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

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?"


What a book! If the Obama administration would read and heed-- Wow, would we ever have an awesome revival of financial abundance and most importantly, FREEDOM, in our country! Ms. Rand is absolutely brilliant.I was especially cheering her on with her ideas of privatizing education. The government has no business being in the business or regulation of education. I didn't agree with everything she said, and I cringed at some of her descriptions of "savages". Nor do I agree with her that capitalism is the *only* political system that could EVER work. But I do agree that socialism, the path that America is unfortunately on, is a path that we want to get off, PRONTO! I also don't think that altruism is a bad thing, by any means. But certainly, filling your own cup first and then giving to others out of the overflow is wise. And I do believe that what's best for you is what's best for everyone around you. Giving willingly from your own overflowing cup is a wonderful thing...however, giving because the government is making you give isn't giving at all. It's not only bad for the "giver" (in quotes because you're certainly not a willing giver if you're being forced to that point you're a victim!) but also bad for society as a whole.

Kyle Pratt

Capitalism, by Ayn Rand, is a collection of 26 essays that discuss more than what the title would lead you to believe. Most articles were written by Rand, while a few were penned by others including a much younger Alan Greenspan. Rand opens the book with a chapter called "What is Capitalism." Greenspan writes on antitrust law and gold. Economics is rarely exciting, but the authors manage to make in interesting.One editorial review posted on the page for Capitalism states that the book is, "An interesting relic of the past," and goes on to call it an "outlandish piece of propaganda," but this is actually a classic example of "Extremism or the Art of Smearing" as explained in Chapter 17. While the liberals at and the Library Journal might consider Rand an outlandish relic of the past, her books logically explains the philosophy and principles upon which our economic system rests. Because we have drifted away from our founding ideals and the government schools no longer teach United States history well, or economics at all, capitalism has become the forgotten ideal and younger generations must seek out their heritage in the books of Ayn Rand and others. That is why these books continue to sell well.Rand was no friend of Judeo-Christian values, but she strongly believed in many values that most Americans once shared, limited government, laissez-faire economics and property rights. If you want a better understanding why these principles made America great you should read this and her other works.

Dani Kollin

This book is a searing commentary on the machinations of the left and the right with regards to both parties abject disregard or abjuration of the idea of freedom. What's more is that to read this book now, some 43 years after its first printing is to listen to the the prescience of the author herself. Agree ordisagree, it's hard to deny the fact that she not only predicts our current financial crisis to a "T" but nails the all too familiar culprits squarely to the wall in doing so.


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!


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.

Steven Millar

I haven't finished every essay in this book but having devoured the bulk of them I feel quite content to say that this book is the golden age of objectivist writing. Before Ayn Rand turned her institute into a cult of personality and before Alan Greenspan turned his back on the principles he held to heart. Filled with the facts of capitalism that everyone who would think of opposing it needs to consider first! As an asides the book has tuned me into the writing of Nathaniel Brenden and his objectivist work is fantastic.


Funny to read a young Alan Greenspan's arguments for eliminating the federal reserve and returning to the gold standard.

Nathan Greenwood

This is one of the greatest books I've read. There are only three books I immediately began to re-read upon finishing and this is one of them. The other two are "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins and "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. While I've never been a great fan of her fictional works, I've been a great fan of Ayn Rand ever since reading this book. Not to say that I don't think her fictional works are great (I just don't enjoy fiction). I really can't say why I enjoy the book without going over just about every page. So, I'll simply say that it is a must read.

Christopher Hall

Very very interesting. I should really write a little review, but then you would be stealing my hard work, which you have not earned yourself, which would make me your slave. So instead I will just say that you should read the 1st half of this book because it is thought provoking and very relevant in today’s economic environment, despite being nearly 40 years old.


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.


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.


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.

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.

dead letter office

her nonfiction is better than her fiction, in that she doesn't feel compelled to construct anything resembling a "plot" (not her strong suit), and she restrains some of her impulses toward soaring, melodramatic rhetoric since she can't dump it off on some character. (she does manage to find a way around this by REPEATEDLY quoting her own fiction to back up her nonfictional points, which i think is an inversion peculiarly ayn randian in its egocentricity.)free market capitalism is her religion (she would shit nine bricks if she heard anyone describe it as anything so irrational as a religion), and she does her best to put it on solid philosophical grounds, but in the end i just can't see eye to eye with her. i think her respect for the individual is admirable, but she loses me when she claims that capitalism is the best--in fact the only--guarantor of individual rights.i must say, i do sort of enjoy reading her nonfiction. i find it alternately infuriating, thought-provoking, and hilarious. it's also very boring. plus, special guest hypocrite alan greenspan treats us in a chapter he wrote to his 1966 denunciation of the Federal Reserve, an institution he deems anathema to the healthy functioning of a capitalist economy.

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