Robert Stadler hears John Galt, held at gunpoint, on the air on the radio in his car in Chapter IX, “The Generator”. He has been severely disillusioned since the demonstration of Project X, but now, knowing that John Galt, a pupil he had thought of as his son, has been working against this government a long time, he feels as if he has made a horrible error of judgment. He knows that he will not be on the winning side of this battle, and, even if he is, he is tired of working for the mindless looters. He remembers the demonstration of the horrible weapon Project X, and he decides that seizing power for himself is the only avenue left open to him. He drives to Iowa and attempts to take over the weapon’s installation.
Cuffy Meigs, too, has seen the writing on the wall, and he is there when Stadler arrives. He has a gun, and is intending to control things himself by means of the Project X weapon. Stadler still believes that there is something valuable attached to his name, and by that value he may take over the installation. Meigs refuses, and pushes Stadler aside. In the ensuing struggle the weapon is activated. It destroys everything within one hundred miles, structures, animals, and human beings, and cuts the Taggart Bridge over the Mississippi River in half. Meigs and Stadler are, of course, killed.
Dagny knows that the looters are going to try to physically force Galt to do as they require, and Dagny is frantic and calls Francisco to come to her aid. On her way to meet Francisco she hears that the Taggart Bridge is blown up by the Project X device and transcontinental traffic in the United States is now impossible.
Galt is taken by his captors to New England to the State Science Institute and tortured with an electronic device, grimly named “Project F” because it is the idea of Floyd Ferris. Jim Taggart is there, helping the torturers, but his confidence is shaken when Galt helps his torturers repair the device of his torment. In an intense scene, Jim knows that he has been in the service of evil all of his life. “He was suddenly seeing the motive that had directed all the actions of his life… it was the lust to destroy whatever was living, for the sake of whatever was not.” (1145) Galt knows what is happening, and looks at Jim in his crisis. “I told you that on the radio, didn’t I?” (1146) he says. Jim collapses, and it is clear that if he does not die from this attack he will be a broken man forever.
In the final chapter of the novel, “In the Name of the Best Within Us”, Francisco and Dagny, along with Ragnar and Hank Rearden, fly to the State Science Institute to rescue John. By the power of their names and the force of their personalities, the five of them compel the guards at the Institute to drop their guns, and they spirit John away to a plane and thence to the secret valley in Colorado.
Eddie Willers has been trying to restore transcontinental traffic since the San Francisco station was taken over by looters. He manages to get trains running again, rerouting them through the desert of Arizona. There is mechanical trouble, and neither he nor any of the passengers or crew is able to repair the engine. Though Eddie has always worked for good and never capitulated to the looter government, he is nevertheless left stranded at the end of the novel.
The collapse of the government finally happens, and Galt decides that it is time for his collection of producers to leave the valley and rebuild the world as it should be. Judge Narraganset writes the constitution for the new state, and Francisco and Dagny and Hank make plans for industry in the new society. John says ‘The road is cleared… We are going back to the world” (1168) and traces the sign of the dollar in the air like a talisman.
The stranding of Eddie Willers, and his refusal to give up, seems a harsh ending for a likable character, but it served a very real purpose in Rand’s philosophy. In this instance the innate hierarchy of human beings in Rand’s philosophy is exposed. People like Eddie, the “salt of the earth”, or completely moral beings, are nevertheless not the engines of the world. The morality and intelligence and will to produce must be combined in one person in order to make a prime producer, like Rearden, Galt, Dagny, and Francisco. To mean well and work hard are not enough; the products of a creative and rational mind, continually being refined and improved, are what drives the progress of the world. Eddie needs Dagny and the others far more than they need him. It is a reverse of the old ideals of the common people supporting the intellectual elite; for Rand it is the other way around.
Galt seems almost Christ like, although he would abhor the comparison, when he is naked and submitting to his tormenters, and even assisting them with their mechanical difficulties. It is this act which sends Jim Taggart over the edge, and Galt probably had calculated that before he did it. With the complete mental collapse of Jim, Wesley Mouch and the other torturers are less confident, and they leave Galt alone long enough for Francisco and Dagny and the others to rescue him.
The ride to the rescue seems a bit late in the story, but it was necessary for Galt to be with his tormenters for a long time in order to erode their confidence. The collapse of the government was a foregone conclusion, and Galt knew that it was only a matter of time before Francisco and Dagny would find and rescue him. But they do not linger for any length of time in the valley, as tempting and well-deserved as that respite might be. They regroup there but turn their focus back to the world they are going to rebuild.
The morality of allowing the world to suffer and allowing so many people to die because of their actions does not enter into the thought process of any of the strikers. Dagny’s hands are clean because she stays in the world almost until the very end, but Francisco and John and Ragnar are all culpable in the material suffering of many people, which they directly caused by their actions. This is part of the Rand philosophy – one must not live one’s lives for others, especially if those people, like the government of the United States in this novel, are working actively to destroy you. One wonders if there could have been a more peaceful, less destructive way of affecting the overthrow of the government. While this was not an armed conflict, at least as many people and lives were destroyed by the actions of the strikers as a war.
But Rand would argue that it was the only way for the duped public to understand the perfidy of the government’s schemes. As part of Rand’s philosophy, the capacity for unreasonableness in human beings must be dealt with. And the only thing which will convince an irrational being to change his or her actions is a threat to self-interest. Then the irrational one can, possibly, be brought to reason, after having lost all the valuable products of the rational mind.
It is a harsh judgment on society, but Rand would argue that she is asserting the highest good of humanity in their right to life and their power of reasonable thought. The problem of Rand’s system is convincing the populace and making them comply with a system, without armed compulsion like the looter government used. What Galt and Francisco did, by omission rather than commission, was to create a war of humanity against itself. In this the strikers finally come out victorious, without having fired a shot.