Ayn Rand is a philosopher and writer best known for her fictional works Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, in which unlikely protagonists embodying individualism and rationality triumph over the evil forces of mediocrity and statism. Though Rand’s fiction occupies a place in the western cannon, it was mostly a vehicle for explaining her philosophy of Objectivism, one tenet of which is the economic system of free-market capitalism.
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is a collection of essays by Rand and associates, outlining her political, social, and economic views. Its dense 350 pages contain thoughts on many subjects applicable to today’s world, such as:
The repudiation of “extremism” as a political weapon:
“When men [ed: or women] feel that strongly about an issue, yet refuse to name it…one may be sure that their actual goal would not stand public identification”
Rand suggests that the crusade against extremism is a dangerous concept because the word itself holds no meaning. The creation of such “anti-concepts” allows ideas that are merely politically incorrect to be wrongly associated with ones that are evil. Even worse, if extremes of speech and thought are repudiated wholesale, the only thing remaining is a muddled centrist philosophy with no clear tenets. Repudiating “extremism” is rejecting the ability to have clear guiding principles of right and wrong, since one extreme must be wrong. The blanket labeling of manosphere blogs as “hate groups” is one example of this dangerous association.
The Gold Standard:
“The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit”
In this essay, Alan Greenspan outlines why gold is a sensible choice for currency and why it should be reinstated as our currency-backing standard. In the modern model, the Federal Reserve will continue to print fiat currency to finance a deficit, which will eventually result in massive devaluation of money. Greenspan outlines how returning to a gold standard would promote natural self-regulation of interest rates and guard against massive stock market crashes. He cautions that without anything backing our currency, nothing will prevent the de facto confiscation of wealth via rampant inflation.
The persecution of American business through undefinable anti-trust laws:
“Today’s liberals recognize the workers’ (the majority’s) rights to their livelihood (their wages), but deny the businessmen’s (the minority’s) right to their livelihood (their profits)”
Rand’s essay outlines the arcane and contradictory anti-trust laws on our books, which exist to execute the whims of the government against businesses they do not favor. For example, the Supreme Court once ruled against the Aluminum Company of America simply for “taking advantage of every opportunity” to expand their business. Rand suggests that the only way that a truly coercive monopoly can be formed is when the government interferes in the free market by artificially subsidizing certain industries. This creates massive corruption and deadweight loss, such as in the railroad industry early in the 20th century.
More than once I had to remind myself that this book was written in 1967, since Rand’s criticism of New Deal economic policies, the welfare state, and a mixed market economic structure ring chillingly true for our country’s present political climate. The book’s only drawback it is that it is incredibly dense. It certainly cannot be read in one sitting, but at the same time you can’t jump into it for five minutes at a time, since the concepts require careful reflection to appreciate fully. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking philosophical/economic manifesto that is highly relevant to modern issues, I suggest picking up a copy.
Read More: “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” on Amazon