Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quotations From "Ayn Rand Answers"

Ayn Rand Answers
The Best of Her Q & A
ISBN 0-451-21665-2

The quotations by Ayn Rand noted below were first edited by Robert Mayhew. Dr. Tom Stevens has taken selected quotations from this book for reference here. To enable you to research the context of each quotation, page numbers have been provided. These quotations do not necessarily reflect the ideas of Dr. Tom Stevens or the ObjectivistParty.

(The Founding Father I most admire is) Thomas Jefferson – for the Declaration of Independence, which is probably the greatest document in human history. There is, however, one minor fault on the level of fundamentals: the idea that men are endowed with rights by their Creator rather than by Nature. (pg. 1)

The political system of free enterprise and capitalist economics were one historical development. Both were the result of a philosophy of reason, freedom, and individual rights – the basis on which this country was founded. (pg. 3)

Your freedom of judgment, your freedom of production, your freedom to control your life. Those rights are morally inalienable, and must never be surrendered. (pgs. 4-5)

To the question, "Should the government have the power to tax?," I'd answer, "No, all taxation should be voluntary." (pg. 7)

The government's only proper role is protecting individual rights. That means: the military, the police, the law courts. (pg. 8)

No government planner has the right to forbid products for the consumer's own good. Let the consumer decide. (pg. 9)

I don't think the government should run schools. Education should be private, and children should go wherever their parents decide to send them. (pg. 24)

My defense of capitalism is based on individual rights, as was the American Founding Fathers', who were not altruists. They did not say man should exist for others; they said he should pursue his own happiness. Finally, it is not in a man's rational self-interest to cheat his customers. The abler the man, the better he is able to plan long range. (pg. 27)

"Altruism" is a term originated by the philosopher Auguste Comte, and has been used ever since to mean exactly what Comte intended. "Altruism" comes from the Latin alter, meaning "other." It means placing the interests of others above your own – existing for the sake of others. Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only moral justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest virtue. (pg.27)

Man's first moral virtue is to think and to be productive. (pg. 29)

In order actually to be alive properly, a man must use his mind constantly and productively. That's why rationality is the basic virtue according to my morality. (pg. 30)

The first thing Objectivism would advocate in regard to undeveloped nations is not to send them material help but to teach them political freedom. For any nation, no matter how undeveloped, if it establishes a political system that protects individual rights, its progress and development will be phenomenal. (pg. 36)

When currency is not backed by gold, then we are under the power of a government that arbitrarily sets the value of money, devalues the currency, inflates credit, and taxes us indirectly through the manipulation of money (which is more disastrous than direct taxation). The government's power to destroy the objective value and security of currency is precisely what ultimately destroys the economy. (pg. 40)

The notion that antitrust laws protects free competition is a wide-spread economic fallacy. (pg. 41)

If men want to organize into a union and bargain collectively with their employer, that is their right, provided they don't force anyone to join, or force their employer to negotiate with them. (pg. 41)

If a man permits himself to be a criminal, we treat him in the same manner that he demands. He wants to deal in force; we answer him by force, and put him in jail to protect the rest of us from the next time he feels like "expressing himself." (pg. 45)

It's better to condemn murderers to jail for life than risk taking the life of an innocent man through possible miscarriage of justice. (pg. 46)

Politics must begin with an idea. You cannot win elections with isolated slogans used once in four years. If anything practical can be done, it is this: Work out a consistent set of principles, and teach it to the people in your party: precinct workers, local candidates, and perhaps national candidates. (pg. 46)

Formulate a policy of what controls should be repealed first, and what steps could achieve a fully decontrolled economy. (pg. 46)

Begin in the high schools and colleges, because that is the source of future politicians and men of action. You can achieve nothing in a political election if you neglect the institutions where ideas are formed. (pg. 46)

The best the government can do is stop moving toward dictatorship and collectivism, and start moving toward freedom. (pg. 50)

Anyone serious about saving the world today must first discard the dominant philosophy of the culture. Stand on your own as much as if you moved to a separate valley, like in Atlas Shrugged. Check your premises; define your convictions rationally. Do not take anything on faith; do not believe that your elders know what they're doing; because they don't. (pg. 55)

