As I wrote in a previous post, the Ayn Rand Institute has made available for download almost all of the talks that Ayn Rand presented at the Ford Hall Forum. I have been listening to them in chronological order and trying to make notes of when I come across interesting quotes to share. There have been plenty of quotes, but I am rarely able to follow-up later as I listen to them in my car during my daily commute.
Recently I was able to both make a mental note of the location of this quote (about the 50 minute mark) and follow-up on it before I forgot it. The quote is from her lecture “Egalitarianism and Inflation” which she presented in 1974. (You can download it here or listen to it below.) In this talk, Ayn Rand explains how production, not consumption is the foundation of economic growth and how egalitarianism acts to undercut and destroy production.
This was a period when the United States economy was suffering from stagflation, a condition in which there was high unemployment and economic stagnation combined with high inflation, a state that many viewed as a possible precursor to economic collapse. Ayn Rand believed that laws and regulations based on egalitarian ideas were contributing to this situation.
It is at a time like this, in the face of an approaching economic collapse that the intellectuals are preaching egalitarian notions. When the curtailment of government spending is imperative, they demand more welfare projects. When the need for men of productive ability is desperate, they demand more equality for the incompetents. When country needs the accumulation of capital, they demand that we soak the rich. When the country needs more savings, they demand a redistribution of income. They demand more jobs and less profit, more jobs and fewer factories, more jobs and no fuel, no oil, no coal, no pollution, but above all more goods for free to more consumers no matter what happens to jobs, to factories or to producers.
It struck me just how similar the conditions described in this quote are very similar to those we see around us today. The recovery from the financial crisis has been painfully slow, leading many commentators to suggest that slow growth is the new normal (here, here and here) and yet we have the government burdening business with more and more costly regulations. The federal debt has exploded, unfunded liabilities for programs such as Social Security and Medicare have soared to more than $100 trillion and rather than suggesting ways to rein in spending we have politicians promising trillions in new spending to be paid for by making the rich “pay their fair share.” We have politicians bending over backwards to promise more free stuff to more people, health care and education to name two prominent examples, while at the same time seeking to ban or tax and regulate out of existence the inexpensive energy that makes it all possible, fossil fuels, with no regard to the impact these policies will have on those who must produce those goods.
When asked during the Q&A period after the talk how we can change, she gave much the same answer as I quoted last time. Express the right ideas as and where you can, whether it is to your neighbor, in a letter to the editor or letters to your Congressman or Senator. If enough people do this one thing, we can change the world.