139 East 35th Street
New York City
October 16, 1943
Mr. DeWitt M. Emery
National Small Business Men’s Association
1635 Pittsfield Building
Thank you for your letter. I was glad to get such a long one from you, particularly with political discussions. You know how I love discussions. So I’m going to match it.
First—for God’s sake, you don’t have to give me an accounting of everything you read, by way of apology for not having read “The Fountainhead.” Skip it, as you always say, skip it. It’s all right, and I won’t hint about it again. The loss is yours, not mine. I’ve read it.
Second—what on earth are you talking about when you wonder whether I believe in “absolute individualism, disregarding the interdependence which is a necessary part of any capitalistic or industrial society”? (?!?) Of course I believe in absolute individualism. Yes, I mean laissez-faire. Yes, absolute laissez-faire. I don’t know what is meant by any sort of blasted “interdependence.” I do know that the word began to be used a couple of years ago—by the pinks, for a very specific purpose. I hope to God our side hasn’t adopted it—along with “democracy.”
I don’t see any kind of “interdependence” in a capitalist society. Everything a man gets is paid for by his own labor. He trades his products for the products of others—to the extent he has earned, and no more. A man who feeds himself by his own labor is not a dependent. Traders are not dependents. Only poor relatives, slaves and imbeciles are.
If the word means that I, for instance, depend on the farmer for my bread while he depends on me for his books—that is nonsense. He does not give me the bread free—and I do not give him my book free. I do not help him to grow wheat—and he does not help me to write a book. He depends on nothing but his own work and ability—and so do I. Then we exchange our products—through voluntary action, to mutual advantage—if we both want the exchange. If we don’t—I buy a box of soda crackers—and he buys a novel by William Saroyan. We don’t have to
deal with each other. Where the hell’s the “interdependence”? Now, of course, in a communist society, I would be given a bread ration and I’d gobble it up, because I’d have nothing else—and the farmer would have my novel rammed down his throat (if [radio commentator] Elmer Davis liked it). Then, of course, if the Cambodians need milk—we’ve all gotta rush out and sacrifice and get milked, because we need the totem poles which the Cambodians produce—our economy couldn’t possibly survive without totem poles—we’re all “interdependent.” That, my dear conservative president of the National Small Business Men’s Association, is what the word was pushed into use for.
You write: “Of course, there was a time in the evolution of mankind when each individual was absolutely dependent upon himself for everything, but that time was prior to the advent of the use of capital.” When was there such a time? No exact knowledge is available on pre-historical man. But every theory ever presented on the subject—on the basis of archaeological evidence—shows that man began with a collectivist society. Every recorded description of savages describes collectivism. Every contemporary savage society leads a tribal, communal, collectivist existence. The whole progress of mankind has been away from the collective toward individualism. Toward the independent man. This had been generally recognized and accepted. But about a year ago, for the first time to my knowledge, the newspaper PM came out with an article claiming that savages lived in a state of individualism and that we, the conservatives, were reactionaries who wanted to go back to the cave-man; while they, the collectivists, represented progress. Surely we haven’t fallen for that one, too? If we accept the premise of an individualistic savage (who never existed)—then of course communism is progress. And there’s no way for us to argue ourselves out of that one. Then let’s close shop and go to Soviet Russia.
What is the “fish illustration” of Dr. Haake? I don’t know it—but it sounds fishy.
Well, I’ll close on this inexcusable form of humor. With my best regards,