Don't force your views on unwilling listeners – don't be evangelists out to save souls. But people are so confused today that if you clarify even one point for them, in your own circle – in a letter to an editor, a school paper, and so forth – you help make public opinion. (pg. 61)

The difference between religion and philosophy is that religion is a matter of faith. You either have faith or you don't. You cannot argue about it. But when you deal with philosophy, you deal with reason and logic. That is an objective element of language common to all men. You can try to persuade others that you are right, or you are free to disagree with them. In a free country, you need not deal with them. But religion is an issue of faith. By definition, if one doesn't accept faith, or if different people believe different faiths, no common action, agreement, or persuasion is possible among them if religion is made a condition of political agreement. (pg. 62)

Persuasion, reason, argument are not the province of religion. Religion rests on faith – on an acceptance of certain beliefs apart from reason. (pg. 63)

In America, religion is relatively non-mystical. Religious teachers here are predominantly good, healthy materialists. They follow common sense. They would not stand in our way. The majority of religious people in this country do not accept on faith the idea of jumping into a cannibal's pot and giving away their last shirt to the backward people of the world. Many religious leaders preach this today, because of their own leftist politics; it's not inherent in being religious. There are many historical and philosophical connections between altruism and religion, but the function of religion in this country is not altruism. You would not find too much opposition to Objectivism among religious Americans. There are rational religious people. In fact, I was pleased and astonished to discover that some religious people support Objectivism. If you want to be a full Objectivist, you cannot reconcile that with religion; but that doesn't mean religious people cannot be individualists and fight for freedom. They can, and this country is the best proof of it. (pg. 63)

You should vote only so long as you think a candidate has more virtues than flaws. But if you regard both candidates as evil, do not choose a lesser evil. Simply don't vote. (pg. 69)

Anarchists are the scum of the intellectual world of the Left, which has given them up. So the Right picks up another leftist discard. That's the libertarian movement. (pg. 72)

I'd rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis – they're not as funny as John Hospers and the Libertarian Party. They're not defenders of capitalism. Further, their leadership consists of men of every persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now it's a bad sign for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas. This party plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes them with the exact opposite – with religionists, anarchists, and every intellectual misfit and scum they can find – and they call themselves Libertarians and run for office. They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable. I'll take Jane Fonda over them. (pg. 72-74)

Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication when that fits their purpose. They're lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They want an amoral political program. (pg. 74)

Without government, every criminally inclined individual resorts to force, and every morally inclined individual is helpless. Government is an absolute necessity if individual rights are to be protected, because you don't leave force at the arbitrary whim of other individuals. (pg. 75)

Russian pushed this country into World War Two. What would have been a better policy? Let Hitler march into Russia, as he had started to. Let the two dictatorships fight each other; then the West – England, France, and the United States – could finish off the winner. Then maybe, today, the world would be safe. (pg. 83)

When a country doesn't recognize the individual rights of its own citizens, it cannot claim any national or international rights. Therefore, anyone who wants to invade a dictatorship or semi-dictatorship is morally justified in doing so, because he is doing no worse than what that country has accepted as its social system. It is improper to attack a free country, because it recognizes the individual rights of its citizens. (pg. 92)

The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are still practically 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. (pg.96)

Nationalism properly understood – as a man's devotion to his country because of an approval of its basic premises, principles, and social system, as well as its culture – is the common bond among men of that nation. It is a commonly understood culture, and an affection for it, that permits a society of men to live together peacefully. But a country and its system must earn this approval. It must be worthy of that kind of devotion. (pg. 102)

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. And you are a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights - they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal 'cultures' - they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It's wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you're an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a 'country' does not protect rights - if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief - why should you respect the 'rights' that they don't have or respect? The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too - that is, you can't claim one should respect the 'rights' of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages - which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their 'right' to keep a part of the earth untouched - to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did. (pgs. 103-104)

