To Linda Lynneberg [Letter 298]

Item Reference Code: 142_LBx_021_001

Date(s) of creation

April 17, 1947


Linda Lynneberg


Rand met Linda Lynneberg when she came to work under Rand as a volunteer researcher during Wendell Willkie’s 1940 presidential campaign. They became friends, and Rand employed her as a typist in the early 1950s. In her biographical interviews, Rand said that Lynneberg got converted to Catholicism under Isabel Paterson’s influence and was “almost wrecked by it.” Nevertheless, Rand was still socializing with Lynneberg as late as 1975.

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April 17, 1947 

Dear Linda, 

This is just a hurried note, to reach you while you’re still in Texas. Thank you very much for the two checks which you sent us. Please forgive my delay in acknowledging it—I am in the midst of my new novel and it is going so well that I do not dare interrupt myself, except at the end of some sequence. Wait till you read this book—I think you’ll like it.

I did get a letter inquiring about you from the Delphian Society, and at least I was conscientious enough to answer it. Here is what I said: “I have known Miss Auslaug Lynneberg for over five years, and I regard her as a person of unusual ability, integrity and intelligence. I found her to be a good worker, an excellent speaker and a conscientious person, with a great deal of energy, initiative, imagination and ability to get along with people. I would not hesitate to recommend her for any position in the field of cultural endeavor or education.”

Go ahead and blush. I mean all of it.

I’m sorry I can’t get you an introduction to Mr. Hutton. I don’t know Gerald Loeb well enough to ask him for an indirect introduction of this kind, and even though he is a conservative himself, I am not sure that he approves of Mr. Hutton’s political activities, at least he takes no interest in them. I have never met Hutton myself.

Your Delphian Society sounds like a very interesting undertaking, and I can see where you’ll have a chance to do a great deal for them and for our side. I wish you the greatest success.

Now, about your definition of Individualism. No, I don’t think it’s good, in fact I think it’s extremely dangerous. You say: “Individualism—personal responsibility to act in accordance with known moral and natural laws so as to promote human creative activity.” Do you realize that such a definition could be accepted in and used by Soviet Russia? It could. As it stands, it would fit them. 

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The most dangerous thing in the world is a definition which is not specific, not objective, but open to the arbitrary interpretation of anyone who wishes to use it. Now you are absolutely right when you say that “Words simply have to be used definitely if communication between persons is to be possible.” In order to be a definition, a statement must be objective, that is, have only one possible, undeniable meaning, a concrete meaning. But now look at the holes left open in your definition, and at the pitfalls involved: 

1. What do you mean by “personal responsibility?” Responsibility to whom? I would take it to mean, to oneself. The Church would say, to God. The Communists would say, to the Collective.

2. “—in accordance with known moral and natural laws.” Known to whom? It is the whole problem and tragedy of mankind that no incontrovertible moral code has ever been defined. (That is what I will attempt to do when I write my nonfiction book.) Men do not even agree on their interpretation of natural laws, let alone the much more difficult moral laws. You are right in your intention, if I understand it correctly, that the proper code of Individualism has to be based on moral and natural laws. But a basic definition cannot be based on a code which has not yet been defined. As you have it, the Communists can very well claim that they are living up to your definition: they do claim that Marxism represents the absolute truth about natural and moral laws and that they slaughter people only because these people refuse to bear the responsibility assigned to them by the Commissars as their share of “promoting human creative activity.”

Now even if we all had a rational moral code and we all agreed on it, we would have no moral right to force it upon an individual who refused to accept it or did not believe in it or could not understand it. We would, of course, have the right to defend ourselves against any immoral action that he might commit against us—but we could not tie our definition of individualism to our code and say that only those who accept it come under the conception of individualism. It would amount to saying that only those who think as we do are individualists. 

But the point to which I would object most violently in your definition, the point which is the most profoundly philosophical and the most dangerous error, is this: you set a purpose for

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men’s rights and existence. You say that Individualism is a means to “promote human creative activity.” This makes the conception of Individualism (and, by implication, of Man) a means to an end. It amounts to the same thing as the error made by the Individualist philosophers of the XIX century when they defended a free economy on the ground that it achieved “the common good” or “the public good.” Taken literally, your definition means that the conception of Individualism applies only to those who promote human creative activity and only so long as they do so. It[]means that a man who has no ability or no desire to be creatively active, an invalid for instance, must remain outside the province of Individualism and any rights it implies, since he does not fulfill its conditions. It also means that the conception of Individualism is dependent upon and subordinated to whatever definition one makes of what constitutes “human creative activity” and what are the best means to promote it. Now here is where the Collectivists would grab your definition, and how! They claim that human creative activity is social and collective, they claim they have a natural (scientific) case to prove it, and they claim that only a collectivist society will “release” the individual to be creative. That, in fact, is their oldest claim, one of the loudest points of their Party Line. 

