Atlas Mugged

Wesley Mouch had never paid much attention to men like Henry Rearden, who had risen on his own merits from the pits of a Minnesota iron mine to become sole owner of 57% of the world's steel mills. The industrialists surrounding Rearden, men like Francisco D'Anconia, who had  built on a fortune established by the legendary Sebastian D'Anconia, a disgraced Spanish aristocrat who had been transported to Peru for speaking against the corruption surrounding the king; women like Dagney Taggart, the ice cold beauty who singlehandedly ran the operations of the massive Taggart Transcontinental railway line which provided the motive blood coursing through the veins of American industry: what could they, with their merciless focus on the creation of wealth, know of tender feelings; of the sense of terror experienced by a man such as Wesley Mouch in the company of these diamond-encrusted titans of wealth? And so Mouch, though he was very well thought of by such leading lights of the culture as Tiggle Munson, the author of "The Grateful Slave: A Paradigm For Our Times," and by Ignitz Urkelmop, the playwright whose musical comedy "Burp! Burp! Burp!" was the toast of Broadway, and by Edna Sloggle, whose salon in Washington was the gathering place of fashionable American intellect, took a stiff belt of bourbon to fortify himself as he entered Rearden's party.

As he made his first trip to Rearden's bar, Mouch looked furtively at the industrialists around him, with their tasteful, understated displays of supreme confidence in themselves and their hard-earned wealth. Mouch wanted nothing so much as to to vomit, to sully the marble floors and columns with the half-digested lunch of his own inadequacy in the face of such self-assurance. It was then that he saw Donald Trump enter, insult Rearden's butler with an ethnic joke, and wade into the crowd with the thoughtless swagger that can only belong to a man who has stolen a fortune through graft, pull at City Hall, and the liberal use of eminent domain. Mouch's heart rose at the sight of such a man.

Trump slouched against the buffet table as Rearden held forth on the merits of his newly invented wonder alloy, Rearden Metal, which was said to combine the tensile strength of a spider's web with the durability and load-bearing capacity of the purest titanium. Rearden was saying that his metal, with its unheard-of resistance to heat, could revolutionize the smelting of vital industrial ores in foundries of such might as to approach the heart of the sun, when Trump interrupted the conversation.

"Rearden Metal? Let me tell you something about metals. Now I happen to be quite an expert in metals, and alloys, and it's very well known that my opinion counts for a lot in these things. Reporters, cable tv guys, metallurgists, all the polls, they say Trump's the go-to guy when you want the latest on metals. Trump knows metals, they all tell me. It's a fact. I've been making deals in the metal markets for a long time. And not your average everyday metals, no tin pots at a Trump hotel. I'm talking about high grade metals, the very best of metals, you understand. Gold, platinum, all of your classier metals, that's what you'll find at my resorts and casinos. All of the guests at my Trump Atlantis resort, they come up to me after dining on USDA prime angus steaks, those mouth-watering steaks you can only find at world-class restaurants and exclusively through The Sharper Image with my Trump Steaks brand, the very best steaks you can buy, with my beautiful silverware, and they say, 'Donald, I have never seen such rare and expensive metals as are on display at your five star resorts and casinos. Where do you find such metals?' And I tell them I know all there is to know about metal. You could say, and people have said it, very influential people say it, they say it all the time: that Donald Trump is America's foremost expert on metals."

