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John Galt's Speech (Part 3 Chapter 7)
John Galt's speech is one of the most famous aspects of Ayn Rands novels. Running to 70 pages in the first edition and taking approximately 3 hours to read aloud, it is an exposition of her philosophy of Objectivism. Since we're unlikely to get there before month's end, I think it's appropriate to start a thread for folks who have read it to discuss this important part of the book......
(Is it possible to skip ahead and read it or is the rant too dependent on context?)
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Re: John Galt's Speech (Part 3 Chapter 7)
OK, some of my thoughts and some highlights from the speech:
I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world
He’s taken away the parasites hosts. He has taken the ability, away from those that think that they have some sort of a claim on them - from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Now we see what happens in the world, when those they are counting on to feed off, stop being their meal.
Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, you have wished it, and I— I am the man who has granted you your wish.
One may recall how Frisco has done this as well, in his Mexican copper mines, the practical application of such ‘high moral ideals’ of theirs, throwing right in their faces.
“All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.
So now we know that the men that have vanished, actually went on strike.
Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality— you who have never known any— but to discover it.
And Galt has. Rand discovered the morality for living life on earth as man.
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors— between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it. “Both sides agreed that morality demands the surrender of your self-interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the province of faith and force.
Rand’s morality is a morality of self-interest, where the moral is the practical and the practical is the moral, they are not opposites, her morality is the province of reason, not of faith and force.
To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason— Purpose— Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge— Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve— Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.
If you would like to know way more about Rand’s morality, as she goes into it more in her later nonfiction works, see The Virtue of Selfishness, see these two works by Tara Smith: Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist and Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality. And this work by Craig Biddle: Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest And The Facts That Support It
Emotions are inherent in your nature, but their content is dictated by your mind. Your emotional capacity is an empty motor, and your values are the fuel with which your mind fills it. If you choose a mix of contradictions, it will clog your motor, corrode your transmission and wreck you on your first attempt to move with a machine which you, the driver, have corrupted.
Later on during his speech, Galt asks important questions:
Why is it moral to serve the happiness of others, but not your own? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but immoral when experienced by you? If the sensation of eating a cake is a value, why is it an immoral indulgence in your stomach, but a moral goal for you to achieve in the stomach of others? Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away? And if it is not moral for you to keep a value, why is it moral for others to accept it? If you are selfless and virtuous when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they take it? Does virtue consist of serving vice? Is the moral purpose of those who are good, self-immolation for the sake of those who are evil? “The answer you evade, the monstrous answer is: No, the takers are not evil, provided they did not earn the value you gave them. It is not immoral for them to accept it, provided they are unable to produce it, unable to deserve it, unable to give you any value in return. It is not immoral for them to enjoy it, provided they do not obtain it by right. “Such is the secret core of your creed, the other half of your double standard: it is immoral to live by your own effort, but moral to live by the effort of others— it is immoral to consume your own product, but moral to consume the products of others— it is immoral to earn, but moral to mooch— it is the parasites who are the moral justification for the existence of the producers, but the existence of the parasites is an end in itself— it is evil to profit by achievement, but good to profit by sacrifice— it is evil to create your own happiness, but good to enjoy it at the price of the blood of others.
Now we know more about his reasoning behind him going on strike:
one night at a factory meeting, I heard myself sentenced to death by reason of my achievement. I heard three parasites assert that my brain and my life were their property, that my right to exist was conditional and depended on the satisfaction of their desires. The purpose of my ability, they said, was to serve the needs of those who were less able. I had no right to live, they said, by reason of my competence for living; their right to live was unconditional, by reason of their incompetence. “Then I saw what was wrong with the world, I saw what destroyed men and nations, and where the battle for life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality— and that my sanction was its only power. I saw that evil was impotent— that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real— and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it. Just as the parasites around me were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to enforce, just as they were counting on my self-immolation to provide them with the means of their plan— so throughout the world and throughout men’s history, in every version and form, from the extortions of loafing relatives to the atrocities of collective countries, it is the good, the able, the men of reason, who act as their own destroyers, who transfuse to evil the blood of their virtue and let evil transmit to them the poison of destruction, thus gaining for evil the power of survival, and for their own values— the impotence of death. I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win— and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was ‘No.’
