Ayn Rand

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Cover of the first book Pola Negri by Ayn Rand published in 1925 in Moscow, Russia.

Ayn Rand (2 February 19056 March 1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her bestselling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system called Objectivism.

See also
Atlas Shrugged (1957)
The Fountainhead (1943

Quotes[edit]

1960s
  • “Free competition enforced by law” is a grotesque contradiction in terms.
    • The Objectivist Newsletter “Antitrust: The Rule of Unreason,” The Objectivist Newsletter, Feb. 1962, 1
  • I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.
    • Introducing Objectivism. The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 8. August, 1962. p. 35.
  • What is greatness? I will answer: it is the capacity to live by the three fundamental values of John Galt: reason, purpose, self-esteem.
    • Playboy Interview (March 1964)
1970s
  • Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.
    • The Objectivist February 1971
  • Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country...
    • Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, 1974
  • The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are."
    • Ayn Rand Ford Hall Forum lecture, 1974, text published on the website of The Ayn Rand Institute [1]
  • The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face.
    • Question period following Lecture 11 of Leonard Peikoff's series "The Philosophy of Objectivism," 1976
2000s
  • They (Native Americans) didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their 'right' to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.
    • Q and A session following her address to the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 - found in Endgame: Resistance, by Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2006, pg 220
  • Do you know that my personal crusade in life (in the philosophical sense) is not merely to fight collectivism, nor to fight altruism? These are only consequences, effects, not causes. I am out after the real cause, the real root of evil on earth — the irrational.
    • Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, 2009, p. 100
Incomplete source info
  • If you mean whose side one should be on, Israel or the Arabs, I would certainly say Israel because it’s the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages who have not changed for years and who are racist and who resent Israel because it’s bringing industry, intelligence, and modern technology into their stagnation.
    • Q and A session during taping of Donohue, Live in New York (1979) [2]
  • It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders' motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world. Instead, we are deluding the ignorant and the semi-savage by telling them that no political knowledge is necessary—that our system is only a matter of subjective preference—that any prehistorical form of tribal tyranny, gang rule, and slaughter will do just as well, with our sanction and support. It is thus that we encourage the spectacle of Algerian workers marching through the streets [in the 1962 Civil War] and shouting the demand: "Work, not blood!"—without knowing what great knowledge and virtue are required to achieve it. In the same way, in 1917, the Russian peasants were demanding: "Land and Freedom!" But Lenin and Stalin is what they got. In 1933, the Germans were demanding: "Room to live!" But what they got was Hitler. In 1793, the French were shouting: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" What they got was Napoleon. In 1776, the Americans were proclaiming "The Rights of Man"—and, led by political philosophers, they achieved it. No revolution, no matter how justified, and no movement, no matter how popular, has ever succeeded without a political philosophy to guide it, to set its direction and goal.
    • The Ayn Rand Column
  • "The people of Algiers marched through the streets of the city, in desperate protest against the new threat of civil war, shouting: 'We want peace! We want a government!' How are they to go about getting it? Through the years of civil war, they had been united, not by any political philosophy, but only by a racial issue. They were fighting, not for any program, but only against French rule. When they won their independence, they fell apart - into rival tribes and armed 'willayas' fighting one another"
    • The Ayn Rand Column 'Blind Chaos'
  • Let no man posture as an advocate of peace if he proposes or supports any social system that initiates the use of force against individual men, in any form.
    • For the New Intellectual
  • Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.
    • The Ayn Rand Column ‘Introducing Objectivism’

We The Living (1936)[edit]

  • Do you believe in God, Andrei? No. Neither do I. But that's a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know. What do you mean? Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do—then, I know they don't believe in life. Why? Because, you see, God—whatever anyone chooses to call God—is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it.
    • Source: We The Living Part One Chapter 9
  • There is no such thing as duty. If you know that a thing is right, you want to do it. If you don't want to do it—it isn't right. If it's right and you don't want to do it—you don't know what right is and you're not a man.
    • Source: We The Living Part One Chapter 6
  • There is only one thing that matters and that we'll remember. The rest doesn't matter. I don't care what life is to be nor what it does to us. But it won't break us. Neither you nor me. That's our only weapon. That's the only banner we can hold against all those others around us. That's all we have to know about the future.
  • The highest thing in a man is not his god. It's that in him which knows the reverence due a god. You are my highest reverence.
    • Source: We The Living Last Page
  • A moment or an eternity—did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist. She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible.

