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Milgram: When and How Ayn Rand Embraced the Term ‘Capitalism’

Ayn Rand scholar and professor of literature, Shoshana Milgram, writes on “‘Capitalism’: When and How Ayn Rand Embraced the Term (Pt. 1)” (2021 Dec 1, New Ideal):

Capitalism, wrote Ayn Rand, is “the only system geared to the life of a rational being.” She was an outspoken, enthusiastic, uncompromising advocate of capitalism, a self-described “radical for capitalism.” Her 1957 best seller, the novel Atlas Shrugged, celebrates production and business. She is known for eloquent articles on the topic (e.g., “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business”), many of them collected in the 1966 volume Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

But at what age did she first come to view business itself positively? When did she recognize free enterprise as not only an efficient economic system, but as the only moral political system? When did she begin to make salient use of the term “capitalism” and think of it as naming her political ideal? The present article is a biographical answer.  I begin with her youth, continue through her university education and her early Russian publications, cross the Atlantic with her to the United States, follow her reading and writing about individualism in politics, and examine the advocacy in her private and public writing of the principles of free enterprise — and the appearance there of the word “capitalism.”

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