Rude Awakenings

Chapter 5 (Part 2 of 4) of the book

The Discovery of First Principles, Volume 3

Edward J. Dodson

Retreat from Radicalism

As the 1950s passed mid-point, the social democracies came under the spell of what is appropriately characterized as an era of wait and see with respect to socio-political change. The agenda of liberalism -- of national security state interventionism -- and the acceptance of demand management as the core of government fiscal and monetary policies, slid into place. Interventionists, united around liberalism regardless of their nominal affiliation with political parties, effectively excluded from participation in the public policy dialogue those who were thought to hold extreme views. Even William F. Buckley, Jr., who was coming to serve as a sort of liaison between the individualist Remnant and mainstream conservative interventionists, recognized the challenge liberalism presented to anyone guided by principle:

As to the conservative movement, our troubles are legion. Those who charge that there is no conservative position have an easy time of it rhetorically. There is no commonly-acknowledged conservative position today, and any claim to the contrary is easy to make sport of. Yet there is to be found in contemporary conservative literature both a total critique of Liberalism, and compelling proposals for the reorientation of our thought. Conservatism must, however, be wiped clean of the parasitic cant that defaces it, and repels so many of those who approach it inquiringly.[45]

The more he yielded to the interests of the national security state, however, the more Buckley became ensconced as a gadfly in the arena of liberalism. His brand of conservatism sounded increasingly reminiscent of doctrinaire laissez-faire interventionism in making use of government to protect privilege while seeming to advance the cause of individualism. While concerned that "[c]onservatives have failed to alert the community to the interconnection between economic freedom and - freedom,"[46] he made no attempt to reconcile the ancient conflict between liberty and license set down by Locke as the cornerstone of justice. The most positive comment that can be made about Buckley is that his long association with Albert Jay Nock and Frank Chodorov apparently had enough of an influence on him so that he could not bring himself wholeheartedly to trade principles for influence. He tempered his definition of freedom in the economic realm to "choices ... involving oneself, without damage to other people."[47] This is a tip of the hat to principle. And yet, he went on to challenge the notion of requiring the rich to pay heavy income or estate taxes, without consideration of whether the wealth possessed and income received is earned (by the process of using one's labor and capital goods) or is gained as a recipient of rent gained by privileges sanctioned by the State. For all intents and purposes, Buckley was lost to the Remnant. His journalistic success only added to the confused state of dialogue and inquiry in which intellectuals engaged.

A high percentage of others describing themselves as conservatives could scarcely get beyond their anti-communism and participate in even the mildest challenge to the American System. As a group, they were convinced of the right of the United States to assume moral leadership over the social democracies and political leadership of the noncommunist developing countries. For example, when Douglas MacArthur finally got around to writing his memoirs in 1964, he echoed the thinking of conservative interventionists who equated uncritical acceptance of the American System with patriotism:

It is the result and fruition of the capitalistic system -- a system embracing every segment of American society -- the owners of industry, the workers in industry, the public served by industry. This free enterprise based upon the right to work and the right to possess the fruits of that work has created an economic freedom which is the basis of all other freedoms.

But this very success created its own perils and harassments, both from without and within. For from one end of the world to the other there was a titanic struggle to seize control of industry and of the economics. Whether this be in the masquerade of Communism or Socialism or Fascism the purpose is the same -- to destroy a primary element of Freedom and preempt it for the State.

The capitalistic system has hence become the great target, although it has never failed to provide the resources for an ever increasing standard for human life, has never failed to maximize the fruits of human energy and creative enterprise, has never failed to provide the sinews for victory in war. It has built this nation far beyond the wildest dreams of its architects; it has through the scientific advance of means of communication closed the international geographic gap to permit rapid and effective trade and commerce among the peoples of the world, has elevated the laborer, the farmer and the tradesman to their rightful station of dignity and relative prosperity, and has established the pattern for modern industrialization and scientific development.[48]

One has to wonder how MacArthur could make such statements in light of having lived through the 1930s depression and then headed the reconstruction of Japanese law and institutions. Conservative interventionists either could not see or were unwilling to concede that the American System of the early 1900s contained serious structural flaws, that agrarian and industrial landlordism had been rescued by the rise of the national security state in an atmosphere of permanent preparation for global war. Rather than amazement in the material progress achieved, the architects of the Democracy (and Paine and George, in particular) would be dismayed at the failure of subsequent generations to rectify the structural socio-political flaws he and others knew existed but had insufficient political influence to remedy. In 1958, Harry Gunnison Brown took an opportunity to step outside his role as an economics professor to remind conservatives of the true spirit of the Democracy:

Time was when the American Declaration of Independence and the struggle of the American states for freedom from political domination by Great Britain, stirred the imaginations of liberty-loving people in many other countries. Today we seek allies and sympathizers in our ideological struggle against the socialistically regimented countries of the Communist bloc. Will it help us in this ideological struggle -- will it stir enthusiasm for capitalism -- if in the "capitalism" that we practice and urge upon others, we include vast private income derived from charging (a) for permission to use -- and history might have been such as to make it so -- navigable lakes and streams, or (b) permission -- and this is the way history really has made it -- to work on and live on the earth?[49]

Even more to the point were observations made by a young University of Colorado associate professor of political science, James L. Busey. "Until the roles of national states can somehow be markedly reduced, peace must remain a hope, a dream, an aspiration, but a shibboleth. ...The United States -- or any other country, for that matter -- can begin at its own frontiers. A reduction, for example, of the economic barriers which prevail between ourselves and Mexico and Canada would begin the long process of reducing the danger of war and at the same time would even add to the security of the participants."[50] Could conservatives bring themselves to challenge the foundation upon which agrarian and industrial landlordism had arisen, and which they embraced as capitalism? Only those who accepted the principles of cooperative individualism understood that no individual or group of people possessed a right of absolute and sovereign control over a portion of the earth. Of the conservatives, Clinton Rossiter suggested that, "[w]ith the exception of a few professors and publicists, who are looked upon with suspicion for their pains, the men on the Right are not given to hard thinking about man, society, and government."[51] Unfortunately, of those who did resort to hard thinking, only a much smaller number managed to clear their own heads of conventional wisdoms and search for truth. Too often, their futures were in the hands of persons of much less integrity, vision and commitment to equality of opportunity. To challenge conventional wisdoms long nurtured by the financial support of agrarian and industrial landlords was a rather dangerous proposition for those whose own careers and financial survival was dependent upon the good will of the privileged.

In his survey of conservatism, Rossiter identified Raymond Moley as one of the few conservatives "not afraid to assert that property is a distinct right ranking with life and liberty."[52] What Moley understood, as someone who had read and absorbed the arguments presented by Henry George, was that there were two forms of property, one natural (arising out of the application of one's labor and capital goods to nature, or by voluntary exchange of labor for goods), the other unnatural (arising out of government-sanctioned claims to nature and other forms of economic license created by the State awarded privilege at the expense of producers). Moley, at one time at the right side of presidential power, could not have moved deeper into the wilderness than by his efforts to advocate on behalf of Georgist principles. Neither the New Dealers nor the new conservatives were interested in sharing the political stage or the academic arena with individuals who espoused a socio-political philosophy the power elite had devoted so much energy to discredit.

Clinton Rossiter's assessment of the conservatives indicated that most had reconciled themselves to the incrementalist social welfare agenda of liberalism. They thought of themselves as pragmatic and (generally) uninterested in socio-political philosophies or theories. Whatever their moral sense ethic, whatever their desire to advance the cause of human rights, they would come under attack by anti-communist extremists, ethnic purists, racial bigots, Christian fundamentalists and hate mongers who fashioned pseudo-conservative orthodoxy to support their own agendas. During the decade of the 1950s, no group challenged the conservative mainstream more than Robert Welch's John Birch Society, which counted more than 20,000 men and women as members by 1960. Welch was of the Establishment, educated at the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Law School. By the early 1950s, however, he looked upon mainstream Republicans -- and Eisenhower, in particular -- as having abandoned the conservative cause against communism. With each passing year, he hammered away at the existence of the communist conspiracy. For conservatives working to capture the moral high ground -- that is, to celebrate principle -- Welch frightened the thoughtful and the sincere by calling for a return to isolationism and political orthodoxy. If there was to be a real challenge to liberalism, therefore, the Remnant would have to find new leadership from within a younger generation willing to compete with the mainstream on its own terms. Remarkably, one of the leading candidates turned out to be a woman and a writer of fiction -- Ayn Rand.

"Who is John Galt?"

Ayn Rand was born Alice Rosenbaum in 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Although from a poor family, her father had gained entrance to the university and later obtained a position as a chemist. In 1917, however, the Bolsheviks confiscated her father's business, and her family's existence in Russia took a harsh turn. They embarked on a hazardous journey to Odessa in the Crimea, suffering along with an entire civilization caught up in the struggle for control of the former Russian empire, its natural resources and its peoples. Alice somehow managed to continue with her schooling, graduating high school in 1921 and obtaining work teaching Red army soldiers to read and write. When civil war ended, the family returned to St. Petersburg, now renamed Petrograd, where they endured more poverty and hardship. The future author and philosopher entered the University of Petrograd in 1924 to study history. Here, her instinctive individualism and anti-communism intensified under the repressive atmosphere imposed by the Bolshevik regime. She nevertheless received her degree and obtained a job as a guide in the fortress of Peter and Paul. A letter from relatives who had two decades earlier emigrated to the United States brought hope of leaving Russia. And, in January of 1925, Alice escaped; she was twenty-one years old and determined never to return to the hell of Soviet Russia.

After reaching the United States, she came to live with relatives in Chicago. Almost immediately she got down to the business of writing and took the name Ayn Rand (the first name from a Finnish writer, the surname from the manufacturer of her typewriter). Less than two years later she made her way to California in pursuit of a career as a screenwriter. Despite a remarkable stroke of good fortune in a chance meeting with Cecil B. DeMille, who hired her for some months as a junior writer, she experienced considerable hardship. Her success as a writer came only much later. In the interim she married and found work in the wardrobe department for one of the motion picture studios, soon rising to head the department. Then, with the societies of the world falling into the grip of global depression, and the American System challenged by intellectuals and labor leaders who looked to the Soviet Union as a worthy experiment in societal reconstruction, Ayn Rand found her cause and the subject of her first book, We the Living:

"We the Living was to be a protest and an introduction to my philosophy. ...Ideologically, I had said exactly what I wanted, and I had no difficulty in expressing my ideas. I had wanted to write a novel about Man against the State. I had wanted to show, as the basic theme, the sanctity -- the supreme value -- of human life, and the immorality of treating men as sacrificial animals and ruling them by physical force. I did so.[53]

Progress on the book was tortuously slow, until once again fortune smiled on her. She was paid fifteen hundred dollars for a story and screenplay she had hurriedly written, which permitted her to begin working full-time on her book until, again, the need for income intervened. Yet, near the end of 1933, We the Living was finished. The manuscript was passed from publisher to publisher, while Ayn worked on and sold a play script, the production of which in 1934 brought her to New York. Her play proved a financial if not a critical success. Finally, in 1936 Macmillan Company published We the Living. Nothing much happened. Her anti-statism and anti-communism failed to shake the faith of U.S. intellectuals in the nobility of the Soviet experiment. She now set out to work on her next project, The Fountainhead (stopping in midstream to write Anthem and work on the play version of We the Living).

Ayn Rand then turned activist, largely in reaction to the collectivist sentiment arising in her adopted land. Although she had voted for Roosevelt in 1932, by 1940 she was convinced that another four years of Roosevelt would yield immeasurable damage to the individualist cause. She and her husband worked on the presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie, Ayn eventually heading a research group and (despite losing confidence in Willkie's resolve and convictions) speaking to group after group on behalf of the Republican Party. After the election, her contact with conservative intellectuals and activists markedly increased. She and the playwright Channing Pollock attempted to pull together the mostly cynical conservatives of the era into a unified movement. Albert Jay Nock, who had no time for organized movements of any kind, declined to join. Others were more encouraged by the opportunity to share time and ideas with activists of like mind. Ayn Rand benefited immensely. For example, an immediate friendship developed between Rand and columnist Isabel Paterson, who was instrumental in helping the Russian expatriate gain a more complete understanding of U.S. history and institutions. Rand, focused on developing her own ideas and perspectives, did little reading and relied heavily on such discussions with others to fill gaps in her specific knowledge.

The publishing house of Bobbs-Merrill accepted Rand's unfinished manuscript for The Fountainhead and gave her until the end of 1942 to finish the writing. With war raging in the Old World and her family entombed in the tragedy that destroyed so much of Leningrad, she completed the work that would catapult her into the periphery and then the center of individualist intellectuals, although never out of the wilderness and into the mainstream. Slowly, sales of The Fountainhead climbed throughout the war years -- 100,000 copies selling in 1945 and total sales reaching 400,000 by 1948.

After Rand was paid $50,000 for the movie rights to The Fountainhead, she and her husband moved to southern California, where they bought a home in the rural San Fernando Valley. She became acquainted with Leonard Read (founder of the Irvington-on-Hudson-based Foundation for Economic Education) and economist Henry Hazlett, who introduced her to Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek (both of whose ideas she thereafter aggressively promoted in her own articles and public addresses). Interestingly, she instinctively recognized one of the glaring mistakes by economists in creating a supposed scientific study of markets out of their destruction of political economy:

I didn't like his [Mises] separation of morality and economics, but I assumed that it simply meant that morality was not his specialty and that he could not devise one of his own. At that time, I thought -- about both Henry [Hazlett] and Von Mises -- that since they were fully committed to laissez-faire capitalism, the rest of their philosophy had contradictions only because they did not yet know how to integrate a full philosophy to capitalism.[54]

Morality could only thrive under individualism, and the deep-felt beliefs Ayn Rand held concerning individualism brought her into the struggle against socialistic and communistic ideology. At the same time, she warned conservatives against use of the State to purge communists from society; rather, the principle of voluntary association meant to her that no one should be forced by law to provide sustenance to a known communist. Although she appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, she later told others she was disgusted by the incompetence of those supposedly determined to attack communism at its foundation. "I kept yelling at the conservatives about the difference between the right to freedom of speech -- which means the government cannot interfere -- and the private right of people who don't want to deal with Communists, to boycott; and the private right of employers not to hire men whom they consider to be enemies of this country,"[55] she later recalled. She was, without really understanding where her ideas placed her, very much of the Remnant. As time went on, she was rejected by and in turn rejected the national security state interventionists who called themselves conservative. Unaware of cooperative individualism as a socio-political philosophical framework, she could only hope for a new morality to take hold based on the persuasive power of her own writings. She believed she was both right and original in her thinking. She possessed a sense of self-importance that was to have serious repercussions in her personal life and, as a consequence, destroy much of what she earlier accomplished as a writer.

