Interview by Mike Wallace
The interview originally aired on Wallace’s television show, The Mike Wallace Interview, on February 25, 1959. The show ran from 1957 to 1960 and now more than 65 episodes are housed at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Animated Transcript
Mike Wallace rose to prominence in the mid-1950s with the New York City television interview program, Night-Beat. That became the nationally televised prime-time program, The Mike Wallace Interview.
Who are you, Ayn Rand? You have an accent, which is?
Russian. You were born in Russia?
Oh, about 30 years ago.
And whence did this philosophy of yours come?
Out of my own mind, with the sole acknowledgement of a debt to Aristotle, who is the only philosopher that ever influenced me. I devised the rest of my philosophy myself.
You are married?
Your husband, is he an industrialist?
No. He’s an artist. His name is Frank O’Conner.
Does he live from his painting?
He’s just beginning to study painting. He was a designer before.
Is he supported in his efforts by the state?
Most certainly not.
He’s supported by you for the time being?
No, by his own work, actually, in the past. [CROSSTALK] By me if necessary, but that isn’t quite necessary.
Mike Wallace: There is no contradiction here, in that you help him?
No, because you see I am in love with him selfishly. It is to my own interest to help him if he ever needed it. I would not call that a sacrifice, because I take selfish pleasure in it. I say that man is entitled to his own happiness. And that he must achieve it himself. But that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. And nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.
And cannot man have self-esteem if he loves his fellow man? Christ, every important moral leader in man’s history, has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love in your mind immoral?
It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself. It is more than immoral, it’s impossible. Because when you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately. That is to love people without any standard. To love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.
But in a sense, in your book you talk about love as if it were a business deal of some kind. Isn’t the essence of love, that it is above self-interest?
Well, What would it mean to have a love above self-interest? It would mean, for instance, that a husband would tell his wife, if he were moral according to the conventional morality, that I am marrying you just for your own sake, I have no personal interest in it, but I’m so unselfish, that I am marrying you only for your own good.
Should husbands and wives tally up…
Would any woman like that? I agree with you that [marriage] should be treated like a business deal. But every business deal has to have its own terms and its own kind of currency. And in love the currency is virtue. You love people, not for what you do for them, or what they do for you. You love them for their values, their virtues. You don’t love causes. You don’t love everybody indiscriminately. You love only those who deserve it. Man has free will. If a man wants love he should correct his flaws, and he may deserve it. But he cannot expect the unearned.
There are very few us then in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love.
Unfortunately…. yes… very few. But it is open to everybody, to make themselves worthy of it and that is all that my morality offers them. [CROSSTALK] A way to make themselves worthy of love, although that’s not the primary motive.
Isn’t it possible that we are all basically lonely people and we are all basically our brothers’ keepers?
Nobody has ever given a reason why men should be their brother’s keepers, and you see the examples around you, of men perishing by the attempt to be their brother’s keepers.
You have no faith in anything?
Only in your mind.
That is not faith. That is a conviction. Yes….. I have no faith at all. I only hold convictions.
As we said at the outset, “If Ayn Rand’s ideas were ever to take hold, they would revolutionize the world.” And to those who would reject her philosophy, Miss Rand hurls this challenge. “For the past 2000 years the world has been dominated by other philosophies. Look around you, consider the results.” We thank Ayn Rand for adding her portrait to our gallery. One of the people other people are interested in. Mike Wallace… Good Bye.
Bonus Interview Outtakes
Ayn Rand on Objectivism
“First of all, I do not call it Randism, and I don’t like that name. I call it Objectivism. Meaning a philosophy based on objective reality. Now let me explain it as briefly as I can. First my philosophy is based on the concept that reality exists as an objective absolute. That man’s mind, reason, is his means of perceiving it. And that men need a rational morality. I am primarily the creator of a new court of morality which has so far been believed impossible. Namely, a morality not based on faith, not on arbitrary whim, not on emotion, not on arbitrary edict, mystical or social, but on reason. A morality which can be proved by means of logic. Which can be demonstrated to be true and necessary. Now may I define what my morality is, because this is merely an introduction. My morality is based on man’s life as a standard of value. And since man’s mind is his basic means of survival, I hold that if man wants to live on earth, and to live as a human being, he has to hold reason as an absolute. By which I mean, that he has to hold reason as his only guide to action. And that he must live by the independent judgment of his own mind. That his highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness. And that he must not force other people nor accept their right to force him. That each man must live as an end in himself and follow his own rational self-interest.”
Reviews have said that, “You scorn churches, and the concept of God.” Are these accurate criticisms?
Ah.. Yes… I agree with the fact, but not the estimate of this criticism. Namely, if I am challenging the base of all these institutions, I’m challenging the moral code of altruism. The precept that man’s moral duty is to live for others. That man must sacrifice himself to others. Which is the present day morality
What do you mean by “sacrifice himself for others”? Now were getting to the point.
Since I’m challenging the base, I necessarily will challenge the institutions you name, which are a result of that morality. And now what is self-sacrifice?
Yes…What is self-sacrifice? You say that you do not like the altruism by which we live. You like a certain kind of Ayn Randist selfishness.
I will say that, “I don’t like” is too weak a word. I consider it evil. And self-sacrifice is the precept that man needs to serve others, in order to justify his existence. That his moral duty is to serve others. That is what most people believe today.
Yes… We’re taught to feel concern for our fellow man. To feel responsible for his welfare. To feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under god, and responsible one for the other. Now why do you rebel? What’s wrong with this philosophy?
But that is in fact what makes man a sacrificial animal. That man must work for others, concern himself with others, or be responsible for them. That is the role of a sacrificial object. I say that man is entitled to his own happiness. And that he must achieve it himself. But that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. And nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.
The Democratic Process
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Influential Republicans & Ayn Rand
Roots in Russia
Ayn Rand was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1905. She was born into a family that was Jewish but non-observant. During the Russian Revolution, the family fled to the Crimea, but later returned to Saint Petersburg where she was one of the first women to enroll in Petrograd State University. Already an avowed atheist, it was here at university that she was introduced to the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, and to the writings of Nietzsche.
Ayn Rand Quoted
“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”
“Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.”
“Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.”
“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
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