden’s courage and the courage of all those still fighting to stay alive. 

[page 740] “If you want to know the one reason that’s taking me back, I’ll tell you; I cannot bring myself to abandon to destruction all the greatness of the world, all that which was mine and yours, which was made by us and is still ours by right—because I cannot believe that men can refuse to see, that they can remain blind and deaf to us forever, when the truth is ours and their lives depend on accepting it. They still love their lives—and that is the uncorrupted remnant of their minds. So long as men desire to live, I cannot lose my battle.”
   “Do they?” said Hugh Akston softly. “Do they desire it? No, don’t answer me now. I know that the answer was the hardest thing for any of us to grasp and to accept. Just take that question back with you, as the last premise left for you to check.
   “You’re leaving as our friend,” said Midas Mulligan, “and we’ll be fighting everything you’ll do, because we know you’re wrong, but it’s not you that we’ll be damning.”
   “You’ll come back,” said Hugh Akston, “because yours is an error of knowledge, not a moral failure, not an act of surrender to evil, but only the last act of being victim to your own virtue. (..)”

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER II: thE UTOPIA OF GREED.

Dagny Taggart demands empirical evidence of Galt’s solution to the Trolley Problem before even thinking about pulling the switch. She finds it hard to believe that there is no man or woman left behind who has a will to live. In the following chapters, a step by step revelation of evidence is brought to Dagny’s attention, in support of Galt’s claim of people’s non-humanness and their lack of a will to live.

The first time Dagny starts to question the humanness of others occurs at the dinner table with the lawmakers who had invited her to join the discussion on how to deal with the impending crisis:

[page 868] She saw what they wanted and to what goal their “instincts,” which they called unaccountable, were leading them. She saw that Eugene Lawson, the humanitarian, took pleasure at the prospect of human starvation—and Dr. Ferris, the scientist, was dreaming of the day when men would return to the hand-plow. Incredulity and indifference were her only reaction: incredulity, because she could not conceive of what would bring human beings to such a state—indifference, because she could not regard those who reached it, as human any longer.

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER V: THEIR BROTHERS’ KEEPERS.

Eddie Willers is Dagny’s ever-helpful assistant at Taggart Transcontinental. Eddie’s character represents Ayn Rand’s most respectable version of ‘the common man’: Loyal, understanding, diligent and hard-working. But he depends on Dagny to solve complicated technicalities. On their way home from what was supposed to be a government television broadcast about the current state of affairs—yet got jammed by the pirate broadcast of John Galt’s epic speech—Eddie questions Dagny:

 [page 987] “You’re going to quit, one of these days, and vanish, aren’t you?”
   “Why do you say that?” It was almost a cry.
   “Aren’t you?”
   She did not answer at once; when she did, the sound of despair was present in her voice only in the form of too tight a monotone: “Eddie, if I quit, what would happen to the Taggart trains?”
   “There would be no Taggart trains within a week. Maybe less.”
   “There will be no looters’ government within ten days. Then men like Cuffy Meigs will devour the last of our rails and engines. Should I lose the battle by failing to wait one more moment? How can I let it go—Taggart Transcontinental, Eddie—go forever, when one last effort can still keep it in existence? If I’ve stood things this long, I can stand them a little longer. Just a little longer. I’m not helping the looters. Nothing can help them now.”
   “What are they going to do?”
   “I don’t know. What can they do? They’re finished.”
   “I suppose so.”
   “Didn’t you see them? They’re miserable, panic-stricken rats, running for their lives.”
   “Does it mean anything to them?”
   “Their lives.”
   “They’re still struggling, aren’t they? But they’re through and they know it.”
   “Have they ever acted on what they know?”
   “They’ll have to. They’ll give up. It won’t be long. And we’ll be here to save whatever’s left.”

Atlas shrugged Part THREE, CHAPTER VIII: “THE EGOIST”.

Dagny still has hope for the leaders of the country to give up their hopeless struggle to control wealth-creation and wealth-distribution while actually destroying it. She still assumes that they must give up because they care for their own lives, while Eddy questions whether their own lives mean anything to them.