Ayn Rand's next project was Atlas Shrugged, the idea for which had been developing in her mind since the early 1940s. She later described the book as the most difficult writing challenge of her life. Half way through the manuscript, she received a long letter from a psychology student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) named Nathan Blumenthal, who had become enthralled by her philosophical writings. She eventually invited him to visit, and a relationship developed that would have enormous consequences on both their lives. Blumenthal was involved romantically with a young philosophy student named Barbara Weidman, who was equally eager to meet the famous individualist philosopher. Later on during Barbara's college years she brought one of her philosophy professors, Hans Meyerhoff, to meet Rand. Barbara's recollection of their discussion captures the unique intellect possessed by Ayn Rand -- and the unfortunate extent to which moral relativism dominated the thinking of all too many university-trained intellectuals:

He was not an admirer of her work; his views were diametrically opposed to hers; but he was a man widely respected in his field who had expressed great interest in meeting Ayn. It was a memorable evening. They talked and argued with mutually enthusiastic pleasure; Ayn was at her most incisive and spirited, marshaling powerful arguments for her positions. They discussed metaphysics: he was a Platonist, Ayn an Aristotelian; they discussed morality: he was a utilitarian, she an advocate of self-interest; they discussed politics: he was a socialist, she an advocate of capitalism. At dawn, as the professor and I left, he said to me, clearly distressed: "She's found gaping holes in every philosophical position I've maintained for the whole of my life -- positions I teach my students, positions on what I'm a recognized authority -- and I can't answer her arguments! I don't know what to do!" He found a solution: he refused to see Ayn again, and he went on maintaining his former views.[56]

Meyerhoff also resorted to attacking Barbara Weidman for her acceptance of Ayn Rand's moral philosophy. Throughout the remainder of her college years, however, Barbara and Nathan continued their debates -- with socialists, liberals and conservatives, none of whom they concluded could rationally support their beliefs. They were convinced Randians, ready to dedicate their lives to the teaching of the ideas to which they had been introduced by Ayn Rand.

In 1951, soon after graduation from UCLA, Nathan and Barbara left California to pursue graduate degrees at New York University. Not long thereafter, Ayn Rand and her husband moved back to New York as well, where Rand felt she needed to be in order to complete Atlas Shrugged. Her relations with mainstream conservatives did not improve. At every turn she found moral and logical inconsistencies in the interventionist agenda of liberalism:

The conservatives want freedom to act in the material world; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man's spirit, i.e., man's consciousness; they advocate the State's right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect. The liberals want freedom to act in the spiritual realm; they oppose censorship, they oppose government control of ideas, of the arts, of the press, of education. ...But they advocate government control of material production, of business, of employment, of wages, of profits, of all physical property -- they advocate it all the way down to total expropriation. ... each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important; each grants freedom only to the activities it despises.[57]

The influence of Ayn Rand was beginning to spread. Nathan (changing his own name to Nathaniel Branden) and Barbara married in January of 1953. While still at NYU, they were instrumental in finding others who were attracted to Rand's philosophy of individualism. The small but growing group included Leonard Peikoff (a philosophy student at NYU) and economist Alan Greenspan. Four years later Atlas Shrugged was published by Random House. From the left, the book was attacked by Granville Hicks and others as a pathetic defense of Social-Darwinism. From the right, Whittaker Chambers reviewed the book for William F. Buckley's National Review, attacking Rand as a philosopher of godless technocracy. "It would be difficult to find a reviewer whose intellectual history was more representative of the villains of Atlas Shrugged -- the villains of 'faith and force' -- and more certain to be antagonized by its philosophy,"[58] concluded Barbara Branden. Despite the reviews (or, perhaps, in part because of them), Atlas Shrugged sold well. Yet, Ayn Rand fell into a depression because, as she said, "there was no one to object to the attacks, no one to oppose them, no one with a public name, a public reputation, a public voice, to speak for her in that world which was vilifying her, to defend her, to fight for her, to name the nature and the stature of her accomplishment."[59] Out of her struggle came the idea from Nathaniel to establish an institute in which her philosophy -- now associated with the term "objectivism," could be systematically taught:

Suppose I create a course of lectures -- say, twenty lectures -- that would distill the essence of your philosophy -- epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political economy, literary aesthetics, and perhaps some of my work in psychology -- and suppose I offer this to people ... within commuting distance of New York who have written you fan letters, and we can see what happens.[60]

And so, in 1958 the Nathaniel Branden Institute offered its first classes in New York City. Alan Greenspan and Leonard Peikoff joined as instructors. Their lectures were tape-recorded and used as the basis for discussion sessions in cities throughout North America and internationally. John Chamberlain wrote in the Wall Street Journal, about this thriving new intellectual enterprise:

Seated about in booths in college-town snack shops, the young Randites talk about their intellectual leader as their fathers and mothers a generation ago talked about Karl Marx, or John Maynard Keynes, or Thorstein Veblen. ...And it is normally a matter of two decades before the young take over the seats of power in the name of what they have learned to believe 20 years ago.[61]

Each year the Institute's lectures attracted more and more students. Branden expanded the number of courses offered and launched the Objectivist movement.

