Ayn Rand on the Mind

“The mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act—the process of reason—must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.

We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.”

Ayn Rand

What is an Individualist ?

An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man—his own and those of others.

An individualist is a man 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. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself.”

— Ayn Rand, author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand on Evil

The truly and deliberately evil men are a very small minority; it is the appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser’s intellectual abdication that invites them to take over. When a culture’s dominant trend is geared to irrationality, the thugs win over the appeasers. When intellectual leaders fail to foster the best in the mixed, unformed, vacillating character of people at large, the thugs are sure to bring out the worst. When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes.

Does Anyone Know What a Right Is ?

Nobody has a clue as to what “rights” are. Government-run schools and an ignorance-peddling media have done their jobs well. People are (at best) stupid on the subject and (at worst) willfully malicious.

Most people think of “rights” as getting something for free. They think they have a “right” to free college; to health care; to a house; to retirement pensions; to child care; the list is endless. Note that everything deemed a “right” today is to be paid for by another (or by a Federal Reserve which inflates the currency to pay for its massive spending and borrowing).

You don’t have a RIGHT to anything other than sovereignty over your own life. What you do with that life is YOUR choice and YOUR responsibility. If you need or want help from someone, it’s your job to obtain it — through charity, persuasion, trading or any other VOLUNTARY means. You have no “right” to hire an armed gunman to get money or property from someone else just because you need it or want it, or just because they have more. But that’s what government has become in America, as in every prior collapsing civilization in human history. America is no longer special; our government has become a glorified Mafia.

You do not have a “right” to enslave another person. When you claim you have a right to “free” anything, then by definition you are authorizing the government to impose force to make that other person pay for it. That is NOT your right.

Ayn Rand, decades ago, gave a great description and definition of what a “right” actually is. Note how her framework is the utter opposite of the attitude now prevalent in America under America’s Marxist-fascist hybrid horror show.

Rand wrote: A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. 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. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

Michael J. Hurd/Ayn Rand

Capitalism and The Swedish Welfare State

As Ayn Rand observed, a compromise between two opposite principles – such as between freedom and government controls in a welfare state – is never sustainable,

Prompted by my recent visit to Finland, I listened to a lecture about the country’s challenges in the new world economy. It was delivered by the controversial banker and economist Björn Wahlroos at Aalto University Business School, my alma mater. (The lecture is available on YouTube, with English subtitles promised soon. Wahlroos’ talk starts at minute 37. Most comments about Sweden start about minute 65).

Dr. Wahlroos is a controversial figure in Finland, a country committed to the egalitarian welfare state, because he has been a provocative proponent of free markets and a critic of the welfare state. In this lecture, however, he argued that it is possible to have both the welfare state and market freedom if a country approaches them “sensibly.”

Wahlroos criticized the Finnish government for the zero GDP growth rate in the last 13 years and attributed it to the government’s “insensible” approach to growing the welfare state while failing to facilitate economic growth through market mechanisms. He cited Sweden as a model, where the modest annual GDP growth of 2% in the same period has financed welfare spending and avoided accumulating government debt.

In a 10-year period from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, Sweden’s social democratic government recognized the unsustainability of the ever-ballooning welfare state and set to restructure it (without giving it up). According to Dr. Wahlroos, Sweden did this primarily by lowering taxes and by reforming labor laws. It abolished the wealth tax for its wealthiest citizens in 1995 and the inheritance and gift taxes for everybody about ten years later. It also increased the tax deduction for employment income and changed labor laws, which encouraged those on welfare to go to work. Finally, in 2020 the government introduced a flat state income tax of 20%.

For such improvements of people’s economic freedom, Wahlroos deservedly praised Sweden. However, his endorsement of the Swedish welfare state model which permits modest economic growth by slightly expanding economic freedom, is indefensible. He argued that Sweden (where he now lives) represents a middle ground (a compromise) between the Asian tigers (such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) and Venezuela. Therefore, it is “a sensible home for industry and also a tolerable home for capitalists.”

Dr. Wahlroos’ argument is indefensible because a compromise between two opposite principles – such as between freedom and government controls in a welfare state – is never sustainable, as Ayn Rand has observed.

Why? Because a system based on opposite principles is unstable and always moving toward either direction. There is no “sensible” middle to which the proponents of the principles can agree in the long term.

A welfare state based on a mixed economy, is founded on the idea that society – all its members collectively – must take care of everyone’s needs. In a welfare state, those who have more needs must be taken care of by those who are more productive and therefore can afford to help.

This principle of “to each according to his needs and from each according to his ability” is in a fundamental conflict with the opposite principle that individuals should be free to pursue their own interests. The latter includes trading with others and not being forced (through taxation and regulation) to give away the wealth they have produced so that the government can satisfy others’ needs.

The welfare state with lower taxes that incentivize production of goods and services and thereby wealth creation may be tolerable to some capitalists, as Wahlroos argued. In a world that consists mainly of welfare states of varying degrees and dictatorships of various stripes, this may be understandable.

However, why should capitalists – those who accumulate wealth by producing and invest it in further production and wealth creation – want to compromise and merely have “tolerable” conditions for production?

They do so because they have embraced the welfare state as an ideal. They have accepted that it is their duty to fulfill the needs of others by enabling the welfare state. But if the capitalists and the producers really wanted to increase everyone’s prosperity and wellbeing, they should reject this wrong ideal. Instead, they should embrace true capitalism: the principles of individual freedom and free trade. It is only such a system that can maximize and sustain economic growth and wealth creation, and therefore, human wellbeing.

