The heroes of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged are the men of creative ability in every profession. This is a statement made by industrialist Hank Rearden at his trial for violating government rationing of a metal alloy that he invented.
I refuse to apologize for my ability — I refuse to apologize for my success — I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it.
“I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record. . . . I work for nothing but my own profit — which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage — and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of
every penny I own. I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with — the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it and to do it well. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people — the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay me. I refuse to apologize for my ability — I refuse to apologize for my success — I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests let the public destroy me. This is my code — and I will accept no other. I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow man than you can ever hope to accomplish — but I will not say it, because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I recognize the good of others as a justification for their seizure of my property or their destruction of my life. I will not say that the good of others was the purpose of my work — my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his. I could say to you that you do not serve the public good — that nobody’s good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices — that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation — as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won’t. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own — I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being’s right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!”
About the Author
Ayn Rand created and defined her philosophy, Objectivism, in the pages of her best-selling novels, particularly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and in a series of nonfiction books that address a wide range of fundamental issues in philosophy.
Born Alisa Rosenbaum in Tsarist St. Petersburg in 1905, Rand witnessed the Russian Revolution as a teenager and promptly condemned communism as immoral for sacrificing the individual to the collective. In 1926, shortly after graduating from the University of Leningrad, she fled to America, adopting the pen name Ayn Rand to shield her family from possible persecution once her anti-communism became well known.
In Hollywood, she wrote scenarios for famous director Cecil B. DeMille and met her future husband on a movie set, but the couple struggled financially for years. Then came a string of writing successes: a Broadway play, followed by her first novel, We the Living (1936), then a novella called Anthem (1938), and later her first best seller, the story of a fiercely independent architect named Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (1943). All these works of fiction feature gripping stories and exalted, egoistic, this-worldly heroes.
In writing Atlas Shrugged (1957) — the story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world, and did — Rand had to define fully her new philosophy of reason, rational self-interest, and laissez-faire capitalism.
Thereafter, and until her death in 1982, Rand amplified and explicated her “philosophy for living on earth” in a stream of books whose theoretical essays and cultural commentaries cover important topics across the five major branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics.