The Driver

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In the mind of Garet Garrett (1878-1954), the author of The Driver, commerce, not war, is the source of the great and productive dramas of human civilization. Commerce brings people together in a common cause of overcoming the embedded scarcity of this world and bringing progress, instead of poverty.

Commerce calls on all the virtues, like courage, prudence, and justice, each balancing out the others. It channels competitive energies into service for humanity. It calls forth creativity. It inspires us to make the world new in every generation. It’s not about money and profits; money is a tool, and profits are only a sign and seal of a job well done. What drives commerce are passion and love, even to the point of fanaticism, but always directed to that one end of being more excellent in bringing to others what they need and desire.

Garet Garrett captured the fabulous spirit of commerce beautifully in his novels. The Driver is based loosely on the life of James J. Hill, and serving as a kind of prototype of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, The Driver is a book that captures the drama of commerce and its power to change the world.

This book chronicles the life and work of Henry Galt, from the time he acquires a failing railroad to his triumphant confrontation with the regulators who shut him down. It has excitement, romance, history, compelling opinion, and a story that really brings the 19th century to life.

Through outstanding management sense, good pricing, excellent service, and overall business savvy, Galt outcompetes all the big names in the business, while making a fortune in the process. Garrett has a way of illustrating just what it takes to be a businessman of this sort, and how Galt’s mind alone becomes the source of a fantastic revenue stream.

But his success breeds trouble. The government conspires with envious competitors to regulate him using the Sherman Antitrust Act, calling him a monopolist and accusing him of exploiting the public. There is a courtroom scene that allows Galt to explain to the assembled legislators how investors and capitalists are helping society in ways that politicians can’t possibly imagine. What the politicians see as shady is really a form of public service that enriches the whole country.

If Garrett is known at all today, it is by those who are captivated by the handful of intellectuals who wrote in opposition to the New Deal planning state and the regimentation of national life it brought about. They were a rare breed, but there is much more to Garrett than people know.

He should rank among the master novelists and politico-economic journalists of the last century.

In one of many asides, this book contains one of the best explanations of the absurdities of “bimetallism,” which fixed the price ratio of silver and gold. Indeed, the book is overall quite sound on the money question, showing the inflationist populist movement of the late 19th century to be a pack of fools. Galt himself delivers some fantastic defenses of hard money and free markets.

In any case, the novel is brilliant and thrilling, one that provides an excellent lesson in how entrepreneurship works.

You are in for a great treat, including many laughs and maybe some tears. The story of commerce is the story of civilization. Garrett tells that story like a master of the craft. This is a book for the ages.

Author: Garet Garrett