Ben is the contractor Dagny hires to work on the John Galt Line after the guy she wanted, McNamara, disappears. Nealy is competent but definitely lacks imagination. He doubts everything and isn't very willing to take risks. He's downright reluctant to listen to Dagny and what he sees as her wacky ideas.
"There's no use getting upset, Miss Taggart. I'm doing my best."
"I've hired you to do a job, not to do your best – whatever that is."
"That's a funny thing to say. That's an unpopular attitude, Miss Taggart, mighty unpopular." (188.8.131.52-14)
Ben demonstrates how a lot of people in the country collaborate with and reinforce the looters' system in small ways. Ben isn't bad at his job, but he has taken in enough of the looters' rhetoric, their love of stability and fear of change, for it to start bleeding into his work and his interactions. Ben shows us what an uphill battle Galt is fighting against a firmly entrenched way of thinking and living.