When Dagny decides to visit John Galt, he is captured by intelligence agents who have been following Dagny. In order to not become suspect herself, Dagny pretends to their adversaries that she hates John Galt and has intentionally allowed for John Galt to be caught. Part of her act is that she insists on getting the promised $500,000 dollar reward for handing Galt over to the government.

When Galt’s adversaries become desperate about convincing John Galt to save them, it starts to dawn on Dagny that they might end up killing John Galt if he refuses to cooperate. And since the assumption of the story is that everyone knows that John Galt is the only person who can save the world, the question of whether people want to live becomes synonymous to the question whether people want John Galt to live:

 [page 1016] Thin, single and hot, like the burning pressure of a wire within her, like a needle selecting her course, was her only concern: the thought of his safety. The rest was a blur of shapeless dissolution, half-acid, half fog.
   But this—she thought with a shudder—was the state in which they lived, all those people whom she had never understood, this was the state they desired, this rubber reality, this task of pretending, distorting, deceiving, with the credulous stare of some Mr. Thompson’s panic-bleary eyes as one’s only purpose and reward. Those who desired this state—she wondered—did they want to live?

 [page 1017] Were she able to feel—she thought as she walked through the concourse of the Terminal—she would know that the heavy indifference she now felt for her railroad was hatred. She could not get rid of the feeling that she was running nothing but freight trains: the passengers, to her, were not living or human. It seemed senseless to waste such enormous effort on preventing catastrophes, on protecting the safety of trains carrying nothing but inanimate objects. She looked at the faces in the Terminal: if he were to die, she thought, to be murdered by the rulers of their system, that these might continue to eat, sleep and travel—would she work to provide them with trains? If she were to scream for their help, would one of them rise to his defense? Did they want him to live, they who had heard him?
   The check for five hundred thousand dollars was delivered to her office, that afternoon; it was delivered with a bouquet of flowers from Mr. Thompson. She looked at the check and let it flutter down to her desk: it meant nothing and made her feel nothing, not even a suggestion of guilt. It was a scrap of paper, of no greater significance than the ones in the office wastebasket. Whether it could buy a diamond necklace or the city dump or the last of her food, made no difference. It would never be spent. It was not a token of value and nothing it purchased could be a value. But this—she thought—this inanimate indifference was the permanent state of the people around her, of men who had no purpose and no passion. This was the state of a non-valuing soul; those who chose it—she wondered—did they want to live?

Atlas shrugged Part THREE, CHAPTER VIII: “THE EGOIST”.

Through seeing her own indifference towards anything else but John Galt’s safety as sympathy for the indifference others seem to have towards the fate of John Galt (and thereby indirectly towards their own fate), Dagny gets a sense of a state of being in which one doesn’t value anything. Still, the question of whether this means that people don’t want to live remains up in the air…

A crucial piece of evidence comes from Eddie Willers, when he tells Dagny that he will travel to San Franciscoat the other side of the countryto solve an issue with the train terminal there. Both know that trying to save the railway is getting pointless, under the current state of national chaos. And both know that it is highly likely that this will be Eddie’s final journey:

[page 1022] “I can’t leave New York,” she answered stonily.
   “I know,” he said softly. “That’s why it’s I who’ll go there to straighten things out. At least, to find a man to put in charge.”
   “No! I don’t want you to. It’s too dangerous. And what for? It doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing to save.”
   “It’s still Taggart Transcontinental. I’ll stand by it, Dagny, wherever you go, you’ll always be able to build a railroad. I couldn’t. I don’t even want to make a new start. Not any more. Not after what I’ve seen. You should. I can’t. Let me do what I can.”
   “Eddie! Don’t you want” She stopped, knowing that it was useless.
“All right, Eddie. If you wish.”

Atlas shrugged Part THREE, CHAPTER VIII: “THE EGOIST”.

