I was at a Friday Zoom discussion with the Atlas Society, an organization whose employees and contributors subscribe to varying degrees to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. David Kelly, who moderated the discussion, noted that as we come up next month on the 65th anniversary of the publication of Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas shrugged. It was released on October 10, 1957.
As a result of the discussion I went back to my dog-eared copy and re-read the various passages I mentioned. Between now and October 10, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite passages.
Here’s one that caught my eye on Sunday morning. This is a statement by James Taggart, about Hank Rearden, one of the novel’s villains, who discovers Rearden Metal, which is much more durable than steel:
He did not invent smell and chemistry and air compression. He may not discover his metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. his Metal! Why does she think it’s her? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everyone uses everyone else’s work. Nobody ever invents anything.
The person talking to Taggart, Cheryl Brooks, is quick to point out that all those other things have been there for quite some time and asks, “Why didn’t anyone else make that metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”
In short, Brooks finds that there is a division of labor without which Rearden could not have invented Rearden Metal. But none of this means he invented rearden metal.
This passage, which I first read when I was 17 years old, reminds me of President Obama’s famous 2012 statement to businessmen and entrepreneurs: “You didn’t make it. Somebody else made it happen.”
Note: I’ve posted about “You Didn’t Make It Up” here and here.