The fool who continues to follow in the footsteps of a fool who has been shown to be a fool is an even greater fool than the fool that he follows.
It is curious the influence that the fictional works of Ayn Rand has on her readers. Despite her numerous literary and intellectual shortcomings – and these are not minor – she is nevertheless able to exert what can only be described as a mesmeric effect on those who manage to finish her long novels. In a sense, whether one reads them admiringly and enthusiastically to the end or one gives up along the way, while experiencing varying degrees of disgust, disbelief, and amusement, is an indication of whether one will remain a sensible human being or whether one will become a rabid Randophile – a fervent and proselytizing disciple or advocate of her ideas. There are many intellectuals who have made the grave mistake of not taking Ayn Rand seriously, for the fact is that she has influenced, and continues to influence, the beliefs of many youthful and enthusiastic readers of her works, some of whom later become businesspeople and government officials, whose actions and decisions collectively decide the prevailing business practices and government policies of the day.
Rand most certainly did not subscribe to Oscar Wilde’s theory of art for art’s sake, the view that art does not need to have, or even should have, a moral or didactic aim. All her fictional works have a definite pedagogic purpose, namely, to persuade her readers of the truth of her philosophy, which she called Objectivism.
Objectivism says: live by reason, follow a rational code of morality, practice self-interest as a virtue, establish the principles of limited government to define the appropriate use of retaliatory force. As its name implies, Ayn Rand’s philosophy upholds an objective reality, objective cognition, objective values, and objective law.
Rand clearly stated her intention in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:
“Objectivists are not ‘conservatives.’ We are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish.”
It is obvious from a perusal of her writings that Rand believed she had provided capitalism with the solid philosophical base or justification which, according to her, it had previously lacked.
There are numerous reasons why her philosophy appeals to so many people: it is plausible, coherent, comprehensive, easy to understand, and, perhaps most importantly of all, it provides clear directions on the way that one ought to live and behave. There is no ambiguity in her views. Moreover, her philosophy of selfishness appeals to many people’s selfish inclination to shirk civil duty, social responsibility, and consideration for others, while it justifies them in doing whatever they feel like doing. Thus, for those who believe in it, Objectivism provides both intellectual clarity and moral or practical certitude. The only problem is that her philosophy is completely wrong.
During Rand’s life, her views were regarded as being too radical and extreme to be espoused publicly by intellectuals and politicians. In my opinion, former American President Ronald Reagan read Rand’s works and was influenced by her philosophy. This is clear from the things he sought to accomplish during his presidency: lower taxes, fewer government regulations and programs, the elimination or reduction of programs that helped the poor, his unwavering hostility towards unions, and a strong faith in the virtues of free-market enterprise. During his presidency, consolidation occurred in many industries, with the result that there were fewer and fewer large companies in these industries, in accordance with another key element of Rand’s views on capitalism, namely, her conviction that antitrust laws are immoral.
If I were asked to choose the date which marks the turning point on the road to the ultimate destruction of American industry, and the most infamous piece of legislation in American history, I would choose the year 1890 and the Sherman Act — which began that grotesque, irrational, malignant growth of unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable contradictions known as the antitrust laws.
In his first Inaugural Address in 1981, Reagan declared, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” – a phrase that neatly summarizes Rand’s hatred of all forms of governmental intrusion and interference in people’s lives. But Reagan knew that he would have been ridiculed if he had publicly admitted this influence, meaning he was a closet Randophile. In contrast, the openness with which many Randophiles espouse her philosophy today is a clear sign of her growing influence and respectability.
Most philosophical systems are made in the image of their creators. This is true of Objectivism, which was made in the image of Ayn Rand. But to say that it is true, as she and her many devotees believe, is no more accurate than to declare that Joseph Stalin was a great, generous, and caring humanitarian.
In the twentieth century, there were numerous false theories of human behaviour, most notably communism, fascism, psychoanalysis, and behaviourism, that were nevertheless able to gain influence over millions and millions of individuals. Objectivism falls into this historically large category of false theories or beliefs that, in spite of their falsehood, have gained influence over a large number of people. The lesson to be learned from this litany of false but persuasive theories and beliefs is that we should be wary of comprehensive theories that claim to be logically consistent and coherent but whose originators and followers have never bothered to check to see if they were actually correct, that is, if they in fact accord with reality.
The long, meandering, and discontinuous road to truth is a continual battle against the many powerful forces of falsehood. Throughout human history, the Dark Knights of Deception have shown both skill and tenacity in serving their duplicitous master. No sooner is one false theory discredited than a horde of others, like the multiplying heads of the hydra, or a swarm of biting, maddening, germ-carrying insects, rise to take its place. And like shape-shifters, these Dark Knights are able to change their outward appearance so that many people are not able to recognize their essentially unchanging and deceiving nature. What often makes these Knights so powerfully persuasive is that they themselves are not aware that they are unwittingly the servants of the Dark Lord, the masterful Originator of Falsehood, Deception, and Lies. In other words, at least for a time, in the eyes of many people, these Dark Knights of Deception successfully masquerade as White Knights of Truth. Since Rand regarded herself as an intellectual Champion of Capitalism and Individual Freedom, it is necessary for someone to challenge her and throw her from her mount by showing that her ideas, arguments, and philosophy are wrong.
By the simple criteria I have presented in “The Cloud Cuckoo Land of False Ideas,” Rand’s Objectivism should be regarded as highly suspect and probably false, for it begins with Aristotle’s mistaken belief that human beings are rational creatures, uses reason to reach its conclusions, and does not bother to verify these conclusions by testing them against reality. In other words, Rand applied the tenets of Rationalism to an area where they have no validity, namely, the study of human behaviour. She mistakenly assumed that, as Euclid did in his Elements, it is only necessary to begin from true premises and then, from these premises, reason correctly in order to arrive at true conclusions about the world we live in. But what is true in logic and geometry is not true in the realm of human affairs. Rand naively believed that her imitation of the Rationalist or Euclidean model was sufficient to ensure that her philosophy was true, when the reverse is the case. Far from recognizing this mistake, however, she vaunted it as one of the main strengths of her system, which shows how feeble was her intellect and how poor her judgment.
Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a perceiver’s (man’s) consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic). This means that although reality is immutable and, in any given context, only one answer is true, the truth is not automatically available to a human consciousness and can be obtained only by a certain mental process which is required of every man who seeks knowledge[…]
Most people, when they start learning about something, do not arrogantly assume that they are smarter than everyone else and that other people have little or nothing to teach one. But this is the attitude that Rand had towards other thinkers and intellectuals. Her overweening arrogance, which gave her a false sense of superiority over others, was her Achilles’ heel, since it prevented her from learning from others and recognizing – and correcting – her many flaws and shortcomings.
Pride was one of Rand’s principle flaws, for it prevented her from reading widely and assimilating a wide variety of views. Once her beliefs became set, they were like the rigid plaster of inflexible dogma, which can no longer be moulded or altered, but can only be smashed by being dropped onto the hard ground of facts, or shattered with the sledgehammer of reality. Rand’s arrogance and certitude in herself made her a deceiving demagogue. She had the overconfidence in her beliefs and abilities that often results from ignorance.
She [Rand] rejected [Isabel] Paterson’s comparison of her to other philosophers, insisting, “I have not adopted any philosophy. I have created my own. I do not care to be tagged with anyone else’s labels.” Though rigorously abstract, Rand’s discourse was in many ways aggressively anti-intellectual. She was uninterested in placing herself within the broader community of thinkers and cared little about the intersections between different schools of thought. “I see no point in discussing what some fools said in the past and why they said it and what error they made and where they went off the rails,” she told Paterson.
As is true of many other philosophers and the particular philosophical systems they developed, it is necessary to know some of the details of the life of Alissa Rosenbaum or, as she later rechristened herself, Ayn Rand, in order to understand why she said some of the things she said, in particular the radical and uncompromising statements she was wont to make. Rand’s decision to change her name was symbolic of her conviction that she owed nothing to anyone else other than herself for the person she became, the ideas she developed, and the philosophy she originated.
After their break she [Rand] could no longer retain respect for Paterson, downgrading her to a second-rate novelist rather than an important thinker.
Her changed estimate of Paterson changed Rand’s own understanding of herself. If Paterson had not been so brilliant after all, then Rand had done most of her thinking alone. Erasing Paterson’s contribution made Rand into the completely autonomous heroine of her own personal narrative. She would come to believe that her individual effort had solely shaped her ideas and driven her work, excluding her participation in the intellectual world that Paterson represented.
This mistaken belief about the origins of her philosophy gave rise to
Objectivist Lie #1
Human beings are not dependent on others.
Everything we accomplish in life is due solely to our own efforts.
Rand exaggerated our independence from others because it is fundamental to her argument that we do not owe anything to other people – for our survival, skills, knowledge, and accomplishments – and therefore we can behave selfishly by keeping everything we earn by our labours without any need to feel guilty or a sense of responsibility for others. But the truth is that we are extremely dependent on others. In fact, of all living organisms, human beings are the ones that are most dependent on others for our survival. Whereas most other organisms can and must fend for themselves from the time they are born, human beings are weak and helpless for many years after their birth. Without the opportunity to observe other people during one’s childhood, an infant will become an extremely stunted, limited adult that is capable of performing very few of the skills, such as speaking a language and interacting socially with others, which we normally associate with human nature.
Here is a presentation of her rationale for this view:
Consciousness—for those living organisms which possess it—is the basic means of survival. For man, the basic means of survival is reason. Man cannot survive, as animals do, by the guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as “hunger”), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous. He cannot provide for his simplest physical needs without a process of thought. He needs a process of thought to discover how to plant and grow his food or how to make weapons for hunting. His percepts might lead him to a cave, if one is available—but to build the simplest shelter, he needs a process of thought. No percepts and no “instincts” will tell him how to light a fire, how to weave cloth, how to forge tools, how to make a wheel, how to make an airplane, how to perform an appendectomy, how to produce an electric light bulb or an electronic tube or a cyclotron or a box of matches. Yet his life depends on such knowledge—and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide it.
Regardless of whether Rand meant this literally, in the sense that each and every individual must figure these things out by employing one’s reason throughout the course of one’s life every time one is faced with a problem or a choice between two or more alternatives, or metaphorically, in the sense of humanity’s cultural development, her simplistic explanation of how valuable models of behaviour are first developed and then transmitted to later generations is, to put it plainly, preposterously ignorant.
Contrary to what Rand believed, we do not learn which foods are safe to eat by “a process of thought”. Such discoveries are made by trying various foods and seeing the effect they have on us, whether appetizing and beneficial or harmful and unpleasant. The great majority of us do not need to make such hazardous trials because fortunately we grow up in societies whose earlier members have performed these trials and passed this valuable knowledge on to us. Our parents guide us by giving us only good foods to eat and discouraging us whenever we attempt to eat something harmful, or put things in our mouths that are inedible, as babies and young children often do.
What is true of food is true of almost every other valuable process, knowledge, or model of behaviour: we do not discover these things by ourselves but rather learn them from others who, in most cases, also learned these things from someone else. To give an obvious example, we did not invent the language we speak; we learned it by listening to and observing others who speak the language. All the words we use, and the manner in which we use them, were not invented or determined by us. And even in the case of the individual who first discovered a valuable process or piece of knowledge, it was usually discovered not by a process of reasoning, as Rand supposed, but by the age-old method of trial and error. Moreover, a great many important inventions and discoveries were not the result of a conscious and deliberate effort to solve a specific problem, but rather the happy result of a fortuitous accident.
Thus, contrary to what Rand naively asserted, we are extremely dependent on others and indebted to them for almost everything that is good, useful, and meaningful in our lives, including our ability to speak languages, know what is good to eat, how to do things like read, write, cook, create, play a sport or musical instrument, practice art, dance, drive, take care of ourselves, and so on. Almost all the useful models of behaviour that each and every one of us practices was acquired by observing, listening to, talking with, or reading books written by others. Both Thomas Edison, whom many people consider to be the greatest inventor of all time, and Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientific geniuses of all time, understood this fact.
