What Would Dagny Do?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 14, 2006 2:25 PM

I am so very Dagny Taggart right now. I'm all sharp angles, confident and cutthroat, black silk and business suit.

Actually, I'm more jeans and a polo, but I am on a train.

The man sitting next to me looks nothing like John Galt. Stupid Amtrak.

I should have known once the government started subsidizing railways with the zealotry of a Randian monologue, a traincar would be no place to find golden-haired, green-eyed libertarian men who moonlight as unskilled laborers in order to preserve their free-market integrity and, as a happy side-effect, their physiques.

Ahh, well. Maybe next time I'll go Greyhound.

I'm on my way to New York City for the Personal Democracy Forum—-a conference for a bunch of people who care enough about how the Internet and blogs and podcasting and the like are affecting politics and society that they travel to various destinations over weekends just to talk about it. I have become one of those people.

Stop snickering. This is really important stuff. Plus, I can go to conferences like this and report back to you, and be dyed blue or whatever it is that various lefty attendees decide to put me through, so that you don’t have to.

I'm on a panel tomorrow (I know, pin a rose on my nose, right?) called, "To Blog or Not to Blog." What do y’all reckon I’ll say? The moderator of the panel e-mailed to ask me my topic. I thought about just e-mailing back, "Blog? Nah, I don’t need anymore competition." I thought better of it. Because, as Dagny would tell us, competition is a necessary part of capitalism, which creates admiration and respect among adversaries and better products for consumers.

I don't believe I've ever been on a real train trip before. I've been on commuter trains and subways, but not a real train—-at least not stateside. It's a rather pleasant ride—smooth, roomy, decent hotdogs. If only someone could make it, you know, profitable.

The scenery is, by turns, industrial, residential, and pastoral—corrugated steel, vinyl siding, rippling wheat.

You know, there's a different kind of dirt up North. I'm noticing it just now as we plug toward Philadelphia and New York. In the South, cities look dusty. In the North, they look grimy.

There's a darker tinge to dirty up here. Southern dirt looks like it blew up and just happened the hit the sides of buildings on its way out of town. Northern dirt looks like it oozed over from the nearest smokestack and smeared itself on the next surface it ran up against.

Mind you, I'm not making regional dirt judgments. Neither one of our dirts is better. They're just different. I like it. It makes different places feel like different places.

Now, I must sign off if I'm going to have time to deliver my 60-page rant on the "I" and the "me" and the scourge that is collectivism before I get off this taxpayer-propped train.