Chapter 15: Account Overdrawn
Railroads connect the country, and without it, producers would not be able to send their stuff to others, and they would produce at a loss. The chapter begins with the plight of various smaller industries due to the growing inefficiency of the stifled railroads. Many of the cases are due to the various directives: the limits on speed of the train and the limits on Rearden metal, crucially needed to reinforce bridges. In winter, the country is depicted as a place about to crumble, people dying of hunger, lack of heating systems rending eternal coughs--even the skyline of New York has been decapitated down to the 25th floor in order to conserve energy. Those with "friends," of course, could obtain essential need permission to run elevators above certain floors. The vast majority of people suffer when the goods of the producers have been stifled--when Taggart trains are bridled down to run at the arbitrary and inefficent specifications of the directive, when Rearden is forbidden to sell enough metal to the producers who could truly make use of his metal. Without the brilliance of production, the public welfare is doomed, the account from which they need to survive on overdrawn.
The board of Taggart Transcontinental meets along with with the government-assigned vulture, C. Weatherby. They discuss how to pull TT together. The chairman suggests that the John Galt Line is running at a loss, and that it has the best rails in the country. He does not directly imply that the John Galt Line should be cut. It takes the men much deliberation, much "it seems to me," and "it is my opinion that" before they finally make the vote to end the JG Line--a vote in which Dagny steps out from. Prior to this, Weatherby had suggested that they raise the wages, against the unamious decision of the Alliance of Railroads; it would win back Wesley's friendship for James Taggart. However, Taggart exclaims that TT can't afford that. Weatherby shrugs it off as "merely a suggestion," and he sits back and quietly await the men to make progress. When the men have finally decided to end the JG Line, Weatherby breaks from his inertia and points out that because the railroad is a venue of public service, they would need to obtain permission from the government before they could do that. Special need, of course, could be granted if Taggart raises the wages. Such would be impossible, however, and this will later (sometime after this meeting) give Weatherby the advantage of giving Taggart an option other than raising wages--a possibly impossible option, that of giving the government the dirt on Rearden. Taggart is beginning to find that his credit card of friendship is starting to max out.
Dagny and Rearden take their last ride on the JG Line. People panic to board the train, but none of them think through their actions, and it is as if they're running around like lemmings. A great track had to be disassembled in order to pay for the debt of production--a debt created and nurtured by directives concocted for "friends".
Taggart is desperate, and he schedules a lunch meeting with Lillian Rearden--the woman who could deliver him Rearden. Taggart needs to pay Weatherby/Mouch, and because he cannot raise the railroad wages, he has to find information with which to blackmail Rearden with. Moreover, the task is even more arduous than finding any common dirt--it has to be foolproof, as the scandel with Dannager had not weakened Rearden. Taggart is a bit disappointed when Lillian tells him that Rearden is not a bit less recalcitrant even after the prospect of destroying the John Galt Line, but when he hints at his difficulties with the government, Lillian understands the picture. In exchange for having Taggart at her mercy, Lillian would give him the ultimate dirt on Rearden. Lillian, of course, had just promised Taggart a payment she does not currently possess. It is now Lillian whose account is overdrawn.
Lillian gets lucky and she discovers who Rearden's mistress is. When she confronts Rearden about this, she makes it clear that she does not want to divorce him, although Rearden finds it puzzling. Lillian has her own ulterior motive for maintaining the officiality of her marriage, and it is appropos that it would be she who succeeds at delivering her to Taggart and Mouch. The drain is now put into Rearden's account, as he has just given Lillian the ultimate dirt over him, one which has the potential to bankrupt him of possession of his metal: the possibility of the media muckracking his scandalous affair with Dagny Taggart.
(Appendum to Sanction of the Victim) After his trial, Rearden breaks free of the chains of absolute laws. He breaks laws and manipulates deals in order to do what he knows is right. He gives dagny the rails she'd need, even though it would have to be given secretly.)