Anthem (1937)[edit]

  • "I am. I think. I will."
  • I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
  • And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: 'I.'
  • Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds, I am not a sacrifice on their altars.
  • There is nothing to take a man's freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.
  • This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before...The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of spirit.
  • I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire.
  • In the temple of his spirit, each man is alone.
  • It is not good to feel too much joy, nor to be glad that our body lives. For we matter not and it must not matter to us whether we live or die, which is to be as our brothers will it. But we, Equality 7-2521, are glad to be living. If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue.
  • No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many scholars who are elected by all the men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have fought against saying it, but now it is said. We do not care. We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966)[edit]

  • The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.
  • In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions and interests dictate.
  • America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.
  • Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear.
  • A gun is not an argument.
  • When the common good of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals.
  • An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes.
  • Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. All the other social groups- workers, farmers, professional men, scientists, soldiers- exist under dictatorships, even though they exist in chains, in terror, in misery, and in progressive self-destruction. But there is no such group as businessmen under a dictatorship. Their place is taken by armed thugs: by bureaucrats and commissars. Businessmen are the symbol of a free society- the symbol of America.
  • Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others.
  • Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.
  • It is futile to fight against, if one does not know what one is fighting for.
  • Remember also that the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
  • Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.

The Virtue of Selfishness (1964)[edit]

  • Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.
  • The men who attempt to survive, not by means of reason, but by means of force, are attempting to survive by the method of animals.
  • Neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive by any random means, as a parasite, a moocher or a looter, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment—so he is free to seek his happiness in any irrational fraud, any whim, any delusion, any mindless escape from reality, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment nor to escape the consequences.
  • The only proper, moral purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence—to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property and to the pursuit of his own happiness. Without property rights, no other rights are possible.
  • 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.
  • Poverty, ignorance, illness and other problems of that kind are not metaphysical emergencies. By the metaphysical nature of man and of existence, man has to maintain his life by his own effort; the values he needs—such as wealth or knowledge—are not given to him automatically, as a gift of nature, but have to be discovered and achieved by his own thinking and work.
  • When one observes the nightmare of the desperate efforts made by hundreds of thousands of people struggling to escape from the socialized countries of Europe, to escape over barbed-wire fences, under machine-gun fire—one can no longer believe that socialism, in any of its forms, is motivated by benevolence and by the desire to achieve men’s welfare.
  • When you consider socialism, do not fool yourself about its nature. Remember that there is no such dichotomy as “human rights” versus “property rights.” No human rights can exist without property rights.
  • Capitalism is the only system where such men are free to function and where progress is accompanied, not by forced privations, but by a constant rise in the general level of prosperity, of consumption and of enjoyment of life.
  • Observe, in politics, that the term extremism has become a synonym of "evil," regardless of the content of the issue (the evil is not what you are extreme about, but that you are "extreme"—i.e., consistent).
  • Since only an individual man can possess rights, the expression “individual rights” is a redundancy (which one has to use for purposes of clarification in today’s intellectual chaos). But the expression “collective rights” is a contradiction in terms.
  • Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.
  • Any group or “collective,” large or small, is only a number of individuals. A group can have no rights other than the rights of its individual members.
  • When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!"
  • Errors of knowledge are not breaches of morality; no proper moral code can demand infallibility or omniscience.
  • Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.  It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage—the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.  Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
Racism claims that the content of a man's mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man's convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control.  This is the caveman's version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science.  Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes.  It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.[3]
  • A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race—and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.[4]
  • The skyline of New York is a monument of a splendor that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach.
  • All the reasons which made the initiation of physical force evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.
  • Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
  • The moral precept to adopt...is: Judge, and be prepared to be judged.
  • Ask yourself why totalitarian dictatorships find it necessary to pour money and effort into propaganda for their own helpless, chained, gagged slaves, who have no means of protest or defense. The answer is that even the humblest peasant or the lowest savage would rise in blind rebellion, were he to realize that he is being immolated, not to some incomprehensible noble purpose, but to plain, naked human evil.
  • The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another.
  • Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

Apollo and Dionysus (1969)[edit]

