Chapter 3: The Top and the Bottom
The looters "relax" in NY's most expensive bar set on the top of a skyscraper, but it is made to look as if it is underground, as if a cellar. This contrasts with the Taggart employee's cafeteria, which although it is in the basement, is large and filled with light, as if a great expanse of open space. The topic of conversation reflects each respective setting. The looters plot plans powered by the excuse of vacillating philosophies of "public service" and "public's vital stake in natural resources." The policies the villains machinate are action-less in an absolute sense of things; they would be useless without the luxury of "friends" and looter-wrecked legislatures. As if to stress the diametric opposite nature of the conversation, Eddie dines in the "bottom," which despite its location has the sense of free sky, as if the "top," as spills out to Galt the factual details Galt will immediately use to stalk down yet another competent man, and to fracture the solidity of TT, even more.
Dagny's ascent to the top is her grim education of the injustices of a reality runned by the looters. Although she seeks challenge, every step of the way, she finds herself being burdened by the ineptitude of those around her. The looters would rather that she not be promoted, but they would do nothing to stop them--they vacillate, as the non-absolute is their ideal, and they will not directly stop her, but will just make it hard for her. Dagny is finally made VP in charge of Operations when she threatens to quit--although her judgment is valid, it is always stifled by the vacilation of the superiors she had to pacify prior to her ascension; she realized that her superior was not worthy of her efforts, and moreover, slowed her, infuriated her with his ineptitude. Although the superiors of the company do not like Dagny's decisions, they always (after considerable wasture of time on Dagny's part) succumb to them. Dagny is surprised when she receives the position--she does not know the extent to which they need her. Nor does she know the reason why they need her. Dagny believes she can fix whatever havoc her brother wrecks on the company. She is merely puzzled by James Taggart's actions, his faith-based belief in the San Sebestian mines. Just because it is a protege of the great d'Anconia does not ensure that it will succeed; they have neglected the facts--it is almost as if they do not want to believe in reality, that they would rather live in their world of false dreams, of false hope wishing that bad judgment is actually good--that the bottom is actually the top.
The Top and the Bottom are relative locations for one climbing a ladder, or attempting to maneuver in an established hierachy. Both Boyle and Nat Taggart are described to be no-namers who "succeed"--fame, money, power. Yet, their methods vary, and the sort of fame, money, and power they earn also differ. Boyle borrowed a huge sum of money from the government, and he now controls "an enormous concern" that had swallowed many other small-companies and no-namers. He obtains his money through arbitrary standards he machinates the other looters to create, such as the Industrial Efficiency of Globe magazine--he claims that such recognition makes his lacky business superior. Nat, however, raised his own money, inquiring from door-to-door of the people who owned the money--giving them reasons to back up his assurance of profit. Nat worked to create something crucial for the country, a transcontinental railroad--something revolutionary in its day--while Boyle worked to machinate legislative plots to destroy his competition. The money Nat made is so profound, it ensured that the company would stay family-owned for generations, but Boyle's money, mostly through governmental bonds, is so inferior that the remaining ore companies would rather not sell him the raw resources he would have misused anyway. To the unsuspecting public, whose version of reality is marred by the miasma of the media, Boyle seems to have climbed to the top--but the nature of his actions, the method of his ways, have all, clearly, set him at the very bottom. Thus, their appearance at the "top" is only an illusion, one that they desperately cling onto, their hope to continue living in a world of contradictions. Although Nat is lambasted by the media, his statue at the basement of Taggart Transcontinental conveys the height of the tier he's reached--perhaps higher than Icarus, beyond Daedalus--he has lived life facing a worthwhile challenge, that of creating something thought impossible in his day, and found joy in his capacity to meet it. And, he has become successful because of the truly worthwhile, while Boyle has only reached a mental fog of a pretend-worthwhileness.