Listen to the encounter at night between Hank Rearden and Ragnar Danneskjold. A great and famous scene from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Read by Karsten Groeger.
On the day the government looters took away Rearden Metal from him, Hank Rearden walks home to his new apartment in Philadelphia. In the middle of nowhere he meets Ragnar Danneskjold, the feared pirate, the “friend of the friendless”, handing him a bar of solid gold. After a while of talking, Danneskjold tells Rearden as follows:
“If you remember the stories you’ve read about me in the newspapers, before they stopped printing them, you know that I have never robbed a private ship and never taken any private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel — because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it, which is the proper function of a government.
But I have seized every loot carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others. I seized the boats that sailed under the flag of the idea which I am fighting: the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrifices — that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others — that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will descend upon us — and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord.
This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor.
He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity.
He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does.
He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures — the double-parasite who lives on the sores, of the poor and the blood of the rich — whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant — while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is to be in need.
Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting, Mr. Rearden. Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive.”
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