It is man's irrational emotions that bring him down to the mud...
...It is man's reason that lifts him to the stars.
  • [On the attendees at the launch of Apollo 11] Those people were not a stampeding herd, nor a manipulated mob; they did not wreck the Florida communities, they did not devastate the countryside, they did not throw themselves, like whining thugs, at the mercy of their victims - they did not create any victims. They came as responsible individuals able to project the reality of two or three days ahead, and to provide for their own needs. There were people of every age, creed, color, educational level and economic status. They lived and slept in tents, or in their cars, some for several days, in great discomfort and unbearable heat; they did it gamely, cheerfully, gaily; they projected a general feeling of confident goodwill, the bond of a common enthusiasm; they created a public spectacle of responsible privacy - and they departed as they had come, without benefit of press agents.
  • One of the paradoxes of our age is the fact that the intellectuals, the politicians, and all the sundry voices that choke like asthma the throat of our communications media, have never gasped and stuttered so loudly about their devotion to the public good, and about the people's will as the supreme criterion of value - and never have they been so grossly indifferent to the people. The reason, obviously, is that collectivist slogans serve as the rationalization for those who intend, not to follow the people, but to rule them.
  • The most profound breach in this country is not between the rich and the poor, but between the people and the intellectuals. In their view of life, the American people are predominantly Apollonian. The mainstream intellectuals are Dionysian. This means the people are reality-oriented, common sense-oriented, technology-oriented. The intellectuals call this "materialistic," and "middle-class." The intellectuals are emotion-oriented, and seek in panic an escape from a reality they are unable to deal with, and from a technological civilization that ignores their feelings.
  • And this is the whole shabby secret: to some men, the sight of an achievement is a reproach, a reminder that their own lives are irrational, and that there is no loophole - no escape from reason and reality. Their resentment is the cornered Dionysian element baring its teeth.
  • Some day, the world will discover that, without thought, there can be no love.
  • [The hippies] were told that love - indiscriminate love for one's fellow man - is the highest virtue, and they obeyed. They were told that the merging of one's self with a herd, tribe, or community is the noblest way for a man to live, and they obeyed. There isn't a philosophical idea of today's establishment which they have not accepted, which they do not share. When they discovered this philosophy did not work, because in fact it cannot work, the hippies had neither the wit nor the courage to challenge it. They found, instead, an outlet for their impotent frustration by accusing their elders of hypocrisy, as if hypocrisy were the only obstacle to the realization of their dreams. And, left blindly, helplessly lobotomized in the face of an inexplicable reality that is not amenable to their feelings, they have no recourse but the shouting of obscenities at anything that frustrates their whims; at man, or at the rainy sky, indiscriminately, with no concept of the difference. It is typical of today's culture that the proponents of seething, raging hostility are taken as advocates of love.
  • There is a kind of malicious wink, a contemptuous sneer in the public voices claiming the hippies as heroes. The hippies are a desperate herd looking for a master, to be taken over by anyone - anyone who would tell them how to live without demanding the effort of thinking. Theirs is the mentality ready for a fuhrer.
  • The hippies are the living demonstration of what it means to give up reason, and to rely on one's primeval instincts, urges, intuitions, and whims. With such tools, they are unable to grasp even what is needed to satisfy their wishes; for example, the wish to have a festival. Where would they be without the charity of the local "squares" who fed them? Where would they be without the fifty doctors rushed from New York to save their lives? Without the automobiles that brought them to the festival? Without the soda pop and beer they substituted for water? Without the helicopters that brought the entertainers? Without all the achievements of the technological civilization they denounce? Left to their own devices, they literally didn't know enough to come in out of the rain.
  • It is fear that drives [the hippies] to seek the warmth, the protection, the safety of a herd. When they speak of merging themselves into a "greater whole," it is their fear that they hope to drown in the undemanding waves of unfastidious human bodies - and what they hope to fish out of that pool is the momentary illusion of an unearned personal significance.
  • Is there any doubt that drug addiction is an escape from an unbearable inner state - from a reality that one cannot deal with - from an atrophying mind one can never fully destroy? If Apollonian reason were unnatural to man, and Dionysian intuition brought him closer to nature and truth, the apostles of irrationality would not have to resort to drugs. Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get stoned. Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately-induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene and evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.
  • You have all heard the old bromide to the effect that man has his eyes on the stars and his feet in the mud. It is usually taken to mean that man's reason and his physical senses are the element pulling him down to the mud while his mystical, super-rational emotions are the element that lifts him to the stars. This is the grimmest inversion of many in mankind's history. But, last summer, reality offered you a literal dramatization of the truth. It is man's irrational emotions that bring him down to the mud. It is man's reason that lifts him to the stars.