Because I readily absorb ideas from every source – frequently starting where the last person left off – I am sometimes accurately described as ‘more of a sponge than an inventor’.
As Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Without the opportunity to observe and learn from others, we would all become like the Wild Boy of Aveyron, a very limited and socially-immature human being who speaks no language, eats one’s food raw, prefers to go about naked, urinates and defecates like an animal – that is, wherever one happens to be, and lacks all the social skills and qualities that most of us would consider to be essential qualities of human beings. In the matter of discovery and innovation, there are no Edisons or Einsteins, Mozarts or Picassos, or Homers or Shakespeares in Nature. Their accomplishments were the result of having observed certain models of behaviour. Without the opportunity to observe these models, even the greatest geniuses would not have accomplished anything notable during their lives. All great discoveries, inventions, and artistic creations are based on, and elaborations or modifications of, the work of earlier writers, artists, composers, researchers, scientists, and thinkers.
In reality, even for the most famous and apparently decisive modern inventions, neglected precursors lurked behind the bald claim “X invented Y.” For instance, we are regularly told, “James Watt invented the steam engine in 1769,” supposedly inspired by watching steam rise from a tea-kettle’s spout. Unfortunately for this splendid fiction, Watt actually got the idea for his particular steam engine while repairing a model of Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine, which Newcomen had invented 57 years earlier and of which over a hundred had been manufactured in England by the time of Watt’s repair work. Newcomen’s engine, in turn, followed the steam engine that the Englishman Thomas Savery patented in 1698, which followed the steam engine that the Frenchman Denis Papin designed (but did not build) around 1680, which in turn had precursors in the ideas of the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens and others. All this is not to deny that Watt greatly improved Newcomen’s engine (by incorporating a separate steam condenser and a double-acting cylinder), just as Newcomen had greatly improved Savery’s.
Similar histories can be related for all modern inventions that are adequately documented. The hero customarily credited with the invention followed previous inventors who had had similar aims and had already produced designs, working models, or (as in the case of the Newcomen steam engine) commercially successful models. Edison’s famous “invention” of the incandescent light bulb on the night of October 21, 1879, improved on many other incandescent light bulbs patented by other inventors between 1841 and 1878. Similarly, the Wright brothers’ manned powered airplane was preceded by the manned unpowered gliders of Otto Lilienthal and the unmanned powered airplane of Samuel Langley; Samuel Morse’s telegraph was preceded by those of Joseph Henry, William Cooke, and Charles Wheatstone; and Eli Whitney’s gin for cleaning short-staple (inland) cotton extended gins that had been cleaning long-staple (Sea Island) cotton for thousands of years.
In her novel Anthem, Rand’s protagonist, a nameless individual who rebels against the stifling conformity that is imposed by the rulers on the inhabitants of her imaginary society in order to maintain order and control, after discovering an ancient laboratory that has been miraculously preserved in working order, proceeds, without ever having received any scientific training or instruction, to discover the principles of electricity and later invent a light bulb. This preposterous fairy tale illustrates how skewed was Rand’s understanding of the way discoveries and innovations are made, and the manner in which we learn the things that are essential for our survival. It is comparable to supposing that a person who has never seen or heard a single word of Chinese will be able, merely by assiduous effort and thought, to write a literary masterpiece in that language.
Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work.
If some men do not choose to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine of sounds and motions they learned from others, never making an effort to understand their own work, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by those who did choose to think and to discover the motions they are repeating. The survival of such mental parasites depends on blind chance; their unfocused minds are unable to know whom to imitate, whose motions it is safe to follow. They are the men who march into the abyss, trailing after any destroyer who promises them to assume the responsibility they evade: the responsibility of being conscious.
Society is not composed, as Rand mistakenly believed, of individualistic atomic beings who are not dependent on others, who figure out everything they need to know by themselves through the judicious use of their reason, and who interact with each other only in mutually beneficial voluntary exchanges. This naive conception of human societies is as far from the truth as Santa Claus is from the South Pole. A doctor does not learn how to become a doctor solely by oneself: one learns from one’s teachers, by reading books and other publications, and from observing and speaking to other doctors. The same is true of every other profession or activity that is practiced by human beings.
One of the reasons why Rand advanced this ridiculous lie was because it was necessary in order to maintain her belief that, intellectually, she owed nothing to anyone except Aristotle. According to her, every other part of her philosophy was the result of her judicious use of reason in the examination of reality, specifically the needs and constraints of human life. Like the Greek goddess Athena, who is said to have sprung fully-formed from the brain of her father Zeus, Rand believed that her philosophy had sprung, through the intermediary of her prodigious reason and her own heroic efforts, from the brain of her intellectual father Aristotle.
In the following passage, which is part of a critique written by Rand of B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity, we can see how her strong attachment to this Randian fairy tale distorted her judgment and understanding:
As proof, he [Skinner] revives another ancient saw: the capacity of the human species to transmit knowledge deprives man of any claim to individuality (or to individual achievement) because he has to start by learning from others. “The great individualists so often cited to show the value of personal freedom have owed their successes to earlier social environments. The involuntary individualism of a Robinson Crusoe and the voluntary individualism of a Henry David Thoreau show obvious debts to society. If Crusoe had reached the island as a baby, and if Thoreau had grown up unattended on the shores of Walden Pond, their stories would have been different. We must all begin as babies, and no degree of self-determination, self-sufficiency, or self-reliance will make us individuals in any sense beyond that of single members of the human species.”
This means: we all begin as babies and remain in that state; since a baby is not self-sufficient, neither is an adult; nothing has happened in between. Observe also the same method of setting up a straw man that was used in regard to volition: setting it up outside of reality. E.g., in order to be an individual, Thomas A. Edison would have had to appear in the jungle by parthenogenesis, as an infant without human parents, then rediscover, all by himself, the entire course of the science of physics, from the first fire to the electric light bulb. Since no one has done this, there is no such thing as individualism.
Of course, Skinner was saying nothing of the sort. He was saying that we learn from others, an obvious fact that Rand denied, and so she was led to the absurdity which she propounded in the last paragraph. This is just one example of how confused and irrational was her thinking. It also illustrates another of her common failings – her tendency to deny obvious facts, in this case the rather obvious fact that most of the things we know and are able to do were learned from others, when they contradicted her beliefs.
Objectivist Lie #2
Selfishness is good while altruism is bad.
Before we examine this lie, we must first consider Rand’s definition of “selfishness”:
Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.
This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.
This is an example of Rand’s intellectual dishonesty and sloppiness, for she has redefined “selfishness” to suit her own desires, which was to make it appear good and beneficial, in opposition to the generally-held view that selfishness is bad and can have harmful effects on others. She did this by omitting an important part of the definition of selfishness, which is that it involves pursing one’s own interest or aims to the exclusion of everything else, including the harmful effects which one’s selfish actions can have on others. She herself was an extremely selfish and egotistic person, and therefore she wanted to find an intellectual justification for living her life as she pleased, without having to consider the effects which her actions and decisions had on others or what they thought about them. We are all of us selfish to varying degrees. But unlike most selfish individuals, Rand refused to consider this trait as a shortcoming and something she should try to change about herself. She also greatly disliked having to do things for others or make sacrifices for them, especially when it inconvenienced her.
Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value—and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes.
Even if most people are generous or altruistic some of the time, it does not mean that they must be generous all the time, or that they even want to be. As we will see in other instances, we can see in this example the result of her misapplication of rigid logical principles, which constrain one to behave in one of two mutually exclusive alternatives, in her attempt to understand human behaviour.
Would you be willing and able to act on the belief that altruism is a moral ideal? That you must sacrifice everything—everything you love, seek, own, or desire, including your life—for the benefit of any and every stranger?
Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival, since he has to support his life by his own effort, the doctrine that concern with one’s own interests is evil means that man’s desire to live is evil—that man’s life, as such, is evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.
Yet that is the meaning of altruism, implicit in such examples as the equation of an industrialist with a robber.
Of course, when one has redefined terms like “selfishness” to suit one’s aims, and when one insists that a person can only be either selfish or altruistic – but not both, it is easy to construct arguments like this to vilify the object of one’s hatred. But most reasonable people – in which category Ayn Rand most certainly does not belong – understand that, when others urge them to be less selfish and more altruistic, such as our parents when we were children, they do not mean that we must be altruistic and self-abnegating all the time. Unless one insists, as Rand did, on rigid logical consistency in our lives at all times, there is no inconsistency in being selfish most of the time and being altruistic some of the time, or in doing what one likes but at the same time taking into consideration the effects that one’s actions have on others. This is how most people go about their daily lives.
Who is to be the intended beneficiary of his actions? Is he to hold, as his primary moral purpose, the achievement of his own life and happiness—or should his primary moral purpose be to serve the wishes and needs of others?
The clash between egoism and altruism lies in their conflicting answers to these questions. Egoism holds that man is an end in himself; altruism holds that man is a means to the ends of others. Egoism holds that, morally, the beneficiary of an action should be the person who acts; altruism holds that, morally, the beneficiary of an action should be someone other than the person who acts.
This is a clear example of a misleading either/or. Rand is saying that we must always act in one way or the other – that we must always behave selfishly or always behave altruistically by sacrificing our interests to those of others. Of course, this view is completely wrong, since we can behave both selfishly and selflessly, as the majority of people want to do and in fact do. There is no contradiction in wanting to keep most of one’s earnings, but at the same time wanting to contribute a part of one’s income to pay for government programs that benefit both other people and oneself. Only extremely selfish individuals like Rand don’t care about their fellow human beings and want to keep all of their earnings for themselves. The great majority of us are neither saints nor selfish egomaniacs like Rand. It is for this reason that we have collective programs like universal health care, welfare, pensions for the elderly, public education, and so on. It is only when one accepts a false principle or philosophy like Rand’s incorrectly-named Objectivism that requires one to behave in an artificially uniform manner that absurdity results.
The fact that Rand would redefine these two words to suit her purposes further illustrates her monstrous arrogance. In essence, she was saying, “I don’t care how these two words have been used by other speakers of the English language, which existed long before I was born and which I learned as a foreign language, even if they have had those meanings for centuries. I am going to redefine them in the way that I see fit, and too bad for anyone who disagrees with me.” In doing so, Rand behaved exactly like Humpty Dumpty, who declared to Alice,
“There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’ ” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
What are we to think of a person who behaved like the imperious Humpty Dumpty in the important matter of defining the pivotal term “selfishness,” and then based her entire philosophy of Objectivism on this dishonest definition?
What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means: self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
In order to understand Rand’s hatred of what she defined as altruism, we must once again delve into her personal history. Alissa Rosenbaum grew up in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. When she was twelve, the Bolsheviks seized power in the 1917 Revolution, after which they proceeded, in accordance with the principles of communism, to dispossess all Russians of their private property. Rand’s father, a successful pharmacist, lost his business in St. Petersburg, and the family was forced to leave their home. Thus was born her inveterate hatred of communism, its use of force to accomplish its aims, its collectivist mentality and political organization, its rigidity, intolerance, censorship, police control, and its opposition to individualism, individual rights, free choice, and freedom in general, because they were considered to be unimportant and subservient to the needs of the state. If one rereads the previous passage, one will see that her definition of altruism encapsulates the sacrifices that were demanded of all people, who had no choice in the matter, for the sake of the common good by the communist rulers of the totalitarian state which resulted from their mistaken belief that this was the only way to create a socialist paradise on earth. It was in this stifling collectivist police state that the young Alissa Rosenbaum grew up, and which she came to hate as the enemy that must be resisted and destroyed. In other words, for Rand, the term “altruism” embodied everything that she hated about communism.
And yet, although she hated communism and totalitarianism in general, Rand nevertheless exhibited the influence of the nine years she spent living in Soviet Russia during her later life, in the sense that her mind-set was totalitarian. She was as intolerant of alternative viewpoints and criticisms of her views as the communists were of criticisms of and deviations from their doctrine. Despite the fact that, from the age of twenty-one onwards, she lived in the United States and never returned to Russia, she was never able to acquire the tolerance and respect for other people’s opinions that characterize the inhabitants of democratic countries. In addition, although Rand was a third-rate intellectual, she was a first-rate propagandist, another characteristic that was primarily due to her communist education, as was exemplified by her use of communist propaganda methods.