The evidence, both historic and current, shows clearly that freedom leads to the greatest prosperity and wellbeing for all, and that government controls hinder them. If human flourishing is the goal, the compromise between the principles of individual freedom and the government control that is the welfare state should not be tolerated or embraced.

Jaana Woiceshyn

Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

Today’s Tyrants Don’t Want Success; They Want YOU to FAIL

“They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is himself . . . . They are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they’re after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man.”

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Candace Owens and the Founding Fathers

Wars are fought over land and money—never ideology. Ideology is what those that are in power use to convince those beneath them that they should be willing to lay down their lives on behalf of. Virtues and values are never practiced by those that demand we die for it.

From the Declaration of Independence:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Writes Ayn Rand on ideology:

“A political ideology is a set of principles aimed at establishing or maintaining a certain social system; it is a program of long-range action, with the principles serving to unify and integrate particular steps into a consistent course.”

“It is only by means of principles that men can project the future and choose their actions accordingly.”

“Anti-ideology consists of the attempts to shrink men’s minds down to the range of the immediate moment, without regard to past or future…above all, without memory, so that contradictions cannot be detected, & errors or disasters can be blamed on the victims.”

“In anti-ideological practice, principles are used implicitly and are relied upon to disarm the opposition, but are never acknowledged, and are switched at will, when it suits the purpose of the moment. Whose purpose? The gang’s.”

“Thus men’s moral criterion becomes, not ‘my view of the good—or of the right—or of the truth,’ but ‘my gang, right or wrong.’ ” [“The Wreckage of the Consensus,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal]

Today’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

In Chapter 6 of The Book of Revelation in the Bible, something akin to the last judgment is symbolized by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The horses are colored white, red, black, and pale; they symbolize (depending on the interpretation) conquest (or pestilence), war, famine, and death (or plague)-in sum, the end of the world. They represent God’s punishment for rejecting faith in God and may preview the second coming of Christ where all accounts will be settled.

The symbols, though not their religious base, can be applied today to the secular world. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse now are China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. These countries have five anti-freedom and anti-life characteristics in common:

  1. They are all totalitarian dictatorships which deny political rights to their citizens, i.e., one-party systems, government censorship of speech and the press, political trials and associated punishments, and no private property by right. Citizens are forced to live and die in obedience to the state.
  2. These countries are all imperialistic. They act to bully, dominate, or take over by force any countries that they can and/or do not like.
  3. They have a passionate fear and hatred of free countries, and especially the United States, because it has the military power to destroy any aggressor(s) and represents a moral and practical repudiation of their own rulers who gain and retain their power only at gunpoint.
  4. They give moral support to each other (to rationalize coercion) and often give material support to each other such as supplying food to prevent starvation and/or providing goods which free countries will not supply. They also share military technology designed to suppress rights such as weapons and spy systems.
  5. They all have or are building nuclear missiles with the capability of reaching the United States and other free countries. They routinely threaten to use them.

In sum, these countries have the desire and potential to destroy the free world and bring us to a new Dark Age with them as rulers—a real Apocalypse. But the antidote is not the worship of an imaginary ghost in the sky (mysticism) but rather, better horses– representing reason, individual rights, self-interest, and capitalism. The application of these principles would greatly reduce or eliminate pestilence and famine, bring peace and greatly increase life expectancy.

Free, capitalist countries deal with one another by voluntary trade and have very little if any incentive to go to war as Ayn Rand said in “The Roots of War”:

Laissez-faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights and, therefore, the only system that bans force from social relationships. By the nature of its basic principles and interests, it is the only system fundamentally opposed to war.

Men who are free to produce, have no incentive to loot; they have nothing to gain from war and a great deal to lose. Ideologically, the principle of individual rights does not permit a man to seek his own livelihood at the point of a gun, inside or outside his country. Economically, wars cost money; in a free economy, where wealth is privately owned, the costs of war come out of the income of private citizens — there is no overblown public treasury to hide that fact — and a citizen cannot hope to recoup his own financial losses (such as taxes or business dislocations or property destruction) by winning the war. Thus his own economic interests are on the side of peace.

In a statist economy, where wealth is “publicly owned,” a citizen has no economic interests to protect by preserving peace — he is only a drop in the common bucket — while war gives him the (fallacious) hope of larger handouts from his masters. Ideologically, he is trained to regard men as sacrificial animals; he is one himself; he can have no concept of why foreigners should not be sacrificed on the same public altar for the benefit of the same state.

The trader and the warrior have been fundamental antagonists throughout history. Trade does not flourish on battlefields, factories do not produce under bombardments, profits do not grow on rubble. Capitalism is a society of traders — for which it has been denounced by every would-be gunman who regards trade as “selfish” and conquest as “noble.” [1]

It should be noted that if dictatorships with advanced weapons did not exist, there would be no need for free countries to build thousands of atomic missiles—there could be a rational and safe trend toward some nuclear disarmament. Pacifist demands by leftist intellectuals for unilateral disarmament in free countries would disappear.

Given that the four bad horsemen of death are here, how should they be dealt with?

1. Acknowledge the fact that a cold war exists.
2. Arm ourselves to the teeth.
3. Cooperate with other free countries based on mutual self-interest.
4. Make a moral judgment: state publicly that dictatorships are morally wrong and that we and other free countries are morally right.
5. Assume that the bad horsemen will do everything in their power to manipulate and deceive us. Take suitable precautions.

Notes

[1] Ayn Rand, “Roots of War“, June 1966, The Objectivist Newsletter.