"If you're eating it," she replied. "Only if you're eating it."
I don't think I have anything to add to these summaries, so I'll take a minute to contrast the view of business found in Mr Trollope's The Way We Live Now, which I reviewed below and in Mr Garrett's book.
At first glance, they seem to be taking two totally opposing sides of the same issue. The question they seek to address is whether working as a business executive or as one who trades stocks as a profession, or etc. is fundamentally immoral?
There is one major issue that is not often examined in the literature critical of business (we are taking Mr Trollope as our example here). In the end, even a writer as gifted as Mr Trollope has to make his executive/stock-jobber cross the line into outright fraud. Without this more overt, immoral action – beyond normal business conduct – I don't believe the downfall of the character would have been satisfying to the reader. In other words, I think even the critics admit (implicitly in their writing) that people do not consider business activities to be inherently immoral.
On the other side, a true, principled executive like Mr Garrett's (and Ms Rand's) Galt are almost non-existent in the real business world. Those of us who defend free markets and free reign for businesses do not have luxury of defending Galt's. We get stuck executives who are way too cozy with politicians and who seem to be concerned with growing their own empires instead of building the best possible products or maximizing shareholder value, let alone exemplars of high ethical standards (or even executives who agree with our free market views!).
So, is it possible that everybody is correct? I hope not, since I hate conclusions like that. I see nothing inherently immoral in business activities (unlike Mr Trollope seems to); but I have no trouble believing that immoral people are attracted to and rise to the top in business (perhaps unlike Mr Garrett).
Similarly, I can agree with Mr Trollope that the rise of very wealthy businessmen has tended to degrade morality, without necessarily blaming the rise of business (after all, correlation is not causation, I would lay the blame on increasing wealth which is a byproduct of business, but who knows?). I can also agree with Mr Garrett that even if big business is a problem, big government isn't a solution, it's just a transformation to another type of worse problem.
Interestingly both authors reserve the harshest treatment for the people who suck up to the business men when they are successful (Mr Garrett)/wealthy (Mr Trollope) and shun they when they are unsuccessful. Perhaps this is the message that we should take first and foremost from these works.