Beginning in 1960, Ayn Rand presented her ideas directly to the nation's students, lecturing at virtually all of the major universities to large and enthusiastic audiences. She also began writing a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times. In For the New Intellectual, published in 1961, she seemed to be calling out to the Remnant, searching for others who had given thoughtful reflection on the threat of moral relativism to human civilization:

America's intellectual leadership has collapsed. Her virtues, her values, her enormous power are scattered in a silent underground and will remain private, subjective, historically impotent if left without intellectual expression. America is a country without voice or defense -- a country sold out and abandoned by her intellectual bodyguards. ...

...In politics, we are told that America, the greatest, noblest, freest country on earth, is politically and morally inferior to Soviet Russia, the bloodiest dictatorship in history -- and that our wealth should be given away to the savages of Asia and Africa, with apologies for the fact that we have produced it while they haven't. If we look at modern intellectuals, we are confronted with the grotesque spectacle of such characteristics as militant uncertainty, crusading cynicism, dogmatic agnosticism, boastful self-abasement and self-righteous depravity -- in an atmosphere of guilt, of panic, of despair, of boredom and of all-pervasive evasion. If this is not the state of being at the end of one's resources, there is no further place to go.

Everybody seems to agree that civilization is facing a crisis, but nobody cares to define its nature, to discover its cause and to assume the responsibility of formulating a solution. ...If we ask our intellectual leaders what are the ideals we should fight for, their answer is such a sticky puddle of stale syrup -- of benevolent bromides and apologetic generalities about brother love, global progress and universal prosperity at America's expense -- that a fly would not die for it or in it. ...

[A] human being cannot live his life moment by moment; a human consciousness preserves a certain continuity and demands a certain degree of integration, whether a man seeks it or not. A human being needs a frame of reference, a comprehensive view of existence, no matter how rudimentary, and, since his consciousness is volitional, a sense of being right, a moral justification of his actions, which means: a philosophical code of values. ...

...Morality is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions; when it is set to oppose his own life and mind, it makes him turn against himself and blindly act as the tool of his own destruction. ...

...In any age or society, there are men who think and work, who discover how to deal with existence, how to produce the intellectual and the material values it requires. These are the men whose effort is the only means of survival for the parasites of all varieties; the Attilas, the Witch Doctors and the human ballast. The ballast consists of those who go through life in a state of unfocused stupor, merely repeating the words and the motions they learned from others. But the men from whom they learn, the men who are first to discover any scrap of new knowledge, are the men who deal with reality, with the task of conquering nature, and who, to that extent, assume the responsibility of cognition: of exercising their rational faculty. ...

The producers, so far, have been the forgotten men of history. With the exception of a few brief periods, the producers have not been the leaders or the term-setters of men's societies, although the degree of their influence and freedom was the degree of a society's welfare and progress. ...[62]

And, finally, Ayn Rand expresses her confidence that within the system of capitalism (defined as a highly purified version of agrarian and industrial landlordism, the problem of rent-seeking left unresolved) lies the potential and hope for human progress:

Capitalism wiped out slavery in matter and in spirit. It replaced Attila and the Witch Doctor, the looter of wealth and the purveyor of revelations, with two new types of man: the producer of wealth and the purveyor of knowledge -- the businessman and the intellectual.

Capitalism demands the best of every man -- his rationality -- and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to choose the work he likes, to specialize in it, to trade his product for the products of others, and to go as far on the road of achievement as his abilities and ambition will carry him. His success depends on the objective value of his work and on the rationality of those who recognize that value. When men are free to trade, with reason and reality as their only arbiter, when no man may use physical force to extort the consent of another, it is the best product and the best judgment that win in every field of human endeavor, and raise the standard of living -- and of thought -- ever higher for all those who take part in mankind's productive activity.[63]

As far as these words go, they hold important truths. I have searched without success through Ayn Rand's writings for evidence that she understood that what Attilas and Witch Doctors began, businessmen and intellectuals have defended and continued; namely, the entrenched control over access to nature as the means by which they could continue to extort rent from the wages and interest of producers. She seems to be in agreement with Georgists and cooperative individualists, when she writes: "All property and all forms of wealth are produced by man's mind and labor."[64] But, she elaborates not on the land question. In the end, one is left without an answer to questions of whether Rand saw in the private appropriation of rent a threat to the success of capitalism. She was born into a society where the concentration of land ownership brought on upheaval, confiscation by the State of both nature and production, and the use of mass murder as a policy of eliminating opposition. She came to a society still benefiting from the broad (but declining) access to nature and the protection under law (also declining) of the principle that what one produces with one's labor and capital goods belongs to the producer. Had she never read Tolstoy's Resurrection? Had she failed to understand that the need for access to nature had driven people everywhere to desperate actions in their quest for survival? Had she no recollection of the attempts by cooperative individualists in Russia to make land common property?

