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Introduction to Ayn Rand’s Anthem Excerpt

I often find Ayn Rand’s words in her introduction to her book “Anthem” to be relevant today.  It is worth posting the bulk of the foreword:

Some of those who read the story when it was first written [in 1937], told me that I was unfair to the ideals of collectivism; this was not, they said, what collectivism preaches or intends; collectivists do not mean or advocate such things; nobody advocates them.

I shall merely point out that the slogan “Production for use and not for profit” is now accepted by most men as a commonplace, and a commonplace stating a proper, desirable goal.  If any intelligible meaning can be discerned in that slogan at all, what is it, if not the idea that the motive of a man’s work must be the need of others, not his own need, desire or gain?

Compulsory labor conscription is now practiced or advocated in every country on earth.  What is it based on, if not the idea that the state is best qualified to decide where a man can be useful to others, such usefulness being the only consideration, and that his own aims, desires or happiness should be ignored as of no importance?

We have Councils of Vocations, Councils of Eugenics, every possible kind of Council, including a World Council- and if these do not as yet hold total power over us, is it from lack of intention?

“Social gains,” “social aims,” “social objectives” have become the daily bromides of our language.  The necessity of a social justification for all activities is now taken for granted.  There is no proposal outrageous enough but what its author can get a respectful hearing and approbation if he claims that in some undefined way it is for “the common good.”

Some might think- though I don’t- that nine years ago there was some excuse for men not to see the direction in which the world was going.  Today, the evidence is so blatant that no excuse can be claimed by anyone any longer.  Those who refuse to see it now are neither blind nor innocent.

The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting;  the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word;  the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one’s eyes shut. They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing:  ”But I didn’t mean this!”

Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name.  They must face the full meaning of that which they are advocating or condoning; the full, exact, specific meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, of the principles upon which it is based, and of the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead.

They must face it, then decide whether this is what they want or not.

Ayn Rand

April, 1946

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One Response to Introduction to Ayn Rand’s Anthem Excerpt

  1. […] Foreword to Ayn Rand’s book, Anthem by Ayn Rand […]

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