I am the first man who would not suffer martyrdom at the hands of those who wished me to perish for the privilege of keeping them alive. I am the first man who told them that I did not need them, and until they learned to deal with me as traders, giving value for value, they would have to exist without me, as I would exist without them; then I would let them learn whose is the need and whose the ability— and if human survival is the standard, whose terms would set the way to survive. “I have done by plan and intention what has been done throughout history by silent default. There have always been men of intelligence who went on strike, in protest and despair, but they did not know the meaning of their action. The man who retires from public life, to think, but not to share his thoughts— the man who chooses to spend his years in the obscurity of menial employment, keeping to himself the fire of his mind, never giving it form, expression or reality, refusing to bring it into a world he despises— the man who is defeated by revulsion, the man who renounces before he has started, the man who gives up rather than give in, the man who functions at a fraction of his capacity, disarmed by his longing for an ideal he has not found— they are on strike, on strike against unreason, on strike against your world and your values.
Now the following in his speech is one of the most important parts, in regards to individual rights, which Rand gives the proper moral base and philosophic defense for (she expands more on this in later writings and the writings of others that apply Objectivism to rights, law, etc.):
morality: the premise that man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others, that man’s life, his freedom, his happiness are his by inalienable right. “You who’ve lost the concept of a right, you who swing in impotent evasiveness between the claim that rights are a gift of God, a supernatural gift to be taken on faith, or the claim that rights are a gift of society, to be broken at its arbitrary whim— the source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A— and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.
More works to read in regards to such laissez-faire capitalism: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case For Laissez-Faire by Andrew Bernstein Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff
Galt speaks of the government, also very important part of his speech:
“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. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.
And he touches on the free market here some, who the benefactors of mankind really are, the value of trade, etc.:
But when you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you. “When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing. “The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time.
“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise. Physical labor as such can extend no further than the range of the moment. The man who does no more than physical labor, consumes the material value-equivalent of his own contribution to the process of production, and leaves no further value, neither for himself nor others. But the man who produces an idea in any field of rational endeavor— the man who discovers new knowledge— is the permanent benefactor of humanity. Material products can’t be shared, they belong to some ultimate consumer; it is only the value of an idea that can be shared with unlimited numbers of men, making all sharers richer at no one’s sacrifice or loss, raising the productive capacity of whatever labor they perform. It is the value of his own time that the strong of the intellect transfers to the weak, letting them work on the jobs he discovered, while devoting his time to further discoveries. This is mutual trade to mutual advantage; the interests of the mind are one, no matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work and don’t seek or expect the unearned.
“In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the ‘competition’ between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of ‘exploitation’ for which you have damned the strong.
“Such was the service we had given you and were glad and willing to give. What did we ask in return? Nothing but freedom. We required that you leave us free to function— free to think and to work as we choose— free to take our own risks and to bear our own losses— free to earn our own profits and to make our own fortunes— free to gamble on your rationality, to submit our products to your judgment for the purpose of a voluntary trade, to rely on the objective value of our work and on your mind’s ability to see it— free to count on your intelligence and honesty, and to deal with nothing but your mind. Such was the price we asked, which you chose to reject as too high. You decided to call it unfair that we, who had dragged you out of your hovels and provided you with modern apartments, with radios, movies and cars, should own our palaces and yachts— you decided that you had a right to your wages, but we had no right to our profits, that you did not want us to deal with your mind, but to deal, instead, with your gun. Our answer to that, was: ‘May you be damned!’ Our answer came true. You are. “You did not care to compete in terms of intelligence— you are now competing in terms of brutality. You did not care to allow rewards to be won by successful production— you are now running a race in which rewards are won by successful plunder. You called it selfish and cruel that men should trade value for value— you have now established an unselfish society where they trade extortion for extortion. Your system is a legal civil war, where men gang up on one another and struggle for possession of the law, which they use as a club over rivals, till another gang wrests it from their clutch and clubs them with it in their turn, all of them clamoring protestations of service to an unnamed public’s unspecified good. You had said that you saw no difference between economic and political power, between the power of money and the power of guns— no difference between reward and punishment, no difference between purchase and plunder, no difference between pleasure and fear, no difference between life and death. You are learning the difference now.
