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Marx Shrugged is a really fucking long novel outlining the virtues of socialism and its value to society by showing what happens when “The Men of the Heart” turn their back upon it. The story follows the lives and actions of a heroic band of socialists and economic planners, always working selflessly for the good of the common man and a group of greedy selfish industrialists who work to hamper the noble efforts of the planners by refusing to forfeit property or to offer themselves as slaves.
In the novel the common man does not recognise the virtue of a centrally planned economy or the evil of property rights and free trade and so the heroic socialists decide to abandon society and let people see that if trade is voluntary and contracts are sacred giant ants will eat babies. Or something. As the various socialist planners in various positions of power disappear one by one the economy becomes freer and more babies are eaten by giant ants.
The novel opens with a helpless wage slave, Eddie Willers, heading to the central headquarters of Satanic Transcontinental, a privately owned, profit seeking railroad with no public spirit or sense of social duty. Willers is portrayed as a tragic product of the National School of Capitalist Brainwashing and was reliving one of the horrible visions of that school: a tree, representing all the beauty and harmony of untrampled nature being struck by lightning. It was this horrible vision that kept him awake at night but allowed him to walk through the cold artificial streets of a metropolis devoid of all forms of natural beauty.
When Willers finally makes it to the Central Headquarters of ST we are introduced to the first of the novel's heroes James “Jimmy Boy” Satanic. Although ST was one of the few backward privately owned railroad companies left in the world there was at least one man who understood that the purpose of a railroad was the service of the public and not the production of wealth. Willers bursts into Jimmy Boy's office entirely unannounced demanding that ST drop its order for steel rail from Angelic Steel Incorporated and instead purchase the rails from Rearden Steel on the flimsy pretext that AS is 10 months late delivering the rail. Jimmy Boy is a meek and humble character and is shaken by Willer's aggressive attitude but stands his ground and explains that delay or no AS is the only publicly spirited steel company and that Willers was the victim of greedy steel magnate Hank Rearden's disunity potion. Willers snarls at Jimmy Boy and leaves for his wage slave cubicle.
It is at this point that we are introduced to the novel's antagonist: the heartless, chain smoking vampiress Dagny Satanic. She too bursts into Jimmy Boy's office, Willers in hand, and provides Jimmy Boy with a choice: nullify the contract with AS and order rail from RS or this time she would drink all of Jimmy Boy's blood. After Jimmy Boy's acquiescence Dagny torments him by pointing out that they will be purchasing not steel, but Rearden's Cheapass Metal and laughing manically while Jim points out that this will be a horrible danger to the public, even if it does save the company a few cents.
The novel then switches to Rearden's Steel mill and his pouring of the first batch of public endangering Cheapass Metal. Rearden grins sadistically as he clutches a bracelet of Cheapass Metal he has made for his wife.
Jimmy Boy eventually manages to escape from the confines of the Central Headquarters of ST and races to the Control Room of the Centre for the Upholdment of National Triumph to deliver the bad news. The CUNT is staffed by the great socialist heroes of the book including Orrie Boyle, Dear Leader of Angelic Steel Incorporated and Wesley Mooch, Unidogooder Supremo. Boyle immediately realizes that Rearden's disunity potion has taken hold of Willers and that the CUNT must follow it's normal course of action to negate the effects of the evil drug: pass a new law.