Home / Ayn Rand vs. Mike Wallace - liberty vs. collectivism  
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Ayn Rand warned us. She did it in her books such as Atlas Shrugged (and, to a certain extent, >The Fountainhead). She did it on TV such as in this famous interview between her and Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. She explained why the collectivist ideology that supports Socialism is morally (and, by extension, pragmatically) wrong. Atlas Shrugged predicted, almost exactly, what is happening in America and the world today (which is one of the reasons Atlas Shrugged is selling so well). We already know that most people didn't and don't vote for this system. In the following interview, where is she wrong? She claims we can't intellectually justify being our brother's keeper through the initiation of force. Can we?


Mike Wallace: How does your philosophy translate itself into the world of politics? Now one of the principle achievements of this country in the past 20 years, particularly I think, most people agree, is the gradual growth of social and protective legislation, based on the principle that we are our brothers keepers. How do you feel about the political trends of the United States?

Ayn Rand: The way everybody feels except more consciously. I feel that it is terrible, that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster, until, and unless, all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected. It is precisely these trends which are bringing the world to disaster, because we are now moving towards complete collectivism or socialism. A system under which everybody is enslaved to everybody, and we are moving that way only because of our altruist morality.

Mike Wallace: Ah... Yes, but you say everybody is enslaved to everybody, yet this came about democratically Ayn. A free people in a free country, voted for this kind of government, wanted this kind of legislation. Do you object to the democratic process?

Ayn Rand: I object to the idea that people have the right to vote on everything. The traditional American system was a system based on the idea that majority will prevail only in public or political affairs. And that it was limited by inalienable individual rights. Therefore I do not believe that a majority can vote a man's life, or property, or freedom away from him. Therefore, I do not believe that if a majority votes on any issue, that this makes the issue right, it doesn't.

Mike Wallace: Alright, then how do we arrive at action? How should we arrive at action?

Ayn Rand: By voluntary consent, voluntary cooperation of free men, unforced.

Mike Wallace: And how do we arrive at our leadership? Who elects, who appoints?

Ayn Rand: The whole people elects. There is nothing wrong with the democratic process in politics. We arrive at it, the way we arrived by the American Constitution as it used to be. By the constitutional powers, as we had it, people elect officials, but the powers of those officials, the powers of government are strictly limited. They will have no right to initiate force, or compulsion against any citizen, except a criminal. Those who have initiated force will be punished by force, and that is the only proper function of government. What we would not permit is the government to initiate force against people, who have hurt no one, who have not forced anyone. We would not give the government, or the majority, or any minority, the right to take the life or the property of others. That was the original American system.

Mike Wallace: When you say take the property of others, I imagine that you are talking now about taxes.

Ayn Rand: Yes I am.

Mike Wallace: And you believe there should be no right by the government to tax, you believe that there should be no such thing as welfare legislation, unemployment compensation, regulation during times of stress, certain kinds of rent controls, and things like that.

Ayn Rand: That's right. I'm opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy. Let me put it briefly, I'm for the separation of state and economics. Just as we had separation of state and church, which led to peaceful co-existence among different religions, after a period of religious wars, so the same applies to economics. If you separate the government from economics, if you do not regulate production and trade, you will have peaceful cooperation and harmony and justice among men.

Mike Wallace: You are certainly enough of a political scientist to know that certain movements spring up in reaction to other movements. The labor movement for instance, certain social welfare legislation. This did not spring full blown from somebody's head. I mean, out of a vacuum. This was a reaction to certain abuses that were going on, isn't that true Ayn?

Ayn Rand: Not always, it actually sprang up from the same source as the abuses. If by abuses you mean the legislation which, originally, had been established to help industrialists, which was already a breach of complete free enterprise, if then, in reaction, labor leaders get together to, initiate legislation to help labor, that is only acting on the same principle. Namely, all parties agreeing that it is proper for the state to legislate in favor of one economic group or another. What I'm saying is that nobody should have the right, neither employers nor employees, to use state compulsion and force for their own interests.

Mike Wallace: When you advocate for completely unregulated economic life in which every man works for his own profit, you're asking in a sense for a devil take the high most, dog eat dog society, and one of the main reasons for the growth of government controls, was to fight the robber barons, to fight laissez-faire, in which the very people whom you admire the most, Ayn, the hard headed industrialist, the successful men, perverted the use of their power. Is that not true?

Ayn Rand: No it isn't. This country was made not by robber barons, but by independent men, by industrialists, who succeeded on sheer ability. By ability, I mean without political force, help, or compulsion. But at the same time, there were men, industrialists who did use government power as a club to help them against competitors. They were the original collectivists. Today, the liberals believe that the same compulsion should be used against the industrialists for the sake of workers, but the basic principle there is, "should there be any compulsion?" And the regulations are creating robber barons, they are creating capitalists with government help, which is the worst of all economic phenomenon.

Mike Wallace: Ayn, I think that you will agree with me when I say that you do not have a good deal of respect for the society in which you and I currently live. You think that we're going down hill fairly fast. Now I would like you to think about this question, and you'll have a minute intermission to ponder it and then come back and answer it. Do you predict dictatorship and economic disaster, for the United States, if we continue on our present course? Do you? And we'll get Ayn Rand's answer in just a moment. And now back to our story. Alright Ayn Rand what I'd like to know is this, since you describe it as happening in your novel Atlas Shrugged, do you actually predict dictatorship and economic disaster for the United States?

Ayn Rand: If the present collectivist trend continues, if the present anti-reason philosophy continues, yes, that is the way the country is going. But, I do not believe in historical determinism, and I do not believe that people have to go that way. Men have the free will to choose and to think. If they change their thinking, we do not have to go into dictatorship.

Mike Wallace: Yes, but how can you expect to reverse this trend when, as we've said the country is run by majority rule, through ballot, and that majority seems to prefer to vote for this modified welfare state?

Ayn Rand: Oh... I don't believe that. You know as well as I do, that the majority today has no choice. The majority has never been offered a choice between controls and freedom.

Mike Wallace: How do you account for the fact that an almost overwhelming majority of the people, whom are regarded as our leading intellectuals, and our leading industrialists, the men whom you seem to admire the most, the men with the muscle and the money, favor the modified capitalism that we have today?

Ayn Rand: Ah... because it is an intellectual issue. Since they all believe in collectivism, they do favor it, but the majority of the people has never been given a choice. You know that both parties today are for socialism, in effect, for controls, and there is no party, there are no voices to offer an actual, pro-capitalist, laissez-faire, economic freedom, and individualism. That is what this country needs today.

Mike Wallace: Isn't possible that they all, we all believe in it because we are all basically lonely people, and we all understand that we are basically our brother's keepers?

Ayn Rand: You couldn't say that you really understand it because there is no way in which you could justify it. Nobody has ever given a reason why men should be their brother's keepers, and you've had every example, and you see the examples around you, of men parishing by the attempt to be their brother's keepers.

Mike Wallace: You have no faith in anything?

Ayn Rand: Faith? No.

Mike Wallace: Only in your mind.

Ayn Rand: That is not faith. That is a conviction.

Ayn Rand Interview with Mike Wallace (1959) Part 2 of 3 Transcribed (10-minute video)


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Nov 15, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=383

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