As a principle, one should respect the sanctity of a contract among individuals. But I oppose applying contract law to American Indians. When a group of people or a nation does not respect individual rights, it cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The Indians were savages, with ghastly tribal rules and rituals, including the famous "Indian Torture." Such tribes have no rights. Anyone had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages as Indians dealt with each other – that is, by force. We owe nothing to Indians, except the memory of monstrous evils done by them. (pg. 104)

Racial quotas are vicious in any form, at any time, in any place, for any purpose whatsoever. Affirmative action is vicious; it isn't profiting anybody; it isn't improving the lot of the minorities. It's giving jobs and patronage and pull to the leaders of minority groups, and observe that only the races that got themselves organized get anything out of it (if you could call it an advantage). It's as un-American and unjust as any current movement. We are supposed to be color-blind, and that's what we should be. (pg. 105)

I am profoundly anti-feminist. If women want to be equal – and of course, potentially, they are – then they should achieve it on their own, and not as a vicious parasitical pressure group. (pg. 106)

Man cannot properly live with indecision. He must decide what his values are and why, and then what purpose he wants to pursue. When he has chosen a central purpose, that will give him the lead by which he can organize his whole hierarchy of values. Without that central purpose integrating his values, he can neither be happy nor know what will make him happy. (pg. 109)

The central purpose of one's life is to achieve one's own happiness, not to sacrifice oneself to others or others to oneself. "Selfishness" means to live by the judgment of one's own mind and to live by one's own productive effort, without forcing anything on others. (pg. 109)

You are not your brother's keeper. You cannot and do not have unchosen obligations; you're responsible for your own actions. You would be responsible for any harm you do to other people. You would be held responsible for any relationship that you enter into voluntarily, for any contract that you break unilaterally. You would have to stand by your word. You would have no right to pass on to others the burden or consequences of your mistakes or failures or whims. In other words, you cannot make other men your victims, and you need not be their victim. (pg. 110)

Any help you might want to give others would be your private privilege, but not your moral – and certainly not your legal – duty. If you want to help others, fine, so long as you can afford it, so long as it's your voluntary choice, and so long as you do not claim it as a major virtue or duty. It is good to help others only when you help them on the grounds of the value you see in them. If you see a talented man struggling, and you want to help him financially (and you can afford it), that's not a sacrifice, and would be a good gesture, under my morality. But it's not good to help someone who is suffering as a result of his own evil. If you help him, you are sanctioning his immorality, which is evil. (pgs. 110-111)

Reason involves knowing the nature and the consequences of your actions, and of knowing where your rational self-interest lies. Reason does not mean you can arbitrarily decide that whatever you want is in your self-interest. To go by reason is not to be guided by emotions or whims. (pg. 115)

Anything man wants or needs must be produced; man must possess knowledge in order to produce it; reason provides that knowledge. (pg. 115)

A man of self-esteem does not want the unearned: he doesn't want anything from others that he must obtain by coercion – by crime or by government force and regulation. Such a man deals with other men as an equal, by trade. Further, a man of reason plans his life long range. The psychological distinction between a rational man and an evader is that a rational man thinks, plans, and acts long range,while the more neurotic and evasive a person is, the shorter the range of his interests. (pg. 115)

The Declaration of Independence, which contains the Objectivist morality by implication, says man has a right to his own life, his own liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness; it doesn't mention service to others. (pg. 116)

If I want a society in which my rights are respected and I am free to pursue my happiness, I cannot push onto others the job of establishing such a society. If I can contribute to its establishment, I should do so. (pg. 120)

In any proper deal, you act on the trader principle: you give a value and receive a value. (pg. 124)

I have a profoundly selfish interest in the freedom of my mind, knowing what to do with it, and therefore fighting to preserve that freedom in this country for as long as I am alive – and even beyond my life. I don't care about posterity; I care about any free mind or independent person born in future centuries. (pg. 124)

I have been saying for years that before we help the helpless – who can only be lifted a little – we should see to it that we help the talented children, the child prodigies, who need support desperately. They don't need financial help; what they need is freedom and private schools in which they'd be free to rise as fast as possible, without being held down to the community standards of the average child. The people who prefer to help the mentally weak, and neglect or actually hinder the talented, are the most unjust, evil people on earth. (pg.125)

