I never mind helping people who are not as fortunate as me. I was born with certain gifts and over many years I developed them in a very unique way through a lot of hard work and unusually tenacious endurance. As I had the little breakfast shown in the following picture I understood why the great American novel Atlas Shrugged was one of the best stories ever told. It told the story of a philosophy which had emerged under Adam Smith’s relatively new economic considerations and properly identified the essence of culture in the United States. Sometimes you only know things innately, which I always have—well before a writer like Ayn Rand was able to put definitions to some of those thoughts. But at times such as the moment I took that picture, literally on top of the world, literature—especially good literature—provides a refuge for people of thought to associate with the greatness they are primarily inclined to. It’s one thing to say that Atlas Shrugged is the great American novel—probably the best that has ever been produced primarily as a product from the United States—but it’s another to consider it within a foreign culture on the other side of the world. I can only appreciate the benefits of having a hobby like the one I do where books are my most valuable possessions as I cut into an egg with such a magnificent view.
It is easy for me to love Atlas Shrugged, because I identify with most of the main protagonists. If I couldn’t, Atlas Shrugged would be an insult. I would say that the novel was not written for the masses, or even what the Occupy communists consider to be the 1%. Atlas Shrugged was written for the 1% of the 1% who completely understand the concept of Atlantis as proposed in the novel—and I am clearly one of them. I’ve always known it, but on that particular day in that very different place, it was clearer to me than it ever has been. Not everyone gets it and I spend a considerable amount of my time trying to help those who don’t—not out of some altruistic motivation, but simply because I feel sorry for those not born with the gifts and the mind that I have. Even though I have worked hard to have that mind, and I’ve taken action over a lifetime to preserve it with an emphasis on authenticity, I do feel sorry for the people in this world who by no real fault of their own read Atlas Shrugged and can only identify with the villain—James Taggart.
Most public education institutions and advanced degrees around the world produce the villains of Atlas Shrugged. Most families nurture their children into the values which most embody James Taggart—yet he is certainly the vilest villain of the classic American story. Yet if a scholar or philosopher really wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of what Thomas Paine and Adam Smith were considering with the American experiment it was to construct a world where the top 1% of the very top 1% of intellectual aptitude could bring to the world through their natural inclinations advancements in human civilization—which is essentially what Atlas Shrugged is all about. It’s about what the world could be like if people like James Taggart were removed from holding society to the vile Vico cycle of European thought—which has likely plunged thinking minds into primitive contemplation for millions of years. So I sipped on my orange juice, let the waitresses properly pamper me as royalty—because in that culture-they instinctively understand what drives the motor of the world, and I watched the world below with a glad reservation that I won’t soon forget as I thought about all the James Taggart’s who were out there holding the world back from its true potential.
James “Jim” Taggart (1977-2020?), in Ayn Rand‘s novel Atlas Shrugged, was President of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. But instead of being a productive businessman, James Taggart sought to profit by obtaining and trading various government favors. But his actual motive was not so much the effective mulching of the public, or even of businessmen more productive than he. His motive was the destruction of the productive, a motive that stemmed entirely from jealousy. He carefully hid that motive even from himself, until the day came when he caught himself attempting to inflict pain on another man when that act had no profit in it. On that day, he suffered a complete neuropsychiatric collapse. Whether he lived or died immediately after that, is unclear.
Taggart is an example of a corporatist businessman of the sort who nearly destroyed British industry under the system that operated from 1945 until the election of Margaret Thatcher.
James Taggart was born in 1977, the son of the President of the TTRR and the descendant of Nathaniel Taggart, the original founder. But even as a child he showed that he was not made of the same stuff of which Nathaniel Taggart was made.
His sister Dagny definitely was, and he knew it and resented it. He once told her that, though she was named after their (great) grandmother Dagny, wife of Nathaniel, in temperament she better resembled Nathaniel than Old Dagny. Young Dagny took that as a compliment, a thing that James Taggart perhaps never understood.