Even history, a subject Alisa chose [at university] because it was relatively free of Marxism, could be twisted and framed to reflect the glories of Bolshevism. Years later she considered herself an authority on propaganda, based on her university experience. “I was trained in it by experts,” she explained to a friend.
Rand’s belief in the virtue of selfishness was heavily influenced by her reading of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the Superman, a superior being that is completely indifferent to the concerns, welfare, and morality of ordinary people. Afterwards, she came to identify herself as a sort of Nietzschean Superwoman who must free herself from the morality of the masses, which prevents the superior individual – in which exclusive category Rand clearly placed herself – from realizing one’s goals and potential, whether artistic, intellectual, or economic.
There was also a strong Russian tradition of pursuing philosophical inquiry outside university settings, and that was how she encountered Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher who quickly became her favorite. A cousin taunted her with a book by Nietzsche, “who beat you to all your ideas.” Reading outside of her classes she devoured his works.
Her steady intellectual companion in these [early] years [in Los Angeles] was Friedrich Nietzsche, and the first book she bought in English was Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche was an individualist who celebrated self-creation, which was after all what Rand was doing in America. She seemed to have been deeply affected by his emphasis on the will to power, or self-overcoming. She commanded herself, “The secret of life: you must be nothing but will. Know what you want and do it. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it, every minute of the day. All will and all control. Send everything else to hell!”
This identification led Rand to sympathize with a murderer who in 1927 kidnapped and killed a twelve-year-old girl named Marion Parker, the daughter of a Los Angeles banker. Shortly before receiving the ransom he had demanded for her return, he strangled his victim and mutilated her body, disembowelling her and cutting off her arms and legs.
When the tabloids filled with the sensational case of William Hickman, a teen murderer who mutilated his victim and boasted maniacally of his deed when caught, Rand was sympathetic rather than horrified. To her, Hickman embodied the strong individual breaking free from the ordinary run of humanity. She imagined Hickman to be like herself, a sensitive individual ruined by misunderstanding and neglect, writing in her diary, “If he had any desires and ambitions—what was the way before him? A long, slow, soul-eating, heart-wrecking toil and struggle; the degrading, ignoble road of silent pain and loud companions.” Glossing over his crime, Rand focused on his defiant refusal to express remorse or contrition.
She modeled Renahan [the protagonist in her play The Little Street, based on the Hickman murder] along explicitly Nietzschean lines, noting that “he has the true, innate psychology of a Superman.” To Rand a Superman was one who cared nothing for the thoughts, feelings, or opinions of others. Her description of Renahan as Superman echoed her own self-description as a child: “He is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness—resulting from the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning or importance of other people.
Objectivist Lie #3
It is Immanuel Kant and the mystics who gave birth to the evil idea of altruism.
Despite Rand’s repeated claims of objectivity, her discussion of the origins of altruism is either dishonest or completely mistaken in its attribution. It is hard to imagine a more ridiculous claim than her identification of the source of altruism in mysticism and the philosophy of Kant.
Another, contributory evil is the philosophical root of altruism, which is: mysticism—the belief in the supernatural, which preaches contempt for matter, for wealth, well-being, or happiness on earth. The mystics are constantly crying appeals for your pity, your compassion, your help to the less fortunate—yet they are condemning you for all the qualities of character that make you able to help them.
It is Kant’s version of altruism that is generally accepted today, not practiced—who can practice it?—but guiltily accepted. It is Kant’s version of altruism that people, who have never heard of Kant, profess when they equate self-interest with evil. It is Kant’s version of altruism that’s working whenever people are afraid to admit the pursuit of any personal pleasure or gain or motive—whenever men are afraid to confess that they are seeking their own happiness—whenever businessmen are afraid to say that they are making profits—whenever the victims of an advancing dictatorship are afraid to assert their “selfish” rights.
The ultimate monument to Kant and to the whole altruist morality is Soviet Russia.
The widespread fear and/or resentment of morality—the feeling that morality is an enemy, a musty realm of suffering and senseless boredom—is not the product of mystic, ascetic or Christian codes as such, but a monument to the ugliest repository of hatred for life, man and reason: the soul of Immanuel Kant.
It is an absurdity of the highest degree to blame a historically miniscule group of individuals who had little or no influence on the vast majority of people by the peculiar lives of devotion they led, and an inoffensive German philosopher whose works are notoriously difficult to understand, for what Rand regarded as the source of the greatest evil of all time. Mystics were solitary individuals who lived isolated lives in their attempt to achieve communion with God. They have never been numerous, and far from seeking to influence others, they have generally shunned society as evil or as the source of the many temptations and distractions that must be overcome in order to attain their spiritual goal. Hence, the notion that they have had a great negative influence on society is patently absurd.
Contrary to Rand’s vehement denunciations of mystics and Immanuel Kant, the true source of altruism in the Western world is Christianity, which provided people with the model of humility, sacrifice, self-denial, self-abasement, subjugation – of putting others before oneself, and meekly accepting one’s fate in life without complaint, which Rand so vehemently denounced. It was Jesus who preached against the pursuit of wealth on numerous occasions: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” and “Give to everyone who begs from you, and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.”
In the passages about mysticism and Kant, replacing the words “mysticism” with “Christianity” and “Kant” with “Jesus” yields the following:
Another, contributory evil is the philosophical root of altruism, which is: Christianity—the belief in the supernatural, which preaches contempt for matter, for wealth, well-being, or happiness on earth. The Christians are constantly crying appeals for your pity, your compassion, your help to the less fortunate—yet they are condemning you for all the qualities of character that make you able to help them.
It is Jesus’s version of altruism that is generally accepted today, not practiced—who can practice it?—but guiltily accepted. It is Jesus’s version of altruism that people, who have never heard of Jesus, profess when they equate self-interest with evil. It is Jesus’s version of altruism that’s working whenever people are afraid to admit the pursuit of any personal pleasure or gain or motive—whenever men are afraid to confess that they are seeking their own happiness—whenever businessmen are afraid to say that they are making profits—whenever the victims of an advancing dictatorship are afraid to assert their “selfish” rights.
The ultimate monument to Jesus and to the whole altruist morality is Soviet Russia.
To Christ’s exhortation to “Love thy neighbour,” Rand would have replied, “Screw your neighbour! Your neighbour is a vile and worthless moocher who wants to steal your money by making you feel guiltily responsible for him. You are not responsible for him or for anyone else. The only person you are responsible for is yourself. The moment you accept the despicable altruistic lie that you are responsible for the well-being of others, then you become their slave.”
To Christ’s exhortation to “Turn the other cheek,” she would have replied, “Humility is the foolish pride of slaves which allows the looters, moochers, and dictators to gain control over mankind. If you ‘Turn the other cheek’ then you will become the slave of the first person who comes along and seeks to gain control over you by picking your pocket, taking the produce of your labour, or telling you what to do. Only a weak and abject fool would allow this to happen. ‘Turn the other cheek,’ and you will have to turn it again and again until you have no cheek left to turn, for it is only the first step in surrendering your freedom to the looters, moochers, dictators, parasites, second-raters, brutes, thugs, and other haters of humanity.”
To Christ’s commandment to “Love your enemy,” Rand would have said, “Anyone and everyone that wants something from you without offering something of equal value in return is your sworn enemy. Above all, beware of those who would enslave you by appealing to your sense of guilt and responsibility, for these lowlifes who use phrases like ‘social justice,’ ‘social responsibility,’ ‘equality,’ ‘compassion,’ and ‘altruism’ are your greatest enemies. Treat them like you would a dirty, disease-ridden fly that is buzzing around your meal: Swat it away. You would feel no guilt over killing the fly. Then why would you feel any guilt over these human scum that want to take from you what does not belong to them, and which you have earned through your hard labour?”
To Christ’s teaching that “The Kingdom of God is within you,” Rand would have declared, “There is no Kingdom of God. The only Kingdom that exists is the one that you create yourself with your god-like faculty of reason and your own two hands. Do not be misled by promises of paradise in the afterlife. The only life you have is this one here on earth, which is why it is so important not to let others impose on you during your lifetime or restrict your freedom in any way. The belief in Paradise after death is the delusion of fools that preach submission to those lowlifes who live off the labour of others.”
To Christ’s proclamation that “The meek shall inherit the earth,” she would have said, “The meek inherit nothing but their own laziness, servility, and what they are given by others or are able to beg or steal from them. Do not be one of them, but rather be one of those who take from life what is rightfully theirs and fashion their individual path in the world. Jesus was completely wrong, for it is the bold, the daring, the intelligent, and the industrious who inherit the earth by their determined actions.”
To Christ’s teaching that the pleasures of this world are ignoble and unworthy in comparison to the pleasures that await the righteous in Heaven, Rand would have countered, “There is no Heaven. Heaven is the fictional solace of weak and credulous fools that was invented to make people subservient to, and the abject slaves of, the many haters of humanity. If you swallow this abominable lie, then you surrender the only thing worth preserving – this life, which is the only life we have, and therefore all the more precious. This means enjoying the pleasures that life has to offer, including sexual pleasure. Do not believe what the haters of humanity would have you believe – that these pleasures are immoral and sinful, for they speak only lies.”
Capitalism does not tell men to suffer, but to pursue enjoyment and achievement, here, on earth—capitalism does not tell men to serve and sacrifice, but to produce and profit—capitalism does not preach passivity, humility, resignation, but independence, self-confidence, self-reliance—and, above all, capitalism does not permit anyone to expect or demand, to give or to take the unearned. In all human relationships—private or public, spiritual or material, social or political or economic or moral—capitalism requires that men be guided by a principle which is the antithesis of altruism: the principle of justice.
By her vehement denunciation of altruism, Rand was saying that Jesus Christ was the most evil human being that ever lived. Her philosophy of Objectivism was profoundly anti-Christian, condemning the teachings of Jesus because, according to her, the Christian practice of abasing, subserving, and sacrificing oneself leads inevitably to the extinction of freedom and the establishment of tyrannical regimes like fascism and communism.
Remember that “altruism” does not mean kindness or consideration for other men. Altruism is a moral theory which preaches that man must sacrifice himself for others, that he must place the interest of others above his own, that he must live for the sake of others.
Altruism is a monstrous notion. It is the morality of cannibals devouring one another. It is a theory of profound hatred for man, for reason, for achievement, for any form of human success or happiness on earth.
To have so blatantly misidentified the source of the object of her hatred and her constant denunciations is an example of intellectual dishonesty and cowardice on her part, for Rand was afraid of the consequences of attacking Christianity and its teachings openly and with such vitriol. But even if she were to deny this charge, as she denied every charge, accusation, and criticism that was made of her and her writings, then it is evidence of incredibly poor judgment on her part, since she wasn’t even able to make such simple identifications and distinctions.
Considered from another perspective, Rand’s covert attack on Christianity was astute because it allowed her to convince many people of the evil nature of altruism, but without provoking the strong antagonism and hostility which an open attack on Christianity would have provoked. In military strategy this is called a feint. No one is offended by her denunciations of mysticism and Immanuel Kant, as Christians would have been offended had she attacked Jesus’s teachings openly.
The following passages show that, while writing her novel The Fountainhead, Rand originally identified Christianity as the source of the doctrine of altruism and self-sacrifice:
It is notable that Rand spoke openly here about Christianity as an exemplar of the ideals she opposed, rather than altruism.
In her first notes for the novel Rand had attacked Christian ethics, but now she attacked altruism. In the speech [Rand’s protagonist Howard] Roark identifies second-handers as preachers of altruism, which he defines as “the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self”. The origins of Rand’s shift from Christianity to altruism are unclear, but her conversations with the philosophically literate [Isabel] Paterson most likely played a role.
Because of her uncompromising hatred of altruism, we can without exaggeration call Ayn Rand the anti-Christ. I am not, of course, using this phrase in the sense that it is generally used, to denote someone who is the incarnation of evil, but rather to signify that Rand’s philosophy was the opposite of everything that Jesus taught and embodied during his life.