Now towards the end of his speech, a call to action, and rally cry:
“I am speaking to those who desire to live and to recapture the honor of their soul. Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies’ terms or to win at a game where they’re setting the rules. Do not seek the favor of those who enslaved you, do not beg for alms from those who have robbed you, be it subsidies, loans or jobs, do not join their team to recoup what they’ve taken by helping them rob your neighbors. One cannot hope to maintain one’s life by accepting bribes to condone one’s destruction. Do not struggle for profit, success or security at the price of a lien on your right to exist. Such a lien is not to be paid off; the more you pay them, the more they will demand; the greater the values you seek or achieve, the more vulnerably helpless you become. Theirs is a system of white blackmail devised to bleed you, not by means of your sins, but by means of your love for existence.
“Do not attempt to rise on the looters’ terms or to climb a ladder while they’re holding the ropes. Do not allow their hands to touch the only power that keeps them in power: your living ambition. Go on strike— in the manner I did. Use your mind and skill in private, extend your knowledge, develop your ability, but do not share your achievements with others. Do not try to produce a fortune, with a looter riding on your back. Stay on the lowest rung of their ladder, earn no more than your barest survival, do not make an extra penny to support the looters’ state. Since you’re captive, act as a captive, do not help them pretend that you’re free. Be the silent, incorruptible enemy they dread. When they force you, obey— but do not volunteer. Never volunteer a step in their direction, or a wish, or a plea, or a purpose. Do not help a holdup man to claim that he acts as your friend and benefactor. Do not help your jailers to pretend that their jail is your natural state of existence. Do not help them to fake reality. That fake is the only dam holding off their secret terror, the terror of knowing they’re unfit to exist; remove it and let them drown; your sanction is their only life belt.
“If you find a chance to vanish into some wilderness out of their reach, do so, but not to exist as a bandit or to create a gang competing with their racket; build a productive life of your own with those who accept your moral code and are willing to struggle for a human existence. You have no chance to win on the Morality of Death or by the code of faith and force; raise a standard to which the honest will repair: the standard of Life and Reason.
“Act as a rational being and aim at becoming a rallying point for all those who are starved for a voice of integrity— act on your rational values, whether alone in the midst of your enemies, or with a few of your chosen friends, or as the founder of a modest community on the frontier of mankind’s rebirth.
“When the looters’ state collapses, deprived of the best of its slaves, when it falls to a level of impotent chaos, like the mystic-ridden nations of the Orient, and dissolves into starving robber gangs fighting to rob one another— when the advocates of the morality of sacrifice perish with their final ideal— then and on that day we will return. “We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a city of smokestacks, pipe lines, orchards, markets and inviolate homes. We will act as the rallying center for such hidden outposts as you’ll build. With the sign of the dollar as our symbol— the sign of free trade and free minds— we will move to reclaim this country once more from the impotent savages who never discovered its nature, its meaning, its splendor. Those who choose to join us, will join us; those who don’t, will not have the power to stop us; hordes of savages have never been an obstacle to men who carried the banner of the mind.
“Then this country will once more become a sanctuary for a vanishing species: the rational being. 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. If he fails to use it and falls, he will be his only victim.
_________________ "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." - Cyril Connolly
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