One particular episode from their adolescence both illustrated his attitude and served as a prelude to things to come. His father made him a present of a motorboat, and the dockmaster at the Taggart family compound started to teach him how to drive it. The lesson did not go well. Then, in frustration, James turned to Francisco d’Anconia, a boy nearly three years younger than he who was visiting at the time, and challenged him to drive the motorboat. Francisco not only drove it; he demonstrated almost as much proficiency as an adult might be expected to have. James Taggart resented that encounter, and Francisco, ever since.
James Taggart attended college at the age of sixteen. When he graduated (1998), he took his first job with the railroad—in its Public Relations department. In sharp contrast, his sister Dagny, five years his junior, started working as a night telephone operator at a local railroad station. From there she would work her way through the Operating Department.
The John Galt Line, with its rails and even an entire bridge made of Rearden Metal, opened on July 22, 2017, with a highly successful first run. Again Jim was able to take credit for it in the public mind, so much so that a young woman, Cherryl Brooks, actually fell in love with him because she thought that he was the productive genius behind the line.
Jim saw in Cherryl a woman trying to better herself, a thing with which he had no patience. And he saw a way to make her pay for that error: he would marry her and make abundantly clear that she could never be good enough to be a railroad president’s wife. And so he courted her and eventually proposed to her.
In the meantime, he saw the economic boom that Colorado was enjoying, due entirely to the excellent transportation afforded by the John Galt Line, now once again part of the TTRR system. And he determined, with the help of a number of unions and other like-minded organizations, to destroy it—by proposing a series of burdensome and often contradictory regulations.
The regulations went through in November of 2017. They produced the result that Jim Taggart had hoped for. But not all the results were as he predicted. The most spectacular result was one that worried him, at least to some degree: Ellis Wyatt, who had developed a method for extracting oil from shale, set fire to his oil fields and vanished without a trace. Those fields, referred to as “Wyatt’s Torch,” continued to burn for the rest of the period in the narrative.
James Taggart is the chief villain in the novel. More to the point, he is a type of every small-minded individual who, jealous of the talents or productive capacities of those who can do things better than they, seeks to demean or even destroy such persons. They pretend to be serving the greatest good for the greatest number, but in fact their motives are far more dire. They pretend to be altruists; in fact they are spiteful.
Ayn Rand considered altruism and spite to be two sides of the same evil coin, and almost considered them a distinction without a difference. Almost, but not quite—the man known as “Non-Absolute” is an altruist who comes to realize that the policies he is supporting do not support the public good, and rebels against them, at the cost of his own life.
Jim is definitely worse than all the other villains, with the possible exception of Floyd Ferris. All the other “looters” do what they do in the pursuit of short-term gain. Ivy Starnes, daughter of Jed Starnes of theTwentieth Century Motor Company, did what she did in the pursuit of control. But Jim Taggart does what he does in order to destroy. He carefully hides this motive even from himself, until he can no longer hide it, and at that moment, his mind collapses completely.
There is of course much more to the story of James Taggart, and for most people who read the book, they will only understand him. Other characters that they might understand would be the government lobbyists, the various second-handers within the story and the general people in the street wondering when something might happen for some miraculous reason. Because they don’t understand the motor of the world—the primary driver of all things—they are left praying to deities the way primitives idolized the sun for making crops grow. America—as told by Atlas Shrugged—was designed from the outset to find the best and brightest that was produced within the philosophy of freedom the United States offered and let them emerge unhindered to advance civilization. Such people are rarer than gold and to find them; we must as a culture mine for them deep and with great patience only occasionally discovering a cherished gold nugget justifying all our hard work. Most people digging for such gold will fail-they’ll die trying. But that’s worth it because when such treasures are found—they lift everyone up.
That is easy for me to say, because I am certainly one of them. I love Atlas Shrugged because Ayn Rand was essentially writing the story for the few people like me—and I appreciate it. Even though the novel is quite popular and people try to relate—most of them end up being like Jim’s wife in the novel, Cherryl Taggart. I meet a lot of “Cherryl Taggart’s at places like the symphony, the downtown theaters, and at high-end shopping centers and they are often miserable. They always strived for greatness but were taught that it came from people like Jim Taggart-the well-connected, the popular ones who were liked by the most people. Only once it’s too late do they realize they were scammed and they often end their lives extremely resentful. When Cherryl realized in Atlas Shrugged that Jim wasn’t what she thought he was, she killed herself. A lot of women are slowly killing themselves through dietary abuse, intellectual torture, and acting as social parasites toward others for the sheer spite of it.