As her mistaken attribution of the true source of altruism illustrates, Rand’s understanding of what other writers and thinkers actually said was often faulty. Those who are ignorant of the positions or philosophies that Rand denounced in her writings fail to understand the extent to which her summaries of these positions are caricatures that have little or nothing to do with reality. In other words, they are highly subjective Randian versions of what their originators and supporters actually said. According to Rand’s subjectivist interpretation of intellectual reality, hers was the only logical, sensible, coherent, and valid position that humanity has ever devised.
Objectivist Lie #4
Man is a rational animal.
Like many other intellectuals, Rand swallowed uncritically the falsehood that human beings are rational creatures, which is one of the most influential and longest-lived falsehoods in the history of humanity, in large part because of her great admiration for Aristotle, who was the originator of this falsehood. Given her uncritical admiration for him, it is not surprising that she made this mistaken belief one of the foundations of her philosophy. Rand goes on and on about how great Aristotle was and that he was her only intellectual guide and model, but she failed to realize that the Scientific Revolution occurred only because individuals like Galileo rejected Aristotle’s methodology of non-systematic observation of the world, coupled with merely reasoning about these observations – which is the same methodology that Rand employed to develop her philosophy – and instead began testing their beliefs and expectations about the world. Since Rand never bothered to do this, her beliefs are unscientific and therefore unproven.
It was precisely Rand’s uncompromising insistence on reason, on the rigid application of logic to the examination of human affairs, that led her to be so dogmatic and inflexible. Because she perceived the world in terms of logical categories, which have only two possibilities – true or not true, A or not A, black or white, all or nothing, selfishness or altruism, laissez-faire capitalism or totalitarian state control over the economy – with no gradations between these two mutually exclusive and antagonistic extremes, she mistakenly believed that any mixture of the two was untenable and therefore could not endure. But this is false, as any sensible person knows. In the real world, especially in the complex human world that we live in, contrary to the abstract world of pure logic, which is the unreal world in which Rand spent most of her time, it is the extremes that are rare or unstable and the gradations or mixtures that are most common. For example, the great majority of people who consider themselves to be good and honest have done bad things and told lies. Similarly, there is no criminal or bad person who is uniformly bad. Even someone as evil as Hitler was not uniformly bad or evil towards those he cared about.
In Rand’s addled brain, the belief that “Human beings are rational creatures” was transformed into the belief that “Human beings are logical propositions that can only exist in one of two mutually exclusive states, and therefore their behaviour must be logically consistent at all times, otherwise they will beget or become a contradiction.” Here, in her own words, is a statement of this mistaken belief:
The Law of Identity (A is A) is a rational man’s paramount consideration in the process of determining his interests. He knows that the contradictory is the impossible, that a contradiction cannot be achieved in reality and that the attempt to achieve it can lead only to disaster and destruction. Therefore, he does not permit himself to hold contradictory values, to pursue contradictory goals, or to imagine that the pursuit of a contradiction can ever be to his interest.
But contradictions or inconsistencies, which are not allowed in logic, can and do exist in the real world. A person may, at different times, be selfish and generous, good and bad, rational and irrational, honest and deceiving, brave and cowardly, confident and doubting, gloomy and cheerful, lazy and industrious, happy and sad, optimistic and pessimistic, tolerant and prejudiced, competent and incompetent, wise and foolish, knowledgeable and ignorant, hopeful and despondent, fair and unfair, and so on.
Before one can identify anything as “gray,” one has to know what is black and what is white. In the field of morality, this means that one must first identify what is good and what is evil. And when a man has ascertained that one alternative is good and the other is evil, he has no justification for choosing a mixture. There can be no justification for choosing any part of that which one knows to be evil. In morality, “black” is predominantly the result of attempting to pretend to oneself that one is merely gray.”
This uncompromising attitude is why Rand’s philosophy leads to such stark extremes. She categorically rejected the middle road or the way of moderation which was, ironically, espoused by her philosophical hero Aristotle, declaring instead, as if we were mere logical propositions instead of what we really are, creatures made of flesh and blood, that our behaviour must always be logically consistent and we must never behave in a contradictory manner. She declared that we must choose between one of two extremes which, so she informed us, are the only possibilities open to us as rational creatures. By the way she depicted them, one of these alternatives is so clearly unpleasant, undesirable, and hateful that of course we will choose the other. Rand’s intention was to herd her readers like sheep along the path that she wanted everyone to follow. But if we truly are rational creatures, then we would ignore her false dichotomies, exaggerations, distortions, and other failings as a thinker and writer.
As is true of other dogmatic thinkers, Rand was highly intolerant of criticism and dissent, preferring instead that her followers behave like meek and subservient sheep who obey her every command and gratefully and uncritically accept her every pronouncement, as if she were an infallible, truth-speaking oracle. In fact, she wanted them to behave towards her in the same subservient manner that the communists wanted and expected all people to behave towards the all-powerful state and its rulers.
Even those friendly to Objectivism were disconcerted by the NBI [Nathaniel Branden Institute] lectures [given by Branden on Rand’s philosophy]. Before their break, [philosophy professor] John Hospers sent Rand an unusually frank letter describing his experience: “I felt as if I were in a strange church where I didn’t belong, where all the other people were singing the chants they were expected to and only I did not conform, and where to deny a single thing was considered heresy….And the attitude of the audience in the lecture hall shocked me even more. Rational? Good heavens—an Army of the Faithful, repeating the same incantations and asking questions only about details or applications, never questioning the tenets of the True Faith.
But this was as Rand wanted it, she responded angrily to Hospers. In her letter she exhibited a striking contempt for those who showed the most interest in her philosophy. “Through all the years that I spent formulating my philosophical system, I was looking desperately for ‘intelligent agreement’ or at least for ‘intelligent disagreement,’ ” she told Hospers. “Today, I am not looking for ‘intelligent disagreement’ any longer, and certainly not from children or amateurs.” In other parts of the letter she called participants in her classes “weaklings” and denied, predictably, that she should have any concern for their interests.
Far from leading one objectively to the truth, Rand’s method of applying rigid logical rules and categories to the examination of human affairs leads instead to error and absurdity. Her failure to understand the limitations of logic and logical categories in seeking to understand the complexities of the real world led her to propound
Objectivist Lie #5
Mixed economies are unstable because they are contradictory, and, as everyone knows, a contradiction cannot exist in reality.
According to Rand, mixed economies that combine the freedom of capitalism with some governmental coercion, restrictions, taxes, programs, and services are contradictory and therefore inherently unstable.
A mixed economy (as I have said many, many times) is an invalid, unstable, unworkable system which leads to one of two endings: either a return to freedom or a collapse into dictatorship.
There can be no compromise between freedom and government controls; to accept “just a few controls” is to surrender the principle of inalienable individual rights and to substitute for it the principle of the government’s unlimited, arbitrary power, thus delivering oneself into gradual enslavement.
These sorts of dire predictions have more in common with the predictions made by communists than with the beliefs of sensible people. They are in fact flatly contradicted by the many peaceful, stable, and prosperous mixed economies that exist throughout the world.
Altruism has been men’s ruling moral code through most of mankind’s history. It has had many forms and variations, but its essence has always remained the same: altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.
The philosophical conflict which, since the Renaissance, has been tearing Western civilization and which has reached its ultimate climax in our age is the conflict between capitalism and the altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are philosophical opposites; they cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society.
Contrary to what Rand believed, most people exhibit a combination of selfishness and generosity at different times and in different situations of their lives: some of their actions are generous while others are selfish. There are very few people who exhibit only one or the other of these contrary qualities at all times during the whole of their existence. Similarly, in successful democratic countries, we find a mixture of selfishness and selflessness: while we keep most of our income, the government takes a part of it in order to pay for services which benefit all or many of the citizens of the country in which we live. So in a sense, even the money we pay in taxes is given selfishly, since we expect the government to provide us with services like roads, public transportation, hospitals, parks, schools, libraries, clean water, garbage removal, sewage disposal and treatment, police protection, military protection against foreign aggressors, and so on.
There are degrees of altruism. Contrary to what Rand wanted her readers to believe, altruism is not an all-or-nothing quality. Most people understand this fact, since most people, realizing that they are not logical propositions which, in order to avoid begetting a contradiction, must be only altruistic or only selfish – but not both – sometimes behave altruistically and sometimes selfishly. Contradictions are not allowed in logic. But these kinds of contradictory or inconsistent behaviours are common in real life and do not lead to non-existence – since a contradiction cannot exist – or cause people anguish or perplexity.
If one accepts Rand’s stark but false dichotomy, then one will come to believe that her viewpoint is correct. But one need not do so. Her belief that “Capitalism and altruism[…]cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society” is wrong, for the fact is that they do co-exist, and this combination does not lead, in the case of societies, to instability and collapse, or, in the case of individuals, to an intolerable contradiction which causes them anguish or confusion.
A mixed economy is an explosive, untenable mixture of two opposite elements, which cannot remain stable, but must ultimately go one way or the other; it is a mixture of freedom and controls, which means: not of fascism and communism, but of capitalism and statism (including all its variants). Those who wish to support the un-supportable, disintegrating status quo, are screaming in panic that it can be prolonged by eliminating the two “extremes” of its basic components; but the two extremes are: capitalism or total dictatorship.
It is curious how much Rand’s claim that the conflict between altruism and capitalism “has been tearing Western civilization [apart] and which has reached its ultimate climax in our age” and that “Capitalism and altruism are philosophical opposites; they cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society” resemble the Marxist claim that the class conflict which was one of the cornerstones of communist ideology is destroying society and cannot continue indefinitely – that is, there must be a resolution in favour of one of these two mutually exclusive alternatives.
In the following passage, Rand criticized a passage from an encyclopedia article on capitalism:
Many economists have asserted that there is substantial, perhaps overwhelming, evidence that total welfare in capitalist United States, for example, would be increased by a reallocation of resources to the public sector — more schoolrooms and fewer shopping centers, more public libraries and fewer automobiles, more hospitals and fewer bowling alleys.
This means that some men must toil all their lives without adequate transportation (automobiles), without an adequate number of places to buy the goods they need (shopping centers), without the pleasures of relaxation (bowling alleys) — in order that other men may be provided with schools, libraries, and hospitals.
Despite her self-professed rationality, Rand’s ability to reason was quite feeble, especially when it was distorted by her very strong prejudices. The mutually-exclusive trade-off that she supposed must occur is not inevitable, for it is possible to have both privately-owned facilities like shopping centres, restaurants, and movie theatres, and publicly-owned and operated facilities like libraries, hospitals, and schools, or public and private modes of transportation. Moreover, unlike privately-owned facilities, everyone has the right to use public facilities such as public schools, libraries, parks, community centres, and hospitals – regardless of their income level or their ability to pay for these services – because they are paid for by the government. In contrast, privately-owned facilities such as bowling alleys, restaurants, golf courses, movie theatres, amusement parks, private medical clinics, and shopping centres are open only to those who can afford to pay the fee that it costs to use their premises, or intend to spend money there.
The last two excerpts illustrate Rand’s tendency to view the world in logically exclusive categories which vastly oversimplify the complexity of the real world. Over and over in her writings, we see this Randian mistake of viewing the world in only black and white, without the innumerable shades of grey which also exist and in fact are most common. She did this because of her uncritical acceptance of the Rationalist model, which assumes that human beings are rational creatures and that reality must conform to the simple logical categories and rules which Rationalists have invented, and her extremely clumsy application of this model to the examination of human affairs, issues, questions, and problems.
Objectivist Lie #6
The nineteenth century was the Golden Age of capitalism in the United States.
If you want to prove to yourself the power of ideas and, particularly, of morality—the intellectual history of the nineteenth century would be a good example to study. The greatest, unprecedented, undreamed of events and achievements were taking place before men’s eyes—but men did not see them and did not understand their meaning, as they do not understand it to this day. I am speaking of the industrial revolution, of the United States and of capitalism. For the first time in history, men gained control over physical nature and threw off the control of men over men—that is: men discovered science and political freedom. The creative energy, the abundance, the wealth, the rising standard of living for every level of the population were such that the nineteenth century looks like a fiction-Utopia, like a blinding burst of sunlight, in the drab progression of most of human history. If life on earth is one’s standard of value, then the nineteenth century moved mankind forward more than all the other centuries combined.