Although not fully spoken out, it seems obvious to me that the question Dagny started to ask Eddie Willers was “Don’t you want to live?”. Dagny stops half way her sentence because of realizing that she doesn’t really need Eddie to answer it. Now that even Ayn Rand’s most optimistic example of ‘the common man’ has revealed to Dagny that he doesn’t want to live, the evidence against her hope seems to be loud and clear.

Dagny’s actual decision to pull the switch on the Trolley Problem is made after she overheard Galt’s adversaries agreeing to use an experimental torture machine on him:

[page 1039] She knew. She knew what they intended doing and what it was within them that made it possible. They did not think that this would succeed. They did not think that Galt would give in; they did not want him to give in. They did not think that anything could save them now; they did not want to be saved. Moved by the panic of their nameless emotions, they had fought against reality all their livesand now they had reached a moment when at last they felt at home. They did not have to know why they felt it, they who had chosen never to know what they feltthey merely experienced a sense of recognition, since this was what they had been seeking, this was the kind of reality that had been implied in all of their feelings, their actions, their desires, their choices, their dreams. This was the nature and the method of the rebellion against existence and of the undefined quest for an unnamed Nirvana. They did not want to live; they wanted him to die.
   The horror she felt was only a brief stab, like the wrench of a switching perspective: she grasped that the objects she had thought to be human were not. She was left with a sense of clarity, of a final answer and of the need to act. He was in danger; there was no time and no room in her consciousness to waste emotion on the actions of the subhuman.


With her new found conviction on Galt’s reasoning that people who do not think for themselves do not really want to live anyway, Dagny is protected against suffering any emotional repercussions from shooting down a guard in order to save John Galt. The way Dagny ends the life of the guard is not illustrated anything like a Kill-Bill-style passion murder, nor as a regrettable collateral loss for a greater good. Instead, it is rendered more like the methodic application of euthanasia by a doctor with a signed consent from the incurably suffering patient:

[page 1049] Dagny walked straight toward the guard who stood at the door of “Project F”. Her steps sounded purposeful, even and open, ringing in the silence of the path among the trees. She raised her head to a ray of moonlight, to let him recognize her face.
   “Let me in,” she said.
   “No admittance,” he answered in the voice of a robot. “By order of Dr. Ferris.”
   “I am here by order of Mr. Thompson.”
   “Huh? . . . I . . . I don’t know anything about that.”
   “I do.”
   “I mean, Dr. Ferris hasn’t told me . . . ma’am.”
   “I am telling you.”
   “But I’m not supposed to take any orders from anyone excepting Dr. Ferris.”
   “Do you wish to disobey Mr. Thompson?”
   “Oh, no, ma’am! But . . . but if Dr. Ferris said to let nobody in, that means nobody” He added uncertainly and pleadingly, “doesn’t it?”
   “Do you know that my name is Dagny Taggart and that you’ve seen my pictures in the papers with Mr. Thompson and all the top leaders of the country?”
   “Yes, ma’am.”
   “Then decide whether you wish to disobey their orders.”
   “Oh, no, ma’am! I don’t!”
   “Then let me in.”
   “But I can’t disobey Dr. Ferris, either!”
   “Then choose.”
   “But I can’t choose ma’am! Who am I to choose?”
   “You’ll have to.”
   “Look,” he said hastily, pulling a key from his pocket and turning to the door, “I’ll ask the chief. He
   “No.” she said.
   Some quality in the tone of her voice made him whirl back to her: she was holding a gun pointed levelly at his heart.
   “Listen carefully,” she said. “Either you let me in or I shoot you. You may try to shoot me first, if you can. You have that choiceand no other. Now decide.”
   His mouth fell open and the key dropped from his hand.
   “Get out of my way,” she said.
   He shook his head frantically, pressing his back against the door. “Oh Christ, ma’am!” he gulped in the whine of a desperate plea. “I can’t shoot at you, seeing as you come from Mr. Thompson! And I can’t let you in against the word of Dr. Ferris! What am I to do? I’m only a little fellow! I’m only obeying orders! It’s not up to me!”
   “It’s your life.” she said.
   “If you let me ask the chief, he’ll tell me, he’ll
   “I won’t let you ask anyone.”
   “But how do I know that you really have an order from Mr. Thompson?”
   “You don’t. Maybe I haven’t. Maybe I’m acting on my ownand you’ll be punished for obeying me. Maybe I haveand you’ll be thrown in jail for disobeying. Maybe Dr. Ferris and Mr. Thompson agree about this. Maybe they don’tand you have to defy one or the other. These are the things you have to decide. There is no one to ask, no one to call, no one to tell you. You will have to decide them yourself.”
   “But I can’t decide! Why me?”
   “Because it’s your body that’s barring my way.”
   “But I can’t decide! I’m not supposed to decide!”
   “I’ll count to three,” she said. “Then I’ll shoot.”
   “Wait! Wait! I haven’t said yes or no!” he cried, cringing tighter against the door, as if immobility of mind and body were his best protection.
   “One” she counted; she could see his eyes staring at her in terror “Two” she could see that the gun held less terror for him than the alternative she offered“Three.”
   Calmly and impersonally, she, who would have hesitated to fire at an animal, pulled the trigger and fired straight at the heart of a man who had wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness.
   Her gun was equipped with a silencer; there was no sound to attract anyone’s attention, only the thud of a body falling at her feet.

