Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

ISBN: 0451147952
ISBN 13: 9780451147950
By: Ayn Rand Nathaniel Branden Alan Greenspan Robert Hessen

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About this book

The foundations of capitalism are being battered by a flood of altruism, which is the cause of the modern world's collapse. This is the view of Ayn Rand, a view so radically opposed to prevailing attitudes that it constitutes a major philosophic revolution. In this series of essays, she presents her stand on the persecution of big business, the causes of war, the default of conservatism, and the evils of altruism. Here is a challenging new look at modern society by one of the most provocative intellectuals on the American scene. This edition includes two articles by Ayn Rand which did not appear in the hardcover edition: The Wreckage of the Consensus," which presents the Objectivists views on Vietnam and the draft; and Requiem for Man," an answer to the Papal encyclical Progresso Populorum.

Reader's Thoughts


Interesting to read Rand's theories directly as opposed to the interpretations of devotees and critics, especially her concepts on the role of government and of the essential definition and role of human rights. Some points worth considering, but far too much idolization of the businessman and far too little consideration for the coercion which economic powers can bring to bear. Given how often I've heard her praised for her elegance with words, I found her prose a bit stilted and clumsy. There was a great deal of repetition of her points, but since the book was not conceived as a single narrative, but was rather a collection of previously published essays, that was hardly surprising.


Along with "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt, this is the best introduction I know to the topic of Capitalism and economics. With all the baloney out there, this book will give you the essential moral perspective and help guide you in fighting the anti-Capitalism fallacies we are all bombarded with on a daily basis, in America and around the world. The Appendix with "Man's Rights" is essential reading for everyone. Ayn Rand clarifies the basis for rights and why only the system of laissez faire Capitalism respects the rights of the individual, by taking the initiation of force out of human relationships.


I gave this two stars for two reasons, One for each star, 1. When looking more into what Rand says, her whole notion of life and people is flawed 2. Capitalism isn't a perfect idea as she claims it to be. I can blab on like she does and sell books too.


This book by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, (author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead") is a treatise on the politico-economic branch of her philosophy of Objectivism. The arguments put forth provide the moral backing that capitalism has always lacked, and without which it is doomed to destruction.The essays included cover a wide range of topics: from the necessity of an economy based on a gold standard, to the reason why a free nation cannot benefit from the initiation of a war, to the injustice of anti-trust laws, to the critical importance of patent and copyright laws, and to the futile defenses of capitalism offered by conservatives. The clarity of Rand’s writing style simplifies the science of economics so that anyone willing to think can become a staunch defender of capitalism. Rand’s unique perspective upholds businessmen as moral giants, and provides all the intellectual ammunition necessary for these men to finally be recognized as the heroes that they are.

Otto Lehto

Most infuriating, I was going to give it two stars, but the consistency and occasional flashes of brilliance forced me to recant and admit it: the book, despite (and because of) its author's frightful dogmatism, succeeds in driving home an ideological agenda masterfully.I still think Virtue of Selfishness is the superior book (mostly because that one is shorter and less of a rant), but Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is a worthy follow-up.Now, I think all libertarians should steer clear of Rand's mad dogmatism, single-mindedness, circular argumentation, amateur epistemology and intellectual inflexibility. Her lack of curiosity and her congenital inability to fathom differing viewpoints is truly astounding. It's as if she never read a book or an article she didn't fail to denounce as altruistic-communistic-mysticist propaganda written by a moral idiot - except her OWN books, of course, which she, even here, quotes amply and and cross-references authoritatively. Libertarians should dislike her ivory tower pronouncements and her scarily successful attempt at constructing, out of thin air, a fantastical philosophical system, bordering on science fiction, turned into a religious cult (which, alas, made her the Moses of the Right, the Lenin of the Wall Street). They should, moreover, abhor her fanatic hatred of leftists, poor people, democracy, civic virtues and hippies. But they should also admire her madness. She was truly one of a kind.Oh I only wish I never meet another Randian.