A full, perfect system of capitalism has never yet existed in history. Various degrees of government intervention and control remained in all the mixed, semi-free economies of the nineteenth century, undercutting, hampering, distorting, and ultimately destroying the operations of a free market. But during the nineteenth century, mankind came close to economic freedom, for the first and only time in history. Observe the results. Observe also that the degree of a country’s freedom from government control was the degree of its progress. America was the freest and achieved the most.
Rand repeatedly declared that the nineteenth century was, in terms of material progress, the greatest, most prosperous period in the entire history of humanity. In contrast, the century in which she lived, the twentieth century, was, according to her, a period when capitalism was continually threatened and regressing from its nineteenth-century pinnacle because of increasing state control and government regulations and welfare programs.
Let us examine Rand’s simple but fallacious process of reasoning in this matter: since freedom is good and government control is bad – two fundamental postulates in Rand’s philosophy – and since there was more freedom and, conversely, less government control, coercion, and interference in the nineteenth than in the twentieth century, it logically follows that there must have been more economic progress and prosperity in the nineteenth than in the twentieth century. Like the dogmatist that she was, Rand maintained this opinion regardless of the facts, which to her were of little or no importance, especially when compared with the fruits of her prodigious intellect.
While full, laissez-faire capitalism has not yet existed anywhere, while some (unnecessary) government controls were allowed to dilute and undercut the original American system (more through error than through theoretical intention) — such controls were minor impediments, the mixed economies of the nineteenth century were predominantly free, and it is this unprecedented freedom that brought about mankind’s unprecedented progress.
This belief is merely another example of Rand’s tendency to exaggerate and distort reality, which resulted from her ignorance of history. If one considers the matter objectively – something that Rand was not capable of doing because of her highly subjective beliefs – in which century, the nineteenth or the twentieth, was there a greater increase in humanity’s material well-being? Without doubt, it was in the twentieth century, with all its regulations and government programs which, according to Rand’s extremely fallible judgment, stifled and ultimately destroyed capitalism.
Standard growth theory predicts diminishing returns to capital investment. If this were true, we would expect growth rates in the period 1913-92 to be lower than those of 1820-1913. But this is not the case. In six out of the seven [world] regions, growth was higher in the twentieth century than it was in the nineteenth. In Western Europe, the most developed part of the world in 1820, average annual growth was 1.9 per cent from 1820 to 1913, and 2.5 per cent from 1913 to 1992.
Contrary to what Rand and other laissez-faire advocates claimed, many government regulations and programs are compatible with capitalism because, unlike communism, they do not destroy the incentives and motivations that are the driving force of capitalism. In other words, the mixed economies which these theorists so vehemently condemned and pronounced to be inherently unstable, are in fact quite stable and capable of producing a gradually increasing standard of living for their citizens, as has been demonstrated in numerous countries around the world during the roughly four decades following the end of World War Two.
Objectivist Lie #7
If you are forced to pay taxes to your country’s government, then you are a slave.
The reason why Rand promulgated this lie is because of her tendency to categorize everything in one of their logically contradictory opposites, in this case between the communist or socialist-controlled worker who is not free to dispose of the product of one’s labour as one chooses, and the free-market capitalist who has control over the whole of the product of one’s labour. According to Rand’s rigid all-or-nothing approach, only the latter individual can be called free; for according to her impeccable, Randian logic, any amount of taxation, no matter how small, debases one into a slave.
The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.
Let us consider the facts in this case, something that Rand rarely did because she did not think it was necessary, since, in her estimation, the judgments of her brilliant and astonishing intellect could never be wrong. In the past, when rulers taxed their subjects and levied other duties on them, such as obligatory terms of labour or military service, it was generally not to benefit the common people that they collected these taxes or imposed this mandatory labour on them, which included serving in the king’s army. But today, due to the victory of democracy over the ancient tyranny of selfish and oppressive rulers, any taxes that are collected by the elected representatives are intended, not for their personal use or emolument, as was formerly the case, but for the welfare of the people. The old relationship between rulers and their subjects has been reversed, for now it is the rulers who are the servants of the people, who collectively decide how this money shall be spent through the intermediary of parliament or some other elected governing body. Thus, Rand’s conclusion is wrong, for it is the people who rule and decide how their taxes shall be spent, and the rulers who are their elected servants.
After emigrating to the United States at the age of twenty-one, Rand was unable to realize that the democratically-elected government in her new country was a completely different kind of political institution from the oppressive communist government she had left behind in her homeland. Despite living in a Western democracy for the last fifty-six years of her life, Rand continued to view the U.S. government as if it were no different from the totalitarian communist government of the Soviet Union. Although, in principle, communist governments have the same benefic aims as any democratic government, namely the welfare of the people, a crucial difference that Rand neglected to mention in her writings is that in communist countries, unlike in democratic countries, the people have no say in how they are governed, for all government decisions and programs are decided solely by the rulers. It was this fundamental difference that begat the tyranny that was characteristic of communism and ultimately led to its downfall.
In Rand’s many denunciations of collective actions or socialist programs in democratic countries, what she was describing was not the way these actions or programs are implemented in these countries, but instead the way they were implemented in the Soviet Union. An example is her denunciation of public health care:
The hallmark of such mentalities is the advocacy of some grand scale public goal, without regard to context, costs or means. Out of context, such a goal can usually be shown to be desirable; it has to be public, because the costs are not to be earned, but to be expropriated; and a dense patch of venomous fog has to shroud the issue of means—because the means are to be human lives.
“Medicare” is an example of such a project. […] The fog hides such facts as the enslavement and, therefore, the destruction of medical science, the regimentation and disintegration of all medical practice, and the sacrifice of the professional integrity, the freedom, the careers, the ambitions, the achievements, the happiness, the lives of the very men [and women] who are to provide that “desirable” goal—the doctors.
Although all these things happened in the Soviet Union, where doctors, like many others, were not free to choose important things like which branch of medicine they studied and practiced, where they worked, how much they earned, or whom they treated, and some of their lives were indeed sacrificed to the state, they most certainly do not take place in democratic countries with a system of public health care, such as France, Great Britain, or Canada, and to claim that they do, as Rand repeatedly did, is a wild exaggeration and an irresponsible distortion of the truth.
Closely related to Lie #7 is
Objectivist Lie #8
The government does not have the right to tax its citizens and take their money, regardless of the use it makes of this money, for this is a form of legalized theft.
Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize [that is, to tax] the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better.
We have observed the ideological battles between left and right, between liberals and conservatives, or however they are called, in numerous countries. Following an election that results in a change in the governing party, it is common for one side to undo some of the legislation that was enacted by the other side while it was in power. It is entirely legitimate to support the side to which one is partial while criticizing the other side. But to claim, as Rand repeatedly did, that the actions of a government that taxes its citizens and spends this money to provide services for the people is illegal is to question the very nature and legitimacy of democracy. For in effect she is saying that the actions of a democratically elected government are illegal, not because it committed some heinous crime or because it violated the country’s constitution, but simply because they go against her principles – principles that are not shared by the majority of people around the world.
All “public interest” legislation (and any distribution of money taken by force from some men for the unearned benefit of others) comes down ultimately to the grant of an undefined, undefinable, non-objective, arbitrary power to some government officials.
Contrary to what Rand wrote, this power is neither undefined nor arbitrary: it is called the principle of democracy – a widely-recognized governing system which took centuries to develop and has been adopted, with varying degrees of success, in numerous countries around the world. It was developed and implemented expressly to check and curtail the abuses of power that Rand and many others hated, while providing benevolent, generally just, and peaceful rule and prosperity to as many people as possible. During elections in democratic countries, the people collectively choose their representatives, in whom they invest the power to decide their country’s laws and how the people shall be governed. Thus, there is nothing illegitimate about this power, except when government officials violate the traditions or written constitution of the country. Only a megalomaniac like Ayn Rand would dismiss, in this deceitful, offhand, and entirely arbitrary manner, a system that has the approval of literally billions of people around the world.
It never seems to have occurred to Rand that the taxes collected by the government are not used only to pay for the services received by others, a situation that clearly would be unfair, for they are also used to pay for services that benefit oneself, since all citizens are eligible for the majority of benefits and services that are provided by the government of the country in which they live. Rand’s feeble intellect was not able to grasp this simple and obvious fact.
What society is saying to those who don’t want to pay taxes is this: in the society you live in, the majority of the citizens have decided that they want certain services, and in order to have these services, they have decided that all those who earn income or spend money must help to pay for them. If you do not like this system or refuse to pay taxes, then you are free to live somewhere else, since we are not forcing you to stay here. But if you insist that you will keep living here but will not pay any taxes, then you are being extremely selfish, for you are saying that you will take advantage of the numerous useful and valuable services and programs that are paid for by others, but you yourself will not contribute anything to paying for them.
The situation is no different from driving a car. If you buy a car and want to drive it in any society, then you must obey the rules of the road. You cannot do whatever you feel like doing – by driving as fast or as slow as you like, parking wherever you want, disobeying traffic signs and signals, and refusing to pay tolls and other fees that are needed to build and maintain the roads you drive on in good condition – while you are in your car because if everyone behaved like you, then this would lead to chaos and increase the chance of an accident, while there wouldn’t be enough money to build and maintain the roads you drive on. Rand’s insistence on the absoluteness of individual rights, from which axiom she concluded that the government has no right to tax, restrict, or otherwise tell people what to do, is comparable to a driver who says that traffic laws and rules are intolerable infringements on one’s individual right to do as one pleases while one is in one’s car, for the one is as immature, selfish, ignorant, and unreasonable as the other.
Remember that forcible restraint of men is the only service a government has to offer.
This is merely Rand’s personal definition of the functions of government, backed by no argument except her strident insistence on the inviolability of individual rights.
The proper functions of a government fall into three broad categories, all of them involving the issues of physical force and the protection of men’s rights: the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws.
Like other defenders of laissez-faire capitalism, Rand made the mistake of quoting Adam Smith out of context. But unlike most other economic fundamentalists, she did not recognize the important role of government in providing services like roads and bridges, clean water, public transportation, garbage disposal, sewage treatment, and the like, which are advantageous for all but which no one individual would be willing to pay for unless all are willing to pay for them.
The many Randophiles who slavishly and uncritically accept the tenets of Rand’s philosophy should come down from their adoring contemplation of the ideal but unreal capitalist world depicted in her novels and look around the real world at the many poor countries whose governments do not have the necessary funds to provide basic services such as maintaining roads and sanitation systems, providing clean water, garbage disposal, and all the other services that, according to their enlightened guru, should not be provided by the government but rather by the private sector.
One may have a discussion about taxes – whether they are too high or too low – and also about how this money should be spent. But Rand’s insistence that taxation is equivalent to theft or slavery distorts the issue and makes people opposed in principle to paying any taxes, as was her intention. The harmfulness of this attitude is evident in the United States, where governments at all levels – municipal, state, and federal – do not have enough money to pay for the services which their citizens need and expect their governments to provide for them, a situation that has led to deteriorating services and crumbling infrastructure, while there is greater and greater squalor in many parts of the country.
Objectivist Lie #9
There are only individuals. There is no such thing as society. Therefore, concepts like the “common good” or “collective rights” are entirely spurious because they do not refer to something that actually exists.
But the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
Rand repeatedly declared that the smallest minority is the individual, and so a society that does not recognize individual rights cannot say it respects minority rights. This is why she categorically denied that there is such a thing as the “common good” or “collective rights,” only “individual rights.” But this extremist view overlooks the social and imitative nature of human beings, and also the fact that, in a state of nature, a solitary human being – Rand’s rational individual par excellence, who is not dependent on others for one’s survival, and is able to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for survival merely by thinking and reasoning about things – is much less likely to survive than a group of individuals who act cooperatively for their common good, whether it is to grow, forage, or hunt for food, build shelters, defend themselves from other animals and hostile groups of humans, or raise and protect their children. If human beings truly are as individualistic as Rand claimed, then why do the vast majority of us have such a strong desire to live among other people, rather than live alone to a ripe old age like a solitary bear or tortoise?