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER X: IN thE NAME OF THE BEST WITHIN US.

The outcome of Dagny pulling the switch on the Trolley Problem is illustrated by the lights going out in New York, as the protagonists escape to their mountain refuge by airplane, where they will make their plans to rebuild society in ‘the right way’:

[page 1060] Looking down, they could see the last convulsions: the lights of the cars were darting through the streets, like animals trapped in a maze, frantically seeking an exit, the bridges were jammed with cars, the approaches to the bridges were veins of massed headlights, glittering bottlenecks stopping all motion, and the desperate screaming of sirens reached faintly to the height of the plane. The news of the continent’s severed artery had now engulfed the city, men were deserting their posts, trying, in panic, to abandon New York, seeking escape where all roads were cut off and escape was no longer possible.
   The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stationsand that the lights of New York had gone out.

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER X: IN thE NAME OF THE BEST WITHIN US.

To take away any doubt in the reader that Dagny made the wrong callthat the irrational, unadmitted lack of a will to live only applies to Galt’s torturersthe unspoken lack of Eddie Willers’ will to live is made explicit in his indirect suicide. When his train back from San Francisco breaks down in the middle of a desert, he refuses to be rescued by a passing caravan. He insists to stay behind, pretending to himself that he can fix the train:

[page 1067] “Come along!”
   “No,” said Eddie.
   The side-show barker waved his arm in an upward sweep at Eddie’s figure on the side of the engine above their heads. “I hope you know what you’re doing!” he cried, his voice half-threat, half-plea. “Maybe somebody will come this way to pick you up-next week or next month! Maybe! Who’s going to, these days?”
   “Get away from here,” said Eddie Willers.
   He climbed back into the cabwhen the wagons jerked forward and went swaying and creaking off into the night. He sat in the engineer’s chair of a motionless engine, his forehead pressed to the useless throttle. He felt like the captain of an ocean liner in distress, who preferred to go down with his ship rather than be saved by the canoe of savages taunting him with the superiority of their craft.
   Then, suddenly, he felt the blinding surge of a desperate, righteous anger. He leaped to his feet, seizing the throttle. He had to start this train; in the name of some victory that he could not name, he had to start the engine, moving.
   Past the stage of thinking, calculation or fear, moved by some righteous defiance, he was pulling levers at random, he was jerking the throttle back and forth, he was stepping on the dead man’s pedal, which was dead, he was groping to distinguish the form of some vision that seemed both distant and close, knowing only that his desperate battle was fed by that vision and was fought for its sake.
   Don’t let it go! his mind was cryingwhile he was seeing the streets of New YorkDon’t let it go!while he was seeing the lights of railroad signals Don’t let it go!while he was seeing the smoke rising proudly from factory chimneys, while he was struggling to cut through the smoke and reach the vision at the root of these visions.
   He was pulling at coils of wire, he was linking them and tearing them apartwhile the sudden sense of sunrays and pine trees kept pulling at the corners of his mind. Dagny!he heard himself crying soundlessly Dagny, in the name of the best within us! . . . He was jerking at futile levers and at a throttle that had nothing to move. . . . Dagny!—he was crying to a twelve-year-old girl in a sunlit clearing of the woodsin the name of the best within us, I must now start this train! . . . Dagny, that is what it was . . . and you knew it, then, but I didn’t . . . you knew it when you turned to look at the rails. . . . I said, “not business or earning a living” . . . but, Dagny, business and earning a living and that in man which makes it possiblethat is the best within us, that was the thing to defend . . . in the name of saving it, Dagny, I must now start this train. . . .
