My favorite passage in Atlas Shrugged is the Hank Rearden trial scene. Here’s the whole thing. There’s so much I like, but I’ll single out two passages.


Judge: “Are we to understand that if the public deems it necessary to curtail your profits, you do not recognize its right to do so?”

Rearden: “Why, yes, I do. The public may curtail my profits any time it wishes – by refusing to buy my product.”


The judges retired to consider their verdict. They did not stay out long. They returned to an ominously silent courtroom – and announced that a fine of $5,000 was imposed on Henry Rearden, but that the sentence was suspended.

Streaks of jeering laughter ran through the applause that swept the courtroom. The applause was aimed at Rearden, the laughter – at the judges.

Rearden stood motionless, not turning to the crowd, barely hearing the applause. He stood looking at the judges. There was no triumph in his face, no elation, only the still intensity of contemplating a vision with a bitter wonder that was almost fear. He was seeing the enormity of the smallness of the enemy who was destroying the world. He felt as if, after a journey of years through a landscape of devastation, past the ruins of great factories, the wrecks of powerful engines, the bodies of invincible men, he had come upon the despoiler, expecting to find a giant – and had found a rat eager to scurry for cover at the first sound of a human step.

If this is what has beaten us, he thought, the guilt is ours.

By the way, I don’t agree with the last line. The people who do something are always the guilty ones; the victims are not.