Rand’s basic argument was that no group of people has the right to impose their view on anyone who disagrees with them. In other words, complete unanimity is necessary before any government program, policy, restriction, law, or venture is adopted. But this rigid requirement would make such necessary collective actions pretty nearly impossible. Rand’s selfish insistence that the individual is paramount, and therefore each and every individual has the right to refuse to obey the government whenever one does not want to obey some or all of its laws and regulations would lead to chaos and ultimately to a paralysis of society. Like traffic signs, signals, and rules, government regulations, programs, and other measures are adopted to preserve social order and the smooth operation and continued functioning of society, a crucial fact that the hyperselfish Rand failed to understand. Most mature adults understand the need to suppress their selfish urges, whether it is not to obey certain laws, not to pay taxes, or to do what benefits them but harms others, in order to preserve social order. But Rand was too immature to understand these basic facts about society and the important role played by government.
Only individual men have the right to decide when or whether they wish to help others; society—as an organized political system—has no rights in the matter at all.
But what if the majority of individuals who live in a society decide collectively, through their elected representatives, as happens quite often in democratic countries, that they want to implement programs that benefit all or some of its members, such as universal health care, public education, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and welfare payments?
What Rand is saying is that these kinds of programs are illegitimate because she says so. Of course, she would have had an argument to back up her assertion, which would go something like this:
Only individuals have rights. There is no such thing as collective rights because a society is made up of individuals and therefore there is no such thing as society. Words like “society” and “collective rights” are highly misleading abstract constructs that were invented by collectivists to confuse people and enable them more easily to impose their ideology on everyone. In other words, they do not correspond to anything that actually exists.
Lest some readers object that I am caricaturing her views, here are some excerpts from her writings:
Since there is no such entity as “the public,” since the public is merely a number of individuals, the idea that “the public interest” supersedes private interests and rights can have but one meaning: that the interests and rights of some individuals take precedence over the interests and rights of others.
A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.
Any group that does not recognize this principle is not an association, but a gang or a mob.
Any doctrine of group activities that does not recognize individual rights is a doctrine of mob rule or legalized lynching.
Even if societies are composed of individuals, as Rand asserted, those individuals can, and frequently do, make group decisions or act together for any number of reasons, such as to protect themselves from external threats, provide services that most or all of them want, and so forth, and there is nothing illegitimate about this way of proceeding. Only a selfish extremist like Rand would scream that this is wrong because it is coercion and an intolerable infringement of her individual rights.
The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance, or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling coworkers.
As she did in this passage, Rand repeatedly made the claim that the government takes people’s money “without [their] consent, against [their] own choice.” But this blatant lie overlooks the fact that, in a democratic country, unlike in communist or totalitarian countries, people have the right to vote and choose their elected representatives, who decide the country’s laws and how the people shall be governed. This includes, if the people so desire, the power to reduce taxes, eliminate certain government programs, and so on, measures that have been enacted in some countries in recent decades. Thus, to say that the people have no choice in this matter is a lie, for these decisions are made collectively by the people through their elected representatives. According to Rand’s selfish logic, because she was opposed to these measures, it follows that they must be wrong. What Rand really meant by this statement is that the government takes people’s money to pay for these programs “without her [Rand’s] consent, against her own choice.” In her opinion, each and every individual should have the power to veto or opt out of such programs: even if seventy, eighty, ninety, or even 99.99% of the people are in favour of a government program that requires them to pay for it collectively, if just one person is opposed to it, then it is wrong for the majority to force that one individual to go along with them. Clearly this is taking the concept of individualism to an irrational and unworkable extreme. For Rand’s version of democracy would paralyze democracy and make it inoperable.
Any undertaking that involves more than one man, requires the voluntary consent of every participant. Every one of them has the right to make his own decision, but none has the right to force his decision on the others.
But to call it democracy is wrong, for her philosophy would make democracy, or majority rule, impossible. If one is going to reject, as Rand did, all existing – and proven – systems of government, then one must propose something else to take its place. Although she does this, her proposed system, like many another philosophical system, is wholly mistaken in its predicted results. Rand railed against what she called the tyrannical oppression of democratic government, which governs with the consent of the majority of the ruled. But her system would set up a tyranny of the individual, where any selfish, disgruntled, or disagreeing individual like Rand would have the right to disobey the government whenever one doesn’t want to obey its laws.
Essentially, what Rand is saying is that, provided they do not interfere with or harm others, each and every individual should be free to do whatever one wants, including disobeying the government, refusing to pay taxes, and disregarding its laws, rules, and regulations. Of course, this would make majority rule and collective decisions impossible, which is precisely what she wanted. It is this fallacious claim that is the pivot on which she based her entire philosophy. But if such a course were followed, it would lead to the chaos of anarchy. Like anarchists, libertarians, and other simpletons of this sort, Rand did not understand the important difference between freedom and license.
By insisting that the individual is sacrosanct, and therefore any form of collective action is wrong, like many other demagogues, Rand wanted to impose her views on everyone else. This is another similarity which she shared with the rulers of the totalitarian communist state in which she spent a part of her early life. But if she so greatly disliked the many rules and regulations that exist in the United States, then she could have left and lived elsewhere, where she could have founded, with others who agreed with her inflexible principles, a Revolutionary Randian Republic based on her Remarkably Reasoned Reflections on the Inviolability of the Individual and Individual Rights. After all, unlike in the Soviet Union, people are free to leave the United States if they dislike the country’s system of government.
Rand’s dogmatic beliefs about the legitimacy of private property and the illegitimacy of public property led her to espouse nonsensical views such as the following:
Since “public property” is a collectivist fiction, since the public as a whole can neither use nor dispose of its “property,” that “property” will always be taken over by some political “elite,” by a small clique which will then rule the public — a public of literal, dispossessed proletarians.
But she overlooked the fact that the public makes very good use of publicly-owned properties such as public libraries, parks, community centres, museums, swimming pools, art galleries, hospitals, and schools, which, unlike comparable privately-owned facilities, are open to everyone, regardless of one’s income, race, religion, or gender.
Democracy is by no means a perfect system. Like all of us, the many human beings who together form the individual elements of a functioning democratic system, it has many flaws, shortcomings, defects, and imperfections. But when it functions as it should, meaning that decisions are made collectively, and no single group among the people has an inordinate influence on those decisions, it has demonstrated that it is the best system of government that we humans have been able to devise. In wanting to destroy democracy and make it unworkable, the ignorant and supercilious Rand failed to understand these important facts.
Just as, behind the lofty rhetoric of the communists about equality and brotherhood lies hidden the tyranny of communist rule, behind the lofty Randian rhetoric about freedom, individualism, and the inviolability of individual rights lies hidden the ugly disorder, extreme inequality, and callous indifference to others of greed, anarchy, and unbounded selfishness. These features are especially evident in the United States, the country whose inhabitants have been most influenced by Rand’s erroneous ideas and her uncompromising, extremist beliefs.
In contrast to Rand’s philosophy of radical individualism, Americans would do well to consider the wise words of one of their greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who, in his first Inaugural Address, declared,
Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible, so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
Although Lincoln was speaking of the southern states’ attempt to secede from the rest of the country, which led to a long and bloody civil war, his comments also apply to what Rand attempted to convince her readers to do, namely to disobey or rebel against the government because, in her opinion, it is an illegitimate institution that oppresses the people. Lincoln rejected the hyper-individualism that Rand advocated because he realized it is a chimerical freedom that, if it were ever allowed or adopted, would lead, not to greater freedom, as its advocates mistakenly believe, but to the chaotic disorder of anarchy and every individual for oneself.
Objectivist Lie #10
The creators – the brains of society – are everything while the workers are nothing.
In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom, who left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.
According to Rand, the clean washrooms and toilets, and the clean work environment that the janitor provides for the company he works for are of no value whatsoever. If this is the case, then why hire a janitor at all? Why not save his salary by firing this stupid and parasitic moocher, as Rand derisively referred to him and others like him.
Contrary to her dismissive and irrational beliefs, janitors provide a necessary, albeit menial, service to their employers. Without the janitor’s valuable work, the filthy conditions that would soon result would spur some of the company’s employees to leave the company in search of a cleaner work environment. Similarly, the cleaners who clean restaurants are crucial to its success, since a dirty restaurant could lose its license and be closed by health authorities, or be shunned by customers, some of whom may become sick because of the unsanitary conditions.
Although Rand lauded capitalism because of its efficiency, it never occurred to her that if this is the case, then it follows that every worker in a company is hired by the company, not because it is a charitable institution that wants to provide work for its employees, but because each and every worker contributes something of value to that company, including those who perform menial or manual labour. This is another example of how Rand’s strong prejudices interfered with her ability to reason correctly.
If the creators are the brain, then the workers are the muscles that realize their creations, without which the brain’s ideas would remain impotent and unrealized ideas, just as the body of a person who is paralyzed cannot carry out the wishes, commands, and intentions of one’s brain. Thus, creators or entrepreneurs and workers exist in a symbiotic – and not, as Rand claimed, a parasitic – relationship, for the one cannot succeed without the other. In other words, contrary to what she believed, the creators and entrepreneurs need the workers just as much as the workers need the creators and entrepreneurs. And the fact that many workers are interchangeable, as creators generally are not, does not reduce their importance in this scheme, in spite of Rand’s completely irrational hatred of them. It was her strong scorn for workers, and her equally strong adulation for creative individuals that prevented her from understanding this obvious truth and led her to make these ridiculous declarations about the great importance of creative individuals and the insignificance of everyone else.
Besides helping to create products and provide services, workers also consume the products and services that are produced, and thereby help the economy to continue to grow and operate efficiently. Merely producing things is not enough, for there must also exist purchasers and consumers of these things, otherwise the companies that produce them would soon go out of business. By themselves, how many cars, phones, books, computers, clothes, food products, houses, apartments, vacations, and legal, medical, educational, financial, health, and recreational services could the owners, creators, and managers of companies consume? The answer, of course, is very few, and certainly not anywhere near the vast quantity that is needed to keep the engine of capitalism running smoothly.
Rand continually lauded the great financiers and capitalists of the nineteenth century, yet her meagre intellect was not able to see how they amassed their fortunes. If the great owners and financiers were able to amass their considerable fortunes, it was because millions and millions of consumers purchased the products their companies produced, which enabled them to finance other, larger ventures in the future. Thus, they couldn’t have accomplished what they did without their numerous customers. Again, we can see just how illogical and incomplete was Rand’s thinking in her analysis of the relative value and importance of creators and workers.
If, as Rand claimed, workers are unnecessary and ungrateful parasites, then why don’t the creators dispense with them and produce everything themselves? Why don’t the laissez-faire capitalists and others who deplore stifling government regulations and the inefficient mediocrity of the welfare state go somewhere and set up their own society? In Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, a brilliant industrialist named John Galt does precisely this, by luring all the creators of society to Galt’s Gulch, a place whose name is as ridiculous as the concept it represents. But if this experiment were ever attempted, the creators that Rand so highly extolled would find that they could accomplish very little without the large numbers of workers who, according to her, are worthless individuals who should be eternally grateful to their intellectual superiors for providing them with the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, and all the other amenities of modern life which they, because of their moronic state, would never have been able to conceive, create, or improve.
The point of this central episode in Rand’s novel is to illustrate the important position which the creators occupy in society – that, without their, in Rand’s opinion, undervalued and unappreciated contributions, society could not function. But this is just as true of the work done, and the purchases made, by workers and consumers, for without them, the companies that are owned and run by the creators and financiers could not produce their products or services, or they would go bankrupt without the consumers’ vast and continual purchases.
As we can see, there is another similarity between communism and Objectivism, namely, the fact that both of these mistaken philosophies encouraged antagonism and animosity between different groups of people, the first, by belittling the owners of capital while extolling the workers, and the second, by belittling the important contributions of workers while eulogizing the owners of capital. This is another example of how Rand’s philosophy was decisively influenced by the fact that she spent a formative part of her early years living in a communist regime. Because Rand so greatly hated communism, she later idealized everything the communists hated, in particular the owners of capital, while she demonized and belittled that part of society which was championed by the communists.
