"The secret dread of modern intellectuals, liberals and conservatives alike, the unadmitted terror at the root of their anxiety, which all of their current irrationalities are intended to stave off and to disguise, is the unstated knowledge that Soviet Russia is the full, actual, literal, consistent embodiment of the morality of altruism, that Stalin did not corrupt a noble ideal, that this is the only way altruism has to be or can ever be practiced.  If service and self-sacrifice are a moral ideal, and if the "selfishness" of human nature prevents men from leaping into sacrificial furnaces, there is no reason -- no reason that a mystic moralist could name -- why a dictator should not push them in at the point of bayonets -- for their own good, or the good of humanity, or the good of posterity, or the good of the latest bureaucrat's five-year plan.  There is no reason that they can name to oppose any atrocity.  The value of a man's life?  His right to exist?  His right to pursue his own happiness?  These are concepts that belong to individualism and capitalism -- to the antithesis of the altruist morality."
Ayn Rand
[Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum] (1905-1982) Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter
Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World, A lecture delivered at Yale University on February 17, 1960, at Brooklyn College on April 4, 1960, and at Columbia University on May 5, 1960. Published as a pamphlet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1967, and now included as a chapter in the book, Philosophy: Who Needs It
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Reader comments about this quote:
Altruism is not for me either .
 -- cal, Lewisville, Texas     
    Coming from a bittered past, Rand's base example misses the point or is slightly off topic of her conclusion. To value a man's life is based on the here referenced "altruist morality". Too many conflicting "altruisms" to accurately rate the whole of the comment. As an unalienable faculty of birth, Rand was correct about man and: His right to exist, pursue his own happiness, individualism and capitalism.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 1
    Ayn Rand apparently never understood the concept of "Altruism" correctly. She routinely confused the governmentally coerced assistance to others, or more accurately to the State, (whether by taxation, draft, or whatever), with the willing sacrifice of one's own benefit for the sake of others. To see the difference more clearly, imagine that the US military REQUIRED its troops to throw themselves on a hand grenade that fell nearby, at the risk of being court-martialed if they didn't (what she incorrectly refers to as "Altruism"), and compare that with the selfless action of a squad member who voluntarily does so to save his mates (which is TRUE "Altruism"). In the former case, we could expect to see troops who increasingly distrusted their officers and squad mates, who were increasingly unwilling to obey their orders, whose morale was in decline, etc. - indeed, exactly what we saw with civilians in the USSR. In the latter case, we find heroes whose behavior on behalf of others is lauded, rewarded (even if posthumously), and whose impact on morale and unit cohesion and effectiveness is extremely beneficial. THAT is the impact of TRUE "Altruism," as opposed to coerced behavior for the benefit of "the state."
     -- Geoffrey Meade, San Antonio, TX     
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    As no less a lightless Communist luminary
    than Mao expressed it:

    " Communism has nothing to do with love.
    Communism is an excellent hammer which we use to destroy our enemy. "

    Altruism? Hardly.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
    My preceding vote I cast in error.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
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    I think Ayn Rand is saying that the collective altruistic motive realized ultimately embodies authoritarianism as the means to the end. Altruistic can also mean compassionate, idealistic, self-sacrificing, even humble.

    But Altruism is the philosophy of the collective 'should.' We 'should' do this, we 'should' do that -- for the common good. But even if you could poll the common good, could you reach a consensus? Who decides what 'should' be for the common good? Any ruler can use this to his advantage. Anyone in positions of power and influence can commit whatever offensive act fully justified by their altruistic intentions.

    What if we just let people do good themselves? Can we not trust in the process and let the fruits flourish and live in a fruitful world? That too is an ideal -- compassionate, giving (not sacrificing), humble, but that is not altruism, which always remains an unfulfilled dream (the 'shoulds' never end). Rand concludes that a moral compass guided by altruism resulted in the totalitarianism of Soviet Russia. I am inclined to agree and can certainly see similarities in the US.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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