The Romantic Manifesto (1969)[edit]

  • Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today.
  • An artist reveals his naked soul in his work - and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it.
  • Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent.
  • Art is man’s metaphysical mirror; what a rational man seeks to see in that mirror is a salute; what an irrational man seeks to see is a justification – even if only a justification of his depravity, as a last convulsion of his betrayed self-esteem.
    • Chapter 3 ("Art and Sense of Life")
  • Definitions are the guardians of rationality, the first line of defense against the chaos of mental disintegration.
    • Chapter 3 ("Art and Cognition")

The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971)[edit]

  • ...observe that in all the propaganda of the ecologists—amidst all their appeals to nature and pleas for 'harmony with nature'—there is no discussion of man's needs and the requirements of his survival. Man is treated as if he were an unnatural phenomenon. Man cannot survive in the kind of state of nature that the ecologists envision—i.e., on the level of sea urchins or polar bears...
  • There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.
  • A crime is the violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others- i.e., the recourse to violence- that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong). Ideas, in a free society, are not a crime- and neither can they serve as the justification of a crime.
  • By the same principle, the government may not give special leniency to the perpetrator of a crime, on the grounds of the nature of his ideas.
  • An Asian peasant who labors through all of his waking hours, with tools created in Biblical times—a South American aborigine who is devoured by piranha in a jungle stream—an African who is bitten by the tsetse fly—an Arab whose teeth are green with decay in his mouth—these do live with their 'natural environment,' but are scarcely able to appreciate its beauty. Try to tell a Chinese mother, whose child is dying of cholera: 'Should one do everything one can? Of course not.' Try to tell a Russian housewife, who trudges miles on foot in sub-zero weather in order to spend hours standing in line at a state store dispensing food rations, that America is defiled by shopping centers, expressways and family cars.
  • Contrary to the ecologists, nature does not stand still and does not maintain the kind of equilibrium that guarantees the survival of any particular species - least of all the survival of her greatest and most fragile product: man.

The Ayn Rand Letter (1971–1976)[edit]

  • Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday... The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production.
  • The right to vote is a consequence, not a primary cause, of a free social system—and its value depends on the constitutional structure implementing and strictly delimiting the voters' power; unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny.
  • Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
  • Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.

Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982)[edit]

  • I can say — not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political, and aesthetic roots — that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.
  • There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.
  • The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.

The Voice of Reason (1989)[edit]

  • A culture is made — or destroyed — by its articulate voices.
  • Aristotle may be regarded as the cultural barometer of Western history. Whenever his influence dominated the scene, it paved the way for one of history's brilliant eras; whenever it fell, so did mankind.
  • 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.

Journals of Ayn Rand (1997)[edit]

  • The purpose of my work: to introduce, or, rather, to re-introduce the original ways of human development. Once viewed as personal responsibility, personal growth, education, and social doctrine were highly effective. Now that they have begun to be approached as an "acceptance," our ideals have begun to rely on the willingness of others to go along with our philosophies. It is now time for us to return to the selfish ideals of the past.
  • Never demand of another that which would constitute his sacrifice to you. Never grant that which would constitute your sacrifice to him.
  • Never initiate the use of force against another man. Never let his use of force against you remain unanswered by force.
  • The actions of all group leaders throughout history have had one common element: altruism - common good of the collective. Religious leaders and the "moral" majority condemn the likes of Hitler, Stalin, etc. but their movements and foundations are alike.
  • ... if the majority of men cannot know what is good for them, each for himself, how can they know what is good for others by proxy? If they are to be controlled by specialists, how and by what standard can they choose the specialist?
  • The human race has only two unlimited capacities: one for suffering and one for lying. I want to fight religion as the root of all human lying and the only excuse for human suffering.
  • All progress is the work of individuals.
  • Selfishness does not mean only to do things for one's self. One may do things, affecting others, for his own pleasure and benefit. This is not immoral, but the highest of morality.
  • The second handers offer substitutes for competence such as love, charm, kindness - easy substitutes - and there is no substitute for creation.
  • On second handers: [They are] always concerned with people - not facts, ideas, work or production. What would happen to the world without those who think, work, and produce?

