John Galt Quotes, Dagny Taggart Quotes, and More from Atlas Shrugged

“Eventually, the question you ask stops being ‘Who is John Galt?’ and becomes ‘When will John Galt shut up?'”
– Anonymous, not so subtly critiquing Galt’s 56-page long speech in Atlas Shrugged

Who is John Galt? And why should you care about Atlas Shrugged quotes?

Atlas Shrugged tells the story of Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive living in a United States that is on the verge of economic collapse. The government is increasingly expanding its control over private enterprise, choking it out of existence; Dagny’s friend and childhood love Francisco d’Anconia may soon lose his family’s copper company as the Mexican government nationalizes it; and Hank Rearden, who refuses to sell his revolutionary Rearden Metal to the government, subsequently learns his invention has been condemned by the same for no real reason.

To summarize the magnum opus of Ayn Rand – or spoil its ending by revealing Galt’s identity – in so few words would be a sin. The lengthy book is worth a cover-to-cover read for its extensive exploration of Objectivism, Rand’s own philosophy which conceives of man as a heroic being whose greatest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness: to make one’s life one’s own life. If you have ever bristled when bureaucrats demanded greater control over the private sector for the good of society, Atlas Shrugged will explain exactly why you felt that way.

Oddly enough, many people bristle at the mere mention of Ayn Rand. They may describe her as a reactionary, an extremist who categorically rejects any government interference in private life as the result of her having been exposed to the worst excesses of communism while growing up in Russia. One might argue in turn that Rand already saw the ending of the story and didn’t wish to see it again.

Again, please read the book – or, barring that, please read our own collection of Atlas Shrugged quotes.

Quotes from Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged quotes - "Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic..."
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged quotes - "What is man? He's just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur"
“What is man? He’s just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Never think of pain or danger or enemies a moment longer than is necessary to fight them.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“There is no such thing as a lousy job – only lousy men who don’t care to do it.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves – or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Joy is the goal of existence, and joy is not to be stumbled upon, but to be achieved, and the act of treason is to let its vision drown in the swamp of the moment’s torture.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made – before it can be looted or mooched – made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Whatever it was, he thought, whatever the strain and the agony, they were worth it, because they had made him reach this day – this day when the first heat of the first order of Rearden Metal had been poured, to become rails for Taggart Transcontinental.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Quotes - "Every man builds his world in his own image... He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice."
“Every man builds his world in his own image… He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“I thought that any human being who accepts the help of another, knows that good will is the giver’s only motive and that good will is the payment he owes in return. But I see that I was wrong. You were getting your food unearned and you concluded that affection did not have to be earned, either. You concluded that I was the safest person in the world for you to spit on, precisely because I held you by the throat. You concluded that I wouldn’t want to remind you of it and that I would be tied by the fear of hurting your feelings. All right, let’s get it straight: you’re an object of charity who’s exhausted his credit long ago.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“I don’t like people who speak or think in terms of gaining anybody’s confidence. If one’s actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception. The person who craves a moral blank check of that kind, has dishonest intentions, whether he admits it to himself or not.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“We never make assertions, Miss Taggart,” said Hugh Akston. “That is the moral crime peculiar to our enemies. We do not tell – we show.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“We do not claim – we prove. It is not your obedience that we seek to win, but your rational conviction. You have seen all the elements of our secret. The conclusion is now yours to draw – we can help you to name it, but not to accept it – the sight, the knowledge and the acceptance must be yours.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Miss Taggart, do you know the hallmark of the second-rater? It’s resentment of another man’s achievement. Those touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone’s work prove greater than their own – they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal –  for a mind to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes, thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them – while you’d give a year of your life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them.”
– Atlas Shrugged

John Galt Quotes

“For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing – you who dread knowledge – I am the man who will now tell you.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged quotes - "Do not let the hero in your soil perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach."
“Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Happiness is not to be achieved at the command of emotional whims. Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to indulge. Happiness is a state of non contradictory joy – a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind’s fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer. Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws, A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit – his love, his friendship, his esteem – except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect. The mystic parasites who have, throughout the ages, reviled the traders and held them in contempt, while honoring the beggars and the looters, have known the secret motive of their sneers: a trader is the entity they dread – a man of justice.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think – not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment – on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict ‘It is.'”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Rationality is the recognition of the fact that existence exists, that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it, which is thinking – that the mind is one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide of action – that reason is an absolute that permits no compromise – that a concession to the irrational invalidates one’s consciousness and turns it from the task of perceiving to the task of faking reality – that the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind – that the acceptance of a mystical invention is a wish for the annihilation of existence and, properly, annihilates one’s consciousness.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice – and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man – by choice; he has to hold his life as a value – by choice; he has to learn to sustain it – by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues – by choice.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Quotes - "this, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice:"
“This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“When a mystic declares that he feels the existence of a power superior to reason, he feels it all right, but that power is not an omniscient superspirit of the universe, it is the consciousness of any passer-by to whom he has surrendered his own. A mystic is driven by the urge to impress, to cheat, to flatter, to deceive, to force that omnipotent consciousness of others. ‘They’ are his only key to reality, he feels that he cannot exist save by harnessing their mysterious power and extorting their unaccountable consent, ‘They’ are his only means of perception and, like a blind man who depends on the sight of a dog, he feels he must leash them in order to live. To control the consciousness of others becomes his only passion; power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists – and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason – Purpose – Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge – Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve – Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested  with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“I swear – by my life and my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Dagny Taggart Quotes

“But you don’t have to accept it. You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is – say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“We are those who do not disconnect the values of their minds from the actions of their bodies, those who do not leave their values to empty dreams, but bring them into existence, those who give material form to thoughts, and reality to values – those who make steel, railroads and happiness. And to such among you who hate the thought of human joy, who wish to see men’s life as chronic suffering and failure, who wish men to apologize for happiness – or for success, or ability, or achievement, or wealth – to such among you, I am now saying: I wanted him, I had him, I was happy, I had known joy, a pure, full, guiltless joy, the joy you dread to hear confessed by any human being, the joy of which your only knowledge is in your hatred for those who are worthy of reaching it. Well, hate me, then – because I reached it!”
– Atlas Shrugged

“Whenever anyone accuses some person of being ‘unfeeling,’ he means that that person is just. He means that that person has no causeless emotions and will not grant him a feeling which he does not deserve. He means that ‘to feel’ is to go against reason, against moral values, against reality.”
– Atlas Shrugged

“But this – she thought – was men’s moral code in the outer world, a code that told them to act on the premise of one another’s weakness, deceit and stupidity, and this was the pattern of their lives, this struggle through a fog of the pretended and unacknowledged, this belief that facts are not solid or final, this state where, denying any form to reality, men stumble through life, unreal and unformed, and die having never been born. Here – she thought, looking down through green branches at the glittering roofs of the valley – one dealt with men as clear and firm as sun and rocks, and the immense lightheartedness of her relief came from the knowledge that no battle was hard, no decision was dangerous where there was no soggy uncertainty, no shapeless evasion to encounter.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Quotes - "I'm not going to help you pretend - by arguing with you - that the reality you're talking..."
“I’m not going to help you pretend – by arguing with you – that the reality you’re talking about is not what it is, that there’s still a way to make it work and to save your neck. There isn’t.”
– Atlas Shrugged

Final Thoughts

There are two types of reactions to Atlas Shrugged quotes. The first is to take immense inspiration from the notion that man is the master of his own destiny, and ought to feel no pang of guilt for not curbing his loftiest ambitions. The second is to run crying to your drum circle because the writer lady said mean things about socialists. Which reaction did you have?