Dauntless Crusader

The Driver

Posted in Capitalism, Literature by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 16, 2010

The Driver, by Garet Garrett, is a novel of economic adventure. It follows an unnamed young man who entered the railroad business because of his article on a collectivist named Coxey who leads a march of angry supporters, and even through his career as the secretary and friend of the ruler of the financial world he is called Coxey as an ironic nickname. The financial god is a man by the name of Henry M. Galt, who, with his keen insight and passion for efficient, profitable railroads, takes over the business and successfully wrings out of his resources the best railroads ever existed and even averted a recession in the era of the Panic of 1893. The book recounts Galt’s battle with Wall Street and the government, overturning a plummet of Great Midwestern stock and overcoming a governmental bid for trust busting.

Galt’s scene with the Committee ready to indict him for holding monopolistic interests is brilliant, not unlike Howard Roark’s courtscene or Hank Rearden’s trial, though not in the same, majestic manner but just as heroic. Henry Galt is much more realistic than any the industrialists in Atlas Shrugged–though, he is more like Nat Taggart than like Dagny, in the sense that Great Midwestern is more interested in building and extending than Taggart Transcontinental. Henry Galt isn’t daunted by his fight against competitors, public opinion, those wishing to dethrone him; eventually, he not only regains what he has lost (and more), he also instills a stupefied awe, coupled with some sort of terror, in them, at the fact that Henry M. Galt is indestructible.

The personal life of the narrator and Galt’s family, while interesting to a degree, serves little purpose in the novel aside from taking a look into how Galt’s rise in wealth and power had affected those around him. While mostly supportive, his family gave him some grief in the novel, as Galt knows of his wife and his daughter’s entreaties to enter society from which they have been ostracized yet remains oblivious to the means of achieving this goal, which ends up sometimes hurting them more than helping. The narrator’s romantic life is strange and rather irrelevant, and without giving anything away,  I will say that I found little of importance in the last chapter.

In short, I highly recommend The Driver. The writing is not particularly superb, but Garrett does a very good job relating the characteristics of Galt and offers insights on Wall Street that are worth it. A Mises Institute endorsed novel, The Driver is a refreshing read on economics, business, and finance.