Here is a treasure in the history of the pro-capitalist novel. Garet Garrett, author of The People's Pottage, tells the story of an upstart Wall Street speculator financier, Henry Galt, a shadowy figure who stays out of the limelight as much as possible until he unleashes a plan that had been years in the marking: he uses his extraordinary entrepreneurial talent to acquire control of a failing railroad.
Through outstanding management sense, good pricing, excellent service, and overall business savvy, he out competes 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 his mind alone becomes the source of a fantastic revenue stream.
But his successes breed trouble. The government conspires with envious competitors to regulate him using the Sherman Antitrust Act, calling him a monopolist who is exploiting the public.
This book tells the dramatic story of his success and his fight. A recurring literary motif through the book has people asking: "Who is Henry Galt?"
In one of many asides, this book contains one of the best explanations of the stupidity of "bi-metallism" that fixed the relationship between silver and gold. Indeed, the book is overall very 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, both in conversation and in front of the US Congress.
This book was written in 1922, and people in the know might detect some similarity here with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. She might have read it, or it might be a coincidence. In any case, the novel is brilliant and thrilling, one that provides an excellent lesson in how entrepreneurship works.
"The author, Garet Garrett (1878-1954), had the ability to make economic, financial, and management processes come alive in novel form," writes Edward Younkins. "Not only is The Driver a novel of high finance and Wall Street methods, it also paints a portrait of an efficacious and visionary man who uses reason to focus his enthusiasm on reality in his efforts to attain his goals."
NY: Dutton, 1922