In my last essay, I summarized some leading ideas of Auguste Comte, who coined the word “altruism” and defended the subordination of individuals to humanity (“the Great Being”) as the ultimate moral ideal. I also characterized Rand’s conception of altruism as the “negative image” of Comte’s. The contrast between Comte and Rand could not be more stark. According to Comte, for example, “Humanity is divisible primarily into States, then into Families, never into individuals;” and man’s “emotional nature” should be “paramount” over his reason. Similar fundamental differences abound throughout the writings of Comte and Rand—as we see in Comte’s assertion that wealth should be held “in trust” for the good of humanity, and that “industrial chiefs” should be viewed as “representatives of Humanity,” whose ultimate purpose is to serve humanity as a whole rather than their own interests. Although I doubt if Rand ever read Comte in detail, some of her statements appear to be direct responses, in effect, to his claims. Consider this passage from Roark’s courtroom speech in The Fountainhead: Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. Comte, in contrast, demanded the “constant subordination of private to public life.” Indeed, an important...
On 4 July 1943, Ayn Rand wrote to John C. Gall, a conservative attorney and fan of The Fountainhead: A great many Republicans would be scared to death to recognize that altruism is the curse of the world and that as long as we go on screaming “service” and “self-sacrifice” louder than the New Deal we will never have a chance. In any encounter with collectivists it is always the acceptance of altruism as an ideal not to be questioned that defeats us. I wrote The Fountainhead to show, in human terms, just what that ideal actually means and where we must stand if we want to win. If we can make the word “altruism” become a shameful term, which it actually is, instead of the automatic trademark of virtue which people think it to be—we will get the Tooheys out of Washington someday. Although the Tooheys still dominate American politics, and although most Americans do not view “altruism” as a shameful term, much less the curse of the world, Ayn Rand convinced many people to question the conventional wisdom that self-sacrifice is a virtue, especially when enforced by the coercive power of government. “Altruism,” according to Rand, means “the placing of others above self, of their interests above one’s own.” This account is consistent with standard dictionary definitions of “altruism,” such as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.” But Rand departed radically from conventional wisdom in...
On December 5, 1933, Congress ratified the 21st Amendment and repealed Prohibition. While Ayn Rand personally rarely drank alcohol, she opposed the government ban. She even applauded Americans who broke the law and “began drinking on principle in the face of Prohibition.” Rand wrote a number of memorable scenes that featured drinks with friends. While she wrote about drunkenness in a negative light, typically drinks among intimates served as counterpoint to unresolved conflicts. In We the Living, Rand’s first novel, Andrei Taganov skips a Communist Party meeting to take his lover Kira Argounova to the rooftop garden of the European Hotel.  Andrei, who has been a Communist Party member his entire life and who fought on the front lines of the October 1917 revolution, has just admitted to Kira that he has been wrong about everything: “I know, then, that a life is possible whose only justification is my own joy–then everything, everything else suddenly seems very different to me.” Kira, concerned that Andrei’s self-realization may be too late and too risky, tries to divert the conversation, suggesting that they have drinks. Andrei orders the drinks, but remains oblivious to the danger and earnestly offers a toast to his new life: “He watched the glow of the glass at her lips, a long, thin, shivering line of liquid light between fingers that looked golden in its reflection. He said: ‘Let’s drink a toast to...
We often think of entrepreneurs as larger-than-life characters. They take big risks. They make their own rules. They innovate and experiment, questioning things everybody else takes for granted. It can almost seem like entrepreneurs are a breed apart. But they’re not. All of us are born with the ability to take risks, think creatively and challenge the everyday way of doing things. And as hokey as this can sound, we would all do well to tap into those traits in both our lives and our careers, whether we work for ourselves or not. What does that mean? In every aspect of our lives, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut unless we think creatively and take some risks. Without imagination, for instance, family life can seem confining and limiting--but, if we apply some entrepreneurial spark, it can become an adventure where we are committed to each family member’s development. Leisure activities–arts, sports, travel–can be mechanical and routine if we approach them in the usual way. Or we can experiment and try new things, so that we approach our extracurricular time with a renewed zest. There from the Start Sure, everybody knows on some level that it’s good to try new things and look at the world from a fresh perspective. But we don’t often live that way. So it’s important to remind ourselves from time to time that we have much to gain by taking on that challenge. It helps to remember that all of this once came naturally to us. Think of a three-year-old struggling with a project. A...
In the fall of 1943, Warner Brothers paid Ayn Rand $50,000 for the movie rights to The Fountainhead and for Rand to write the screenplay. On November 25, 1943, she and her husband Frank O’Connor packed their things, left their apartment in New York City, made their way to the train station, and embarked by rail for Hollywood with first-class accommodations. Rand proudly wore a new mink coat that she purchased from Saks Fifth Avenue after signing the contract. Their return to Hollywood came nine years after they left it for New York to stage her play The Night of January 16th.  With the success of the The Fountainhead and the new movie contract, Rand and O’Connor returned to Hollywood...

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