"The Driver" a Precursor to "Atlas Shrugged"

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 year, 9 months ago to Books
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"Who is Henry M. Galt?": A Review of Garet Garrett's "The Driver by Edward W. Younkins
The Driver (1922) is a prime example of the literature of achievement. The author, Garet Garrett (1878-1954), had the ability to make economic, financial, and management processes come alive in novel form. Not only is The Driver a novel of high finance and Wall Street methods, it also paints a portrait of an efficacious and visionary man who uses reason to focus his enthusiasm on reality in his efforts to attain his goals.

As a financial journalist for several prominent papers, Garrett knew Wall Street well and wrote a series of novels portraying the morality of capitalism, production, and business activities. For many years, he exhibited his talents as a political commentator and essayist at the Saturday Evening Post. In fact, The Driver first appeared as a six-part series in the Saturday Evening Post.

The novel captures the essence of the progressive era of America that spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Galt, an eccentric and brilliant broker, floor trader, and member of the stock exchange believed in the future of the Great Midwestern Railroad, continually buys stock in it with his and his family’s money, and becomes one of its largest stockholders. He knows more about the Great Midwestern than anyone else including its President, Mr. Valentine, a weak, inefficient, and non-confident man who runs the business into bankruptcy.
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Originally published March 10, 2005 on Rebirth of Reason, here:

The book is for sale from the Ludwig von Mises Institute
and they also present the book as a readable PDF

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  • Posted by  $  1 year, 9 months ago
    My review: Post 5 Sunday, January 24 - 3:02pm [after 2005, but before 2011]

    I got it from my university library but via interlibrary loan from North Dakota State University. Nobody in Michigan had it, apparently.

    Not a bad read, I found most interesting the quirks of the late 19th century, little turns of phrase, colloquialisms and mannerisms. The capitalist narrative was also interesting, but Atlas Shrugged, is a tough act to follow. I agree, also, that elements are echoed in the works of Ayn Rand. The smashing of the statue was easy to see coming. Also, the view of a railroad from the operations office was familiar.

    Also, not an essential, but I was pleasantly surprised by the typography. This book was the third printing, June 1923, and it was pleasurable to hold and read. The leading between lines, the typeface, the page size, all of it was how books were meant to be... or maybe I'm just old fashioned...

    The secondary story of the narrator's on-again-off-again relationship with Natalie Galt did little to move events forward. It was told from a man's point of view, of course, so she lacked weight. However, her little speech on his presumptions pretty much sums up the man-woman thing.

    "Why do all men, though by different ways, come the same place?" [Natalie asked.]
    "I know nothing about all men," I said. "It's enough to know about myself. I am not very sure of that."
    "They all do," she said, reflectively.
    "But I want to marry you," I said with emphasis on the personal pronoun.
    "Yes;... that, too," she said with a saturated air.
    "Oh, weary Olympia!" I said. "How stands the score? How many loves lie beheaded in your chamber of horrors? Or do you bury them decently and tend their graves?"
    "You try me," she said with no change of voice or color. "It is very stupid... Man takes without leave the smallest thing and presumes upon that to erect preposterous claims. Take our case. I begin by liking you. I invite you to a friendship. You are free to accept or decline. You accept. Wherein so far have you acquired rights to me? We find this relationship agreeable and extend it. All of this is voluntary. Nothing is surrendered under compulsion. We are both free. Then suddenly you overwhelm me by sensuous impulse. It is a wanton ravishing act. [Two scenes back, he kissed her.] I resent it by the only peaceable means in my power. That is, I avoid you. Immediately you assail me with violent reproaches, as by a right. Is it the invader's right of might? Is human relationship a state of war? ... Don't interrupt me, please... And now, when I have come to say that under certain conditions I am prepared to make an exception in your forgiveness, -- for Heaven knows what reason! -- you taunt me of things have no right to mention. They are mine alone."

    Not exactly Jane Austen...

    If the book has a thesis, it is in the concluding arguments with Congress. Galt explains that his business will save money and cut spending in good years in order to spend money on investments in lean times. (This is what Keynes recommended to governments, of course.) By this, with the Great Midwestern leading by example, all businesses can counter the boom-bust cycle.

    In fact, early in the book, after the Coxey March, the narrator first meets Galt, not knowing who he is. Galt points out that the marchers ate. For all the lack of work during the depression, the country remains wealthy enough to feed anyone who asks for food. That, to Galt, is the paradox that must be unraveled.

    The railroad president, John J. Valentine, did indeed manage the company right into receivership, but he is above James Taggart as a person. Only less than Henry Galt, Valentine is honest, intelligent and hard working, only overwhelmed by events. Galt is not. Later, Galt has another antagonist, Bullguard, whom he meets on the field of economic combat and they eventually come to terms, at least personally, if not financially (though that, too, obtains). Also, a character from the boardroom, Potter, becomes one of many to abandon Galt in the final crisis, but is man enough to face Galt over their differences. In these characters as in the banker, Mordecai, who sticks with Galt through thick and thin, we see business leaders of consequence. They are men of substance. Those sketches begged for that substance. Atlas Shrugged provided more in Hank Rearden, Francisco d'Anconia, and Dagny Taggart, and it is easy to assert that Ayn Rand did so, with The Driver as part of the foundation for her edifice.
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