Barbara Branden writes that Ayn Rand admired Alexander Kerensky -- the one person who might have provided enlightened leadership to the Russian peoples -- as "a man who stood for freedom and the individual."[65] When Rand writes in 1961 that "[t]he guilt of the intellectuals, in the nineteenth century, was that they never discovered capitalism,"[66] does she mean, perhaps, that neither Thomas Paine nor Henry George were intellectuals; or, did her education in socio-political philosophy and political economy remain incomplete? When another expatriate individualist from Soviet Russia, Jacob (Jack) Schwartzman, interviewed Kerensky in 1967 (Kerensky was then eighty-four), the aged Russian politician revealed that he understood state-socialism's inherent weaknesses. He consoled himself with the thought that the Soviet state would eventually fall and be replaced by a society with greater citizen participation:

The generations of the future will return to a free life. Democracy -- which had so brief a trial in 1917 -- will be restored. Freedom -- a classic concept of our writers and dreamers -- will triumph in Russia. Dictatorship will die.[67]

Today, in light of recent events, we can only wonder whether Kerensky also foresaw that in the absence of the Soviet state or the Russian imperial empire, the impulse of ethnic nationalism and of tribalism would arise anew to challenge the concept of a democratically-governed federation. Ayn Rand believed the drive by ethnic nationalists for sovereignty was "the product of irrationalism and collectivism."[68] She recognized and detailed in her writings the long-term consequences of tribalism; however, what she ignores is the full historical context. Tribal warfare has been a part of the human experience since long before people developed the art of recording history. Many of these wars were conducted as wars of annihilation, as preventive measures against the possibility of future retaliation. The quest for sovereignty by groups that survive under long domination by external tribes or empires is a cause passed on from generation to generation. Such societies do not nurture transnational thinking. For these people, who look to the past for heroes and the future for opportunity, sovereignty obtained is linked to self-esteem; and, to the extent self-esteem is accompanied by general economic well-being, individualism within the group will be tolerated and, perhaps, eventually nurtured. In societies where immigration and integration are encouraged by positive law tied to equality of opportunity, the lure of tribalism is diminished (although, as in the case of the United States, Canada, Australia and the few other destination countries of large-scale migration, numerous ethnic communities have continued to exist for generations). Inexplicably, Ayn Rand did not see that even in the United States ethnicity remained as an isolating and insulating dynamic. She looked to the socio-political institutions of the Democracy with deep respect and urged the thoughtful in the United States to be on guard against the coercive arm of the State, encroaching as it was on the rights of the individual while professing to stand for equality of opportunity achieved through liberalism and Keynesian policies transformed into the mixed economy. The Democracy was an experiment in individual freedom unique in history, to be treasured and nurtured. "The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was," Rand declared, "the subordination of society to moral law."[69] And, under moral law -- at least where property was concerned -- the individual possessed the right to engage in production and to retain ownership of what was produced:

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 not means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.[70]

This was a statement cooperative individualists could certainly accept and identify with. Allowing the private appropriation of rent, they would add, represented a violation of moral law as well as an exercise of economic license the result of which is an unjust claim on the wealth produced by others.

Within the Remnant, the core group of individualists found even more reason to applaud the success of Ayn Rand in once again raising the antistatist banner. Individualists from all over the world were in contact with Nathaniel Branden and the institute he established in New York. Ayn Rand clubs flourished on college and university campuses throughout the United States. At a time when liberalism was emerging as the program of choice for social welfare advocates and national security state interventionists alike, the writings of one woman raised uncomfortable questions mainstream intellectuals thought expedient to ignore.

What Ayn Rand's writing had initiated, what her public persona had nurtured, her private character would eventually destroy. Her relationship with Nathaniel Branden had gone from one of nurturing a devoted protégé to involvement in an extramarital affair (of which both of their spouses were painfully aware) and finally one of domination and guilt. Rand found that she could not live up to the standards of rational behavior Objectivism demanded. She became, according to the Brandens, extraordinarily self-centered and intolerant of any challenges to her pronouncements. This is, in large part, why those instinctively repulsed by libertarian ideals tended to agree with characterizations such as that by Charles Lam Markmann, who described Objectivism as "Ayn Rand's brutal philosophy of selfish enrichment and ruthlessness to the less competent."[71] Clinton Rossiter comes much closer to identifying the source of distaste for Ayn Rand among those who embraced the national security state when he writes: "Miss Rand presents as big a problem to the philosophers of ultra-conservatism as McCarthy did to the practitioners."[72] Objectivism, rising from the pages of her novels, was nonetheless capturing the minds of the very college-age youth cultivated with much less success by William F. Buckley in his National Review and Frank Chodorov with the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. As already mentioned, Rand dismissed Whittaker Chambers, to whom Buckley had assigned the task of reviewing Atlas Shrugged, as a person whose moral fiber was obviously lacking. After meeting with Buckley personally, she described him to Nathaniel and Barbara Branden as: "Clever, but an intellectual light-weight. An opportunist. Very 'social'; not genuinely interested in ideas. And potentially dangerous, if he acquires an influence -- because he tells people that the foundation of capitalism is religious faith, which implies that reason and science are on the side of the collectivists."[73]

There would be no rapprochement between the interventionist conservatism of Buckley and the objectivist individualism espoused by Rand. By her moral standards, the national security state interventionists advocated the violation of individual liberty in their willingness to make use of coercion to advance the American System and fight communist inroads against totalitarian dictatorships. Her own moral principles depended not on a higher law (i.e., god's law), nor even on the moral sense of right and wrong, but on the reasoning capabilities of the individual. Anti-communism, to Ayn Rand, had nothing to do with defending god against heathens. Bolsheviks and their kind were simply another gang of bloodthirsty monsters determined to gain and wield power regardless of the cost in human lives. What, then, does the moral individual, living in a society governed by reason, do in the face of such an external threat? In an address to the graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Ayn Rand offered her perspective:

In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. ...