Objectivist Lie #11
Capitalism has never done, because it cannot do, any harm. All the harm and undesirable consequences are due to government programs, regulations, and interventions in the free market, which together have weakened or destroyed capitalism.
According to Rand, the government is the source of all evil and wrongdoing in the economy and in society in general, while businessmen are a persecuted minority who nobly and courageously strive to provide the ignorant, incompetent, ungrateful, and undeserving masses with the wondrous benefits of capitalism. Like doting parents who are blind to any faults in their darling children and the wrongs and transgressions which they commit, Rand was blind to the many mistakes made by entrepreneurs and excused their greedy and unscrupulous practices, such as by attacking anti-monopoly laws as unjust infringements on their liberty.
The alleged purpose of the antitrust laws was to protect competition; that purpose was based on the socialistic fallacy that a free, unregulated market will inevitably lead to the establishment of coercive monopolies. But, in fact, no coercive monopoly has ever been or ever can be established by means of free trade on a free market. Every coercive monopoly was created by government intervention into the economy: by special privileges, such as franchises or subsidies, which closed the entry of competitors into a given field, by legislative action. (For a full demonstration of this fact, I refer you to the works of the best economists.) The antitrust laws were the classic example of a moral inversion prevalent in the history of capitalism: an example of the victims, the businessmen, taking the blame for the evils caused by the government, and the government using its own guilt as a justification for acquiring wider powers, on the pretext of “correcting” the evils.
In the following excerpt, Rand denounced the judge that convicted seven businessmen of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust law:
The final touch on that whole gruesome farce was Judge Ganey’s statement. He said: “What is really at stake here is the survival of the kind of economy under which America has grown to greatness, the free-enterprise system.” He said it, while delivering the most staggering blow that the free-enterprise system had ever sustained, while sentencing to jail seven of its best representatives and thus declaring that the very class of men who brought America to greatness — the businessmen — are now to be treated, by their nature and profession, as criminals. In the person of these seven men, it is the free-enterprise system that he was sentencing.
In Rand’s opinion, any prosecution of businessmen is wrong and an infringement of their rights as individuals. In other words, businessmen should be allowed to do whatever they please, since punishing them would seriously harm the capitalist system and lead to its collapse.
If you care about justice to minority groups, remember that businessmen are a small minority — a very small minority, compared to the total of all the uncivilized hordes on earth. Remember how much you owe to this minority — and what disgraceful persecution it is enduring. Remember also that the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
According to Rand’s biased and highly subjective judgment, businessmen can do no wrong, while the government can do no right. Everything done by businessmen is principled, noble, beneficial, rational, restrained, and justified, while everything done by government employees is unprincipled, base, harmful, irrational, unrestrained, and unjustified. The wooden and one-dimensional characters in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged exhibit this simple but false dichotomy. By making these mistaken claims, Rand exhibited the common contrary tendencies of admiration and contempt: while admiration makes one attribute everything good to the object of one’s admiration, contempt makes one blame everything bad on the object of one’s scorn.
All the evils, abuses, and iniquities, popularly ascribed to businessmen and to capitalism, were not caused by an unregulated economy or by a free market, but by government intervention into the economy.
Government control of the economy, no matter in whose behalf, has been the source of all the evils in our industrial history — and the solution is laissez-faire capitalism, i.e., the abolition of any and all form of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.
Those who undertake such a study [of the effects of private enterprises and government interference in the free market] will discover that all the economic evils popularly ascribed to capitalism were caused, necessitated, and made possible not by private enterprise, not by free trade on a free market, but by government intervention into the economy, by government controls, favors, subsidies, franchises, and special privileges.
The villains were not the private businessmen who made fortunes by productive ability and free trade, but the bureaucrats and their friends, the men who made fortunes by political pull and government favor. Yet it is the private businessmen, the victims, who took the blame, while the bureaucrats and their intellectual spokesmen used their own guilt as an argument for the extension of their power.
In the last paragraph, Rand overlooked the fact that businessmen, including some of the same successful men whom she constantly lauded as the capitalist heroes of society, and to whom everyone else should be eternally grateful, frequently sought and obtained government favours, concessions, and subsidies, which enabled them to make their vast fortunes, a practice that continues to the present day.
It is truly amazing the litany of bad things that Rand ignorantly blamed on government or collective action. These include war, economic recessions and depressions – including the Great Depression, racism, and anything and everything that could possibly go wrong with the economy.
As to depressions and mass unemployment, they are not caused by the free market, but by government interference into the economy.
[…]instead of “brotherhood,” the welfare state has brought the crumbling stagnation and the fierce, “elitist” power struggle of Great Britain, and Sweden, and many other, less obvious victims—instead of “peace,” the spread of international altruism has brought about two world wars, an unceasing procession of local wars, and the suspending of a nuclear bomb over the heads of mankind.
It is thus that the theoreticians of collectivism, the “humanitarian” advocates of a “benevolent” absolute state, have led to the rebirth and the new, virulent growth of racism in the twentieth century.
Contrary to Rand’s repeated claims that government programs and regulations have led to the destruction of capitalism, capitalism is thriving in many countries today, in no small part precisely because of these programs and regulations. According to her exaggerations, capitalism is on its death bed, put there by the evil or misguided machinations of government.
No, it [capitalism in the nineteenth century] was not a full, perfect, unregulated, totally laissez-faire capitalism—as it should have been. Various degrees of government interference and control still remained, even in America—and this is what led to the eventual destruction of capitalism.
In making the false claim that government regulations have destroyed, are destroying, or will destroy capitalism, Rand behaved like Chicken Little in the tale about a chick that, after an acorn falls on its head, mistakenly believes the sky is about to fall down. And just as many animals in the story believe Chicken Little, the many deluded Randophiles likewise believe her false assertions about reality in general and the imminent collapse of capitalism because of the big, bad, bloated, bullying government.
Objectivist Lie #12
Adopting Rand’s version of laissez-faire capitalism will lead to an economic paradise on earth that is founded on individual freedom. Moreover, it is essential if humanity is to survive.
When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. A pure system of capitalism has never yet existed, not even in America; various degrees of government control had been undercutting and distorting it from the start. Capitalism is not the system of the past; it is the system of the future—if mankind is to have a future.
It is the philosophy of the mysticism-altruism-collectivism axis that has brought us to our present state and is carrying us toward a finale such as that of the society presented in Atlas Shrugged. It is only the philosophy of the reason-individualism-capitalism axis that can save us and carry us, instead, toward the Atlantis projected in the last two pages of my novel.
As these passages show, Rand had a penchant for making bombastic statements. The only problem is that many of these statements are false. Here is another example of this Randian tendency:
Those who advocate laissez-faire capitalism are the only advocates of man’s rights.
In other words, if you oppose laissez-faire capitalism, then you are opposed to man’s, or human, rights. This is a clear example of a non sequitur. It also illustrates her strong desire to force people to agree with her principles: since no one wants to say that one is opposed to human rights, by her twisted reasoning one must therefore declare that one is in favour of laissez-faire capitalism. So great was her faith in the virtues of this untested economic and social system that she attributed miraculous powers to it, including the power to eradicate the evil of racism.
There is only one antidote to racism: the philosophy of individualism and its politico-economic corollary, laissez-faire capitalism.
Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.
Besides illustrating her unbounded faith in the salutary powers of laissez-faire capitalism, this passage illustrates how completely Rand misunderstood the true determinants of human behaviour. Even if everyone were to accept her belief in the primacy of individual rights, it would not eliminate the contempt which some people feel towards other people – which contempt is the cause of all forms of racism and prejudice in general – no more than saying that since gravity is what imprisons us to the Earth and prevents us from flying freely in the air like birds, we need only cease believing in it in order to free ourselves from its enslaving force.
Far from producing an economic and social utopia, as Rand believed, adopting the tenets of her philosophy would lead instead to a selfish dystopia where everyone fends for oneself by greedily protecting one’s possessions and earnings from the rapacious hand of government, and we are all indifferent to the well-being of others, unless we are inclined to help them. Her philosophy would, in fact, undo centuries and millennia of cumulative efforts to curb, check, and correct the many harmful effects of human hatred, indifference, and selfishness, which latter trait Rand, shameless hussy that she was, brazenly declared to be a virtue.
Here are some more examples of Rand’s tendency to make sweeping generalizations and stark but false declarations or predictions:
The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.
Although Rand was not able to see any differences between Russia and England, there are obviously very considerable differences between these two countries. It is like saying that, because Russians and English people are both human beings with two legs, two arms, two eyes, and one nose, the “differences [between them] are superficial”, and the fact that they speak different languages, have a different history, customs, and traditions, eat different foods, practice different religions, and so forth, is unimportant. But the different histories and political traditions of Russia and England are the main reasons why Russia was ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship during most of the twentieth century while, during this same period, England remained a liberal democracy with a free market economy; and although England did experiment with socialism in the decades following the Second World War, it eventually returned to a regulated market economy.
A “mixed economy” disintegrates a country into an institutionalized civil war of pressure groups, each fighting for legislative favors and special privileges at the expense of one another.
The supposition made by both Rand and other laissez-faire advocates like Friedrich Hayek is that if the government does not have the power to reward certain groups, then everything will be fine because no one will have an unfair advantage over others. But though they acknowledge the existence of these selfish forces in government – in fact, this is one of their primary criticisms of government control over certain sectors of the economy – they refused to acknowledge the existence of these selfish forces in the private sector. Clearly this is inconsistent. The same desire for profits that motivates some individuals to seek an unfair advantage through monopolistic government control will also motivate them to seek to acquire this power or influence in the private sector. It is only extremely naive and uncritical individuals like Rand and other laissez-faire advocates who deny that these kinds of undesirable outcomes can occur in an unregulated free market, which is the secular temple in which these fanatics worship and put their unbounded trust. Their faith – for it is in reality nothing more than this – is based on the unjustified belief in the purifying effects of competition: its ability to eliminate all waste, inefficiency, dishonesty, human error, and other undesirable consequences of human actions in the economic realm, so that, although individuals may err, the free market is incapable of erring, and thus, of producing undesirable outcomes.
What these ideological simpletons overlook is the fact that the same strong desire for profits which motivates many entrepreneurs to seek to enrich themselves by engaging in legitimate activities that benefit the other members of society can also, and frequently does, motivate people who are less scrupulous – or, what is the same thing, more selfish – to seek to gain profits by engaging in bad, illegal, or otherwise undesirable practices that harm society or some of its members. Government regulations and punishments are necessary to check and curb these practices so they do not become widespread and corrupt the operations of the market. It is a dangerous and completely irresponsible fantasy to suppose that, left to itself, the free market will always produce the best of all possible social or economic outcomes.
One has no need to exaggerate the shoddy, illogical, and immature nature of Rand’s thinking. Her attitude was that thinking that something is so makes it true. But, as all children are told by their parents, and as most of us learn as we grow older, merely thinking or believing that something is the case most certainly does not make it true, for there is often a disparity between what we believe about reality and reality.
Much of Rand’s philosophy was merely the attempt to rationalize the selfishness exhibited by children when they act on their feelings and impulses by refusing to do what their parents tell them to do (by refusing to obey laws and other government commands), refusing to share the things one has (refusing to pay taxes that may be used to help others), refusing to eat what everyone else is eating, refusing to go to bed at an early hour, and refusing to help perform household chores (refusing to cooperate by participating in social or government programs). In many ways, Rand was an overgrown child who learned the rules of logic and then used these rules to rationalize the selfish impulses that all mature people learn to control or ignore because they are harmful, counterproductive, lead to conflict and confrontation, and make cooperation and civil society impossible.
Apart from the numerous lies which she shamelessly expounded, Rand had many other flaws and shortcomings, whether as a thinker, writer, or human being. For example, she had a highly selective memory whose operations were warped by her strong prejudices and beliefs. Rand believed that she was infallible, and so she never doubted that the way she remembered past events was the way they actually happened.