A human being is a living entity; life starts at birth. An embryo is a potential human being. You might argue that medically an embryo is alive at six to eight months. I don't know. But no woman in her right mind would have an abortion that late; it's very dangerous for her. So nature is consistent with the interests of both. I'm in favor of abortion, of birth control, of sex as such, as an absolute right of the parties involved. The right of a living human being comes above any potential human being. I never equate the potential with the actual. (pg. 125)

No state, community, or individual has any right to tell a woman what to do with her life. An embryo is not a human life, and one of the most disgusting frauds today is the enemies of abortion calling themselves "pro-life" when they advocate the rights of the embryo –an unborn entity – but refuse to recognize the rights of the living person: the woman (and, for that matter, the father). (pg. 126)

The fact of birth is an absolute – that is, up to that moment, the child is not an independent, living organism. It's part of the body of its mother. But at birth, a child is an individual, and has the rights inherent in the nature of a human individual. Until the moment of birth, a child is physically the property of the mother. (pg. 126)

A piece of tissue – an embryo – cannot have rights. (pg. 127)

Anyone who speaks of the mentally retarded knows that a retarded child is not capable of taking care of itself. He knows that the child's parents (particularly the mother) will be tied to that child for life. The sacrifice of the mentally healthy to the mentally deformed is unspeakable – it is a sacrifice without recipients. In that way it is a more evil, more meta-physical view of life than altruism. Its purpose is not to have some man sacrifice himself to others, but to have man sacrifice himself. The more useless the sacrifice, the better. (pgs. 127-128)

A mental (as opposed to a physical) cripple is a horror to deal with, and to a mother it is the constant horror that it is her child, only it is not human. To be made to live for a subnormal, mindless child whom one cannot face is sacrifice and drudgery without a goal. It is the person's own values and chance for happiness that are being destroyed. (pg. 129)

Objectivism is an atheistic philosophy. (pg. 131)

To call my philosophy, which demands the absolutism of reason, dogmatic – which means "arbitrarily taken on faith" – is the most profound smear. (pg. 133)

First produce something; then evaluate it according to objective standards. If somebody is better than you according to these standards, you learn from him. It's an inspiration. But if many people are worse, don't take pride in that. (pg. 135)

I think it would be improper for a woman to be president. The kind of woman who would agree to be is in some respect neurotic. (pg. 139)

I am opposed to women's lib. I believe in masculine superiority passionately, enthusiastically, delightfully – not intellectual or moral superiority, but sexual and romantic superiority. If you don't understand this, then I'll reluctantly say: I'm sorry. (pg. 139)

The difference between men and women is sexual. In the sexual roles, it is proper for a man, who is the stronger sexually, to be worshipped, and the woman who would even conceive of such a thing is not a woman. (pg. 139)

Philosophy deals with broad abstractions – with principles – which underlie other conclusions, other knowledge. It's a philosopher's job to provide you with these principles; it's your job to apply those principles to your own life. Philosophy will foreshorten the difficult problem of knowing what to do in complex situations. Philosophy is the guide; you are the traveler. (pgs. 144-145)

John Locke did some valuable thinking. He was the teacher of the Founding Fathers. But this is only politics; in metaphysics and epistemology, Locke was disastrous. He departed from Aristotle and denied that we can perceive reality. (pg. 149)

My philosophy includes only what men can perceive, identify, and demonstrate by means of reason. It doesn't permit the invention of "facts," or the acceptance of anything on faith – that is, without rational demonstration. (pg. 149)

There is no evidence for any kind of God, afterlife, or mystical dimension. (pg. 149)

The consistency of nature, the fact that nature follows certain laws, is not a product of design, but of the Law of Identity – the fact that things are what they are. (pg. 150)

In material nature, nothing happens by chance or design – that's a false alternative. They happen according to the Law of Identity: things interact according to their natures. This is not chance. Chance is a concept pertaining only to human ignorance. When we don't know the causes of some event, we say it happened "by chance." (pg.150)