As Rearden cleared his throat to reply, Trump went on. "And it's because I know people. I make deals. I negotiate the lowest and best prices for the finest quality metals. I do it all the time. Not like Rearden here, who to put it frankly, doesn't know metals the way I do. Now Hank's a good friend, Hank and I go back in the metals markets, so I hate to say it, but Hank doesn't know his metals, doesn't know his alloys, doesn't know his chromium from a hole in the ground. Totally ignorant about metals.  A very low energy guy, this Hank Rearden. Came up in life the hard way, dug his way out of an iron mine. And it shows. Hank Rearden would never be admitted to one of my top-rated golf courses, the groundskseeper would take one look at Hank and he'd say, 'This guy looks like a bum. Probably dug his way out of an iron mine, or a coal smelter, or something.' And who can blame him? Everybody come round and look at this guy Hank: he's wearing Rearden Metal cufflinks. Jesus Christ, is that what you wear to a business gathering, among all these titans of industry? No class. And no Rearden Metal, not at any of my hotels and resorts, which are consistently rated five stars, the best in the world. I wouldn't use a Rearden Metal club at the training hole at a Putt-Putt Goofy Golf in Fargo North Dakota, and I sure as hell wouldn't allow one at the Trump golf course and country club at Mar-A-Lago, the finest in south Florida, where the waiting list for a guest reservation is six months, the most exclusive golf resort in the United States of America."

It was at this point that Francisco D'Anconia, with the self-assurance that comes of a man who has taken a great fortune and built on it through decades of thrift, hard work, sweat, and native intelligence, grinned icily and asked Donald Trump, "Sir, do you insinuate that —"

"I insinuate nothing," Trump replied. "That would be a lie, and unlike some people I could name, I was raised never to tell a lie. I'm just telling the truth about this Rearden guy, who begged like a cripple in the streets to get a reservation at my Trump Hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I told him no, because I don't want my guests exposed to some hick from the boondocks in Pennsylvania who is a complete and total failure in life. My guests appreciate the finer things, and they're sure to get them at any of my hotels, resorts, and casinos, not like this Hank Rearden, who between you and me looks like a hobo with a tin cup in his hands. Probably buys his suits off the rack at Men's Wearhouse to go with those cheap Rearden Metal cufflinks. I'm sorry to say it Hank, but you're a loser. And as for you, D'Anconia, whatdayou know about metals? Got a copper mine or two in Chile or Tijuana or someplace I never heard of, right? Now don't take that as an offense against Tijuana. They love me in Tijuana, the little brown people. Let me tell you something about copper. I buy only the best and most luxurious copper in the world, and at bargain prices, because I'm such a great negotiator. I get up at 4 in the morning, every morning, and I'm working the phones, trying to wheel and deal, and succeeding I might add, in the copper markets. They all know me in the copper markets, the big copper merchants, and they say 'Oh no, it's Donald Trump, come to skin us alive on another copper deal.' But they can't resist me, because they know their copper will be on display at the greatest hotels in all of the world's most beautiful cities. Not at all like the tarnished stuff that my good friend Francisco, a great guy but he wasn't even born in America, what the hell kind of name is D'Anconia anyway? Sounds like something you get a dose of at a cathouse in Reno. Anyway, like I was saying, all of the right people, the experts, the Drudge Report, my good friend Rush Limbaugh, they say that my exploits in the copper market are legendary. Because it's true. I'm the world's foremost authority on copper. I make the deals. Not like this guy D'Anconia here: zero knowledge on copper. I'd call him a Mexican bum, but that wouldn't be politically correct, so I'll say he's an underachiever. Now don't take offense, they love me in Mexico. They come up to me with their little pinatas and burritos and they say, 'Donald, tell us all about this guy D'Anconia.' And I tell them, well, it's not for me to say, but if Francisco D'Anconia somehow got to be a participant on my award-winning, top-rated television show "The Apprentice," I'd have to say, 'Francisco, you're fired!'"

Trump3

Unable to restrain herself, Dagney Taggart, the arctic blonde beauty whose railroad empire kept the beating heart of American industry pumping, vociferated, "Mr. Trump, surely you don't suggest that —"

"Get a load of this bimbo, oops, I'm not supposed to say that," Trump winked. "Now don't misunderstand me, Miss Taggart's a beautiful woman, but she's a bit of a lightweight. More than a bit, in fact. Never been married. A spinster! Probably on her, well, let's just say that if Rearden's floor was a rag, they'd need to bring in a bucket and mop to clean the place up. I mean, I hate to say it, I respect Miss Taggart as a railroad executive, I respect all women. Motherhood and apple pie are what made America great. Have I ever told you about the apple pie the pastry chef serves at my Trump Hotel and Spa in Chicago? Brought him in from France, from Paris, the finest pastry chef in the world, serving the greatest apple pie you'll ever taste. Anyway, as I was saying about Dagney here, wonderful woman but no children. And flat-chested. Frankly, I wouldn't…"

As Trump held forth, Wesley Mouch smiled to himself. Finally, here was an industrialist who understoood. Mouch ran to the nearest telephone, and dialed Washington…

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

Comments

  1. Horkthane says

    Aren't you afraid this will out you as having read Atlas Shrugged? Heretical materials like that aren't supposed to be engaged with.