Now the essence of Individualism is that nobody, neither you nor I nor Marx, can tell a man what he must live for,[]nor subordinate his rights to a goal set by us. Individualism is not for ANY purpose, not[]“to promote” anything, not anything whatever, right or wrong or indifferent. It’s true that Individualism leads to the development of human creative activity (and is the only code that does), to human happiness, to human prosperity and to every desirable thing men can wish for. But these are consequences, not goals; secondary results, not purposes set in advance. These cannot be made part of a definition of Individualism. 

Also, didn’t it strike you as significant that you made a definition of Individualism that included the word[]“responsibility”, but not the word “freedom?” Do you remember when Henry Wallace defined his conception of human rights by saying that we should have duties instead of rights and responsibilities instead of privileges, or some such thing? I am afraid that you are on the same track. 

Now, what do I suggest? Why, the definition I give in my articles in THE VIGIL. “Individualism holds that man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore, each man

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exists by his own right and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group.” 

This is all you need for a political definition of Individualism. The moral definition of it is implied in this statement also, but would need elaboration. This statement leaves to man all his freedom—but it precludes “license” or crime, because a man who bases his actions on this definition or invokes it as a sanction for his actions has to recognize the same rights of others as he claims for himself. If he claims the right to exist for his own sake (which is his right in nature and morality), basing his claim on his nature as man, he cannot then sacrifice others to himself, or demand that they exist to serve him, or use violence against them. If he does this last, he has forfeited his own right—but it is he who has done so, not society. I cover all these points more fully in the articles (and they are subtle, difficult points.) Read the articles carefully. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble elaborating on them (they are very brief for the subjects I cover) and I think you will find them helpful for the purpose you have in mind. 

For a practical definition, if men merely agree that no man or number of men have the right to initiate the use of force against any human being (and that includes the forcible seizure of his property), that they have no such right for any purpose whatsoever, at any time whatsoever—that would be all we need, that would achieve a perfect Utopia on earth, that would include all the moral code we need. 

I hope this will be helpful to you. I could write volumes on the subject (and intend to some day), but I can’t do it in a letter. As it is, this is just a hasty statement, without revisions. You see what I’m like: I let personal news or matters go by, but just ask me a philosophical question and I can’t resist a long answer, even when I’m rushed. 

I’m enclosing the copies of THE VIGIL, which you asked. As I write more of them, I’ll send them on to you.

Incidentally, you don’t have to concede that you were “a considerable pain when I was your guest,” as you put it. You weren’t. I was only sorry that you were so unhappy when you were here—and I’m glad that you feel better now. Your letters seem to show it. Some day, I’ll ask you to concede that you’re intelligent,

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as you seem to resent my thinking that you are. You seem to take it as an over-estimation of you on my part, and therefore almost as an imposition. But it isn’t. You are intelligent, and some day I will give you my definition of what I mean by intelligence. Albert and I have been sort of working on this subject—that is, the definition of the nature of human intelligence—and we have some most startling ideas and discoveries on the subject. 

Frank asks me to thank you for “the best secondhand book of the month.” He got a big kick out of it. He hasn’t read it yet, but intends to. I can’t make him read a book—or even speak to me at length—he has become such an active land-owner that he is out of the house most of the time. He is now going into growing flowers professionally, as a business, and I think it’s going to go very well. Our place has become wonderful. It’s painted and furnished, at last, the garden is fixed, and it’s simply unbelievably beautiful. Even I am impressed. It’s becoming a kind of show-place, thanks to what Frank has done. One girl who came to visit us said that she didn’t believe anybody could live like that. I wish you could see it as it is now. 

I am on Chapter VII[]of the new novel—and that’s my whole universe at present. I love it and am very happy with the way it’s moving. 

Well, I guess the length of this letter will prove that I do want to hear from you.

The very best from both of us,