Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

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

Check Price Now


Capitalism Economics Favorites Non Fiction Nonfiction Objectivism Philosophy Political Politics To Read

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


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.

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?"


The immorality of altruism...Conventional wisdom has always seemed to say that capitalism is a cut-throat system that rewards selfishness and materialism, leaving most of society out in the cold. Collectivism, on the other hand, is a fair and thoughtful system that provides for society as a whole. I had heard plenty about Ayn Rand over the years, but haven't read any of her books until now. Her contribution to the defense of capitalism is huge as I have never heard such well formed arguments. Rand effectively argues that capitalism is the only morally defensible economic system. Additionally, she shows that capitalism is the system which is most aligned with individualism, political freedom, and personal liberty. I have always sided with capitalism, agreeing that Marx had correctly pointed out its shortcomings while proposing an unrealistic ideal. Reading this book has forced me to reevaluate my thoughts on capitalism, leading to a much more comprehensive understanding of capitalism and its virtues as well as collectivism and its failures.

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.


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!

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.


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

Derek Peffer

Would I call it a good read (get it?Goodreads?). No...but had you given it to me with the express purpose to enlighten me into the political controversies of the 1960's onward. Not occluding our last political debate here in 2012 with its United States presidential election, I'd say Rand might well be a soothsayer. More likely though, a lot of stupid people read her work and in very dark terms, "put into production, politically speaking". And oh boy did a philosophy manufacture! I remember one interesting quote speaking about a railroad manufacturer she defended where Rand quotes from the book, The Story of American Railroads, "In short, by 1870, to pick an arbitrary date, railroads had become, as only too many orators of the day pointed out, a law unto themselves. They had bought United States senators and congressman, just as they bought rails and locomotives-with cash. They owned whole legislatures, and often the state courts...To call the roads of 1870 corrupt is none too strong a term." What followed I actually laughed out loud as Rand followed to explain quote, "It is the railroads that he blames and calls 'corrupt.' Yet what could the railroads do, except to 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?" Don't get me wrong Rand, I'll just accept your premise, that the glory of a railroad entrepreneur manufacturer and his "...single-handed, for the development of the entire American Northwest, was the Great Northern build by J. J. Hill without any federal Help whatever" would be snuffed out leaving "death" to occur at the hands of government. Is a lot like saying, I'll leave Tax Loop holes open to those corporations clever enough to use them, because without them good businesses couldn't exploit them. CAPITALISM HO! That businesses wouldn't lobby government officials for economic advantage against competitors that might otherwise cause the collapse of their businesses? What could they do, except resort to bribery. And through this competition more and more complex tax codes would have to be written. Business law and legal justice within a free market, CAPITALISM HO!! And that if government wasn't around this possibility would evaporate. Insofar as yes, this particular instant would be gone from government, not capitalism itself. As rand would seem to imply, what was capitalism to do? Might it not just do the same with particularly powerful entities, say other industrious men like themselves? I wouldn't say it was all bad, "I shall remind you that 'rights' are a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context, that they are derived from man's nature as a rational being and represent a necessary condition of his particular mode of survival. I shall remind you also that the right to life is the source of all rights, including the right to property." John Locke couldn't have said it better...Or did he?There is a debate to be had here, Egalitarianism and Libertarianism. Socialism and Capitalism. Reminded me when I feed bread to the baby koi fish. I would sometimes give too big of a bread piece and the koi would try to gobble the whole piece. One of the koi would grab it and would swim away to savor his big meal to come. But the koi couldn't swallow it and kept dropping it from its mouth. So it tried and tried to swallow it but couldn't, and just kept watching it sink only to pick it back up. Another saw the act and sought its own meal. The koi with the piece of bread had latched onto the bread piece and swam all around trying to keep the meal to itself, perhaps either saving it from being taken or wanting the whole meal to himself I cannot say. It slowed and weakened from the swim, enough that the other koi could catch up. The other koi fish came and took a bite of the piece of bread on one of the sides and ripped the bite in two. small enough that both digested the meal and went on there way within the small pond. But of course my feeding those particular Koi the advantage was just the luck of where I happen to be throwing. They were all the same to me. But I could pretend that the koi with a full meal in its belly returned to the group of koi and wondered why they weren't more industrious like he was? That they were just weak minded herds to be negotiated with while his belly was still too full from the previous meal. And those unlucky to not have a meal that day could be negotiated with the best and to the full meal koi belly, most psychologically advantageous to "requests". If Rand has much to say here, its nothing she said precisely. Unless it was her vitriol. She said that really well.

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.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *