There are few more controversial people in political circles than Alisa Rosenbaum. But few people have heard of her, because the apoplectic responses are reserved for the new name she gave herself after she left Russia for America–Ayn Rand.
Rand has persistently been among the most demonized persons in America. Yet she sold over 30 million books, and still sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year, decades after her 1982 death, and Atlas Shrugged has been ranked behind only the Bible as a book that influenced readers’ lives.
Some are devotees of everything Rand. Others use her name as a pejorative. Still others find some of her ideas insightful while rejecting others (e.g., anarcho-capitalists, who reject Rand’s minarchism and some Christian libertarians, who reject her lifestyle or insistence on atheism). What readers find most inspirational are her views on individualism, rights, liberties and government. So, for her February 2 birthday, consider some of those words.
The moral justification of capitalism is man’s right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; it is the recognition that man–every man–is an end in himself…not a sacrificial animal…
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force…a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one…reverses its only moral purpose…
Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships…no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others.
When the framers of the American republic spoke of “the people,” they did not mean a collectivist organism one part of which was authorized to consume the rest. They meant a sum of individuals, each of whom…retains his inviolate guarantee of individual rights.
Under a proper social system…A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted. This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.” This is the American concept of “a government of laws and not of men.”
The concept of a “right”…means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.
The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible.
[T]he right to property…is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it.
The right to property…does not mean that others must provide him with property.
Man holds…rights, not from the Collective nor for the Collective, but against the Collective–as a barrier which the Collective cannot cross…these rights are man’s protection against all other men.
Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right…There can be no such thing as “the right to enslave.”
If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor…No one’s rights can be secured by the violation of the rights of others.
Since only an individual man can possess rights, the expression “individual rights” is a redundancy. But the expression “collective rights” is a contradiction in terms.
[S]ince the only proper function of a government is to protect man’s rights, it cannot claim title to his life in exchange for that protection.
An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man–his own and those of others…who says: “I will not run anyone’s life–nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave.”
The doctrine that “human rights” are superior to “property rights” simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others…
[T]he collective cannot decide what is to be the purpose of a man’s existence nor prescribe his choice of happiness.
We are fast approaching the stage…where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission…
A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment…is…but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule.
[F]reedom…comes down to a single question: do you consider it moral to treat men as sacrificial animals and to rule them by physical force?
Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel.
Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state–and nothing else.
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.
America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to ‘the common good,” but by the productive genius of free men…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.
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.
It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree…
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. Individual rights are not subject to a public vote…the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.
The economic value of a man’s work is determined, on a free market, by a single principle: by the voluntary consent of those who are willing to trade him their work or products in return. This is the moral meaning of the law of supply and demand.
Capitalism has been called a system of greed–yet it is the system that raised the standard of living of its poorest citizens to heights no collectivist system has ever begun to equal…
What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.
Whether one slanders or salutes Ayn Rand, or is just trying to find wisdom wherever it can be found, her words on individualism, rights, liberties and government offer a great deal of food for thought.