   When he found that he had collapsed on the floor of the cab and knew that there was nothing he could do here any longer, he rose and he climbed down the ladder, thinking dimly of the engine’s wheels, even though he knew that the engineer had checked them. He felt the crunch of the desert dust under his feet when he let himself drop to the ground. He stood still and, in the enormous silence, he heard the rustle of tumbleweeds stirring in the darkness, like the chuckle of an invisible army made free to move when the Comet was not. He heard a sharper rustle close by-and he saw the small gray shape of a rabbit rise on its haunches to sniff at the steps of a car of the Taggart Comet. With a jolt of murderous fury, he lunged in the direction of the rabbit, as if he could defeat the advance of the enemy in the person of that tiny gray form. The rabbit darted off into the darknessbut he knew that the advance was not to be defeated.
   He stepped to the front of the engine and looked up at the letters TT. Then he collapsed across the rail and lay sobbing at the foot of the engine, with the beam of a motionless headlight above him going off into a limitless night.

Atlas shrugged Part three, CHAPTER X: IN thE NAME OF THE BEST WITHIN US.

What Dagny concluded in the excerpt from chapter IX about the adversaries trying to convince John Galt by physical torture, could literally be said about Eddie trying to fix the train: He did not think that this would succeed. He did not think that the train would would give in; he did not want it to give in. He did not think that anything could save him now; he did not want to be saved.

And because Eddie Willers also represents the best of people on the sidetrack of the Trolley Problem explained above, this proves that no one on the side track really wants to live under these circumstances either. Therefore, no harm was done at all by Dagny pulling the switch and letting the disaster unfold as it has. Trolley Problem solved! Or is it?

Philosophy as a Fix of Conscience?

With Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tried to warn us to be vigilant for a philosophy that denies one’s own power and responsibility, because it stifles our potential to make life more wonderful within any reach of possibilities that we may find ourselves in. Rand wanted to protect us against the trap of a philosophy that blames others for our problems while rendering ourselves incapable of making any change of significance.

On the other hand, John Galt’s philosophy involves denying the value of the lives of people who do not comply to whatever he regards as ‘thinking for oneself’. Unfortunately, this reasoning can too easily be applied to anyone who disagrees with what seems perfectly rational from within the confines of one’s own—internally consistent—world of thought. Because if an opinion doesn’t fit into our own intricate, carefully constructed collection of mutually consistent understandings of how the world works, then a contradicting opinion must surely be irrational, right? And that must surely mean that the other person hasn’t done much effort to think their opinion through, right?

Then John Galt provides the final blow to conclude that the person we deem irrational doesn’t really want to live, even if they say so. So that we can comfortably conclude that people who disagree with our reality are not really human, even if they claim to be. And that losing their lives would only help them by being put out of their misery.

