In this 1959 interview, Mike Wallace interviewed the famous author, Ayn Rand, who is most famous for her 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged.” In this interview, Rand, very astutely, explains how and why Capitalism is far superior to Socialism; and what has gone wrong with the Free-market system since our Founders first implemented it with the creation of our new Republic.
Below, is the transcript to the video portion of this brilliant interview:
Mike Wallace: Now one of the principle achievements of this country in the past 20 years, particularly, I think, most people agree, is the gradual growth of social and protective legislation based on the principle that we are our brothers keepers. How do you feel about the political trends of the United States, the Western world?
Ayn Rand:The way everybody feels except more consciously. I feel that it is terrible, that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster, until, and unless, all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected. It is precisely these trends which are bringing the world to disaster, because we are now moving towards complete collectivism or socialism. A system under which everybody is enslaved to everybody, and we are moving that way only because of our altruist morality.
Mike Wallace: Ah…Yes, but you say everybody is enslaved to everybody, yet this came about democratically, Ayn. A free people in a free country, voted for this kind of government, wanted this kind of legislation. Do you object to the democratic process?
Ayn Rand: I object to the idea that the people have the right to vote on everything. The traditional American system was a system based on the idea that majority will prevailed only in public or political affairs. And that it was limited by inalienable individual rights, therefore I do not believe that a majority can vote a man’s life, or property, or freedom away from him. Therefore, I do not believe that if a majority votes on any issue, that this makes the issue right, it doesn’t.
Mike Wallace: All right, then how do we arrive at action? How should we arrive at action?
Ayn Rand: By voluntary consent, voluntary cooperation of free men, unforced.
Mike Wallace: And how do we arrive at our leadership? Who elects, who appoints?
Ayn Rand: The whole people elects. There is nothing wrong with the democratic process in politics. We arrive at it the way we arrived by the American Constitution as it used to be. By the constitutional powers, as we had it, people elect officials, but the powers of those officials, the powers of government are strictly limited. They will have no right to initiate force or compulsion against any citizen, except a criminal. Those who have initiated force will be punished by force, and that is the only proper function of government. What we would not permit is the government to initiate force against people who have hurt no one, who have not forced anyone. We would not give the government, or the majority, or any minority, the right to take the life or the property of others. That was the original American system.
Mike Wallace: When you say, “take the property of others,” I imagine that you are talking now about taxes.
Ayn Rand: Yes I am.
Mike Wallace: And you believe there should be no right by the government to tax. You believe that there should be no such thing as welfare legislation, unemployment compensation, regulation during times of stress, certain kinds of rent controls, and things like that.
Ayn Rand: That’s right. I’m opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy. Let me put it briefly. I’m for the separation of state and economics. Just as we had separation of state and church, which led to peaceful co-existence among different religions, after a period of religious wars, so the same applies to economics. If you separate the government from economics, if you do not regulate production and trade, you will have peaceful cooperation, and harmony, and justice among men.
Mike Wallace: You are certainly enough of a political scientist to know that certain movements spring up in reaction to other movements. The labor movement for instance, certain social welfare legislation. This did not spring full blown from somebody’s head. I mean, out of a vacuum. This was a reaction to certain abuses that were going on, isn’t that true, Ayn?
Ayn Rand: Not always, it actually sprang up from the same source as the abuses. If by abuses you mean the legislation which, originally, had been established to help industrialists, which was already a breach of complete free enterprise. If then, in reaction labor leaders get together to, initiate legislation to help labor, that is only acting on the same principle. Namely, all parties agreeing that it is proper for the state to legislate in favor of one economic group or another. What I’m saying is that nobody should have the right, neither employers nor employees, to use state compulsion and force for their own interests.
Mike Wallace: When you advocate completely unregulated economic life in which every man works for his own profit, you’re asking in a sense for a devil take the high most, dog eat dog society, and one of the main reasons for the growth of government controls was to fight the robber barons, to fight laissez-faire, in which the very people whom you admire the most, Ayn, the hard-headed industrialists, the successful men, perverted the use of their power. Is that not true?
Ayn Rand: No it isn’t. This country was made not by robber barons, but by independent men, by industrialists, who succeeded on sheer ability. By ability, I mean without political force, help, or compulsion. But at the same time there were men, industrialists, who did use government power as a club to help them against competitors. They were the original collectivists. Today, the liberals believe that the same compulsion should be used against the industrialists for the sake of workers, but the basic principle there is, “Should there be any compulsion?” And the regulations are creating robber barons, they are creating capitalists with government help, which is the worst of all economic phenomenon.
The entire interview can be read here.