An AnarchObjectivist’s Guide to Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the story of a group of anarcho-capitalists, led by inventor John Galt, who struggle against and eventually destroy the state and its allies in business. The anarcho-capitalists establish a private voluntaryist association, which they call Galt’s Gulch that they use as a secret base for their attacks on the state and state economy. One method the group uses is the revolutionary libertarian ideology known as agorism. The second method used by the anarcho-capitalists is the more traditional anarchist tactic of direct action. The underlying principle of the anarchists action is the removal of consent of the governed.

In Atlas Shrugged the anarcho-capitalists establish a private voluntaryist association called Galt’s Gulch. Voluntaryism is a libertarian philosophy that holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary. Typically, voluntaryists use the non-aggression principle as a basis for their political positions.

Explaining the volutaryist values of Galt’s Gulch, anarcho-capitalist Midas Mulligan says, “We are not a state here, not a society of any kind – we’re just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man’s self-interest. I own the valley and I sell the land to the others, when they want it. Judge Narragansett is to act as our arbiter, in case of disagreements. He hasn’t had to be called upon, as yet. They say that it’s hard for men to agree. You’d be surprised how easy it is – when both parties hold as their moral absolute that neither exists for the sake of the other and that reason is their only means of trade.”

John Galt further expresses support for the non-aggression principle in his speech, saying “Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.”

The primary tactic the anarcho-capitalists use to fight against the state is the revolutionary libertarian ideology agorism (referred to in Atlas Shrugged as “The Strike”) developed by libertarian philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III. Konkin outlined his philosophy in the 1980 book “The New Libertarian Manifesto.” The Anarcho-capitalists of Atlas Shrugged highlight the issue of consent of the governed (referred to as “the sanction of the victim”) which they use as a theoretical basis for their agoristic ideology. On the topic of agorist theory, John Galt says, “I am speaking to those of you who desire to live and to recapture the honor of their soul. Now that you know the truth of the world, stop supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is mode possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies’ terms or to win at a game where they’re setting the rules. Do not seek the favor of those who enslave you, do not beg for alms from those who have robbed you, be it subsidies, loans, or jobs, do not join their team to recoup what they’ve taken by helping them rob your neighbors.”

“[Agorism] advocates the goal of bringing about a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges by means of counter-economics. Agorists [employ] such methods as education, direct action, alternative currencies, entrepreneurship, self sufficiency and most importantly counter-economics.” The heroes of Atlas Shrugged employ all of these methods to lead to the destruction of the state.

  • Education: The Strikers meet with prominent industry leaders to encourage them to strike and/or take their companies out of the state economy.
  • Alternate currency: “That’s the money we use here,” he said. “It’s minted by Midas Mulligan… We don’t accept any other currency in this valley.”
  • Autarky: Most of the strikers, formerly leading high class lifestyles as industrial CEO’s, became farmers. Energy independence achieved through decentralized use of Galt’s Motor. Midas Mulligan: “The valley is almost self-supporting.”
  • Black markets: As opposed to state markets, the strikers go out of their way to avoid material support of the state. Midas Mulligan: “And as to the goods that we can’t yet produce, I purchase them from the outside through a pipe line of my own. It’s a special agent, a man who does not let my money reach the looters.”
  • Disregard of illegitimate law: Wherever the state is blind and relies on voluntary adherence to its demands, the strikers are oblivious to it. In their secret Galt within the geographical boundaries of Colorado and the United States, nobody volunteers taxes or submission to regulatory bodies.

The heroes of Atlas Shrugged also employed direct action against the state and its allies. Examples include:

  • Ellis Wyatt’s destruction of state-appropriated “Wyatt Oil” fields.
  • Francisco D’Anconia’s sabotage of D’Anconia Copper and manipulation of the stock market to intentionally destroy the profits through political graft of American crony capitalists as well as his destruction of D’Anconia Copper on the day it was nationalized.
  • Ragnor Danneskjold’s destruction of state-owned cargo vessels and the factory of crony capitalist Orren Boyle of Associated Steel.
  • Midas Mulligan’s theft of state property and redistribution of funds to the taxpayers.
  • John Galt’s takeover of public broadcasting for dissemination of an anti-statist message.
  • The anarchists’ assault on the government facility, the “State Science Institute,” involving the execution of a government employee, for the purpose of liberating John Galt who was being held as a political prisoner.
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