Quotes about Rand[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • Although the Objectivist movement clearly had many of the trappings of a cult - the aggrandizement of the person of Ayn Rand, the too ready acceptance of her personal opinions on a host of subjects, the incessant moralizing - it is nevertheless significant that the fundamental attraction of Objectivism... was the precise opposite of religious worship.
  • We were not a cult in the literal, dictionary sense of the word, but certainly there was a cultish aspect to our world.... We were a group organized around a charismatic leader, whose members judged one another's character chiefly by loyalty to that leader and to her ideas...
  • For [Rand] further holds that objective reality is readily accessible by solitary individuals using words and logic alone. This proposition - rejected by nearly all modern scientists - is essentially a restatement of the Platonic worldview, a fundamental axiom of which is that the universe is made up of ideal essences or 'values' (the term Rand preferred) that can be discovered, dispassionately examined, and objectively analyzed by those few bold minds who are able to finally free themselves from hoary assumptions of the past. Once freed, any truly rational individual must, by simply applying verbal reasoning, independently reach the same set of fundamental conclusions about life, justice and the universe. (Naturally, any mind that fails to do so must, by definition, not yet be free.)
  • Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!”
  • A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational; she could not distinguish between rationalism and rationality. Of narrow aesthetic sympathies, she laid down the law in matters of artistic judgment like a panjandrum; a believer in honesty, she was adept at self-deception and special pleading. I have rarely read a biography of a writer I should have cared so little to meet.
  • Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism's opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.
  • Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand's attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing.
  • Rand has not often had a positive reception from the ethics community for a number of reasons. The major one is that she championed self‐interest loudly and forcefully. For an ethics community committed to the view that morality means restraining and sacrificing self interest this could mean only one thing: She must be urging the strong to do whatever they feel like to the weak. That view, given the long history of ethics, could simply be rejected out of hand. 
But such a rejection evaluates Rand’s advocacy of self‐interest from within a set of premises about economics and human nature that she rejects. She rejects the belief that ethics starts by taking conflicts of interest as fundamental. She rejects the view that ethics starts by reacting to scarce resources; she rejects the view that ethics starts by reacting to the nasty things some people want to do to each other; and she rejects the view that ethics starts by asking what to do about the poor and unable.
    • Stephen Hicks, “Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics,” in Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy, Volume 3, Number 1 (Winter 2003), pp. 1-26
  • I care very much about literature as the place where the real ethical dilemmas are met, so to have novels as transcendently awful as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead sort of undermines my project. And though I have some respect for The Virtue of Selfishness, her collection of essays... I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings.
  • There have even been outright bad writers blessed by the visitation of a poetic title. Ayn Rand had one with The Fountainhead, and another with Atlas Shrugged: a bit of a mouthful, but nobody has ever spat it out without first being fascinated with what it felt like to chew. Yet if those were not two of the worst books ever written - the worst books ever written don't even get published - they were certainly among the worst books ever to be taken seriously.
  • I have read some of Rand’s essays on art and philosophy. They struck me, as I said in a review of a book about her philosophy of art (reprinted in my book Art’s Prospect), as pretty thin gruel. I never made it through either of Rand’s two big novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. To enjoy either, I suspect, you had to have encountered Rand in adolescence, when so many of life’s lasting enthusiasms are forged. In recent years, a few friends have urged Rand on me, and I dutifully tried both novels more than once. Each time, I found myself oscillating between fits of the giggles, at the awful prose, and irritation, at the jejune philosophy.
  • [F]rom the initial outline Ayn Rand provided, a very rich and powerful philosophy emerges – e.g., it solves such problems as science versus free will and moral responsibility, knowledge versus the fact of fallibility. Merely because Rand’s ideas were not born in academe or developed in full detail by her, it cannot be concluded that they are unsound.
  • Many years ago, on a television network far, far away, I expressed support for libertarianism because back then it meant that I didn’t want Big Government in my bedroom or my medicine chest, and especially not in the second drawer of the night-stand on the left side of my bed. And I still believe that. But somewhere along the way libertarianism morphed into this creepy obsession with Free Market capitalism based on an Ayn Rand novel called ‘‘Atlas Shrugged’’, a book that’s never been read all the way through by anyone with a girlfriend.
  • Rand's guiding vision is clearly what used to be called infantile omnipotence – the childish hope of total control – and her doctrines have great influence because that hope is still always strong in the depths of our hearts. The fear that haunts her is the fear of having to obey someone else. This fear, intelligently disciplined, does indeed lie at the root of our emphasis on liberty, but there is nothing to be said for erecting it on its own into a "heroic" stance of self-admiration.
