My thoughts on the world around me

Mike Wallace’s Interview with Ayn Rand

CBS’s Mike Wallace interviewed Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, in 1959. I found the interview utterly fascinating.

In Part One of the interview, she discusses the conflict between a society whose morality is based on faith and self-sacrifice for one’s fellow man (conventional thought) vs. morality founded solely on reason and selfishness (Rand’s objectivism):

In Part Two of the interview, Rand argues in favor of a separation between state and economics (laissez-faire government):

In Part Three of the interview, she contends that the only solution is a market free of government interference:

“I have no faith at all, I only hold convictions.” Wow, it takes guts to believe in a statement like that so firmly.

At a time when women did not have many prominent voices, Ayn Rand was a luminary and a courageous trailblazer.

With that said, I’m curious to know what she would have to say about the current economic recession. Fifty years ago, she called for absolute deregulation. Look at how well that’s turned out.


January 29, 2009 - Posted by | Art, Economics, Literature, Politics, TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. this is awesome! i’ve read the fountainhead and atlas shrugged many times each (i swear i’m not insane), but never heard ayn rand talk about her philosophy in her own words outside of her fiction. i still think she’s kind of a nutcase, but definitely enjoyed the interview. great find.

    Comment by sai | January 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m glad you liked it, Sai. I had never heard her speak about her ideas, either. While I don’t agree with her positions, I nevertheless found her resistance against conventional wisdom to be very refreshing.
    Like Mike Wallace said at the start of the interview, most innovative ideas just come and go. As a society, though, we nevertheless need people like Rand to get the ball rolling.

    Comment by socialvox | January 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks for posting those videos. I was searching for the second one and found a lot more. It looks like you have a really cool and ecclectic website.

    Your comment at the end gave me the impression that you consider the current situation to be one of absolute deregulation. Absolute?

    Did I misunderstand you? I mean, it is government regulation and control that allows the banks to put billions of dollars into the U.S. central bank and then federal reserve board sets ridulously high leverage ratios on those deposits and long periods of low interest rates to create trillion/quadrillion-dollar markets in CDOs and other SIVs that are pretty much guaranteed by the central bank. They are guaranteed because what bank could participate in those risky investments (fraudulent loans to people that can’t and will never be able to afford them) without the implied guarantee backed by the government? That guarantee is clear when you see the government do everything possible to take those private losses and make them public losses, including having individual taxpayers purchase those “toxic” investments with no real choice in the matter.

    Judging from Atlas Shrugged, I think Ayn Rand would be much more disgusted at how far this welfare system that props up the banks has come than she was at the welfare relief that she believes holds down the poor. She examined a lot of characters that were part of that system: government men and businessmen that take no responsiblity and blame the situation in the world or a competitive environment for their failures. According to a more recent book called Good To Great by Jim Collins that examines how leadership styles set some companies apart from their competitors, that is one of the statistically consistent differences between the CEOs of companies whose stocks take off (as a good company surpasses its competitors to become a great company) and the CEOs of the competitor companies (blaming competitors, or the business environment, or the bad economy).

    I think she particularly considered Greenspan a traitor when he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Before that, he was an Objectivist, but then went the other way and became like one of the slimy government men in her book, regulating to do favors for cronies.

    And here’s a side note about laissez-faire. It historically began before we separated from England when they passed the Iron Act to prevent us from manufacturing products. We could export cheap iron to England and buy relatively costlier products manufactured by England at a net profit to them and a net loss to us. Our forefathers developed laissez faire originally as an activist government policy to fight that abuse by promoting a policy of free trade instead, demanding that we cannot be limited to trading in a way that benefits England and is unfair and unsustainable for us. It was later that laissez-faire warped into the “free trade” policy that lets us justify balancing our trade with major exporting countries to ensure that we have a net profit and they have a net loss. For instance, China’s profits go into buying reserves (US treasuries, and US corporate stocks and bonds) which lets us increase our money supply which is leveraged some more. China’s government is just starting to promote an activist government policy of free trade (the original meaning of laissez-faire), in that their leaders are meeting with other asian nations and starting to trade amongst themselves with their own domestic currencies instead of dollars in the short term and talking about perhaps holding a basket of major currencies instead of only US reserves as a long term strategy to get out of this unsustainable situation that they are in.

    Comment by u can delete if too boring or weird:) | July 29, 2009 | Reply

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