This was not a mercifully short chapter, mind you. I’ve just cut out the many many many many pages of philosobabble so as to bring you action action action SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY a more streamlined and less painful reading experience. Woo!
When we last left our heroes, Lillian Rearden had discovered that Hank Rearden is sleeping with Dagny Taggart, in the least climactic scene since Hank Rearden actually slept with Dagny Taggart. (My dead grandmother writes better sex scenes than Ayn Rand writes.) Chapter 6 opens with what is surely meant to be a BOMBSHELL! of a question:
“But can we get away with it?”
“It,” we all find out after two three pages of whinging that I will save you from reading RIGHT NOW, is Directive No. 10-289, which can be summed up in one word: AUSTERITY. And the characters Ayn Rand charges with the sacred task of imposing austerity are the characters she’s been training us to hate for the past 584 pages: Jim Taggart, Orren Boyle, Wesley Mouch, and the rest of the strawgang.
…I’ll just leave this irony right here. No pressure.
To oversimplify, here’s what Directive No. 10-289 does:
- Forces everyone to stay in their current jobs or non-jobs. No hiring, firing, quitting, promotions, demotions, taking half time, parental leave, etc.
- Forces businesses to keep doing whatever they’re doing. No new businesses, closing businesses, restructuring, merging, un-merging, acquiring, etc.
- Abolishes intellectual property. (This is where my lawyerbrain exploded, for reasons I will explain in CAPSLOCK OF RAGE below.)
- Prohibits the production, invention, manufacture, or sale of “new devices, inventions, products, or goods.”
- Prohibits any changes in production, ever. (This is a terrible idea, because population growth. Unless by “changes in production,” it also means no more babymaking? Or dying? Are we suddenly in the Land of Oz here?)
- Consumers must spend the same amount on stuff in each future year that they spent this year, or get fined. (How do you even measure this? Do the fines count toward your annual “buying stuff” quota, or are they separate? If they’re separate, do you get fined for paying more bills than you paid last year? Or do you pay the same fine, year after year, forever?)
- Freezes wages, prices, and so on.
The narrative purpose of this bill is to stop the economy from sinking further by forcing it to “stand still.” But what I want to know is: Do we even need John Galt to “stop the motor of the world” at this point? Sounds like Directive No. 10-289 will accomplish that just fine on its own. (Proving, perhaps, that even badly-drawn stock asshole characters can destroy things; no Randian superindividual need apply.)
Naturally, even Rand’s badly-drawn stock assholes can see that this is a disaster waiting to disast. Jim Taggart whinges for two three pages about how there’s no room for whingers like him in a meritocracy. Good thing you don’t live in a meritocracy, then, Mr. I-Inherited-Daddy’s-Title-and-Rely-On-My-Kid-Sister-To-Make-My-Money-For-Me. (PS, Jim: have you stopped beating Mrs. Taggart yet?)
Ayn Rand repeats her silly argument about book sales being based solely on merit. I’d insert a 50 Shades of Grey joke, but Rand wishes she could write erotica that actually sold.
There’s then a conversation about whether the state lacks the legal power to seize patents, which is what made my lawyerbrain go all CAPSLOCK OF RAGE. (Never read Atlas Shrugged while actually being an attorney. It loses whatever shred of credibility it had as a depiction of a possible “real life.” Oi.)
Putting aside the whole purpose-and-policy-of-IP thing, “waah the state has no power to seize patents!” here actually makes no sense. If the state issues patents (and I assume, since this is supposed to be the U.S., that its patent laws are substantially similar to the real U.S.), then it not only possesses the information in them, it makes that information available to the public and always has. Thus, if the state wants to get others in the industry to read certain patents, it has to do…um…nothing. Certainly nothing it doesn’t and cannot already legally do.
If the state wants to eliminate the right of exclusivity in a patent, or nullify the methods by which a patent’s owner enforces the right of exclusivity, it certainly also has the power to do that – the Constitution gives Congress the power to create exclusivity in intellectual property, but it doesn’t force Congress to recognize exclusivity in intellectual property. If this government can enforce this incredibly and nonsensically broad Directive No. 10-289, it can tell patent plaintiffs to take a hike. FFS.
(FUN FACT: The original U.S. patent review board consisted of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General. Patent review was something fun for them to do in their spare time. This proved unworkable after a few decades, however, because Industrial Revolution.)
PS: “Taxes” are exempted from the money-circulation freeze in Point 7. LOL of course.
Meanwhile, Dagny Taggart wakes up from a catnap in her office, realizes she hasn’t eaten in about 24 hours, lights a cigarette, and goes back to work. Dagny Taggart lives on cigarettes. (So would I, if I could get away with it.)
Dagny Taggart then finds out about Directive No. 10-289 – or, as Frisco calls it, “the moratorium on brains” – turns into the Hulk, and breaks Harlem throws her newspaper in Jim Taggart’s face, and resigns. (Will she be fined for it? Will she be fined for paying her fine? Who cares?) She then calls Hank Rearden “dearest” about six times in a row. Gaaaag.
“Dearest” is of course in his own office, agonizing over whether or not to give over the patent for Rearden Metal. Of course! Hence the GIANT PATENT LAW PLOT HOLE Ayn Rand tortured us all with for two three pages! He’s pretty sure he won’t do it, until Dr. Ferris shows up with racy photographs of The World’s Most Boring Affair and is all “I can totes prove you’re consensually boffing Dagny Taggart, which is nobody’s business anywhere ever except for yours and hers and your wife’s, but I will MAKE IT EVERYONE’S BUSINESS because I am a creep.” Then Hank signs.
That’s Chapter 6! Stay tuned for Chapter 7, “A Moratorium on My Patience With This Nonsense Book Brains.”