Existence exists and consciousness exists. (pg. 152)

Once you arrive at the conclusion that someone is a mystic (that some part of his philosophy, by his own statement, is not subject to reason or is beyond reason), then he has saved you the trouble of considering anything else that he says. (pg. 153)

Outside of your reason, you have no means of knowing anything. If you concluded that man can know nothing, one look around would refute you instantly, because you could see how far man has come, and that he needed knowledge to get where he is. (pg. 161)

I am primarily a defender of reason, not of individualism or capitalism. I defend capitalism because I'm a defender of individualism; I defend individualism because I'm a defender of reason. That's my epistemological base. (pg. 162)

Every rational endeavor expands knowledge. (pg. 164)

Irrationalism - Men no longer respect reason or believe it's valid. This is the result of the philosophy they have been taught for at least the past two hundred years. Altruism - This moral theory holds that the only justification for a man's existence is service to others. Collectivism - The view that the individual has no rights, that a collective (society or some other group) holds all rights and may dispose of any individual as it pleases, and that its power over the individual is unlimited. Irrationalism, altruism, and collectivism are the three fundamental evils of today's dominant philosophy. (pg. 165)

"Rational" refers to a policy or principle arrived at in the full context of everything relevant to a given action. The first rule of rationality is that if you value your life and believe you own it, you must recognize the same right in others. (pg. 168)

Playing devil's advocate means assuming a role opposite to your own conviction; advocating ideas the "devil" would throw at you. This technique trains you to answer every objection to your position. It's a good way to test your ideas, because if you encounter an objection you can't answer, you better find the answer or correct your thinking. (pgs. 178-179)

The exceptional person acts on the premise: "I must find things out for myself; I must go beyond what is now known." The well-trained, but unexceptional, person acts on the premise of taking things as given: "This is an established profession. It has demanding standards, and it takes a lot of work to comply with these standards. I'll fulfill all of the requirements set by my profession. I'll learn everything required. I'll read the appropriate journals and be as good a practitioner as any." That is the premise of stagnation. That type of person can achieve his goals and be competent; but in five to ten years his profession will have left him behind. (pg. 179)

You have no choice about whether to have a philosophy. The choice is whether you know your philosophy and have chosen it consciously – or whether you are at the mercy of your subconscious, of chance generalizations and undigested abstractions accepted on faith from others without any clear understanding and decision on your part. (pg. 183)

My school of writing is romantic realism: "romantic" in that I present man as he ought to be; "realistic" in that I place men here and now on this earth, in terms applicable to every rational reader who shares these values and wants to apply them to himself. It's realistic in that it's possible to man and applies to this earth; it's romantic in that it projects man and values as they ought to be, not as statistical averages. (pg. 188)

The (implicit) premise of free will and the purposeful progression of events (a plot) are the distinguishing characteristics of romantic literature, whereas a plotless story that concentrates on characterization and the statistical is deterministic and therefore naturalistic. Those are the extremes. Every story has some elements of both – in the details. (pg. 200)

The truth, of course, is that genealogy, race or tribe do not make or break your character. You do – and the credit or blame is exclusively yours. (pg. 210)

If you want to be a writer, ask yourself first of all what you want to say. That will determine in what form you will say it – whether it's properly fiction or nonfiction. The next question to ask yourself is: Why do I think that people will be interested in hearing this? Do I have something new to say? Is what I want to say important and, if so, why? Or am I just planning a rehash of what everybody has heard millions of times before? If you can answer these questions properly, you're on your way toward becoming a writer. These are the first steps. (pg. 221)

My purpose is to enjoy life in a rational way: to use my mind to the greatest extent possible; to pursue, admire, and support human greatness; to make all my choices rationally; to expand my knowledge constantly. (pg. 231)

I'm concerned only with the time when I am here. Mortality, by definition, finishes me. So why worry about it? (pg. 232)

We know that we have a mind and a body, and that neither can exist without the other. Therefore, when I die, that will be the end of me. I don't think it will be the end of my philosophy. (pg. 232)

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