Ayn Rand on Love and Happiness

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Author Ayn Rand is famous for her philosophy of Objectivism, the germ of which was on display in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In 1959 (two years after Atlas Shrugged came out), Mike Wallace sat down with Rand to discuss her philosophy. Now, the good folks at Blank on Blank have put together an animated look at one segment of that interview—when Wallace got into Rand's views on altruistic love. Have a look (and check out the transcript below if you have trouble with her accent):

Fun fact: Ayn Rand appeared on Donahue late in her life. If you're a fan, or just curious, those appearances are amazing.

Also, see this Blank on Blank page for more information about this video.


Mike Wallace: Who are you, Ayn Rand? You have an accent, which is?

Ayn Rand: Russian.

Mike Wallace: Russian. You were born in Russia?

Ayn Rand: Yes.

Mike Wallace: Came here?

Ayn Rand: Oh, about 30 years ago.

Mike Wallace: And whence did this philosophy of yours come?

Ayn Rand: Out of my own mind, with the sole acknowledgement of a debt to Aristotle, who is the only philosopher that ever influenced me. I devised the rest of my philosophy myself.

Mike Wallace: You are married?

Ayn Rand: Yes.

Mike Wallace: Your husband, is he an industrialist?

Ayn Rand: No. He's an artist. His name is Frank O'Conner.

Mike Wallace: Does he live from his painting?

Ayn Rand: He's just beginning to study painting. He was a designer before.

Mike Wallace: Is he supported in his efforts by the state?

Ayn Rand: Most certainly not.

Mike Wallace: He's supported by you for the time being?

Ayn Rand: No, by his own work, actually, in the past. [CROSSTALK] By me if necessary, but that isn't quite necessary.

Mike Wallace: There is no contradiction here, in that you help him?

Ayn Rand: No, because you see I am in love with him selfishly. It is to my own interest to help him if he ever needed it. I would not call that a sacrifice, because I take selfish pleasure in it.


Ayn Rand: I say that man is entitled to his own happiness. And that he must achieve it himself. But that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. And nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.

Mike Wallace: And cannot man have self-esteem if he loves his fellow man? Christ, every important moral leader in man's history, has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love in your mind immoral?

Ayn Rand: It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself. It is more than immoral, it's impossible. Because when you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately. That is to love people without any standard. To love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.

Mike Wallace: But in a sense, in your book you talk about love as if it were a business deal of some kind. Isn't the essence of love, that it is above self-interest?

Ayn Rand: Well, What would it mean to have a love above self-interest? It would mean, for instance, that a husband would tell his wife, if he were moral according to the conventional morality, that I am marrying you just for your own sake, I have no personal interest in it, but I'm so unselfish, that I am marrying you only for your own good.

Mike Wallace: Should husbands and wives tally up...

Ayn Rand: Would any woman like that? I agree with you that it should be treated like a business deal. But every business deal has to have its own terms and its own kind of currency. And in love the currency is virtue. You love people, not for what you do for them, or what they do for you. You love them for their values, their virtues. You don't love causes. You don't love everybody indiscriminately. You love only those who deserve it. Man has free will. If a man wants love he should correct his flaws, and he may deserve it. But he cannot expect the unearned.

Mike Wallace: There are very few us then in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love.

Ayn Rand: Unfortunately.... yes... very few. But it is open to everybody, to make themselves worthy of it and that is all that my morality offers them. [CROSSTALK] A way to make themselves worthy of love, although that's not the primary motive.

Mike Wallace: Isn’t it possible that we are all basically lonely people and we are all basically our brothers’ keepers?

Ayn Rand: Nobody has ever given a reason why men should be their brothers' keepers, and you see the examples around you, of men perishing by the attempt to be their brothers' keepers.

Mike Wallace: You have no faith in anything.

Ayn Rand: Faith.... No.

Mike Wallace: Only in your mind.

Ayn Rand: That is not faith. That is a conviction. Yes..... I have no faith at all. I only hold convictions.

Mike Wallace: As we said at the outset, "If Ayn Rand's ideas were ever to take hold, they would revolutionize the world." And to those who would reject her philosophy, Miss Rand hurls this challenge. "For the past 2000 years the world has been dominated by other philosophies. Look around you, consider the results.” We thank Ayn Rand for adding her portrait to our gallery. One of the people other people are interested in. Mike Wallace... Good Bye.