That she [Rand] later felt uneasy about the danger in which she may have placed her family can be guessed from the fact that, in 1961, she told her friend Barbara Branden that she had never revealed her new name to her family in Russia. “She lied,” said Branden. After her death, hundreds of letters from her parents and sisters were discovered among her papers, many mentioning her pseudonym and applauding the soon-to-be-famous “Ayn Rand.”
In addition to outright dishonesty, Rand had the ingrate’s tendency to forget all the help she received, whether in the form of encouragement or financial aid, both from her immediate family and from more distant relatives, first to help her to leave Russia and come to the United States, and then, after her arrival, to find work and free accommodation, pay her expenses, and help her to remain there.
She quarreled with her [younger] sister [Nora, during the latter’s visit to the United States in 1973] over the benefits of capitalism and the evils of altruism, about which she [Nora] later said, “It was the altruism of our entire family that enabled Alyssa to get out to the United States in the first place.”
In her later years, in accordance with her philosophy of individualism and the self-made lives of the fictional characters she created and worshipped, she revised her personal biography by stating that she accomplished everything in her life by herself without any help from others.
Her [Rand’s] early years in America were hard, but not as hard as she later claimed they were. “No one helped me, nor did I think it was anyone’s duty to help me,” she wrote in an afterword to Atlas Shrugged. In fact, many people helped her.
Meanwhile, before she [Rand] left for California [in 1926], the Stones and Goldbergs [the parents of Rand’s second cousin Fern Brown, with whom she stayed during her time in Chicago] were able to arrange for a six-month extension of her visa, and a good-natured Sarah Lipton inveigled a film distributor who did business with her, and also with Cecile B. DeMille, to supply Rand with a letter of introduction to someone in the glamorous DeMille organization. The family put together one hundred dollars (“a lot of money in those days,” said Fern Brown) to cover Rand’s train fare and initial living expenses in Hollywood.
According to Minna Goldberg, Fern Brown, and others, she [Rand] also failed to repay—or even to offer to repay—small amounts of money she borrowed during her first difficult years in Hollywood. Minna recalled Rand’s telling her, “I’ll never forget you. I’ll get you a Rolls-Royce and a mink coat.” “I didn’t get five cents,” said MInna.
Because of the principles she espoused, these are more than mere instances of ingratitude. These examples show that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite who did not live her life in accordance with her rigid moral principles, since she repeatedly stated that the person who lives on the unearned or the labour of others is a moocher and a looter, and the person who sacrifices others to oneself is an immoral parasite.
When she [Rand] later spoke of [Isabel] Paterson [following the end of their friendship]—infrequently, according to acquaintances—her comments were derisive. Close friends had no idea that Paterson had once been Rand’s most intimate friend, let alone her mentor. By 1959, the novelist seemed to have forgotten that Paterson had taught her anything or helped her in any significant way. As time went on, “she could not say that she had been crucially helped by anybody,” said a close friend from the 1950s and 1960s. She was grateful to her parents for freeing her from Russia, but she never mentioned the hundreds of supportive letters she had received from them in the 1920s and early 1930s or the gifts and loans extended by her mother’s relatives in Chicago. When she spoke of her neighbor Marcella Bannert, she recalled her as the social-climbing paradigm for Peter Keating [a villainous character in The Fountainhead], not as the woman who had helped her to find a home for Red Pawn [an early screenplay written by Rand].
But to the outside world Rand emerged a deeply unsavory figure, manipulative, controlling, self-deceived, and wildly emotional despite her professed rationality.
Rand was an intellectual bully who was highly controlling of others. In addition, she possessed some of the worst qualities that are found in human beings: monstrous egotism, petty selfishness, unbounded conceit, vindictiveness, ingratitude, dishonesty, hatred of those who disagreed with her as well as of the great majority of human beings, an unwillingness to forgive anyone who had offended her, no matter how long the friendship nor how slight the perceived offense, intolerance, hypocrisy, self-delusion, obstinacy that was sometimes mistaken by others for principled courage or determination, intellectual and emotional intimidation, violent outbursts of temper, and a desire for slavish adulation and obedience from others. And this is the enlightened prophetess in whom the many Randophiles have placed their faith to lead them to the Promised Land of Capitalist Freedom and Plenty.
If “genius” denotes extraordinary ability, then [Immanuel] Kant may be called a genius in his capacity to sense, play on and perpetuate human fears, irrationalities and, above all, ignorance. His influence rests not on philosophical but on psychological factors.
Without in the least intending it, Rand described herself perfectly in the last passage, for it describes in a nutshell the source of her power and influence over her army of admiring readers. Replacing “Kant” with “Rand” gives the following:
If “genius” denotes extraordinary ability, then Ayn Rand may be called a genius in her capacity to sense, play on and perpetuate human fears, irrationalities and, above all, ignorance. Her influence rests not on philosophical but on psychological factors.
It is incredible that someone who made such absurd and obviously false statements as Rand did could be taken seriously by so many people, especially in the United States. In this regard she has much in common with another hysterical accuser who has become infamous in the annals of American history – Joseph McCarthy. Both Rand and McCarthy were megalomaniacs who were convinced of the truth of their own lies; both of them employed dishonesty and wild exaggeration in denouncing their adversaries; both of them used the spectre of communism to sow fear in their listeners; and yet both of them managed to convince, at least for a time, a significant number of Americans with their hysterical but false assertions.
There is a new McCarthyism sweeping through the United States. Like the first, it pronounces itself to be the Voice of Reason and Truth. Like the first, it is impervious to argument and any form of reasonableness. Like the first, it is intolerant of dissent and demands unwavering loyalty to its tenets. Like the first, it denounces its opponents with gross caricatural epithets that have little to do with reality. And, like the first, it is based on falsehood and lies.
This new McCarthyism is due primarily to the harmful influence of Ayn Rand, this demagogic deceiver who would have you believe that white is black and black is white; this adolescent idolater of Nietzsche who made her ideal human being an economic Superman who scorns the vast majority of people, dismissing them as ungrateful fools and weaklings who depend on the strong, rich, and intelligent for their survival; this modern-day Scrooge who, at the pitiful plight of poor Tiny Tim, would have exclaimed, “Bah! Humbug! Let the weak, stupid, and crippled starve and die if they have not the means to support themselves;” this semi-intellectual hussy who has poisoned the brains of her readers with her exaggerations, distortions, and lies; this slithering, fork-tongued succubus who has mated with the right-wing of the American intelligentsia and given birth to a horde of rabid, fanatical ideologues; this overbearing harridan who has bullied millions of Americans into submissively accepting her falsehoods; this Russian viper who has sunk her fangs into the heart of American compassion and generosity, thereby filling its veins with the venom of mean-spirited selfishness.
It is time for the American people to free themselves from the harmful influence of this intellectual charlatan’s false philosophy, which has led to an orgy of depraved selfishness and consumerism, and rediscover instead, as was described by Abraham Lincoln, one of their great statesmen, “the better angels of our nature.”
 The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, chapter 31: Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty by Peter Schwartz. Meridian (Penguin Books), New York, 1990.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, p. vii. The New American Library, New York, 1966.
 Although Reagan’s conservative views are often attributed to Barry Goldwater, who lost the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater never expressed contempt for the poor. In contrast, Rand hated the poor and mediocre, for the simple reason that it was this segment of society that was championed and glorified by the communists. For Rand, the communists embodied everything that is bad and evil in the world; they were the diabolical enemy that she spent her entire adult life attacking, denouncing, and vilifying. Similarly, Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire.”
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 42.
 After Rand vehemently denounced Reagan in 1981, it became even less likely that he would publicly acknowledge her influence on his beliefs about economics and the proper role of government.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 4: Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics?
 Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns, pp. 127-128. Oxford University Press, New York, 2009.
 The fact that Rand left her native land at the age of twenty-one and emigrated to the United States, where she had to learn to speak and write in a new language, while learning to adapt to a new society, probably contributed to her belief that she was a self-made person, and therefore she owned nothing to anyone else for her success. Rand never returned to the Soviet Union, and since her parents were not allowed to leave, she never saw them again. Hence, the gradual fading of these childhood memories also contributed to her belief that she owned nothing to others for her development as a human being.
 Goddess of the Market, pp. 131-132.
 The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden, chapter 1: The Objectivist Ethics. Signet, New American Library, New York, 1964.
 The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics by William Easterly, p. 178. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001.
 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, pp. 244-245. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1997.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 1: The Objectivist Ethics.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand, p. 176. Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1982.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction.
 To give just one example of her extreme selfishness, she and her much younger acolyte, Nathaniel Branden, decided to engage in a sexual relationship that lasted approximately three years, which they did only after they informed their spouses of their intention. However, neither Frank nor Barbara was given any say in the matter. During their twice-weekly encounters, which took place in Rand’s apartment, Rand’s husband Frank was obliged to leave the apartment and go elsewhere.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 19-20.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction.
 Ibid, chapter 5: Isn’t Everyone Selfish? by Nathaniel Branden.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 74.
 Goddess of the Market, p. 16.
 Ibid, p. 16.
 Ibid, p. 22.
 Ibid, p. 24.
 Ibid, p. 25.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 15: The Sanction of the Victims.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 78-79.
 Ibid, p. 117.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 10: The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age.
 Ibid, chapter 15: The Sanction of the Victims.
 Goddess of the Market, p. 304.
 Ibid, p. 83.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 4: The “Conflicts” of Men’s Interests.
 Ibid, chapter 9: The Cult of Moral Grayness.
 The Goddess of the Market, p. 233.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 27: The Inverted Moral Priorities.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 7: Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 10: The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 182.
 Ibid, p. 25. The quoted passage is from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1964, Vol. IV, pp. 839-845.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 78-79.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 10: The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 215.
 Butterfly Economics: A New General Theory of Social and Economic Behaviour by Paul Ormerod, p. 162. Pantheon Books, New York, 2000.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 12: Man’s Rights.
 Of course, this is how governments should function ideally. Even in democratic countries, it can happen that those who have money or power use it to influence the decisions made, and the legislation enacted, by the government in order to benefit themselves or only a small segment of society, a phenomenon that is more common in some countries, such as the United States.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 10: Collectivized Ethics.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 7: The Question of Scholarships.
 Ibid, chapter 25: The Pull Peddlers.
 There are, of course, some benefits that are available only to certain groups of individuals, such as disability payments, and subsidies provided for certain groups of people such as farmers, researchers, artists, and so forth. However, these targeted benefits form only a small part of the total benefits and services that are provided by governments. In many of these cases, the government subsidies are provided because it is believed that the activities which these individuals engage in, such as scientific research, are beneficial to society, and not only to those who receive them.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 14: The Nature of Government.
 Ibid, Chapter 14: The Nature of Government.
 Ibid, chapter 17: Racism.
 Ibid, chapter 10: Collectivized Ethics.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 25: The Pull Peddlers.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 13: Collectivized “Rights”.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 7: The Question of Scholarships.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 12: Man’s Rights.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 124.
 Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, p. 97. (Originally from Atlas Shrugged, p. 1065). Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012.
 It should not be forgotten that many workers are skilled workers whose skills take years of learning and experience to acquire and perfect, and therefore these workers are certainly not interchangeable or easily replaced, as unskilled labourers are.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 24: Antitrust: The Rule of Unreason.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 54.
 Ibid, p. 55.
 Ibid, p. 42.
 Ibid, p. 103.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 10: The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 18.
 The Voice of Reason, chapter 12: Global Balkanization.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 17: Racism.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 80.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 1: The Objectivist Ethics.
 Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 164.
 The Virtue of Selfishness, chapter 12: Man’s Rights.
 Ibid, chapter 17: Racism.
 Ibid, chapter 11: The Monument Builders.
 Ibid, chapter 17: Racism.
 Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller, p. 97. Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, New York, 2009.
 Ibid, p. 395.
 Ibid, p. xiii.
 Ibid, pp. 59-60.
 Ibid, p. 60.
 Ibid, p. 216.
 Goddess of the Market, p. 280.
 Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 117-118.