Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal – Book Review
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand.
This book is a collection of essays by various authors (though mostly Rand) explaining why Capitalism (pure unrestricted Capitalism) is the only moral economic system in existence. It was published in the 1960’s and is strangely relevant today.
The authors rail on collectivism and the mixed economy. They attack the Sherman Act and criticize protesters in Berkeley. If an idea promotes, or an action results in force upon one person or group by another, the authors destroy the philosophical underpinnings of the idea or group in question.
You could really boil down their ideas into a simple statement about individual rights superseding collective rights. Rand states it eloquently in the appendix.
“The United States was the first moral society in history.
All previous systems had regarding man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself. The United States regarded Man as an end to himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary coexistence of individuals. All previous systems had held that man’s life belongs to society, that society can dispose of him in any way it pleases, and that any freedom that he enjoys is his only by favor, by the permission of society which may be revoked at any time.
The United States held that a man’s life is his by right, which means by moral principle and by his nature. That a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights.
A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning man’s freedom of action in a social context. There’s only one fundamental right, all the others are its consequences or corollaries, a man’s right to his own life.” [Emphasis mine]
No matter what you feel about Rand, you cannot argue that she isn’t brilliant. Further, it’s tough to argue against her position successfully without looking like a communist at the end of the debate. With Rand, it’s “either – or”. There is no in between. You either believe in individual rights and personal freedom, or you don’t.
Her premise can be personally challenging if you haven’t put in the necessary work to build a concrete philosophical foundation for your worldview. To be fair, purposefully seeking out an intellectual challenge is decidedly against human nature. I don’t think many people have really dug into the “why” of what they think and believe – and then continue to question what they learn as they progress toward deeper understanding. Rand is but one of many authors/philosophers that can help you sort things out. But I can see why she rubs so many the wrong way, especially to those who have much “sorting out” to do.
I think this book is a great read, and easy to understand. However, try reading the appendix first, where many of her premises are contained in explicit form.
Do you have a question, or would like me to cover a particular topic, feel free to leave a comment below!