Michael Connolly

Great title. Ayn Rand makes the point that it is not fair to compare the reality of capitalism, with all of its faults, to a utopian socialist ideal, which socialism's proponents claim has never been tried. Either we should compare the reality of capitalism in the U.S.A. to the reality of socialism in the Soviet Union, or we should compare the capitalist ideal to the socialist ideal. Capitalism in the United States is far from the utopian ideal that Rand envisions, for two reasons. The first reason is offered by Rand: there has always been substantial government involvement in the economy in the United State, even during the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, the crony capitalism of wealthy corporations able to buy influence with state or federal legislators. Rand considers this corruption of the capitalist ideal to be a form of socialism, and therefore capitalism should not be blamed for it. The second reason is not mentioned by Rand, but I believe it is also important: human nature. There are always going to be dishonest businessmen in any system, and the economic damage that they cause should be blamed on them, and not they system they inhabit.


Synthesized essays directly touching all capitalists societies today. As social system capitalism societies can be ill as well. Rand precisely diagnoses parts of the fundamental mistakes made by the State. Government explicitly accelerate those mistakes with intentionally applied mechanism related to defense the State stat-quo.


Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal was a(nother) really thought-provoking book from the ever subtle Ayn Rand (she is not subtle). At the very least, she is quite consistent (and adamant). Despite managing to quote herself more than any other source, she takes the time to highlight numerous articles from her "Scrapbook of Evil" in order to intellectually disembowel the woeful authors. It is stimulating reading. Seriously. Especially if you enjoy mind-bendingly complicated sentence structure. And tirades. Which I do.Something I would have enjoyed would be Rand's opinion on how to practically implement her vision of government. Like a transition plan or road map. Maybe an idea of her views were on crime and punishment? As I plan on reading the rest of the Ayn Rand bibliography at some point, I will see if she elucidates these and other points in her other books. In any case, there's a lot of food for thought for anybody who makes the effort to read it. Highly recommended!


I would consider myself to be an objectivist in Ayn Rand's sense. Furthermore, I would have to preface this review with the qualification that if one is not familiar with objectivism then this book can (and has been) misconstrued. It is important to understand that free market capitalism is not the basis but an effect of the objectivist philosophy.Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is a collection of essays by Rand, Alan Greenspan, and others. It addresses several questions that are often brought up by critics of a free market system. Each chapter is short enough to read several times in one sittings, and most are written in Rand's direct, no-holds barred style. The gist of each of the essays is the same: individual freedom is virtuous and the main concern of any government is the limitation of violence in the society in which it governs.I agree with Rand that a free market system as yet to exist and that many of the problems construed to be the effect of capitalism is in reality an effect of government interference, but the interesting point of the book are the claims made in the essays concerning corporations and their virtue as entities: many of the effects of those entities that were dismissed by Rand and Greenspan have since come to fruition.The book is insightful and interesting, but is incomplete if one is not familiar with Rand's complete philosophy.


A collection of essays written mostly by Ayn Rand, this book did a good job of getting out the over all message of Individual Rights superseding the collective.Some of the most interesting bits I found were the parallels between the arguments taking place circa the mid- to late-1960's and today; we seem to still be facing all of the arguments coming out of D.C. now that we were then. Things like the false dichotomies of "whether government should do X or Y", when the question needs to be, "should government be involved at all?"In "The Nature of Government", Rand makes a compelling case defining the role that government plays:The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action - a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today - lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force.Because of this, government must be narrowly defined and tightly controlled to prevent that legal monopoly from being wielded by those with political pull to harm particular individuals or groups. In "What is Capitalism?", the argument is that pure capitalism as a system is the only social/political structure that relies solely on the rights of the individual to better themselves without resorting to the use of physical force and taking what is needed from others.In "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise", (the lack of) these two concepts in particular are starkly portrayed with references to early American railroad systems:There were many forms of government help for these projects, such as federal land grants, subsidies, state bonds, municipal bonds, etc. A great many speculators started railroad projects as a quick means to get some government cash, with no concern for the future or the commercial possibilities of their railroads. They went through the motions of laying so many miles of shoddy rail, anywhere at all, without inquiring whether the locations they selected had any need for a railroad or any economic future. Some of those men collected the cash and vanished, never starting any railroad at all. This is the source of the popular impression that the origin of American railroads was a period of wild, unscrupulous speculation. But the railroads of this period which were planned and built by businessmen for a proper, private, commercial purpose were the ones that survived, prospered, and proved unusual foresight in the choice of their locations.In another section of the same essay, after quoting two liberal journalists decrying the corruption of the railroads who "had bought senators and congressmen, just as they bought rails and locomotives...", we are asked to identify the actual parties of the corruption: "..what could the railroads do, except try to 'own whole legislatures' if these legislatures held the power of life or death over them? What could the railroads do, except resort to bribery, if they wished to exist at all? Who was to blame and who was 'corrupt'--the businessmen who had to pay 'protection money' for the right to remain in business--or the politicians who held the power to sell that right?"Over all, I found the essays in this collection to be extremely thought provoking. Rand is utterly scathing in some instances when speaking directly about socialism and Soviet Russia, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Essays by Alan Greenspan, Robert Hessen and Nathaniel Branden help to break up Rand's almost single-minded attraction to concepts covered in her book "Atlas Shrugged", and, especially those of Greenspan, bring in pointed rebukes of particular instances in which public policy, in the name of protecting the average man, has actually done more harm by eroding individual rights than good.Highly recommended for anyone interested in economics, politics and the philosophy of individualism.


