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…)


28 thoughts on “Who is John Galt?

  1. Tom Bowen

    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.]]>

  2. 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.

  3. 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?)

  4. Patrick Jones

    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. ]]>

  5. Lisa

    Ayn Rand what a woman she must be to have written such masterpiece!! it was awe-inspiring for me!!!! wonder if such ppl exist!!

  6. 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.

  7. G N Viswanath

    This is my humble tribute to the genious of" Ayn Rand."
    G N Viswanath.
    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".]]>

  8. Walt Mecleary

    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.

  9. 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. :-).

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.


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