0 1
 Peikoff.com > The Ominous Parallels

with an Introduction by Ayn Rand   

ominous parallels logo 1
ominous parallels logo 2

"As to my personal reaction, I can express it best by parphrasing a line from Atlas Shrugged: 'It's so wonderful to see a great, new, crucial achievement which is not mine!' "

  — Ayn Rand

Home

Introduction

Chapter 1: The Cause of Nazism

Author

Interview

Contents

Reviews

Order Online





 
An Interview with Ayn Rand

1. WHAT IS THE THESIS OF "THE OMINOUS PARALLELS"?

I argue that America today is following the same path — in politics, economics and cultural trends — that led to the triumph of Nazism in Germany. It can happen here.

ominous parallels book cover2. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF THESE "OMINOUS PARALLELS"?
Philosophy. Nazism rested on three main ideas: the glorification of irrationality, the demand for self sacrifice and the elevation of the state above the individual. America's Founding Fathers advocated reason, individual rights and the pursuit of happiness, but later intellectuals rejected these ideas and have left America vulnerable to all the manifestations that precede a Nazi type of dictatorship.

3. ISN'T ANTI-SEMITISM AN ESSENTIAL IDEA OF NAZISM?
No. Nazism requires a scapegoat of some kind, but not necessarily the Jewish people. In America, the scapegoat would probably be the businessmen. A good recent example is the government's war on Bill Gates.

4. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT AMERICA IS DOOMED TO GO TOTALITARIAN?
No. The U.S. is still the freest country on earth. Many of its people are still in sympathy with the ideas of the Founding Fathers. It is the intellectuals — who choose the country's direction — that are the threat to our future. So far we are drifting toward dictatorship, not moving purposefully. But we are drifting as Germany moved, in the same direction, for the same philosophical reason.

5. DO YOU REALLY THINK PHILOSOPHY IS THAT IMPORTANT- DOES IT MATTER WHAT PHILOSOPHY PEOPLE ACCEPT?
I believe that philosophy is the fundamental force in history. Men cannot act without some kind of guidance — some view of the world in which they act, of their means of knowledge, of the proper values to pursue. Everyone has a philosophy, knowingly or not; your only choice is whether your philosophy will be conscious and logical — or random, unidentified, contradictory and lethal. In those eras when men held a philosophy of reason, the results were the Renaissance, modern science, the founding of the U.S.A. When men held a philosophy of anti-reason, the results have been barbarism and the dark ages, and in our time the rise of Hitler and Stalin.

6. "THE OMINOUS PARALLELS" STRESSES THE ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY IN PRACTICAL LIFE. CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE FROM THE BOOK?
Perhaps the most eloquent comes from the concentration camps. All the details of camp life were deliberately devised by Himmler and others to make the victims doubt their reason, their own worth and their personal values — to turn them into mindless, purposeless, self-hating creatures. In that sense, the camps were philosophical institutions — with a profoundly vicious philosophy. And the result was wholesale destruction. I don't mean only the actual killings; I mean the legions of victims who were turned into helpless robots. The best known are the columns of Jews who marched without protest to certain death; this has nothing to do with cowardice; these men were philosophically disarmed and disoriented. They could not survive the lethal ideas they were forced to absorb.

7. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT AN ANTI-REASON PHILOSOPHY WILL ALWAYS LEAD TO DICTATORSHIP?
Yes. Hitler openly rejected logic and appealed to blood and instinct; he counted on working people up into a maniacal frenzy. In a population taught to think rationally, he would have had no chance. In general, the more rational a country is, the freer it is, and the more mystical a country is, the more enslaved it is. Just look at the West vs. Russia for examples.

8. ASIDE FROM SOME RELIGIOUS CULTS, WHERE DO YOU SEE UNREASON BEING TAUGHT OR CONDONED IN THE U.S. TODAY?
The main source is not the churches, but the universities. Virtually every department in the humanities and social sciences today openly attacks reason and glorifies irrationality. In philosophy, for example, they teach that reasoning is an arbitrary game divorced from reality. In psychology, one school (the behaviorist) says that man has no mind, while another (the Freudian) says that the mind is really run by irrational drives. Our universities are the real source of irrationalism in this country and of the idea of self-sacrifice for the community and of the push for ever bigger government; in other words, the source of all the central ideas of Nazism.

9. WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF OBJECTIVISM, DEFINED BY AYN RAND?
Its basic principle is the advocacy of reason as against any form of mysticism, such as faith, intuition, etc. As a result, in ethics, it upholds rational selfishness. In politics, it stands for individualism and capitalism as against any form of dictatorship.

10. YOU SAY THAT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS A FORM OF RACISM. WHY?
"Affirmative action" means a quota system by law favoring certain racial minorities at the expense of others. Whatever the motives offered, this is racism by liberals. A system that discriminates for one race today can turn against it tomorrow. The solution to racism is not "reverse" racism, but abolishing the racist mentality. This would require not laws, but an intellectual change, a philosophy of individualism.