What these two juxtaposed philosophies in Atlas Shrugged have in common, however, is that they both revolve around a reasoning to clear our own conscience of guilt for how we may negatively affect the lives of others. Socialism, as it is rendered in Altlas Shrugged, involves the denial of guilt for passively harming others by not assuming any responsibility for harm done. Conversely, Galt’s alternative philosophy denies guilt for indirectly causing harm to people who can be deemed irrational, undecisive or suicidal. In other words: A guise of moral perfection by the denial of choice versus a guise of moral perfection by the denial of a regrettable outcome.

What this tells me, is to be vigilant for any philosophy or moral reasoning that offers the promise of a crystal clear conscience. If the purpose of a philosophy is to free our conscience of any intended or unintended negative consequences of our choices, then, at best, it is a complete waste of time. But it may also (inadvertently) open doors to the worst atrocities of human existence. Therefore, if anyone tells you “You have guilt, I have the solution”, my advice would be to run for the hills. Metaphorically speaking at least, as it may be a good idea to stay open for dialogue, whenever remotely possible. 

Recommending to steer clear of anyone promising to set you free from guilt may sound like the ultimate hypocrisy from someone who wrote a book called “The Guilt Delusion“. Humanity’s eternal love-hate-relationship with guilt is also exactly why I chose that title. However, what I tried to warn about in there is the risks of using guilt as a means of coercion.

For people who accept guilt, their desire for redemption can trap them into accepting someone else’s idea of ‘the right way’ of acting or thinking. Because when they are faced with ‘the evidence of their guilt’ in the fact that their choices indeed frequently do not lead to perfect outcomes, they are at risk of surrendering their responsibility and letting others decide for them what’s right or wrong instead. Even though following the crowd may lead to poor results, mediocrity can still be preferable to getting depressed from blaming yourself for your own misery, or getting ridiculed or attacked for sticking your neck out.

This temptation to take refuge from the social consequences of guilt by aligning our own behavior with collective behavior is the risk that Ayn Rand saw in socialism. On the other hand, people who instead make their own choices but then seek for a reasoning to defend those choices against guilt are incentivized to justify their actions, rather than to care about the regrettable consequences that their less-than-perfect choices may have.

Being a nonviolence-promoting, capitalistic, plant-based, car-loving, permaculture-aspiring, computer science engineer learning to tango, I can testify that defending your choices to those around you can wear you out pretty quickly. And thus I can imagine how anyone who chooses differently than the main crowd might be tempted to form a (sub-)collective that supports their moral-philosophical defense against the crowd’s idea of their wrongness.

But if the perfect act or thought may not exist, what better to do than to give life our best and remain interested in, and sensitive to any regrettable consequences that will be inevitable nonetheless? Pursuing a universal moral perfection by giving up our responsibility of choice, or by trying to reason why unmet needs of people who disagree with us don’t matter, can equally distract us from our natural curiosity for how others are actually doing. Both alternatives to dodge guilt just make it harder to find meaning in making life more wonderful than it is right now, together.

Room for Reconciliation

In my own writings I am hoping to show that we don’t have to choose between accepting or rejecting guilt. Why should we accept the rules of someone else’s zero-sum game at all? There are infinitely more choices than the linear, one dimensional space between “please forgive me” and “go f* yourself!”. However, this becomes obvious only when love invites us to step beyond the idea that ‘our’ interests are in opposition to ‘theirs’.

Whether we should consider ourselves guilty of other people’s suffering or not is not always the most relevant question to occupy our minds with in order to find strategies to increase satisfaction for everyone—ourselves included. Guilt is an invitation to focus on how to think of ourselves as separate from others—to consider our own wellbeing in opposition to the wellbeing of others. As such, guilt draws our minds inwards.

Love, on the other hand, invites our minds to expand and include the external into our sense of self. If the wellbeing of others is no longer separated from our self-interest, no sense of guilt is needed to care for—and find personal meaning in—more than just our own physically separated embodiment.

I don’t see the ideals behind concepts of socialism and capitalism as mutually exclusive. It seems to me that people who like either concept both want to see more people have more of their needs met, and have more satisfaction in their lives. The differences are superficial, not fundamental. The disagreements are all at the level of strategies—including how to consider guilt—not at the level of the human needs that people want to have met.

