The story of Atlas Mugged takes place in the United States in early 2009. After 30 years of general right ward drift, culminating in the extreme deregulation, tax cutting, and war profiteering of the Shrub Administration, the nations economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating...
From Cliff Notes:
Dagny Taggart works to maintain Taggart No-Bid Contracting's food-chain fraternity of cronies. Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the country's most talented bankers and CEOs are fleeing either culpability, or law enforcement.
Her crisis worsens when the Iraqi government decides to scrap plans to award no-bid advisory and technical support contracts. Plans for Taggart's San Sebastian Airlines are aborted. The airline had been devised to service Francisco d'Anconia's McMansion Megaopolis in Buckeye Arizona, but the McMansions turn out to be worthless, as foreclosures on bad loans force property values ever downward. Francisco and Dagney make dramatic, idealistic love, their ideals being idealized in a wet consummation of ideal ideal-ness.
Dagny must save Taggart No-Bid Contracting immediately and plans to use Rearden Derivatives, a new financial instrument created by top investment banker Hank Rearden. Francisco appears at an outrageously excessive 12 night bash at the Wynn Las Vegas for Rearden’s wedding anniversary. Rearden’s wife Lillian, his mother, his brother, and Rearden himself are nonproductive freeloaders who believe they have the government between a rock and a hard place, where it is obliged to support them, as they are too big to fail.
Francisco meets Rearden for the first time and warns him that the freeloaders have a weapon that they are using against his freeloading. Rearden questions why Francisco has come to the party, but Francisco says that he merely wished to become acquainted with Rearden, and that the 18 bottles of Heidsieck weren't bad either.
Dr. Robert Stadler, a brilliant theoretical scientist who heads The State Science Institute, is unable to issue a denunciation of Rearden Derivatives, as the Institute is pre-occupied with a years-in the-making animatronic diorama depicting Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs through all 10,000 years of Earth history.
Dagny and Rearden make hot steamy productive love. Not the vile kind of common love commoners make, but the Objectivist kind, where mutual orgasms become the execution of mutual reverence for their superior minds of gold.
Together they discover a motor in an abandoned factory that runs on "sun power". They hire a scientist to rebuild the motor. Unfortunately, the scientist is formerly of The State Science Institute, and currently with the General Motors Company.
Soon, more capitalist titans disappear: Robert Rubin of Citibank vanishes with $17-million-per-year winnings intact. BofA's Ken Lewis engineers a dubious acquisition of disgraced Countrywide, then follows Lehman into nothingness. Merrill's John Thain finds an idiot to buy Merrill, then disappears.
Dagney believes there is a "destroyer", who is causing the pure and free men of pure and free Utopian ideology to disappear.
Economic dictator and Reserve Chairman Wesley Mouch is called to testify before Congress. (Mouch, in an odd back-story that seems to pierce the fourth wall separating character and author, had developed a serious interest in the author of this story's philosophical ideas in 1952. He attended regular meetings at the authors apartment, which included the opportunity to read draft sections of this very novel.) Mouch concedes the meltdown revealed a flaw in a lifetime of economic thinking and left him in a "state of shocked disbelief." He acknowledges under questioning that he had made a "mistake" in believing that banks, operating in their own self-interest, would do what was necessary to protect their shareholders and institutions. Mouch calls it "a flaw in the model [of ideal idealism]... that defines how the world works."
Rearden, believing Mouch is a traitor, refuses to participate in the proceedings, telling officials they can coerce him by force but he won't help them to convict him.
The government passes new socialist legislation that requires easily circumvented limits on pay for bankers receiving government bailout money. Francisco visits Rearden and asks him why he remains in business under such repressive conditions. When a fire breaks out, and they work together like manlike men in a hotly charged display of Aryan homo-erotic manliness, Francisco understands Rearden's love for his money.
Dagny quits over the new legislation and retreats to an aerial wolf hunting lodge in Alaska. She receives a letter from the scientist she had hired to help rebuild the motor, and fears he will be the next target of the destroyer. In an attempt to stop him from disappearing, she follows him in an aerial wolf hunting airplane and crashes in the mountains. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a remote valley where all the fleeing industrialists have fled. They are on the lam, calling it a strike of their kind.
There, she meets John's Fault, who turns out to be both the destroyer and the moral of the story. She falls in love with him, and they make intense melodramatic love, reaching a glorification of the highest ideal of ideal-ness ever idealized.
As a new head of state prepares to give a speech on the economic situation, John's Fault takes over CNBC and delivers a 28 hour rant of an address to the country, laying out the terms of the strike he has organized. They will return to their looting and scams, but only after the populace has swallowed a story about how the recession that began December 2007, the softening of housing prices that began in the summer of 2006, The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, and Mouch's dropping of interest rates to 1% in 2003 for more than a year pumping trillions of low interest credit into the economy, is the fault of the new head of state.