Eric Allan Kramer, is playing the pirate Ragnar Danneskjöld in “Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?.” The footage below shows what to expect from Kramer in his rendition of the unique pirate from the very popular American literary classic Atlas Shrugged. I volunteered to play Ragnar to producer Harmon Kaslow because I was worried that it would be hard to find the right actor who could do such a character justice—because getting that part right means a lot to the overall story of the third Atlas Shrugged film. But after seeing this interview from Eric Allan Kramer, I am no longer concerned. Ragnar Danneskjöld is a key role to understanding Atlas Shrugged, he is a pirate built on philosophic principle. He does not loot for the right to steal from others to gain for himself the way a typical progressive sees the world, instead he loots to take back what is stolen and gives it back to those who truly produce.
Ragnar Danneskjöld was born in Norway, the last son of one of its first families. His father was the Catholic Archbishop of Norway. When he was sixteen, his father sent him to study at the Patrick Henry University, in Cleveland, Ohio (not to be confused with the real-life Patrick Henry College in Chesapeake, Virginia).
Ragnar Danneskjöld studied physics and philosophy—a highly unusual double major. While at PHU, he made two lasting friendships that would change his life forever, though he did not know it at the time. One of these friends was Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d’Anconia, who also was an aristocrat of sorts, though Latin American rather than European. The other was John Galt, who was anything but aristocratic, and came to PHU with barely a penny to his name. These disparities in background and circumstances did not matter to any of these three. All three shared a love of the natural world, how it actually worked, and how one should function within it.
When they graduated, each made a different plan. Francisco d’Anconia planned to take over his father’s great copper company, D’Anconia Copper SA of Argentina. John Galt at first earned his master’s degree in physics and began work on his Doctor of Philosophy degree, until events impelled him to leave university life and go to work as a commercial engineer and inventor. Ragnar earned his master’s degree in philosophy and stayed on to earn his doctorate.
Of the two Chairmen who shaped his life, Hugh Akston, Chairman of Philosophy, stayed true to the ideals that attracted Ragnar and the others to him. Robert Stadler, Chairman of Physics, did not. Stadler’s decision to endorse the establishment of a State Science Institute, impelled John to leave. If Dr. Akston discussed John’s rather acrimonious break with Stadler with Ragnar, neither man said anything about it to any other character.
Though each of the three began to implement his respective plan, all three would receive a rude interruption.
Six years after the three received their bachelor’s degrees and when Ragnar was on the cusp of becoming a PhD himself, Ragnar received a summons from John Galt to meet him, not at his home in Starnesville, Wisconsin, but in a garret apartment in a run-down brownstone in New York City. Francisco d’Anconia received a similar summons. John Galt then told his two friends what had happened to him.
Galt had gone to work for the Twentieth Century Motor Company in Starnesville, named after Gerald “Jed” Starnes, the company’s founder. There he had built the prototype of the first-ever practical electrostatic motor. But Gerald Starnes had died, and his three children inaugurated a plan to have everyone at the factory work according to his ability, but be paid according to his need. Ragnar probably recognized that principle at once, from The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.
John Galt had refused to work under such a plan. He not only quit the factory, but also announced to the three heirs that he would “stop the motor of the world.” He began, of course, by wrecking his prototype and carrying away with him those portions of his notes that would enable any future investigator to duplicate his work. And now he was asking his two friends to join him in what he called the strike of the men of the mind, and recruit others to do the same. The rules were simple: anyone having savings to retire on, would do so; the rest would take the lowest jobs that they could find, so that they would not give society the benefit of their talents.
The next morning, Francisco accepted John’s strike call. Ragnar accepted that afternoon. Francisco set out to implement his own strike plan: to assume the guise of a playboy, while systematically destroying D’Anconia Copper. Ragnar and John traveled to Cleveland, where Ragnar told Dr. Akston that he was quitting his graduate studies, and why. Before the evening was over, Dr. Akston not only accepted Ragnar’s decision but vowed then and there to hand in his own resignation, and for the same reason.
Ragnar found the overall strike plan elegant and logical—but incomplete. In truth, Ragnar was infuriated with what John Galt had told him. Or perhaps the business plan of the Starnes children struck Ragnar as a prize example of a much larger social and political problem. This problem had long filled him with righteous indignation, and now this indignation boiled over. As Ragnar saw it, society was guilty of armed robbery—and if that society would not police itself, then the men of the mind must not only withdraw from it, but make war against it to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. Ragnar decided then and there to fight that war and carry it directly to what all three called “the looters.”
