Atlas Shrugged Updated for the Current
“Damn it, Dagny! I need the government to get out of the way and let me do my job!”
She sat across the desk from him. She appeared casual but confident, a slim body with rounded shoulders like an exquisitely engineered truss. How he hated his debased need for her, he who loathed self-sacrifice but would give up everything he valued to get in her pants … Did she know?
“I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun,” she said. “Don’t let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we’ll revitalize our country’s failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits.”
“Oh, no, I got out of that suckers’ game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management.”
He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn’t betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. “Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I’m earning millions in interest off money I don’t even have.”
He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.
“There’s a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I’ve taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I’ll make a cool $877 million.”
Their eyes locked with an intensity she was only beginning to understand. Yes, Hank … claim me … If we’re to win the battle against the leeches, we must get it on … right now … Don’t let them torture us for our happiness … or our billions.
He tore his eyes away.
“I can’t. Sex is base and vile!”
“No, it’s an expression of our highest values and our admiration for each other’s minds.”
“Your mind gives me the biggest boner, Dagny Taggart.”
He fell upon her like a savage, wielding his mouth like a machete, and in the pleasure she took from him her body became an extension of her quarterly earnings report—proof of her worthiness as a lover. His hard-on was sanction enough.
“Scream your secret passions, Hank Rearden!”
“Oh, yes! Yes!”
“Collateralized debt obligation.”
“YES! YES! YES!”
Dagny and Hank searched through the ruins of the 21st Century Investment Bank. As they stepped through the crumbling cubicles, a trampled legal pad with a complex column of computations captured Dagny’s attention. She fell to her hands and knees and raced through the pages and pages of complex math written in a steady hand. Her fingers bled from the paper cuts, and she did not care.
“What is it, Dagny?”
“Yes, it’s an experimental formula for a financial strategy that could convert static securities into kinetic profits that would increase at an almost exponential rate.”
Hank studied the numbers. “The amount of debt you would need to make this work would be at least 30-to-1, but a daring, rational man who lives by his mind would be willing to take that risk!”
“Yes, and it’s so complex the government could never regulate it.”
“It’s perfect. There’s only one problem—half the pages are missing. Could you reconstruct it, Dagny?”
Her answer escaped her lips like air from a punctured galvanized-steel duct:
“I didn’t think so, but why leave such an achievement to rot here? It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, made by a monumental genius, the sort of mind that’s only born once in a century … Dagny, why are you fondling your breasts?”
There was still the breathless tone in her voice when she asked, “The financial strategy … the financial strategy I found … it was you who made it?”
“Yes,” he said.
John Galt’s face betrayed no signs of pain or fear or guilt, and his body had the clean tensile strength of a foundry casting with skin the color of a polished full-port brass valve. In the center of this secret mountain valley where the titans of Wall Street had retreated for an extended junket was a 3-foot-tall dollar sign of pure gold atop a granite column. It was tacky, yes, but it was also their emblem, a symbol of their triumph.
“But why did you leave it behind?”
“Because once I committed the plan to memory I no longer needed it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The capital-gains tax, Dagny,” Galt said. “We loathe it.”
He pointed to the houses of men she knew, and the names sounded like the richest stock market in the world—a roll call of honor.
“Our money represents our spirit’s values,” Galt said. “When the government takes our profits, it is literally robbing us of our souls. I will not apologize for my wealth to a nation of looters. We who live by the mind could’ve been engineers, scientists, doctors, extreme-sports enthusiasts, but there is no purer pursuit than the pursuit of money. A is A. Money begets more money, and …”
Galt went on like this for what seemed to Dagny like hours, until, finally, something he said piqued her interest.
“And that’s why I created the financial plan you found. It’s true, it works. But it is not sustainable. It will ruin this country’s financial system, and then we’ll see how those who despise us prosper when their lenders and investors refuse to invest or lend.” He laughed joylessly. “Funny, isn’t it? I must destroy the very thing I love in order to save it.”
“Just to avoid paying taxes?”
“I do not compromise my beliefs, and I will kill anyone who asks me to!”
A silence fell between them, and it was awkward.
Finally, Dagny asked, “So, just out of curiosity, how much are you worth?”
He shrugged. “What is infinity?”
She let out a rich, powerful moan, like the sound of a passing diesel train in the night.
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