  2. says

    Patrick, reading Atlas Shrugged is like a thirteen-year-old boy's early solo experiences during puberty.

    Yes, we've all been through that, but we should have eventually learned that despite the fleeting pleasures involved, and notwithstanding that one might even occasionally re-indulge in it — in private — from time to time, the results are inevitably messy and as a general rule, the experiences are not appropriate to be discussed in polite company.

  3. Thomas says

    That was a lot more interesting and entertaining than anything that actually happens in Atlas Shrugged.

  4. Dave Crisp says

    Sorry to say, this is only the second-best parody of Atlas Shrugged I've ever read.

    That said, the best one won't make sense to anyone who didn't hang out in the Robert Jordan newsgroups on Usenet in the late 90's.

  5. Fairbairn says

    "Bravo," said Rearden in an even voice, easing the tension among the stunned and silent guests, "Bravo, Mr. Trump. Please join Ms. Taggart and I in the drawing room. We'd like to discuss a project that involves copper. Quite a bit of copper, in fact. James, please set up the room… and bring us a bottle of…let's see… that 1926 Macallan would be perfect."

    "Yes, Mr. Rearden."

  6. Craig says

    The best parody ever of Atlas Shrugged was the plot summary of the fictitious novel Telemachus Sneezed in Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! — and I say that despite not being much of a fan of Illuminatus! or Robert Anton Wilson in general.

    I also read Atlas Shrugged once (which you have to do in order to fully appreciate Telemachus Sneezed). It didn't impress me.

  7. Guy Who Looks Things Up says

    Wonderful.

    I have now read more parody of Atlas Shrugged than of the novel itself.

    And this is the only parody I've read.

  8. says

    @Burt Likko–
    Atlas Shrugged was written for 13-year-olds (though no one of any age can wade more than 2 pages into John Galt's speech).
    One of my favorite book *titles* was the one Jerome Tuccille chose for a memoir of his early libertarian years, "It usually begins with Ayn Rand."

  9. Mr. Thompson says

    You will be a superb Mouch.
    You appear to lack the ability to be either
    a hero or a builder.

  10. Brandon says

    I love it. I'm not really on board with Rand but every time Trump or one of his supporters has bloviated about his success over and over during this campaign, the thought that is always running through my mind is "he's not Hank Reardon, he's Jim Taggart".

  11. TRUMPZ YUGEGOB says

    @jtf

    TRUMPZ IS DA BOSS!
    TRUMPZ IS DA SHOOTIEST!
    TRUMPZ IS DA MEANEST!
    TRUMPZ IS DA 'AAARDEST!
    TRUMPZ IS DA 'UUUGEST!

    WAAAAAGH!

  12. Langalf says

    "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

    — John Rogers
    http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html

  13. Marzipan says

    A delicious, simultaneous skewering of Objectivism and Trumpism. Which one would prove more damaging to the country has yet to be seen.

    Antagonists as protagonists, all.

  14. Peter Gerdes says

    Atlas shrugged makes much more sense once you realize she wrote it while doing fucktons of dexedrine. It is also much more compelling to read if you take a bunch of stimulants first as well.

    However, what I find ironic about this post is that as much as I despise Trump his attitude toward literary and intellectual snobs is far closer to Rand's than most business leaders. It's actually pretty astonishing how much very rich men will *pay* just to associate themselves with people or items of perceived cultural importance with no discrimination whatsoever. Few men, especially those competitive enough to be at the top of the business world, are confident enough to risk exposing themselves as unsophisticated but, having spent their life doing other things than the humanities, have no deep expertise in the arts so will desperately pander to whatever culture says is sophisticated and desirable.

