Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Driver - part IV - bankruptcy, railroads and Ayn Rand relics

Click here for part III of my review of The Driver. [Click here for parts I and II.]

Chapter II is significant for some quotations that remind us of the current economic situation and possibly foreshadow the result of current policies. [Remember that this 1922 novel was a fictionalized account of the aftermath of the Panic of 1893.][Remember also that I will not reveal the plot, but will try only to pick out items of interest to the modern reader.]

On page 34(original edition), as the main character walks through Wall Street, he hears two men arguing. "One seemed to be denouncing the government for letting the country go bankrupt. 'It is busted,' he shrieked. 'The United States Treasury is busted.'"

Another notable passage begins on page 40:

In the Middle Ages Europe might have advanced, with consequences in this day not easily to be imagined, but for the time and the energy of mind and body which were utterly wasted in quest of holy grails and dialectical forms of truth. So now in this magnificent New World, the resources of which were unlimited, human progress had been arrested by silly Utopians who distracted the mind with thoughts of unattainable things.

Take the railroads. With already the cheapest railroad transportation in the world, people were clamoring for it to be made cheaper. Crazy Populists were telling the farmers it ought to be free, like the air. Prejudice against railroads was amazing, irrational and suicidal. All profit in railroading had been taxed and regulated away. Incentive to build new roads had been destroyed. If by a special design of the Lord a railroad did seem to prosper the politicians pounced upon it and either mulcted it secretly or held it forth to the public as a monster that must be chained up with restrictive laws. Sometimes they practised both these arts at once. Result: the nation's transportation arteries were strangling.

In the above quote, substitute the health care industry in place of railroads and you will have a close approximation of the campaign of demonization that has served as a prelude to socialized medicine over the past several decades - and which may see its climax very soon. Most Americans do not remember similar campaigns of demonization against all of the major industries that now seek bailouts and without which we are told the economy cannot survive (and whose decades-long demise is now blamed on George W. Bush). If you cannot remember the official attacks on American industry, read any high school history book's discussion of "robber barons" or any "official" history of the American "labor" movement.

CCL&K Railroad track - 1890's - photo (c) William Duvall

The first of the major Ayn Rand relics appear in the latter half of Chapter 2. Follow the advice from the introductory comments to my review:
I will not reveal plot spoilers from the The Driver or what I call the various Rand relics that appear from time to time in the novel. Instead of trying to prove a point one way or another, simply enjoy each Rand relic as it appears. Consider yourself to be conducting an archeological dig, in which you unearth relics in the form of characters or events that presage some element of a Randian novel.

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