Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, playwright, screenwriter and philosopher. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.
Literary critics received Rand's fiction with mixed reviews, and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.
In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. Below are a few excerpts from her innumerable writings.
“The Constitution is a limitation of the government, not on private individuals--that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government--that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens' protection against the government.
“Instead of being a protector of man's rights, the government is becoming their most dangerous violator; instead of guarding freedom, the government is establishing slavery; instead of protecting men from the initiators of physical force, the government is initiating physical force and coercion in any manner and issue it pleases; instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of nonobjective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats; instead of protecting men from injury by whim, the government is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim--so that we are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion; the stage where the government is "free" to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may only act by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of humanity, the stage of rule by brute force.”
Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.
The socialists had a certain kind of logic on their side: if the collective sacrifice of all to all is the moral ideal, then they wanted to establish this ideal in practice, here and on this earth. The arguments that socialism would not and could not work, did not stop them: neither has altruism ever worked, but this has not caused men to stop and question it. Only reason can ask such questions—and reason, they were told on all sides, has nothing to do with morality, morality lies outside the realm of reason, no rational morality can ever be defined.
The fallacies and contradictions in the economic theories of socialism were exposed and refuted time and time again, in the Nineteenth Century as well as today. This did not and does not stop anyone: it is not an issue of economics, but of morality. The intellectuals and the so-called idealists were determined to make socialism work. How? By that magic means of all irrationalists: somehow.
There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.
Ayn Rand was once asked if she could summarize the essence of her philosophy while standing on one foot. She replied: “Metaphysics: Objective Reality. Epistemology: Reason. Ethics: Self-interest. Politics: Capitalism.”
In the first entry in this collection, Rand expands on this encapsulation. “If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. ‘Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed’ or ‘Wishing won’t make it so.’ 2. ‘You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.’ 3. ‘Man is an end in himself.’ 4. ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’
“If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency — to understand, to define, to prove, and to apply them — requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot. . . .”