The Moral Basis of Individualism

Ayn Rand

[Reprinted from The Intellectual Activist, November 1995;
originally from Ayn Rand's journals]

[The Intellectual Activist is pleased to present selections from Chapter 8 of a forthcoming book of Ayn Rand's journals. David Harriman, the book's editor, has provided the following introduction to these excerpts.]

Soon after completing The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand contracted with her publisher (Bobbs-Merrill) to write a short nonfiction book giving a systematic presentation of the novel's ethics and politics. Her working title for the book was The Moral Basis of Individualism.

Ayn Rand's notes for this book provide a fascinating record of her philosophic development during the period between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In reading these notes, we see her in the process of discovering and clarifying many of the ideas that she later presented in Galt's speech. Her formulations here should not be taken as final or definitive; rather, they are her notes to herself while she is working out how to present Objectivism as a systematic philosophy.

Her journal for The Moral Basis of Individualism can be viewed as a progression with three stages. She begins in September of 1943 by writing a foreword and an unworked draft of the first three chapters. She then stops work on the draft and instead begins asking herself questions and thinking aloud on paper. Finally, in the summer of 1945, she critiques her original draft and rewrites part of it before deciding to drop the project. To illustrate this progression, I have chosen excerpts from all three stages. The selection comprises about one fifth of the journal, which will be presented in its entirety in the forthcoming book.


September 4, 1943


Mankind is committing suicide.

The peculiarity of the present world disaster is that every group of men in every country is the originator of its own destruction. Men are not fighting one another for self-preservation. They are each fighting all for the right to annihilate oneself as fast as possible.

Intellectuals such as Trotsky worked to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia; they have been murdered by that dictatorship. Industrialists such as [Fritz] Thyssen, and church leaders such as [Martin] Niemoller, worked to bring about the Nazi regime in Germany; they have been exterminated. [The preceding two sentences were crossed out.] American labor union leaders caused the creation of Labor Boards; these are now the instruments through which labor union leaders are being sent to jail. Republicans who decry the New Deal usurpation of power are now advocating the passage of a labor conscription act which would give the New Deal its last, winning step toward total power over this country.

Conservatives, anxious to preserve capitalism, are supporting this measure which would turn citizens into serfs--which would be the end of capitalism, for it cannot function through serfs. Leaders of racial minorities are advocating the destruction of the American system of government--which is the only system that ever has or can protect a racial minority. Intellectuals have embraced, en masse and in toto, the doctrine of collectivism--under which the intellectual professions are the least possible and the first to go. Name a group of men and you are naming that group's murderers.