  • I have to say I found Ayn Rand’s philosophy laughable. It was "a white supremacist dreams of the master race," burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn’t really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority.
    • Alan Moore, in Comic Book Artist #9 (August 2000) "The Charlton Comics Story: 1945-1968" by Jon B. Cooke
  • Rand tended to believe that questions of fact could be determined by the manipulation of vague terms. This tendency is most clearly illustrated in her so-called "metaphysical" theory of reality, in which she tries to demonstrate the objectivity of reality and validate causality on the basis of cognitively empty tautologies such as "existence exists" and "A is A."
    • Grey Nyquist, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature, iUniverse, 2001.
  • The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail.
    • Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (1979) (ed. Sally Fitzgerald), p. 398
  • But all of Rand's heroic capitalists triumph in industries that are now dead or bleeding. It's easy to write potboilers that posit sharp moral distinctions between the makers and takers when you live in a big-shouldered factory world where people still make things.
  • There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
  • Wit and humor, as might be gathered from this incident, were verboten in the Randian movement. The philosophical rationale was that humor demonstrates that one "is not serious about one’s values." The actual reason, of course, is that no cult can withstand the piercing and sobering effect, the sane perspective, provided by humor. One was permitted to sneer at one’s enemies, but that was the only humor allowed, if humor that be.
  • We conclude our analysis of the Rand cult with the observation that here was an extreme example of contradiction between the exoteric and the esoteric creed. That in the name of individuality, reason, and liberty, the Rand cult in effect preached something totally different. The Rand cult was concerned not with every man’s individuality, but only with Rand’s individuality, not with everyone’s right reason but only with Rand’s reason. The only individuality that flowered to the extent of blotting out all others, was Ayn Rand’s herself; everyone else was to become a cipher subject to Rand’s mind and will.
    • Ibid.
  • Many of the battles she engaged in rage on today. There are still debates about the free market, movements lobbying for collectivism and state power, and confrontations between doctrines of self-reliance and doctrines of self-sacrifice. But the world Rand actually wanted her heroes to build now seems far from revolutionary; it can even seem somewhat quaint, an almost retro fantasy. It was a Romantic utopia, in which the tensions of democratic life are not resolved but avoided.
  • Ayn Rand is one of the most widely read philosophers of the twentieth century. … Academics have often dismissed her ideas as "pop" philosophy. As a best-selling novelist, a controversial, flamboyant polemicist, and a woman in a male dominated profession, Rand remained outside the academy throughout her life. Her works had inspired passionate responses that echo the uncompromising nature of her moral vision. In many cases, her audiences were either cultish in their devotion or savage in their attacks. The left was infuriated by her anticommunist, procapitalist politics, whereas the right was disgusted by her atheism and civil libertarianism.
  • The cultic flaw in Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is not in the use of reason, or in the emphasis on individuality, or in the belief that humans are self motivated, or in the conviction that capitalism is the ideal system. The fallacy in Objectivism is the belief that absolute knowledge and final Truths are attainable through reason, and therefore there can be absolute right and wrong knowledge, and absolute moral and immoral thought and action. For Objectivists, once a principle has been discovered through reason to be True, that is the end of the discussion. If you disagree with the principle, then your reasoning is flawed. If your reasoning is flawed it can be corrected, but if it is not, you remain flawed and do not belong in the group. Excommunication is the final step for such unreformed heretics.
  • This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and self interest, and to pull it off she must at times indulge in purest Orwellian newspeak of the "freedom is slavery" sort. What interests me most about her is not the absurdity of her "philosophy," but the size of her audience (in my campaign for the House she was the one writer people knew and talked about). She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the "welfare" state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good, and if you're dumb or incompetent that's your lookout.
  • For to justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil. For one thing, it is gratuitous to advise any human being to look out for himself. You can be sure that he will. It is far more difficult to persuade him to help his neighbor to build a dam or to defend a town or to give food he has accumulated to the victims of a famine. But since we must live together, dependent upon one another for many things and services, altruism is necessary to survival. To get people to do needed things is the perennial hard task of government, not to mention of religion and philosophy. That it is right to help someone less fortunate is an idea which has figured in most systems of conduct since the beginning of the race. We often fail. That predatory demon “I” is difficult to contain but until now we have all agreed that to help others is a right action. […] Ayn Rand’s "philosophy" is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society.
    • Ibid.
  • Right-wing think tanks can have Rand (even if she had little use for them). In the academy, she is a nonperson. Her theories are works of fiction. Her works of fiction are theories, and bad ones at that. Should the Republicans actually win in 2012, we might need to study her in the academic world. It would be for the same reason we sometimes need to study creationism.

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