Atlas Shrugged | Study Guide

Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged | Part 1, Chapter 4 : Non-Contradiction (The Immovable Movers) | Summary

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Summary

Taggart Transcontinental needs diesel engines but can't obtain them. Dick McNamara, the competent contractor who laid the track for the San Sebastian Line, quits his job without explanation. Dagny feels a sense of "immobility." She has always been "the motive power of her own happiness" but longs, for once, to be "carried by the power of someone else's achievement." Dagny learns Francisco d'Anconia is coming to New York. The narrator indicates Dagny and Francisco used to have an important relationship; things have changed, and Dagny hasn't seen Francisco in years.

The People's State of Mexico nationalizes the San Sebastian Line and the mines. James Taggart brags to the Board he saved the company money by operating the San Sebastian Line on an inadequate budget. The newly passed Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule gives Taggart Transcontinental a monopoly on rail transport in Colorado. James brags to Dagny about getting the rule passed; she is morally outraged.

Dagny meets with Dan Conway, president of the Phoenix-Durango Railroad, which will be shut down by the legislation. She wants to help him fight the new law. Conway is too weary to fight the unjust rule; Dagny exclaims she doesn't "want to be a looter."

To provide oil baron Ellis Wyatt with reliable transport on the Rio Norte Line, Hank Rearden agrees to expedite the order of rails. He tells Dagny, "You and I will always be there to save the country from the consequences of their actions." Rearden Metal, Dagny says, is "the most important thing happening in the world today, and none of them know it." Rearden says, "It's we who move the world and it's we who'll pull it through."

Analysis

The chapter's title, "The Immovable Movers," as well as Rearden's statement that "it's we who move the world," are nods to ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle's concept of the "unmoved mover." Aristotle argued all change and motion is caused by something else; therefore, at the root of all movement, there must be an "unmoved mover." Ayn Rand uses the term "immovable mover" to describe the role of people like Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart within society. They are the foundation of society, whose inner vision compels them to produce the material objects—railroads, steel, et cetera—that allow society to function. They are "immovable" as they refuse to renounce their principles and their production in the face of a corrupt, overreaching government.

Dagny is a trader, one who gives value in exchange for value. Relations between traders are mutually beneficial and consensual; traders do not take what they have not earned. The lowest moral code is that of the looter, who uses force to take what is not his. Dagny objects to the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule because it grants Taggart Transcontinental an unearned monopoly. Accepting this unearned advantage requires Dagny to abandon her principles. In contrast, James Taggart is proud to be a looter. His actions are guided by his desire to be seen as important and powerful.

The United States is a capitalist country in a world of socialist republics. Knowing of socialism's disregard for private property, Dagny expected and planned for the seizure of the San Sebastian Line. For Rand, socialism is a form of government based on theft. The United States is sliding toward socialism, as a cohort of looting businessmen and bureaucrats seek ever more control over the country's industry and resources.

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