A Notable Exchange

Ayn Rand was 21 years old when she appeard before the U.S. House to testify regarding communists in Hollywood… Indeed, it was a different time and somewhat difficult to grasp 60 years later but the upshot is profound.

Mr. McDowell: “That is a great change from the Russians I have always known, and I have known a lot of them. Don’t they do things at all like Americans. Don’t they walk across town to visit their mother-in-law or somebody?”

Miss Rand: “It is almost impossible to convey to a free people what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship. I can tell you a lot of details. I can never completely convince you, because you are free. It is in a way good that you can’t even conceive of what it is like. Certainly they have friends and mothers-in-law. They 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.”

From Ayn Rand’s testimony before the United States House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee, October 20, 1947 ( as reported in the official Government Printing Office record on the “Hearings Regarding Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry.”)

There may be, perhaps, yet still in this country those who ignorantly and blindly entertain benevolent thoughts about socialism… The truth, the reason most I contribute to this and other blogs without any core hesitation, or without any apparent lack of energy, is the fact that the evil philosophies of fascism and communism were, in retrospect, the two great mass killers of the era I was born into and my parents and grandparents lived through. Of these murderous ideologies (fascism, communism, nazism, moaism), communism was the greatest killer. 100 million men, women and children have been murdered by socialism so far, and the killing continues today, notably in North Korea. In terms of body count, socialism is by far the most evil religion, the most evil ideology of any sort, of all time. There are other religions which can claim many bodies, including Christianity but insofar as wanton death and instilling in its captives utter suffering socialism takes the cake.

The point here is that although we have leaders from time to time (Ronald Reagan, for example) who truly understood this, they are far and few between. It is the case that any steps towards these murderous religions on a state level is evil and must be fought with our minds and our words to our greatest ability – our last resort becomes bloodshed as history has seen.

The communists snuffed out free thought as efficiently as in any authoritarian religious state. They are not skeptics – Marx and Lenin founded an irrational religion every bit as dogmatic, credulous, and opposed to free minds as any of the older religions they marginalized.

Ayn Rand can be honestly criticized by those who perceive her as a thorn in their religious fundamentalism, and that is fine for as far as that goes. But no one can take issue with the tenets of a philosophy based on rational thought and premised upon the absolute prohibition of the initiation of physical force upon others coupled with the knowledge and understanding that a free mind and a free market are corollaries. She was all about individual rights and freedom – the absolute antithesis of the murderous regimes premised upon socialism. Moreover, she saw a free-market economy (capitalism) as not just the best choice among competing systems but THE ONLY possible system – it is utterly self-evident.

Robert Tracinski wrote:

“In a free-market economy, everyone is driven by his own ambitions for wealth and success. That’s what “free trade” means: that no one may demand the work, effort, or money of another without offering to trade something of value in return. If both partners to the trade don’t expect to gain, they are free to go elsewhere. In Adam Smith’s famous formulation, the rule of capitalism is that every trade occurs ‘by mutual consent and to mutual advantage.’

It is common to condemn this approach as selfish—yet to say that people are acting selfishly is to say that they take their own lives seriously, that they are exercising their right to pursue their own happiness. By contrast, project what it would mean to exterminate self-interest and force everyone to work for goals mandated by the state. It would mean, for example, that a young student’s goal to have a career as a neurosurgeon must be sacrificed because some bureaucrat decrees that there are “too many” specialists in that field. Such a system is based on the premise that no one owns his own life, that the individual is merely a tool to be exploited for the ends of “society.” And since “society” consists of nothing more than a group of individuals, this means that some men are to be sacrificed for the sake of others—those who claim to be “society’s” representatives. For examples, see the history of the Soviet Union.

A system that sacrifices the self to “society” is a system of slavery—and a system that sacrifices thinking to coercion is a system of brutality. This is the essence of any anti-capitalist system, whether communist or fascist. And “mixed” systems, such as today’s regulatory and welfare state, merely unleash the same evils on a smaller scale.

Only capitalism renounces these evils entirely. Only capitalism is fully true to the moral ideal stated in the Declaration of Independence: the individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Only capitalism protects the individual’s freedom of thought and his right to his own life.”

Only when these ideals and, in fact, the real enlightened vision of our founding fathers are once again taken as seriously as life itself will we be able to recognize a free-market economy not as a moral ideal, but in fact a moral imperative.

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