11. CONSERVATIVES WOULD SEEM TO AGREE WITH A LOT OF WHAT YOU SAY. WHY DO YOU NOT SUPPORT THEM?
In general, see my article "Religion vs. America," published in The Voice of Reason. Religious conservatives — the main group on the so-called right — advocate actual thought control — censorship of literature, government dictation of biology courses, compulsory prayer, etc. This represents a profound rejection of capitalism and of the American principle of the separation of church and state. I advocate reason, not religion; in politics, I advocate individual rights as an absolute. I am for abortion (a woman's right to her own body), against censorship, against government sex laws, against the draft — just as I am against government control of property. The liberals want economic controls by the state. The conservatives want intellectual controls by the state. Between the two, we will soon have no freedom left.

12. IF YOU ARE NOT A LIBERAL AND DISLIKE CONSERVATIVES, WHAT ARE YOU?
A radical for capitalism — for complete, unbreached laissez-faire capitalism. I reject the whole statist apparatus erected in the last hundred years — all the regulatory agencies, social security, welfare legislation, all the special governmental favors to every group, whether business, labor, farmers or any other. In other words, I advocate a free country.

13. WOULDN'T CAPITALISM LEAD TO MONOPOLIES, DEPRESSIONS, CHILD LABOR, ADULTERATED FOOD, ETC.?
No. All those evils are caused not by capitalism, but by government intervention in the economy — none could have happened in a capitalist society. Read Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

14. ARE YOU A LIBERTARIAN?
No. The libertarians are a group of right-wing anarchists and/or subjectivists who reject philosophy and rush into political action senselessly, without any foundation.

15. YOU CLAIM THAT AMERICA TODAY, LIKE GERMANY BEFORE HITLER, IS MORALLY DECADENT. WHAT WAS GERMANY LIKE IN THOSE FINAL FREE YEARS?
Among other manifestations, there was flourishing pornography, brazenly flaunted orgies, prostitution, sexual perversion and widespread cocaine addiction. Art, literature and theater were dominated by horror, unintelligibility and a sense of doom. There was cynical influence peddling in politics and economic life. There were rioting students who hated the industrial revolution and businesses who demanded  "idealistic" self-sacrifice. There was every kind of mystic cult imaginable (astrology, theosophy, Nazism, etc.) promising to provide a "leader."

16. IF YOU REJECT RELIGION, HOW DO YOU COUNTERACT THE SAME KIND OF MORAL TREND HERE IN AMERICA TODAY?
By upholding a new code of values — the ethics of rational self-interest — what Ayn Rand called "the virtue of selfishness."

17. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SELFISHNESS?
I mean each man living by his own mind and for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor others to himself. I mean not emotionalism or brutality, but a life of thought, achievement, and independence. I mean dealing with others by trade, trading value for value. Selfishness — in this sense — is what freedom rests on, as against self-sacrifice to the state, which is what the Nazis and Communists demand. Freedom is selfish, individual rights are selfish, capitalism is selfish. Until we accept an ethics of selfishness, there is no hope for the future of this-country.

18. IN URGING SELFISHNESS, AREN'T YOU MERELY BEING AN APOLOGIST FOR BIG BUSINESS IN EFFECT?
I approve of businessmen who earn their profits and are proud of them. But I despise businessmen, or anyone else, who apologize for their success. Unfortunately, businessmen today are one of the most cowardly groups. They preach altruism more loudly than just about anybody else. These men have been brainwashed by their college teachers into feeling guilty for making profits — and so they are begging forgiveness, while subsidizing their destroyers in the colleges.

19. HOW CAN YOU BE SO CERTAIN YOUR PHILOSOPHY IS RIGHT- DOESN'T THAT MAKE IT INTO A RELIGION?
No. Certainty as such does not equal religion. If you prove your case in reason, then your viewpoint is science, not religion. I am certain that 2 plus 2 equals 4 — and I am certain that self-sacrifice is incompatible with freedom. One idea is mathematical, the other is philosophical, but the method of proof and the certainty is the same.

20. WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO AYN RAND'S IDEAS?
I was a teenager when I met Ayn Rand, I was searching for a code of values and she gave me an irresistibly logical case. When I asked her questions at our first meeting, she answered with great passion and seriousness, carefully, exactly and in detail. I was tremendously impressed. I had never met anyone who cared so much about ideas before — or since.

21. WHY WAS AYN RAND REJECTED BY SO MANY CRITICS AND INTELLECTUALS?
Because she attacked the essence of their philosophy. She once said that she had declared war on the philosophical tradition of two and a half thousand years.

22. WHAT WAS AYN RAND LIKE AS A PERSON?
She was the same in private as in public; if you've seen her on TV, she was the same in her own living room. She was like the heroines in her novels — strong, independent, intense about ideas, single-minded about her career, with a razor sharp mind and an answer to every question you asked her. She was deeply in love with her husband of 50 years, Frank O'Connor, a painter. To her friends or people she liked, I might add, she was warm, generous and highly supportive.

23. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE OBJECTIVIST MOVEMENT?
I hope it will continue to grow, especially in universities, and one day help turn this country around. Whether there is time for an educational process to succeed before some crisis stampedes us into dictatorship, I do not know. In my opinion, however, there is still hope.

 







 
Copyright © 2010 Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form or manner whatsoever without the express permission of Leonard Peikoff.