Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is a collection of essays, mostly by Ayn Rand, with additional essays by her associates Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen. The book focuses on the moral nature of laissez-faire capitalism and private property. The book has a very specific definition of capitalism, a system it regards as broader than simply property rights or free enterprise. It was originally published in 1966.
Rand intended Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal to focus on the moral nature of capitalism, as opposed to focusing on its economic aspects. She contrasts this with what she says is the failure of most other defenders of capitalism to provide a moral defense of that system.
After an introduction by Rand, the book is divided into two main sections. The first section, "Theory and History", contains essays that focus on the theoretical basis for capitalism and historical arguments related to it. This section includes essays arguing against common objections to capitalism. The second section, "Current State", focuses on contemporary political issues from the 1960s. The topics covered in this section include the Vietnam War, student protests, and the papal encyclical Populorum progressio. An "Appendix" section reprints two essays on political theory previously published in Rand's earlier book, The Virtue of Selfishness. A recommended reading list about capitalism is also provided.
Rand argues that capitalism is “a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.” In practice, this means that a capitalist society is one in which the government performs a single function: it protects individual rights by banning “physical force from human relationships.”
Pure capitalism, she concludes, has never existed: but in the countries that approached it, with America in the second half of the nineteenth century leading the way, the individual was able to flourish. This is because capitalism is the only system that fully recognizes that man is the rational being who “has the right to exist for his own sake,” free from coercion by others.
Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.
Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two initially unsuccessful early novels, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.
Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions.
The reception for Rand's fiction from literary critics has historically been mixed and polarizing, with extreme opinions both for and against her work commonly being expressed. Nonetheless, she continues to have a popular following, as well as a growing influence among scholars and academics. Rand's political ideas have been influential among libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through her nonfiction works and by giving talks to students at institutions such as Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Harvard University and MIT. She received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark College in 1963. She also began delivering annual lectures at the Ford Hall Forum, responding afterward to questions from the audience. During these speeches and Q&A sessions, she often took controversial stances on political and social issues of the day. These included supporting abortion rights, opposing the Vietnam War and the military draft (but condemning many draft dodgers as "bums"), supporting Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 as "civilized men fighting savages", saying European colonists had the right to take land from American Indians, and calling homosexuality "immoral" and "disgusting", while also advocating the repeal of all laws against it. She also endorsed several Republican candidates for President of the United States, most strongly Barry Goldwater in 1964, whose candidacy she promoted in several articles for The Objectivist Newsletter.
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