Today, I’d like to focus on a related idea.
While rereading Ayn Rand’s Journals, I came across a powerful passage. This is from her unpublished article, “To All Innocent Fifth Columnists,” which she wrote in 1940 or ’41, during World War II, when the future looked bleak and the war could have gone either way.
Rand knew then that ideas move the world, and in the nearly eighty years since, this principle has borne out in both directions: resulting in mass misery and rivers of blood on the one hand (via collectivism, socialism, and communism)—and almost unimaginable human flourishing on the other hand (via individualism, relatively free markets, and protection of individual rights).
What struck me about this passage is Rand’s laser focus on three things: the personal context of we fortunate Westerners who have enjoyed freedom—what we can and must do to maintain it—and what can and will happen if we fail.
Here’s the passage:
If you are one of those who have had a full, busy, successful life and are still hard at work making money—stop for one minute of thought. What are you working for?
You have enough to keep you in comfort for the rest of your days. But you are working to insure your children’s future. Well, what are you leaving to your children?
The money, home or education you plan to leave them will be worthless or taken away from them. Instead, your legacy will be a Totalitarian America, a world of slavery, of starvation, of concentration camps and of firing squads.
The best part of your life is behind you—and it was lived in freedom. But your children will have nothing to face save their existence as slaves.
Is that what you want for them? If not, it is still up to you. There is time left to abort it—but not very much time.
You take out insurance to protect your children, don’t you? How much money and working effort does that insurance cost you? If you put one-tenth of the money and time into [understanding and advancing the ideas necessary for] insuring against your children’s future slavery—you would save them and save for them everything else which you intend to leave them and which they’ll never get otherwise.
That hit me hard.
Fortunately the Allies won the war and averted totalitarian dictatorship. Importantly, they did so because enough people in the West were able and willing to call evil evil, to say that freedom is good, and to fight for it.
Do you see that kind of backbone among Westerners today? I don’t.
I have a sixteen-year-old daughter, and her future is in jeopardy. If you have (or plan to have) children, theirs is too.
You and I have lived in relative freedom. But future generations may or may not. That depends in large part on what we do today.
When our presidential alternatives are Trump, Sanders, Biden, and the like, as they are—when our congressional alternatives are no better, as they are—when proposals such as the Green New Deal and “universal health care” shift the sphere of socially accepted ideas toward totalitarianism, as they have and continue to do—when Democrats and Republicans alike attack freedom of speech and property rights, as they have and continue to do—the future of freedom is indeed in peril.
No one can predict whether America will become totalitarian. Too many factors (including free will) are at play. Personally, I doubt it will. My doubt is based in large part on my understanding of the ideas we have on our side and my confidence and personal involvement in advancing them. But with a huge percentage of citizens—and virtually all politicians—calling for more and more government controls, the possibility of a totalitarian or near-totalitarian future is real.
What is certain is that America, and the West in general, will become either more free or less free. And every degree of freedom or force matters to our quality of life—and to that of our children and grandchildren.
In order for the future to be more free, we must make the fundamental, moral, and philosophical arguments on which freedom depends. And we must do so regularly and persuasively, in crystal-clear terms, with examples that people can relate to.
The Objective Standard specializes in doing just that.
We write, edit, publish, and distribute a steady stream of articles that spell out clearly and concisely how and why freedom and flourishing depend on the principles of rational philosophy.
We don’t merely restate Ayn Rand’s arguments, and we never argue in a top-down fashion. Rather, we create new and fresh materials that elucidate the truth and value of Objectivism and show people how its principles apply to various areas of life. TOS articles meet readers at their rational values—whether their children’s education, the economy, the arts, history, or politics—and show them how rational principles can help them to better understand the world, achieve their goals, and protect their rights.
This is what TOS does. We do it well. We do it week after week, year after year. And we reach and move many minds in the process.
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