The army of a free country has a great responsibility: the right to use force, but not as an instrument of compulsion and brute conquest -- as the armies of other countries have done in their histories -- only as an instrument of a free nation's self-defense, which means: the defense of a man's individual rights. The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right. The highest integrity and sense of honor are required for such a task. ...[74]

By the time Rand delivered this speech, the United States had already had troops in Southeast Asia for more than a decade. Those within the foreign policy establishment and those who served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon have asked us to remember the context of the times before passing judgment on their decisions to commit U.S. military power against the North Vietnamese. Only by a great stretch of the truth can one claim U.S. leaders were motivated by a commitment to assist the people of Vietnam in establishing a democracy. Intervention was ostensibly justified in order to protect the right of the Vietnamese people to vote; and, as Ayn Rand observed, "American soldiers were asked to die ... to secure that privilege for the South Vietnamese, who had no other rights and no knowledge of rights or freedom."[75]

Interestingly, by the time of her speech in 1974 Rand was willing to include Taiwan with Israel as the only two countries that -- on the basis of U.S. self-interest -- warranted U.S. assistance. Formosan students in the U.S. and Canada had been actively organizing from the early 1960s on to free Formosa of mainland Chinese domination. On Formosa, anyone who criticized the Kuomintang regime stood a good chance of disappearing never to be heard from again. Despite the obvious despotism of the government in Formosa, anti-communist rhetoric yielded the results Ayn Rand suggested were appropriate. Economist Shirley W.Y. Kuo of the National Taiwan University wrote in 1983 that between 1951 and 1965 "U.S. aid comprised more than 30% of domestic investment each year, sometimes reaching more than 50%, and was the main financial source of domestic investment before 1961."[76] Only after the death in 1988 of Chiang Kai-shek's son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo, has the heavy hand of single-party government softened. When George Kerr's book was reprinted in 1992, expatriate Formosan Tsung-yi Lin added a new preface, expressing his hope that finally "a democratic Formosa will play a greater role in East Asia as an example for the region and for the world."[77] Many were sacrificed for that opportunity, during a period when (as Ayn Rand suggests) reason dictated an acceptance of realpolitik in lieu of principle as the operative basis for U.S. foreign policy decisions. What, I wonder, does one say to those whose parents, or brothers or sisters perished at the hands of despots to whom the United States provided the financial reserves to consolidate their power and build a totalitarian police state - simply because they declared themselves to be staunch anti-communists?

Down the Long Dark Road

Within months after the French defeat in Indochina, Dwight Eisenhower had John Foster Dulles on the road charged with the task of creating an anti-communist Pacific alliance. Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand agreed to join with the United States in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Eisenhower then ignored agreements reached between the French and the Viet Minh in Geneva concerning Vietnam, providing U.S. financial assistance to Ngo Dinh Diem in order to forestall the wholesale communist takeover of North and South Vietnam. Despite warnings contained in CIA reports that Diem's regime was authoritarian and had made almost no attempts to introduce democratic processes or economic reforms, Diem was warmly welcomed by Establishment leaders in the United States as a bulwark of anti-communist stability in Asia.

By virtue of its knee-jerk anti-communist approach to dealing with the diverse people of the developing world, the United States was fast losing the moral high ground and its claim as postwar architect of participatory government. While pressuring the British and French to abandon their lingering imperial and colonial aspirations, the Eisenhower-Dulles era became one of U.S. expansionism closely linked to the interests of resource-extracting corporations. To the extent business and foreign policy interests seemed to run parallel, the process was nurtured and financed by the U.S. government. In the prevailing atmosphere, transnationals were powerless to prevent these actions. Soviet expansionism, on the other hand, rarely gave consideration to economic benefit returned. Khrushchev looked for every possible opening left by the departure of Old World powers to support socialist revolutionary factions. Both superpowers felt compelled to vie for the allegiance of leaders governing nations at the periphery. And, where existing leaders proved unreliable, neither superpower was beyond covert intervention.

Eisenhower's prestige as leader of a liberating society fell rather substantially when the United States lamely accepted Soviet military intervention in Hungary during 1956. Khrushchev confidently installed a government the Soviets knew they could control. From Hungarian expatriate Charles K. Ravasz, who contributed an analysis of the uprising to the Georgist publication Land & Liberty, readers learned that many of those involved in the rebellion and who controlled Hungary's surviving literary and scientific periodicals were "known to be well acquainted with the teachings of Henry George."[78] Bold writers, such as George Peter-Pikler had attacked the premises of the centrally-planned economy and Marxist economic theory in general. In the brief period of reawakened Hungarian nationalism, under the premiership of Imre Nagy, writers Ravasz knew as Georgists were once again in the vanguard of the freedom movement. Ravasz, by then an Australian citizen, made no suggestion that the West had by its near-silence abandoned a just cause to despotism. Rather, Ravasz pointed to the message of Milovan Djilas, whose article in The New Leader he paraphrased:

