Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
I might be the most ‘politically incorrect’ of the freeKinkaid 6. Yet I positively influenced a generation of Kinkaidians with The Fountainhead, which was on your summer reading list, and Anthem, which used to be taught in English classes. I invite your school to reintroduce my provocative ideas about being your own person, using reason and virtue as your guide, while rejecting arbitrary traditions and irrational whims.
I am America’s best-known philosopher and just perhaps (although I do not think in these terms), history’s greatest female philosopher. There are think tanks devoted to my ideas (here and here), and many professors are working in my tradition (including one at University of Texas at Austin). My books have sold millions of copies, and Atlas Shrugged is selling more copies now than when it was published in 1957.
My philosophy is called Objectivism. “At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did, as follows:
- Metaphysics: Objective Reality
- Epistemology: Reason
- Ethics: Self-interest
- Politics: Capitalism”
Respect your rational self-interest. Beware of calls for “selflessness” and “sacrifice,” especially sacrifice “for the common good.” Such rationales have facilitated many atrocities, because they persuade people not to fight for their individual rights. Remember: private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law protect you against governments expropriating your resources or preventing you from doing what you think will make you happy.
I saw, first-hand, where calls for sacrifice led when the Communists seized power in Russia. After I had the good fortune to emigrate to the United States in 1926, I devoted the rest of my life to understanding what had gone wrong in the Soviet Union and how to make sure that it did not happen in my adopted country.
I saw that capitalism and limited government needed a moral defense that they were missing. I developed a new application of what ancient thinkers, particularly Aristotle, had to say about the true nature of self-interest, and how it connected to John Locke’s theory of individual rights. In this, I highlighted the ways in which self-interest opposed the dominant moralities of Auguste Comte’s altruism and Immanuel Kant’s impersonal rule-following.
I was a perfectionist in search of all of man’s glory. I once wrote in response to a fan letter: “I noticed the words ‘good luck’ which you wrote on the envelope of your letter. I have a better expression for what I think these words were intended to signify, so I will wish it to you here: ‘good premises.’” And I really mean that today—good ideas, not good luck, will bring you good results.
Here are some quotations from my work (including fiction) that explain my philosophy.
“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. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.”
Growing Up in Russia
“It is almost impossible to convey to a free people what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship [as I did when I was growing up]…. [The Russian people] try to live a human life, but you understand it is totally inhuman. Try to imagine what it is like if you are in constant terror from morning till night and at night you are waiting for the doorbell to ring, where you are afraid of anything and everybody, living in a country where human life is nothing, less than nothing, and you know it. You don’t know who or when is going to do what to you because you may have friends who spy on you, where there is no law and any rights of any kind.”
Production and Values
“Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution—or there will be nothing to distribute….. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.”
“Work is the process of achieving your values.”
“If [critics] do not choose to identify the nature and the actual working of capitalism, but reject it, offering no argument or theory except ‘greed’—isn’t that an illustration of the fact that the morality of altruism has made it impossible for philosophers to evaluate capitalism?”
“Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”