Resuming the childhood-to-present survey, we find out that James Taggart inherited his controlling stock in Taggart Transcontinental (and there’s an excellent reason to make inheritance taxes very high — I wonder what Rand would have thought about it?).
The man behind the San Sebastian Mines is one Francisco d’Anconia, another significant character. Apparently an amazing entrepreneur himself, called the “copper king of the world” who owned half of South America, he also has a reputation as a playboy. Arriving at the present, we learn that people are investing like mad in the Mines, in spite of a complete lack of actual data about anything of value there, because of his name alone.
Dagny and James have it out over how the railroad is pouring money into the San Sebastian Line that is desperately needed elsewhere, in particular to service Ellis Wyatt’s booming business. We learn that ten years in the past, Dagny was friends with Francisco, but she now thinks he has turned into a worthless bum.
Dagny also considers her ancestor Nat Taggart who founded the railroad. Nat never took any “loans, bonds, subsidies, land grants or legislative favors,” but rather convinced men to become investors by explaining in detail how they would make money from his work. “He never talked about the public good.”
I’ll be interested to see what Rand says when she actually discusses the concept of “public good” directly. Is it that she thinks the concept itself is logically vacuous, or that people ostensibly trying to do “public good” are really doing bad things, or what? Offhand, I would say that a “public good” is something that some section of the general population benefits from without directly being involved in a transaction. For example, an individual might be doing a public good by cleaning up the street of a few pieces of trash while walking along. There is no doubt that it’s also a “selfish” thing, in that it gives the person satisfaction, but other people benefit incidentally, too. I’m sure that many evil deeds have been papered over with the label of being a “public good” when they are no such thing, but I just don’t see that the idea has to be anathema.
[edited to correct a typo]