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John Galt destroys motor: Evil act?

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Drukyul
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I was reading through another forum's thread that was basically created just to bash Atlas Shrugged (mostly liberal/Democrat posters). They brought up the part of the book where John Galt, working as an engineer for the Twentieth Century Motor Company, destroys the invention that he was working on.

On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be any problem - it's his invention, he can do what he wants with it. The problem is that the book does not specify what type of arrangement Galt had with the company. What ownership stake did the company have in anything Galt invented? What was his job there, exactly (was he hired to invent new types of motors for them)? Even if Galt only signed a very open contract, is the company still owed some share of the motor idea because Galt was on their property using their materials?

Of course, the self-described liberals in the thread have various wild notions about what Galt is required to do, for example personally (in person) inform the owners of the company about the invention. They also assume that any contract Galt signed to work there would invariably the most restrictive, intellectual property-taking contract possible (they also claim such contracts are/have been prevalent in the U.S. for a long time, though with no evidence given). But the main point is that a violation of contract (or the company's property) not only diverges with their worldview, but also Ayn Rand's.

So what did John Galt owe to the company?

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Well thanks everyone for getting that idea out of my head. I only saw the "he destroyed the motor" idea somewhere (can't find it now) online in an analysis or review or something. I just assumed it was true since that was easier than searching through 1,000 pages. I checked through the chapters that mention the motor and yeah, there's nothing there.

But the thread I mentioned was under the assumption that Galt did leave the motor intact anyway. I think I'll repost with that in mind. Going to check a few more chapters first, though.

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Well thanks everyone for getting that idea out of my head. I only saw the "he destroyed the motor" idea somewhere (can't find it now) online in an analysis or review or something. I just assumed it was true since that was easier than searching through 1,000 pages. I checked through the chapters that mention the motor and yeah, there's nothing there.

But the thread I mentioned was under the assumption that Galt did leave the motor intact anyway. I think I'll repost with that in mind. Going to check a few more chapters first, though.

You will find that many if not most of those sites are full of people who never actually read AS. They've read a synopsis maybe, Cliff notes, reviews, but never the actual book in full.

I think about half of the ones I've read describe Galt as a wealthy businessman.

Back to the motor though.

He did not destroy it. As Greebo already stated he left it behind when he quit because it was company property made while he was on the company clock.

What the liberals will also claim is immoral is that he left it behind without teaching them how to use it.

However, having quit he was no longer being paid to teach them how to use it. End of story.

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What the liberals will also claim is immoral is that he left it behind without teaching them how to use it.

However, having quit he was no longer being paid to teach them how to use it. End of story.

As far as I know the novel does not indicate what Galt did or did not tell the 20th Century Motor Company as he left. Strictly we can't say that he did tell them the nature of the motor, or that he didn't -- the novel just doesn't say. If memory serves, the novel doesn't even say that the motor was finished and working at the time Galt quit -- it could easily have been a work-in-progress.

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on pg. 270, He weighed the pages in his hand reflectively. "Dagny," he asked, "if you don't find the man who made it, will you be able to reconstruct that motor from what is left?"

She took a long moment, then the word fell with a sinking sound: "No."

"Nobody will. He had it all right. It worked—judging by what he writes here.

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Interesting. I always believed that he had purposely taken it apart, at least just enough so it wouldn't work and wouldn't be able to be reconstructed, and then left. Its quite possible I missed the part where he discusses the motor he left behind. I think I might have gotten the idea from the passage you quoted dream_weaver, and another one I think where it says that there was just enough information to know what it did, but not enough to build it. I always thought it had been intentional, but I suppose it is also possible that the total collapse of the Twentieth Century Motor Company almost immediately after its transformation into a commune-esque thing would have been enough to destroy the machine. It is actually better that way than the way I had it in my head, as it means that Galt really didn't care if he left it behind or not, as he knew that his motor would never be put into use, because of the moral depravity of the owners of the company.

Haha, you just made AS even better than it already was. Thanks!

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The relavent part, I think:

"And the motor?" she asked. "Why did you abandon it? Why did you leave it to the Starnes heirs?"

"It was their father's property. He paid me for it. It was made on his time. But I knew that it would be of no benefit to them and that no one would ever hear of it again. It was my first experimental model.

"You knew the kind of achievement your motor represented?"

"Yes."

"And you knew you were leaving it to perish?"

"Yes." He looked off into the darkness beyond the windows and chuckled softly, but it was not a sound of amusement. "I looked at my motor for the last time, before I left. I thought of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of natural resources—and of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of seizing the factories—and of the men who claim that machines condition their brains. Well, there was the motor to condition them, and there it remained as just exactly what it is without man's mind—as a pile of metal scraps and wires, going to rust. You have been thinking of the great service which that motor could have rendered to mankind, if it had been put into production. I think that on the day when men understand the meaning of its fate in that factory's junk heap—it will have rendered a greater one."

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  • 11 months later...

Resurrecting this thread because a similar discussion has come up elsewhere.

An argument has been made that Galt had no right to reproduce the motor because, since he developed the motor while working for Starnes, the idea itself was the intellectual property of Starnes and 20th Century Motors.

My position is that 20th Century eventually ceased to exist, and with it any ownership claim by it or any of it's subsequent owners over the motor's principles. As such, Galt was free to reclaim ownership of the idea and not only use it for personal use (his apartment) but for profit (the Gulch).

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My position is that 20th Century eventually ceased to exist, and with it any ownership claim by it or any of it's subsequent owners over the motor's principles. As such, Galt was free to reclaim ownership of the idea and not only use it for personal use (his apartment) but for profit (the Gulch).

I don't see why it follows that because Galt worked for 20th Century Motors, stuff he developed during that time is owned by 20th Century motors, unless part of a contract involves stipulations about developments while on the job. None of that can be known by us readers. It's reasonable to assume that there was no such stipulation.

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