Ayn Rand meets Playboy

Rand is too Manichean, but this part of her 1964 Playboy interview moved me:

PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged, one of your leading characters is asked, “What’s the most depraved type of human being?” His reply is surprising: He doesn’t say a sadist or a murderer or a sex maniac or a dictator; he says, “The man without a purpose.” Yet most people seem to go through their lives without a clearly defined purpose. Do you regard them as depraved?

RAND: Yes, to a certain extent.

PLAYBOY: Why?

RAND: Because that aspect of their character lies at the root of and causes all the evils which you mentioned in your question. Sadism, dictatorship, any form of evil, is the consequence of a man’s evasion of reality. A consequence of his failure to think. The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose — a productive purpose.

PLAYBOY: Weren’t Hitler and Stalin, to name two tyrants, in control of their own lives, and didn’t they have a clear purpose?

RAND: Certainly not. Observe that both of them ended as literal psychotics. They were men who lacked self-esteem and, therefore, hated all of existence. Their psychology, in effect, is summarized in Atlas Shrugged by the character of James Taggart. The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose.

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