Ragnar Danneskjöld’s solution came from the heritage and tradition of his Viking forebears. Ragnar had a fast ship that nevertheless carried guns capable of bombarding either another ship or a shore target at long range. Ragnar also had at his disposal at least one aircraft: a cargo carrier with which Ragnar would later transport large quantities of the gold he collected in his activities.
Ragnar set out at once to assemble a crew of demobilized Navy officers, petty officers, and seamen. These men told him that the US Navy planned to retire one of its most famous aircraft carriers, and the one having the longest flight deck in history: USS Enterprise CVN-65. Ragnar had other plans: he hijacked the ship at sea, and this was the occasion in which he suffered his one and only combat wound. So he became a privateer, and in fact became known as the scourge of the high seas (chiefly the Atlantic Ocean and occasionally the Caribbean Sea). (In fact, the name Enterprise, as the name of a ship, might have appealed to him on this specific account: a privateer under license to the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolution also bore that name.)
He was careful never to kill a member of another ship’s crew if he could avoid it; if he ever had to sink another vessel, he would put the crew adrift in lifeboats. One such sailor described Danneskjöld’s face as terrible to behold, because it showed no feeling whatsoever. It did not even show hatred; it was cold and hard. It was the face of one who, having a job to do, did it and did not waste time emoting about it.
He never directly attacked any naval vessel, unless said vessel attacked him first. He never attacked any private vessel, nor seized private property. With one exception: at Francisco d’Anconia’s specific request, he attacked D’Anconia Copper ships and sank them with their loads. This was in keeping with Francisco’s own strike plan to destroy D’Anconia Copper systematically, so that no one would benefit from his talents or those of his father and grandfather and ancestors.
Ragnar’s actual targets were what he called the “loot carriers.” These were “humanitarian” cargoes paid for with taxpayers’ money and sent by order of the Bureau of Global Relief. This was the best method available to Ragnar to recover the substance that was taken from men of the mind by force. Eventually, not a single such cargo could ever sail from an American port to any of several “People’s States” throughout the world and hope to reach its destination. Ragnar Danneskjold was always waiting, and always found his targets. From the description given of some of his other activities, one may infer that he had an espionage network unrivaled for effectiveness and avoidance of compromise.
Ragnar would take these cargoes to various smugglers throughout Europe (whether he ever penetrated the Straits of Gibraltar with one of his prizes, the novel never says) and sell them. He also found a market for some of his plunder in the United States—a black market, which eventually became the only market available. He always demanded payment in gold. The most likely black market is in fact Midas Mulligan himself, and Ragnar would then be the “safe channel” by which Midas could purchase any goods the men of Galt’s Gulch could not produce on their own.) He would never accept any fiat currency, be it Federal Reserve notes or the scrip of any People’s State.
He began his career in privateering very early into the strike. He was wounded only once (see above), and never thought of that wound again, unless John Galt reminded him of it. Ragnar thought of his wound as a necessary lesson that an amateur must learn before he can call himself a true professional. He quite often told John, Francisco, and (later on) the others who joined the great strike to quit worrying about him. He ruefully observed that they never listened. By the last year of the strike, Ragnar easily captured every prize he set his sights upon, and had lowered his casualty rate to zero.
There is much more to Ragnar, but that provides a brief history. Out of all the Atlas characters it is Ragnar which I most closely identify with, and why I volunteered to play the part in the movie. After the poor reception of the first two films I was worried that career actors might avoid being added to the cast for fear of blacklisting, but Kaslow and Aglialoro actually had no problem. When Eric Allan Kramer was added to the list, my concerns quickly alleviated. There is a reality to Ragnar Danneskjöld which is explored no place else. His ability to travel the world with the military might of every nation peeking at his doorstep might seem ominous to most, but to my experience is very realistic and it looks like Kramer pegged the role.
