Chapter 21: Atlantis
Atlantis appears to be, at first, the greatest sacrifice a man could make. Its inhabitants are the rich and the productive of Earth. Yet, having forsaken the established comforts of the mortal world, with only the Valley's basic tools and resources and the lack of men, the immortals are reduced to to being farmers, grocery-store owners, plumbers, cafeteria-workers--instead of designing and building great cars, engines, masterpiece constructions, or movies.
Wyatt would argue that he's done more here of value than in the real world. Wealth is the means of expanding one's life--two ways to expand one's life: to produce more or to produce it faster. Wyatt is doing things faster, thus manufacturing time. The greater efficiency here is worth it; moreover, he has everything he needs. Nothing is wasted, to reach the end of its course at the mercy of a looter's indifference. It's a mutual effort. Wyatt improves his methods so that the men he serves--only the men of ability--would, in turn, return benefits to him by their subsequent increased productivity. Here, achievement is traded--instead of failure.
A man is not hired because his superior knows that the man will not be able to take over his business and challenge him; instead, only the type of men with such potential is hired. Moreover, businesses compete to rule out the other--but not with the help of laws or machinations to "buy out" a company's well-being, rather, with honest productive work to prove who's better.
Atlantis is the ideal capitalism--capitalism freed of the corruption of the insecure and incompetent.
It is difficult to abandon the real world because it was the product of the men of ability, and it seemed their right to possess it, to live in it and add their individual contributions to it. Yet, one cannot ignore the hell that has become of earth. Galt summarizes his radio speech to come:
Throughout history, it is always the men of ability to moved the world--who fed its people, who invented the technology to move it forward, who produced the fount of work. He produces, and would die to produce, because of his love of achievement and existence, and yet he lets the villains cripple him with the notion that he should be guilty of his glory.
Man--man's mind--has consistently been sacrificed--to the soul, to the body. When a man denounces his mind, it is because his goal is of a nature the mind would not permit to confess. Contradictions are preached with the knowledge that someone will accept the burden of the impossible; destruction is the price of any contradiction.
By the despoiling of reason, this has become the age of the common man--the human Incompetent, the "man who may claim to the extent of such distinction as he has managed not to achieve. (679)" The man of ability, the complete opposite, is thus the slave of the Incompetent; the man of ability has no voice, must work for him--must atone for his guilt of being competent.
They are counting on the producers to go on to save them from the consequences of their ludicrous new world miasma. Whether or not the plan may have longetivity is beyond their concern; "their plan is only that the loot shall last their lifetime." It's always lasted, and precedence and history are heavy founts of faith they lounge on.
This time, however, the men of ability have gone on strike. The looters can believe whatever they want--they will believe it and exist with it without the help of the heroes... an either-or statement with potentially hazardous consequences.