    As an aside, simple economics dictates that, given a system in which manipulation of laws and regulations gives one a competitive advantage, the leaders and owners of industry will all take advantage of such manipulation. Even if you are a committed libertarian and despise regulatory capture if your choices are to either use it yourself or get edged out (or bought out) by someone who it would be irrational not to use it. Sure, use your fortune to campaign against regulatory capture but not using it to make money just hands a victory to those who do so the idea of titans of industry who eschew the deals and don't take advantage of favorable laws is a myth

  15. Nullifidian says

    However, what I find ironic about this post is that as much as I despise Trump his attitude toward literary and intellectual snobs is far closer to Rand's than most business leaders

    I'd venture to slightly disagree with this in so far as it implies that Rand wasn't a literary snob. She was, but she just happened to be a literary snob with lowbrow tastes and no skill as a writer or thinker. Rand wasn't upset with literary snobs for being literary snobs, but for daring to express a poor opinion of her overwrought, overstuffed pulp fiction. She would have loved them if they had greeted her as a genius. The defining characteristic of a literary snob isn't necessarily that he or she reads no popular books, but that they construct elaborate rationalizations for why their taste in popular books is a valid literary enterprise. That's why Rand wrote her ridiculous and ignorant polemic, The Romantic Manifesto. She wanted the cachet of reading littracha even while pleasing her pedestrian tastes, and if the literary world of her era wasn't going to validate her taste in books, then, by God, she'd validate it for herself.

    On the opposite pole politically, it reminds me of the people who go on about the lack of representation of women in the literary world, but who, when asked to present evidence for their claim, stop talking about the world of writers and start talking about the gender imbalance of reviews in mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. These people don't want to read women writers for their own sake, because otherwise they'd just go out and find them, but to have their tastes validated by mainstream literary outlets. They want to consume status along with their books, and blame the mainstream arbiters of taste when they cannot. Which is what Rand did. Genuinely enthusiastic readers simply read to please themselves and don't bother themselves with considerations of status either for or against—reading things only so that they can name-drop them later or refusing to read certain things because they're too 'hoity-toity'.

  16. Dragoness Eclectic says

    Rand wasn't upset with literary snobs for being literary snobs, but for daring to express a poor opinion of her overwrought, overstuffed pulp fiction.

    Rand would never have cut it as a writer of pulp fiction. Pulp fiction readers want to be entertained with a fast-paced plot and lots of action. They don't want to be bored to death by repetitive, tedious prose interlaced with epic-length author rants inserted into the middle of the action. She actually sells as "Literature", at least these days.

  17. Dirkmaster says

    Patrick, you are my new hero.

    I am not ashamed of having read Atlas Shrugged several times. Of course, I used to read LOTR (including the Silmarillion) every year for awhile. I was indeed young. Still, this is brilliant. And spot on.

  18. Nullifidian says

    She actually sells as "Literature", at least these days.

    Yes, I know that from personal experience, I'm sorry to say. She's even taught in some English classes, largely because the Ayn Rand Institute bribes its way onto some school curricula through a cheapo scholarship prize—although since I was in high school they've increased both the size of the prizes and the number of recipients. That was how I came to read Anthem (even at the time I saw this book was a blatant ripoff of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, which I'd read in Clarence Brown's translation) and The Fountainhead and I have only my own naïve optimism to blame for reading Atlas Shrugged.

    I think the tedium of Rand's books works in her favor, because it harmonizes with the idea of capital-L Literature as being long and difficult. People find it difficult to slog through Atlas Shrugged because of its dullness, which they confuse with intellectual or stylistic difficulty, and it's long, therefore it must be Literature.

