Who is Ayn Rand? Born to a middle-class Russian-Jewish family in 1905, Rand was treated to a front-row seat to the wonders of communism in action. Rand fled with her family to the Crimea following the “liberation” of her father’s pharmacy but ultimately returned to Saint Petersburg where she could attend university when she wasn’t busy starving. Due to her life experiences, Ayn Rand’s quotes are some of the most thought-provoking in the world.
Rand was granted a visa to visit her relatives in Chicago in 1925. Upon her arrival the next year she was driven to “tears of splendor” by the sight of Manhattan’s skyline. Needless to say there was no going back for the young woman, who upon witnessing American cinema set out to become a Hollywood screenwriter.
As luck would have it Rand soon met the great director Cecil B. DeMille, thus securing work as an extra in one of his movies and a subsequent job as a junior screenwriter. By 1931 Rand had married and become an American citizen.
Rand began sharing her political leanings as she published her first works of fiction including We the Living, a semi-autobiographical novel set in Soviet Russia, and Anthem, a grim vision of a totalitarian collectivist future in which all innovation had been stifled and even the word “I” ceased to exist.
Rand’s breakout success arrivedin 1943 when she published The Fountainhead, the story of a young architect who refused to conform to his industry’s hostility toward innovation. She would continue working in Hollywood until 1957 when she published her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, again set in a dystopian future where bureaucratic legislation had made free enterprise all but impossible.
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
Rand’s philosophy holds that knowledge and values are determined by reality, not the product of human thought. To attain the highest objectivist ideal – the achievement of one’s own happiness – man must place the greatest value on reason, self-interest, and liberty. For Rand, no social system other than “full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism” could fully recognize individual rights.
In addition to her contributions to literature and philosophy, Rand actively supported anti-communist groups including the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and the American Writers Association throughout her Hollywood career. Throughout her later years, Rand traveled the country to deliver lectures on her Objectivist philosophy. In her final public lecture the year preceding her death in 1982, Rand said the following:
There is hope so long as there is one man left living on earth. There is hope, but it will not be saved automatically. It depends on the free will and choice of every man who is able to think. Those who don’t want to think don’t matter in this issue. They’re merely social ballast.
An Austrian-British economist and philosopher, Friedrich August von Hayek remains a pivotal figure in the defense of classical liberalism – the assertion that civil liberties and economic freedom are paramount to civilization. Hayek quotes are worth reading and considering given the influence he’s had on freedom and liberty movements.