Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

We continue our analysis of John Galt’s Speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. This excerpt pertains to a fundamental moral precept of collectivism: sacrifice of the needs of the individual in the name of the group.

Definitions

Collectivism: a political, economic, and moral theory advocating collective control especially over production, distribution, and rights

Sacrifice: the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.

Collectivism = Sacrifice

  “It is your mind that they want you to surrender—all those who preach the creed of sacrifice, whatever their tags or their motives, whether they demand it for the sake of your soul or of your body, whether they promise you another life in heaven or a full stomach on this earth.

Those who start by saying: ‘It is selfish to pursue your own wishes, you must sacrifice them to the wishes of others’—end up by saying: ‘It is selfish to uphold your convictions, you must sacrifice them to the convictions of others.

One of the greatest accomplishments of Western Civilization’s intellectual leaders was the discovery and naming of individualism. Individualism is a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control.

Collectivism was the default system of organizing society throughout all of human history. Tribal leaders, religious authorities, and governments tried dozens of blends of collectivism over thousands of years of civilization across hundreds of cultures; the result was the same: endless generations of stagnation and poverty.

Once the enlightenment came around, the West started to codify individualism into law. No longer were men required to subvert their needs to their neighbors, their religious leaders, and their government. The United States became the first government to defend individual liberties in its founding documents. This lead to the greatest creation of wealth, prosperity, liberty, cultural diversity, and freedom the world had ever seen. 50% of the world’s wealth was concentrated in America, with just 5% of the world population in the 1950’s.

Collectivism is a relic of the past. Individualism created the brilliant world we live in today.

Sacrifice takes place only when we surrender something of value to something of lesser or no value. I value individualism over collectivism. So does the entire planet – insofar as people use iPhones and drive cars – because they use technological advancements that were only possible to create under economic and moral structures of society that could produce them.

It is not possible to sacrifice collectivism to individualism. Only individualism can be sacrificed to collectivism. That’s precisely what’s happening in the West today with Leftism.

Moral theory is fun to explore. In this passage, Ayn Rand isn’t speaking about individualism or collectivism directly, but I interpret that she’s attacking the moral underpinning of collectivism below:

   “This much is true: the most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth.

You are asked to sacrifice your intellectual integrity, your logic, your reason, your standard of truth—in favor of becoming a prostitute whose standard is the greatest good for the greatest number.

 

“If you search your code for guidance, for an answer to the question: ‘What is the good?’—the only answer you will find is ‘The good of others.’

The good is whatever others wish, whatever you feel they feel they wish, or whatever you feel they ought to feel.

‘The good of others’ is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold, a formula to be recited as a guarantee of moral glory and as a fumigator for any action, even the slaughter of a continent.

Your standard of virtue is not an object, not an act, not a principle, but an intention.

You need no proof, no reasons, no success, you need not achieve in fact the good of others—all you need to know is that your motive was the good of others, not your own.

Your only definition of the good is a negation: the good is the ‘non-good for me.’

 

“Your code—which boasts that it upholds eternal, absolute, objective moral values and scorns the conditional, the relative and the subjective—your code hands out, as its version of the absolute, the following rule of moral conduct: If you wish it, it’s evil; if others wish it, it’s good; if the motive of your action is your welfare, don’t do it; if the motive is the welfare of others, then anything goes.

 

“As this double-jointed, double-standard morality splits you in half, so it splits mankind into two enemy camps: one is you, the other is all the rest of humanity.

You are the only outcast who has no right to wish to live. You are the only servant, the rest are the mastersyou are the only giver, the rest are the takers, you are the eternal debtor, the rest are the creditors never to be paid off.

You must not question their right to your sacrifice, or the nature of their wishes and their needs: their right is conferred upon them by a negative, by the fact that they are ‘non-you.’“

Collectivism = Energetic Vampirism

Collectivist systems require that I surrender my integrity, logic, reason, and capacity to evaluate truth to their authority.

Any system that purports to serve the needs and rights of the “greater good” universally does so at the expense of my needs and rights. It necessarily must. To support human life requires energy. Money is potential energy. Never forget that.

Energy can neither be created or destroyed. It can be only transferred from one form into another.

Collectivism requires energy to be stolen from individuals to sustain the system. Historically, that energy transfer has held many names: tithes, taxes, forced labor, redistribution of wealth, welfare, Jizya, and internment camps to name a few.

When Ayn Rand writes ” ‘the good of others’ is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold”, she is alluding towards the energy transfer that all forms collectivism require to sustain themselves.

By manipulating individuals with a sense of guilt into believing they “owe” something to society, collectivists literally take their gold. You can use guilt – racial guilt, historical guilt, religious guilt, Original Sin, really any form – to make individuals voluntarily transfer their wealth to you. Where guilt can’t be extracted, threat of force will do the trick.

Government and religious leaders don’t actually have to do good unto the masses to trick people into giving up their energy, either. People still think the United States government is legitimate and internally feel a ‘duty’ to pay taxes to a nation that under President Barack Obama aggressively murdered 100,000+ brown people in Islamic countries, drone-striked weddings, tortured civilians, sabotaged the middle class by creating trillions in national debt, and sent trillions more to big financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”.

Whose energy was taken to accomplish these horrific feats of tyranny and evil?

Yours.

To support entities that seek to destroy your freedom and keep you a captive slave to sap productive energy from is self-destructive. Self-destructive impulses exist within all of us, and that’s what collectivist government and religious institutions seek to exploit.

And if you question any of this or attempt to withdraw your support, you’ll face negative consequences leading up to death.

From the religious side, you’ll face ostracism. Ostracism is extremely painful for humans. If you’re kicked out of the tribe, you lose sexual access to the women of the tribe. It leads to genetic death.

From the government side, you’ll face imprisonment. If you resist imprisonment, you’ll face death. Unlike religions, governments have a societally-sanctioned “right” to use lethal force. This is where individualism must be tempered by a respect for reality, if self-preservation is our aim.

Nobody on Earth is truly free while under government rule.

Individualism = Happiness

To maximize the freedom and fulfillment available to us, we must prioritize our own needs and desires in spite of the collectivist structures around us.

I understand that every one of my relationships is a 2-way street, requiring me to provide value to others in return for an exchange of value to me. I understand that helping other people makes me feel fulfilled and self-confident. I choose to devote a significant portion of my time and energy to helping others because I love to do it.

Individualism isn’t about being a selfish expletive. It’s living with rational self-interest in mind, tempered by an awareness of human psychology and the needs and desires of other people.

I understand that the world around me doesn’t support that much freedom. Virtually every level of society is plagued and slowed down in progress by collectivist thinking. Don’t worry about it. Don’t let it get to you. If you operate in the world as though it doesn’t effect you, it mostly won’t.

If you obsess over it and really let it bother you, you’re achieving their goal: your energetic draining and annihilation.

Groups are always getting together to try and shut down other groups. In 2019, my specific race and gender are targeted by Leftist collectivists in America to be shut down and stolen from. At the same time, Muslims are being targeted by Communist collectivists in China, and thrown into “re-education camps”. 80 years ago, Jews were targeted by right-wing collectivists in Europe. In 50 years, it’ll be some other group.

If we focus on our own self-improvement, building a buttress of healthy relationships based on shared values and virtues around us, we can actually live quite freely in an unfree world.

Understand that by prioritizing your own happiness in life, you give implicit permission for others who see your example to do the same. That effect spirals upward, unleashing more creative potential energy. It does far more good than protesting, or “checking out” of society.

With that, I’ll conclude that collectivism sucks. Just focus on what you can control: yourself.