Dagny’s rejection of Rearden’s critical view of sex reflects Rand’s attitude that the mind and body cannot be separated. Rearden sees the achievements of the mind as noble but the desires of the body as base and unrelated to the mind. In contrast, Dagny (like Rand) sees the desires of the body stemming naturally from the rational mind. Dagny desires Rearden precisely because her mind perceives the value of his great accomplishments, and she knows he chooses her for the same reasons. Therefore, she sees sex as a grand expression of the values they represent to each other, not as a shameful impulse. Rearden must learn to integrate the mind and body if he is to be released from his self-made bonds.
Jim and Cherryl’s romance is entirely different. Cherryl chooses Jim because of the values she thinks he represents, but she is wrong about him. Jim chooses Cherryl out of his need to destroy. Although he claims to have noble, altruistic goals and a desire to help the “little guy,” his true nature is to destroy the efforts and aspirations of others. The young hero-worshipper is easy prey, much easier to destroy than Dagny, Rearden, or Francisco. However, neither Jim nor Cherryl are aware of his nature—yet.
When she discovers the remnants of the motor, Dagny has a new motivating purpose in the story. With its potential to revolutionize not only the transportation industry, but every industry, Dagny knows the motor could save a crumbling society. Finding its inventor and rebuilding it gradually become even more important than saving her railroad. Also, the motor represents the concept of motive power. It can power a society, just as a locomotive engine can power a train. In Ayn Rand’s philosophy, the mind, fueled by rational thought, is the motive power that fuels man’s existence.
The new laws demonstrate the absurdity of socialism in action. There is no way the businesses affected by them can possibly survive in the long term if they are to follow the rules. For example, if Taggart must run fewer, shorter, and slower trains through Colorado, it will lose money through increased operating costs and lower shipping fees. Meanwhile, the Colorado businesses will not be able to ship their goods efficiently because they will face a shortage of trains, and they will lose money as well. Meanwhile, Rearden cannot possibly meet the demands of the new laws. One requires him to limit his output of Rearden Metal, while another requires him to sell a “fair share” of Rearden Metal to everyone who requests it, regardless of output. Rand demonstrates how a society that controls its economy through harsh regulations eventually creates new criminals by creating new crimes. Rearden is made a criminal under one set of laws to meet the requirements of another. To the rational mind, these outcomes are obvious, but since the looters have rejected reason and rationality, they cannot see the long-term issues.
The story of Lee Hunsacker, Midas Mulligan, and Judge Narragansett further illustrates the irrational nature of socialist laws and offers some clues about the motives of the men who have disappeared. Although he had believed he was following noble socialist ideals, the judge who overturned Narragansett’s ruling created an impossibly absurd situation. By ordering Mulligan to issue a loan to Hunsacker precisely because of Hunsacker’s need and, more importantly, his inability to repay it, the judge had allowed the doctrine of need to triumph over reason. In response to this, Mulligan and Narragansett have retired and disappeared, just like the industrialists. Dagny gets more clues to the motives behind the disappearances when she finds Hugh Akston. He retired because he could no longer practice as a philosopher. Since his philosophy is the philosophy of reason, only reason could have pulled him away from the world. To live in the world as Dagny and Rearden live—under the yoke of weak, malicious men—presented to Akston and the others some fundamental logical contradiction. Though its full nature has not yet been revealed, the force at work among the nation’s vanishing industrialists may simply be the force of reason.