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

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.

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.

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”.

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.


This is a great book! It masterfully explains why capitalism is the best system for freedom and progress, and why individual rights are more important than 'the collective good'. Although it was written more than fifty years ago, it presents the exact issues we are dealing with today, from minimum wage increases to ideas of 'fairness' and 'equality'. It is a great, great book, the first thing I've ever read from Ayn Rand. She was absolutely right on.


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 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.

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.


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.


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


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.

Pratik Patnaik

Technically the rating should have been 3 on 5, but I rated it 4 because of the sheer importance of this work. One of the best collection of essays on Capitalism. Ayn Rand is brilliant but importantly the other essays are also very good. Mind you, it's not an easy read, but if you like the subject, there is no other better book which I can suggest.


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.

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.

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.

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