Who is John Galt?

Apparently it’s the 100th anniversary of Ayn Rand’s birth, so for a brief period of time the media spotlight is shining again on the founder of Objectivism. Interestingly, there is a way in which Ayn Rand was tangentially involved in the creation of the precursor to this blog. When I received my brand-spanking new 300 baud modem for my birthday way back when, there were no BBSes in my hometown. This led to many long-distance phone bills calling places like Norfolk, VA, which made my parents oh-so-happy. Within a few months, thankfully, some local ones opened up. Most of them were the usual run-of-the-mill (i.e. boring) BBSes, but one of them had an extremely active political discussion group. Being 13 and somewhat naive, I dove into the discussion with my proto-socialist views and started duking it out with all involved. Two of the participants, who went by the names Darkshot and Cardinal Richardson, were dyed-in-the-wool libertarians who were very big on Ms. Rand (and were also usually the most interesting people to argue with). After debating for a few months, Darkshot apparently decided that although I was completely wrongheaded in my thinking, I was intelligent enough to be saved. So he took it upon himself to send me a copy of Atlas Shrugged (and some other books, I think, but I forget which ones).

When I went off to summer camp that year, I took the book with me and ended up reading it straight through. I have to say that it was probably one of the most entertaining books that I’ve ever read – it’s sort of like a comic book in fiction form. A bit of mystery, some really good good guys, some really bad bad guys and the end of the world – what could be better? It didn’t turn me into an Objectivist as hoped, but it did help sharpen my own views on things. Sadly, Darkshot passed away a few years ago but the book still has a sentimental place on my shelf. (I later tried reading The Fountainhead, but I found that it lacked the zip of Atlas Shrugged.)

The whole point of this is that in many ways the fact that, at the tender age of 13, I could go online and argue politics with adults and be taken seriously was a seriously formative experience. (As they say, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.) The egalitarian nature of online discussion had, I think, a lot to do with my desire to run my own BBS and helped spark my interest in online communities that continues to this day. So, thanks, Ayn, and happy birthday!

(As a footnote: Atlas Shrugged also holds the distinctive honor of being the only book that I’ve finished where I didn’t read the whole book. Those of you who’ve read the book know what I’m talking about. I can still distinctly remember getting about 3 pages into Galt’s diatribe before I thought “How long does this thing go on?” and started flipping ahead. When I realized it was, like, 40 pages, that was it…)

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28 thoughts on “Who is John Galt?

  1. Jason Bock

    < ![CDATA[You mean the chapter near the end where Galt goes on...and on...and on...and on...about the SAME stuff over and over again? god, did that get old quick. I was waiting for the Monty Python troupe to come in and scream, "GET ON WITH IT!!!" I liked the end of the chapter, though, where he says, "Get the hell out of our way!" Overall, "Shrugged" is not bad, just (very) repetitive at points.]]>

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  2. Eric G. Harrison

    < ![CDATA[Yup, I've read Atlas Shrugged several times myself, and each time I skip that speech. Yeesh. How many pages of lecturing are necessary to get across the point that they were all sheeple? 🙂 – Eric.]]>

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  3. Tom Bowen

    < ![CDATA[Within a few months, thankfully, some local ones opened up. Most of them were the usual run-of-the-mill (i.e. boring) BBSes
    —————-

    Gee…thanks…

    <g>

    Actually, I hadn’t thought about Dark and Cardinal in ages, and didn’t know Dark had died. Lotsa fun back then, that’s for sure.]]>

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  4. Scott Mitchell

    Your story brought back some memories of my early net days on a local BBS. The BBSes available in my area (rural Midwest) were sort of the opposite of yours – the vocal folks there were dyed-in-the-wool anarchists. Mostly younger folks still in their teen rebellion years, I think. If nothing else, though, there was some intelligent and interesting debate/discussion, as well as playing of silly text-based games, the names of all escape me right now.

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  5. James Wilson

    < ![CDATA[I gave up reading the book half way through. Not because the underlying philosophy was an issue (it doesn't really come out in the first half), but because too many parts of the story were just lame. Alas, beauty is in the eye…]]>

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  6. John Miles

    I wonder, W.W.A.S. about support for software patents (one of the most powerful imaginable weapons in a nonproducers arsenal against the productive?)

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  7. Patrick Jones

    < ![CDATA[I just stumbled onto this blog. Good to see you're doing well.
    I actually bought that copy of Atlas Shrugged for you. I think Darkshot sent some Heinlein (his favorite) with it.

    I was Captain Feedback.

    Yesterday was the second anniversary of his death. ]]>

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  8. Dharmesh Tripathi

    < ![CDATA[I just googled for thw Phrase Who is John Galt? and reached here . i am just 60 pages till now of Atlas shrugged , the story looks lame . I hope it will be better once i reach the next half as ur Blog says. Cheers! Dharmesh Tripathi]]>

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  9. Raghav

    < ![CDATA[Gee! First I read the fountainhead! The read was very good, otherwise, i could've never finished a book in 3 days! But after reading that, I thought about it a lot,( I was in fact searching for Dominic Francon for 6 months after reading the book) which I've never done after reading a fiction:) So, When i thought that the mystique of Fountainhead is fading, I started to read shrugged:) I’m halfway thru! But as it is said earlier, I’d try to avoid that speech, I’d read it only once. Ayn is the greatest!!! Cheers,
    Raghav]]>

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  10. johngaltline

    < ![CDATA["Those of you who've read the book know what I'm talking about. I can still distinctly remember getting about 3 pages into Galt's diatribe before I thought "How long does this thing go on?" and started flipping ahead. When I realized it was, like, 40 pages, that was it." Easily digestible summary of the Galt speech:
    http://www.whoisjohngalt.com/galtspeech.html]]>

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  11. Lisa

    < ![CDATA[FOR ALL THE ANTI- JOHN GALT!! i too came accross the fountainhead before atlas shrugged…i was really impressed by the fountainhead that motivated me to read the fat AS Haven’t read anything so philosophical before…but i don’t understand why would anyone want to avoid the 90 page speech of Galt having read the awesome number of pages before it….?!!
    Ayn Rand what a woman she must be to have written such masterpiece!!

    it was awe-inspiring for me!!!! wonder if such ppl exist!!

    ]]>

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  12. Harsh

    In response to Lisa’s post, the fact thatthe book was written and is widely populareven now, is evidence and proff that they do.

    Reply
  13. G N Viswanath

    < ![CDATA[I happed to get hold of this book "atlas shrugged" in local cilculating library way back some 30 years back.even to today i must confess i get a mental shock when i recall the profetic words"who is john Galt" and its relavence in this global economy context.
    This is my humble tribute to the genious of" Ayn Rand."

    G N Viswanath.

    Bangalore,India.

    ps.Just to test the reading habits of modern generation i pose this question to my students in Management class,but sad to state that they lack any curiocity to think and know human thought development processand relavence of Various "isms".]]>

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  14. One of the PGEMPians

    < ![CDATA[Hello Viswanath Sir, I am sure your management students will not disappoint you. Very soon they will come up with an answer to your Qs "Who is John Galt"? Regards,
    One of the PGEMPians]]>

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  15. N. Liburd

    < ![CDATA[John Galt is the man whose name in the book represented the man who was at a position of power
    that controllled the characters of the book directly and indirectly. ]]>

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  16. N. Liburd

    < ![CDATA[John Galt is the man whose name in the book represented the man who was at a position of power
    that controlled the characters of the book directly and indirectly. ]]>

    Reply
  17. Walt Mecleary

    < ![CDATA[Atlas Shrugged is the "second most influential book for Americans today" after the Bible, according to a joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club.
    For what ever that is worth. I wonder what that survey cost the taxpayers. (ARGH!)

    Yes, I agree she does beat any given point to death on occasion.

    I have read the book twice, and the second read I sped through by skipping some of the redundancy that I already knew.

    But I completely understand why she wrote it in such a way. There is almost NO WAY to misinterpret what she claims as fact. i.e. If you didn’t quite understand her first presentation of an idea, there are three more examples that say the same thing in a different way and/or back up the previous premise with irrefutable evidence.

    As to WHO IS JOHN GALT?

    My answer is read the book. It may make you feel uneasy at times. Because it does put into question every single fundamental belief that you hold to be true.

    It is truly a book worth going back to now and again.

    I have found many people dislike the book because it does bring their mis-guided core beliefs into the light of day.

    ]]>

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  18. thomas downes

    To answer the question, John Galt is the son of a garage mechanic. (Yes, it says so in the book, re-read it if you have to, just kidding about that, I’m not sure if it’s worth re-reading just for that little bit of trivia. :-).

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  19. Sticks76

    If you want to know why she wrote 40 pages worth of preaching do a little research into her early life, back when she lived in good old mother Russia, then read We The Living.

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  20. Dave

    I too am about 60 pages into it, and agree it’s pretty lame so far.
    Thank you for the encouagement. I will finish it.

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  21. Tom

    John Galt (2 May 1779 – 11 April 1839) was a Scottish novelist

    Atlas Shrugged is lame! Pseudo Intellectual defines Ayn Rand. Communism, fascism, and State monopoly capitalism are all the same thing in different clothes — Totalitarianism. Wile the producers, workers, or creators ect. deserve the profit for there labor man is an interdependent social animal. Greed dose not pay. Communism also calmed that the workers would receive the profit! State owned corporations (communism and fascism) or corporate owned states (State monopoly capitalism) it is just semantics but Rand offers no legitimate alternative.

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  22. david

    I am 500 pages into the book and it has taken me about 6 months. I have put the book down for several weeks at a time because of the slow start. At page 410 I knew I was hooked. The dinner party where Francisco d’Anconia clarifies what money represents. I then appreciated reading the 400+ pages prior!

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  23. grandma

    I am an avid reader. I have read many books I didn’t like and or agree with but that is how we learn and grow. Anyone who does not understand Atlas Shrugged or quits reading the book because they don’t like it does not have the intellect to interept it’s meaning. I think it should be required reading before graduating from high school.

    Reply

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