As I was reading this collection of essays, mostly by Ms. Rand from the 1960s, I thought the book should be required reading for everyone graduating from high school. After finishing the book, I now believe that a final examination on the two appendices to the book should be a prerequisite for graduation.Ruthlessly consistent in her logic and direct with her language, Rand expresses ideas held by all of us at an almost superfluous level, but then asks (requires) the reader to burrow down many levels to get to the true kernel of what she believes. Bring a real desire to learn if you want to fully appreciate the book.

Kelly Murray

This is the cherry that tops the Ayn Rand sundae I've been consuming for the past 2 1/2 years. Capitalism really is an unknown ideal, and it's a shame that it was never given an honest chance to fully manifest. What we have now is nowhere near capitalism- we're on a downward slippery slope to socialism...which I'm dreading more with each passing law. She had it right all along. I find it amazing that someone could be so dead-on in predicting what the future would be like if we had kept going in the direction towards collectivism (which we have). She was Orwellian in her foresight about the political/social/economic/moral future of this country and the world.


This is a treatise basically detailing Rand's crushing love affair with high-achievers. In it she goes on at length about the moral superiority of capitalism (as compared to socialism or communism) as it is the only system to honor the primacy of the rational human mind. Just as every politician should be required to read The Constitution as their nightly bedtime story, every corporate executive should be required to read this book nearly as often. If capitalists today were truly as moral as Rand would have them be, we'd have a much different (dare I say better) economy right now.

Христо Блажев

“Капитализмът: непознатият идеал” на Ранд обявява война на държавата:Сборникът със статии на Айн Ранд, Алън Грийнспам и Робърт Хесен “Капитализмът: непознатият идеал” е своего рода голяма научна бележка под линия към изумителните романи “Изворът” и “Атлас изправи рамене” по думите на самата писателка. В него тя е насъбрала множество публикации в пресата на тримата през 60-те, в които развива в научен вид своята рационална философия - “обективизма”.

Kyle Thompson

I had just finished reading Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" when I picked this up. I said in my review of Smith's "The Wealth of Nations", that it was the best economics book I had ever read, as it was simple, cogent, and articulate. But now having read Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" I feel I might have to take that back. Rand's book is very easy to understand, just as Smith's was. But Rand's view on capitalism differs in some ways from Smith's. While Rand preached a complete laissez-faire capitalism, Smith preached only "free-trade" capitalism. Rand wanted no laws, rules, regulations hindering the free market, while Smith seemed to want a few; not too many, though.Rand stated in this book throughout, that the reason why Capitalism is "Unknown" and never really fully was, is because it has lacked a philosophical/moral reasoning and justification for it. Rand believed that you cannot rely on the economic arguments for capitalism, as that is not sufficient. The real justification lies in the philosophical realm and that no one was presenting it properly to the masses. She says that (circa 1960's) Conservatives were worse than the liberals, as they had every opportunity to defend capitalism to the fullest extent, but never did. They just allowed the liberals to run all over their presentation, and they constantly backed down in fear.There are many other articles in this book written by Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen- all of which are very good, and go well with the overall narrative/idea. This book answered a lot of the questions that I had, and which are still being debated and talked about today, i.e., monopolies, big business, corporations, small businesses, anti trust, child labor, unions, minimum wage, gold standard et. al. It is very comprehensive I must say; but it is also easily understandable and well presented. Rand and her ideas like to K.I.S.S.I read "The Virtue of Selfishness" before this, and it fits very nicely into the moral and philosophical framework of "Capitalism", you must know those justifications before you can begin to understand her reasoning on anything else. I am now going to read Rand's "Philosophy: Who Needs It?"

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