    Rand has achieved a middlebrow status that actually makes her the type of author to be sought out by literary snobs, to bring the discussion around to that subject again. The literary snob has a conundrum: he has to eschew books that are too popular, but if he chooses books that few people have ever heard of then he won't get bragging rights from name-dropping them. Ayn Rand hits that middle exactly: she is well-known and her overtly didactic novels have a reputation for being "literary" without the actual substance of it. Our literary snob won't have to risk the blank looks he'll get if he tries to discuss genuine philosophical novels like Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist and Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship.

  19. Karl says

    Wow, what a bunch of unoriginal assholes. I found Rand had her faults but you know how many times I have heard that stupid review about Rand being adolescent? Shr was right on a lot of things and failed on some others. I am sorry she decimated your idiotic philosophy of envy but you should really move on. Some people don't think they were born owing you a life. Get over it.

  20. says

    I found Rand had her faults but you know how many times I have heard that stupid review about Rand being adolescent?

    I would guess a bunch of times. She clearly suffered from a raging case of narcissistic personality disorder, and narcissism is a common trait of spoiled adolescents.

    Her emotional problems don't necessarily invalidate her philosophy or her observations as to how nation states, particularly collectivist ones, destroy both wealth and and the human mind. But they did really affect the quality of her fiction in quite the negative way.

  21. Nullifidian says

    Karl,

    There are only three groups of people I've ever spoken with who think that dismissal of their favorite book is indicative of a moral failing: fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and Randoids. Please ponder that for a moment.

  22. wysinwyg says

    @Karl:

    " I am sorry she decimated your idiotic philosophy of envy but you should really move on. "

    I thought the whole point of capitalism is that it provides incentive to achieve. How does it do that? By inspiring envy.

    This whole "liberals are just envious of successful conservatives" makes no sense for two reasons:
    1) Median liberal income is higher than median conservative income (in the US)
    2) The success of capitalism is predicated on envy in the first place

    You may have to drop your straw man and acknowledge that liberals might have legitimate pragmatic and moral reasons for opposing unregulated capitalism.

  23. Addict says

    I feel like Rand is being mischaracterized here. She fled the evils of the soviet union and became a poster child of "gets it" among the people who were especially fearful of communism. Atlas Shrugged was meant to serve a very specific purpose: inspire the same kind of fervor in young people for markets and industry as Marx inspired for revolution and socialism. Rand did almost too well at this; Atlas Shrugged was practically the perfect mirror image of Marx in terms of getting youth excited about political ideology through the simple mechanism of convincing them that most of the world's wealth is being hoarded by people who don't deserve it.

    Once the Book served its purpose, Rand was celebrated as a hero. She did not handle this well, failing to put forth the necessary energy to the task of resisting the inevitable slide into cultishness. As might be expected.

    And obviously now, decades later, Atlas Shrugged just seems foolish, like the original Communist Manifesto. Our ideologies have become more refined, and found subtler and more complicated traps to fall into. But is it really necessary to sit here and bash it with the same tedious insults viz. 'juvenile', 'boring', etc, over and over? It looks like status signaling to me.

  24. Mike Schilling says

    Thanks to the folks at The Federalist for the inspiration.

    Yes, it does read like PJ O'Rourke.

  25. Autolykos says

    @Addict: Spot on. That's exactly the reason why my copy of Atlas Shrugged stands right next to Karl Marx in my bookshelf.
    Both are a mixture of good observations and very, very poor policy suggestions. But as long as you don't try to build a religion on them, reading them will help a lot with understanding the world.

    TL;DR: If you're a fox, do read some Marx and Rand (without taking them too seriously). If you're a hedgehog, stay the well away from them until your formative years are well over.

  26. Butler Reynolds says

    The old "Ayn Rand appeals to naive teenagers" bit. Quite tiresome, but if that's all you've got, then so be it. Speaking of teenagers, this shallow jab at Rand reminds me of "yo mama" jokes from middle school.

    When someone uses that line it makes me wonder who he instead considers a serious thinker fit for adults.

    I only wish that I had read Rand as a teenager. It may have made me an insufferable jerk for the first year, but it would have helped me make (or avoid) decisions that were too late to reverse once I did finally discover her works as an adult.

Trackbacks