Chapter 7: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Nealy represents man who has muscles but no mind--the exact image as prescribed by the new science of the day, that man is nothing but biological protplasm with delusions of grandeur. Yet, although Dagny hires him as a contractor, she and Wyatt have to give Nealy and his men the brains in order to get anything done. If businesses were run by the people--such people, that is--then just as how they do not have the brains to deal with a landslide, nothing would stand.
In the time of national emergencies, the villains have the leisure to entertain the incredulous debate on whether Rearden Metal, clearly an item that would help the national need, is a lethal product of greed. With a hidden intent, James Taggart almost corners Dagny into defending Rearden Metal against Scudder's fog of meaningless words. Dagny runs away realizing the purpose of the event, furious, paralleling how Cherryl Brooks whould later escape when she discovers the evil nature of the world. Dagny, however, ends up in a beaten-up bar, where she hears the story of John Galt being the one who found the fountain of youth. Interestingly, the tramp who tells her the tale defines morality aptly, but lets the media paint the faulty association of immorality with the industrial (Ayn Rand's theory of hobos?)--hence his despair, that the good (industry) is the immoral (greedy). The view of the exploiter looters is infectious, and in a way, the lack of good men is because of this anti-greed as pure notion.
The State Science Institute sends a minion to stifle Rearden's production of his Metal. Potter gives Rearden a Catch-22. If Rearden Metal is good, then it will be a social danger (unemployment, unfairness to other agencies). If Rearden Metal is bad, then it will be a physical danger to the public. When Rearden mentions he only cares about the latter, Potter is baffled. When Rearden refuses to sell the metal to the SSI--despite the assurance of the SSI to take the risks of chance away via a blank check--the intent of the SSI minion becomes clear. They wish to mooch. The supposed state-serving SSI is now clearly an exploiter, and if that is the case, then Rearden has become the exploited--that he would be threatened to have to sell the product of his spirit, of ten years of painstaking work.
More faults attempt to stop Dagny's flow of progress in the Rio Norte Line, as Mowan refuses to make the switches for no legitimate reason other than that there are too many people against it. When the SSI issues an ambiguous statement that does not state whether Rearden Metal is good or bad, it is somehow taken as a veto against its worth as the Taggart stock crashes. Dagny's subseqent meeting with Dr. Robert Stadler, the name which gives credibility to the SSI, reveals the secret malice of the SSI's plots. Stadler would attempt to convince Dagny that it is out of necessity--that the SSI is the only institute of science left in the world, and that an achievement in industry is worth sacrificing for this. Francisco aptly summarizes the man as a looter who justifies the seizure of my means for his ends.
Dagny tracks down James Taggart and announces the only solution to save Taggart Transcontinental. The Rio Norte Line must be saved, but the only timely way to do it is by using Rearden Metal--yet, the stockholders, legislators, etc., will have nothing of it! Dagny announces that she would take all risk for herself, creating a small company called the John Galt Line, which would assume all subsequent work required of the Rio Norte Line. Even as Taggart listens to a plan of reason that would bring him out of his spineless hiding, he plots of things to put over her--making sure that she realizes that if she fails, TT will not be held responsible, that she would not be able to re-assume her position as VP afterwards. Moreover, Taggart begins outlining contracts, binding her to return the line if she succeeds--moocher inherent. Dagny agrees to do this, not realizing the significance of the stigma, but wanting purely to spite them all by doing the impossible.
Although Francisco would deny her the money necessary to start her Line (while revealing his bitter unrequitted love for her), Dagny would receive ample support from men like Wyatt, Dannager, and Rearden--Rearden who does not view his contribution as a favor, but as an investment for the showcase of his metal. Ironically, although Taggart Transcontinental is under the rule of supposedly-exploited-friendly executives, they would not help this unwanted Line reduced to begging for alms--nor would banks or anyone else who does not have an immediate personal stake in it.
Rearden is faced with a bunch of people to deal with, when his mother makes a sudden unprecedented appearance in his office. She demands that he gives Philip a job, even though Philip wouldn't know how to do anything (and doesn't he hate Rearden Steel because Friends of the Globe deems it as evil?). As she attempts to sell Rearden the idea that virtue is the giving of the undeserved, it becomes apparent that the so-called "exploited" now attempting to leech off the exploiters--the very act of Philip wanting to attain a job here, where he would be purely useless, could only mean that he wishes to mooch off it.
Contrast Rearden's dealing with Mr. Ward, a harvesting-equipment owner in dire need of steel to persist. Like Rearden's mother, Ward comes to beg--but Ward begs with acknowledgment of his status, that he is helpless, and understanding of how Rearden Metal might be at peak-production already and gratitude that Rearden would help. Rearden's mother seems to expect alms from him without gratitude, to expect him to bend down despite his load, perhaps even ignorant of it. The fact that Rearden is willing to save Ward's life--the livelihood of his business--sheds a different light on the so-called exploiter that he is considered to be. Why would he help this man when he can make profits elsewhere? The fact is that the man, like he, is good, and he cannot bear the loss of another good man--moreover, he can handle the burden. This, an exploiter, helping a begger.
When the Equalization of Opportunity Bill is enacted, it becomes clear who the exploited is. Rearden, in his tendency to action, as required to run a productive business, has not harmed anyone, but has been exploited by incumbents and those ignorant of the real national crisis.
The traditionally-accepted exploiters have become the exploited in this chapter, as the heroes give their life-blood in order to continue their work--actions needed in order to run the things to save the world. The heroes work through hectic schedules attempting to continue their work, battling the lack of good men and resources and the stifling laws. Despite the miasma of injustice, Rearden manages to continue "business as usual," as he lets the epiphany of a new bridge design carry him away from the tsunamis of despair threatening to drown him.
(The chapter begins and ends with the prospects of an incredible bridge of Rearden Metal--the ending promises a better one. Subtle weave of hope.)