My feelings about the many Jim Taggarts that I know are that I treat them like insects stuck in my pool during the summer months. If I see them kicking around and alive, I usually take the time to scoop them out to let them live one more day. I consider them lucky to be near me at that particular point in their lives, so I help them. I live my life as a motor of the world. I carry everyone around me with a boundless energy that comes with the type of person that I am. So I don’t mind if the Jim Taggarts come along for a boost in their life. They never appreciate it, and they always take credit for being the masters of industry—but I know that without me they can go nowhere and if I can bring them a moment of happiness—just a little gold nugget to make the Cherryl’s in their life not want to jump off a bridge—or their kids desiring to grow up and be idiots—then I try and try again. I know they don’t appreciate it, but I never lose hope that they might. That is the difference between being an engine of the world and a parasite—which most people relegate themselves to.
When I watch the questions asked of Donald Trump—how will you do this or that, Mr. Trump—I think of Jim Taggart. They don’t have a mind to understand what it means to be a motor of the world. I was glad for that particular breakfast because it was a culture that did understand—and they also understood that they were always on the lookout for such an engine. They innately knew that American culture had a tendency to produce such people so the odds of discovering the 1% of the 1% were greater with every American who sat down at their tables with a finely pressed suit and a little swagger to their walk. They worked to impress such people with the same effort I’ve seen people drive across a state border for a billion dollar lottery ticket, or play the odds at a gambling table—hoping to hit it big even though the odds were desperately against them. Other places in the world outside of America hope with all hope to run into an American who is one of Ayn Rand’s heroes—a product of Adam Smith’s capitalism. Nobody can understand Donald Trump but other Atlas Shrugged protagonists. Trump can’t begin to explain his positions than Dagny could explain to her brother Jim why she was so much better than he was.
Yet, it was the people like Jim Taggart who made up the modern institutions, such as the brand of crony capitalism now known in American, or the socialism of Europe, and the communism of the East. The feared organizations such as the “vile bankers,” the Masons, the Illuminati, the whoever—are made up entirely of people like Jim Taggart. All of Washington D.C. is made up of Jim Taggarts and his wife Cherryl. Yet capitalism was never intended to make those people feel good about themselves. It was meant to sift through them to find the rarest of the rare—the gold nuggets that are so often buried deep within the organized elements of society.
I know it’s hard for all those Jim Taggarts out there to accept that they are not equal to the engines of the world. The people of the world are not equal. Some people are better and more important than others, just as gold has more value than the dirt that often surrounds it. And it’s for that reason that I help the Jim Taggarts that I know. I let them ride my coattails because I know without me; they will likely die miserable deaths prerequisite with a parade of personal failures. And I hate to see that in anybody if it’s avoidable. All I ask is that they respect what I offer. If they don’t, then like insects in my pool, they can drown if they are stupid enough to fly back into the deep water after I have fished them to safety. It’s not my obligation to waste my time-saving them from themselves. But if I happen to be in the right place at the right time, they should consider themselves lucky. The best thing they can do is to shut their mouths, and enjoy the ride because the engine does all the work anyway. And when it comes to Donald Trump, putting such an engine in the White House has no downside. It’s never been done before and that is something that the Jim Taggarts of the world do not understand.
Atlas Shrugged is a work of genius, and that becomes more evident outside of the United States. All nations of the world should study it intently and consider its message when constructing their societies. This Karl Marx obsession with equality needs to be abandoned in favor of Ayn Rand’s quest to discover the exceptional. Mankind needs to step off the Vico cycle for the first time in history—and to advance. For that to happen the Jim Taggarts of the world need to get out-of-the-way and let the engines do their work. They can go along for the ride, but they can’t take the credit with assumptions. They may be able to provide fuel for those engines which they should do out of respect. But otherwise they bring nothing to the table. And they should consider themselves lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Atlas Shrugged is all about potential, and the world could use a lot more of it.
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Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman
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