Over this last weekend a young man asked me why I wasn’t worried about assassination attempts, and political harassment for the things I get involved with. As I tried to explain why I did not worry about such things to him I could only think of Ragnar Danneskjöld. Readers here know that I have been involved in friendships with hit men, I have known members of crime syndications well, I have been a property repossesor, a body guard, a bouncer, and have been in many conflicts. I have known prominent judges representing the highest order of the law who looked like nice family guys who were deeply in bed with crime families doing really bad things so I have some very good experience and the bottom line is this; the NSA, the big banking families, the FBI, CIA, Muslim radicals, communists, socialist, labor unions, crazed lunatics and fanatical collectivists of the world taken together cannot for the life of them find their way out of a paper bag without proper leadership to help them. They are, taken at their collective intelligence, incompetent. As individuals, there are very competent people in those organizations—but as long as they function as a collective unit they are only as strong as the weakest links and are paralyzed with inaction. They can literally do nothing. The experience of Ragnar Danneskjöld in the novel Atlas Shrugged is reality. He was too competent to be captured by collective fools—which is a contrary message shown on cop dramas on television. In real life bullets don’t often fly as straight as people think, nor do they do as much damage upon impact. This is similar to when you punch someone in the face—they do not immediately go down like they do in the movies. If a person is bold, competent, and more intelligent than his rivals—he will win no matter what the odds and no matter what the number and this is something only a handful of people in the entire world understand.
I do not worry about my home being surrounded by “authorities” and I do not worry about them tracking my statements or watching my every move. They should not have the right or ability to do so—but I do not worry about it either because they are incompetent to act on what they witness. Ragnar Danneskjöld’s world view and experience is more accurate to reality than anything ever put on CSI, Magnum PI, or Miami Vice. Collective authority is incompetent against a quality individual—Ragnar would easily be able to outmaneuver all the armies of the world for as long as he wished simply because he as an individual was better than their cumbersome intellectual capacity weighed down by the brain dead weak links of their institutional thinking. Atlas Shrugged as an American novel was one of the first works of art in the world to even explore the concept of quality versus quantity.
The popular assumption which Atlas Shrugged challenges is that masses trump minorities—in this case, not reflective of skin color or sex, but of ability. Few people actually posses quality ability and this cannot be solved by the looting by the many of the few for the sustenance of all. Ragnar was fighting against this trend and even with all the efforts of every government and military against him, nobody could beat him. This is a hidden reality that is probably the best kept secret of the modern age. The NSA can collect every bit of data about every human being, insect, and cell structure ever known to exist on planet earth, yet they cannot overcome this glaring fact. As I said to the young man, so what if they watch me, so what if they want to dispose of me, so what if they listen to and read every word that comes from my mind—what would they do with that information? They are incompetent and are paralyzed to act—so what would there be to worry about? Just because “they” desire something does not mean that they can magically whip up competency to execute the task. A lot of people want to cook good food, fix a car, and install air conditioning units on homes, but only those with the skills to do so can hope to achieve such a thing. And often, not just anybody can do these tasks when trained—there are some cooks better than other cooks, some mechanics better than other mechanics and so on—but without the basic skills at a particular quality level, nothing happens.
Governments hope that by bringing in all kids of different minds that the collective will of the institution will benefit equally, but what they discover is that once those of quality are looted by those without quality that their few good people among their ranks stop contributing leaving the weak and clueless to perform the tasks. It doesn’t matter if the organization is large or small, once individual contributors realize that their efforts will not be rewarded, they stop working. This is why characters like Ragnar Danneskjöld were able to travel the world unchecked and unstopped by even the most technically proficient governments, because the minds behind those governments are incompetent to action because of group consensus.
Ragnar Danneskjöld is really the first pirate of his kind, and audiences won’t know quite what to think of Eric Allan Kramer’s performance if they have not yet studied the novel Atlas Shrugged. While critics of the premise of Ragnar will scoff at the reality of such a pirate, what their protests really indicate is a deep insecurity at the truth behind the character. Ragnar Danneskjöld is a character that properly identifies a flaw in human nature which the pirate Blackbeard exploited several centuries ago. Blackbeard would have continued to have success as a pirate if he had not grown so power hungry, and arrogant. The English navy couldn’t stop him, and they were the most powerful in the entire world at the time. Jesse James is another example of such a personality. The might of the United States military could not stop the guy—it took an individual assassin of some level of competency functioning outside of the bureaucracy of the law to perform the task. For a character like Ragnar, he does not have the personality flaws of such outlaws—he’s a man of goodness which makes him much more difficult to deal with. And that is why Ragnar Danneskjöld is the Atlas Shrugged character that I most identify with and the moment things go sour where American society no longer functions—could very well be my own potential future. It wouldn’t take much for me to go pirate. All that stops me from doing it now is the hope that using the First Amendment can stop the spread of collectivism before The Second Amendment is needed. But the moment that there is no First Amendment, it will be a pirates life for me, and the world will note be able to stop it—for all the reasons that Eric Allan Kramer’s performance of Ragnar Danneskjöld will display.