Because who doesn’t want to experience joy, freedom, autonomy, opportunity, creativity, excellence, purpose, meaning, abundance, fairness, solidarity, mutuality, peace, happiness and be safe from harm?


Reading and studying Atlas Shrugged to find possible divisive messages, brought me two main surprises: The first surprise was that I have found many interesting examples in Atlas Shrugged of how well-intentioned ideas on social improvement can lead to pretty horrible outcomes, when put into practice without being fully aware and honest about one’s own feelings and motivations. If you look passed the absurd exaggerations, the book does offer some realistic and plausible controversial perspectives to contemplate. The second surprise is that the dehumanizing rhetoric near the end of the book is so blatantly obvious that I’m puzzled why I have never heard anyone mention it before.

Maybe it’s that most people making it that far into the book are not the most meticulous readers. Or maybe it’s that reading the repeated justifications for retributive violence—with even the protagonists hitting each other in the face now and then—eventually numbs the reader from noticing such subtleties in the argumentation for what is wrong with those who are guilty of Ayn Rand’s rendition of socialism. Once you’ve already got the point that an author is trying to make, you might as well skip over any further elaborations and just pay attention to the exciting story line.

However, arguing for why something is wrong and destructive, and why someone guilty of doing or not doing it is stupid, ignorant, or a ‘bad person’, is one thing. Arguing for why a person is sub- or non-human is something else. And arguing for how to conclude whether a person would rather be dead than alive, even if they say the opposite, just chills me to the bone. I don’t care what the justification may be, I don’t think this is a kind of rhetoric anyone should be using if they want to contribute to a more peaceful world where people leave each free to be themselves.

It has to be said, though, that there is actually an element of truth to the story of people in socialists regimes being in a state of irrationality, blindly following authorities while looting each other, and possibly rather being dead than alive. The origin of it might be traced back to Ayn Rand’s background as a defector from the former Soviet Union. Her descriptions of socialists in Atlas Shrugged show resemblance to a phenomenon observed among food-deprived people under the socialist regime of the Soviet Union, also referred to as the Holodomor of Ukraine. Under these extremely harsh and frightening conditionspeople indeed became obedient to authorities while showing significantly less human consideration for each other. A similar description of blind obedience and a lack of feeling anything for otherswhen starvingis given by Yeonmi Park, describing her experience as a child in North Korea.

I can imagine that Ayn Rand probably wasn’t aware of the real reasons for the irrational anti-social behavior that she had observed or heard of. Being raised in an upper-middle-class family herself, it is unlikely that she had personally experienced the severity of starvation and fear that causes it.

The story of Atlas Shrugged seems to have borrowed this real psychological effectwhich can be abused by oppressive regimes to keep their citizens obedientand applied it outside of its physiological context of food-deprivation. John Galt totally turns it on its head, by arguing that this psychological state occurs as the result of people’s personal choice—or the lack thereof—with famine as an eventual consequence. Trying to prove a point by borrowing a fact and reversing its causality 180 degrees is misleading, to say the least.


Could the divisive rhetoric of dehumanization at the end of Atlas Shrugged just be an unfortunate choice to write an exciting story of heroes killing bad guys, while still trying to tie in the author’s ambition for offering an impeccable morality? Or was Galt’s reasoning for non-humannessand not wanting to liveof fundamental importance to Ayn Rand’s ideas in general? Could a reader of Atlas Shrugged possibly take the book literally and actually apply Galt’s reasoning to people they have a disagreement with? Could that cause a person to treat others as valueless objects, rather than human beings with intrinsic value? Could this explain the 2011 Norway attacks and the Charlottesville car attack, that originally triggered my curiosity about Atlas Shrugged?

I cannot be sure of the answers to those questions. Maybe that’s because I’m  just not smart enough to be an objectivist, like Ayn Rand, and be sure about everything. But I sure hope that sharing these findings, thoughts and considerations will help others to enjoy the book, enjoy life and enjoy the presence of others who bring complementary ideas.