[T]he most reactionary element in the Soviet Union realised that they had to crush the Hungarian revolution because its success would have demonstrated that it was possible to establish a society in which there was no exploitation of man by man in which the individual enjoyed freedom. This would have rendered completely invalid the argument that it was necessary to maintain a terror regime to prevent exploitation and would have shown that this argument was nothing but a pretext under which the Soviet bureaucracy itself was exploiting the masses.[79]

Twenty years later, two other Hungarians would condemn the system of Eastern European state-socialism as "a new system of oppression and exploitation of the working class."[80] Arrested as subversives even before their manuscript was completed, George Konrad and Ivan Szelenyi were (remarkably, even for the mid-1970s) offered the opportunity to leave Hungary. Szelenyi, like Ravasz, made his new home in Australia.

What the experience of the Hungarians in 1956 revealed to others living behind the iron curtain was that liberation from Soviet domination, or from state socialism, would come about only as a result of a decline in Soviet power. Moreover, the actions of the United States demonstrated acceptance of containment as the only realistic foreign policy alternative in the face of Soviet offensive military capabilities. The Soviet leaders contributed to their own eventual demise by foolishly committing the Soviet Union to a militaristic spending war with the social democracies, determined to demonstrate the superiority of state socialism as a system of wealth production. John Strachey, in his widely-read book on the decline of imperialism, thought the Soviet empire already in serious disarray by 1959. Khrushchev unleashed the pent-up frustrations of the Soviet peoples, millions of whom had been released from the work camps, and their anger gradually coalesced into spontaneous dissent. Cracks in the Soviet system of control began to appear after the publication in the West of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, a book deemed counter-revolutionary by the Soviet regime. Khrushchev was gone from power when, in 1967, the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg tried to put into perspective the consequences of Stalin on the communist quest for socialism:

The old argument about whether ends justify means seems to me abstract. The end is not a signpost pointing along the road but something quite real in itself; it is present reality, not the dreams of tomorrow but the actions of today: the end must dictate not only political strategy but morality too. One cannot establish justice by consciously committing unjust acts; one cannot work for equality by turning people into 'cogs' and 'screws' and oneself into a mythical deity. The means always affects the end, it dignifies or distorts it.[81]

I want the young Soviet readers of these memoirs to understand that it is impossible to delete a quarter of a century of our history. Under Stalin our people transformed backward Russia into a powerful modern State, built [cities], dug canals, made roads and smashed Hitler's armies which had conquered the whole of Europe; this people had studied, read, matured spiritually and performed such feats that it may rightfully be considered the hero of the twentieth century. All this is well known to every Soviet citizen who worked and lived at that time. But no matter what job we felt in our successes, no matter how much we admired the unbreakable, unshakeable spirit and talent of our people, no matter how highly we valued Stalin's intellect, we could not live at peace with our consciences and we tried in vain not to think about certain things. We knew that side by side with the great achievements of which the press informed us, unjust and foul deeds were being done of which people spoke in whispers, and then only among their closest friends.[82]

Ehrenburg wrote of how, in that first post-Stalinist thaw, the moral sense of his fellow citizens began to once again emerge. He still believed in socialism and in the dialectics of Marx. However, one could legitimately begin to ask whether the Soviet people would pull their society toward democratic socialism and a commitment to a respect for human rights existing independent of the State. In fact, a human rights movement emerged when mathematician Alexander Esenin-Volpin, released from prison in Siberia after Stalin's death, agitated for government adherence to the law. Khrushchev's government responded by introducing reforms that limited the application of the death penalty and reduced sentences for other crimes. The power of the KGB to independently investigate and arrest Soviet citizens was also curtailed. The thaw allowed the first volume of Ehrenburg's memoirs to be published; and, in 1962, Solzhenitsn's career as a novelist began with publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. As might have been expected, however, the avalanche of reformist writings elicited a conservative reaction from Khrushchev and the Central Committee. For the first time under the Soviet regime, public opinion was challenging the government's actions. In the face of worsening economic conditions, Soviet citizens began to organize and emboldened workers called strikes. Intellectuals were not yet prepared or inclined to repudiate socialism as a socio-political system, but a significant minority were becoming increasingly restless under the constraints imposed on their intellectual freedom by the machinery of state socialism.

Sadly for the cause of human rights, the power of enlightened transnationals to influence the foreign and domestic policies of their respective societies remained very low. Standing in the way of the peaceful and incremental discarding of monopoly privilege and state-sanctioned criminal and economic forms of license were those who benefited by existing arrangements. They used their influence to thwart any objective examination of the status quo. The same mentality operated, it must be said, in Britain, France, the United States and virtually every other society. Along with the struggle over control of socio-political institutions, the world's people needed to understand the true nature of their oppression, so that one form of tyranny was not simply removed to be supplanted by another.

CH 1 CH 2 CH 3 CH 4 CH 5 CH 6
1.1 2.1 3.1 4.1 5.1 6.1
1.2 2.2 3.2 4.2 5.2 6.2
1.3 2.3 3.3 4.3 5.3 6.3
1.4 2.4 3.4 4.4 5.4 6.4