c/o Random House
457 Madison Ave.
New York City
June 28, 1960
Dear Miss Janson:
Thank you for your very interesting letter of May 30. I sincerely appreciate your attitude towards my novels and my philosophy.
You seem to be baffled by the response of students who say: “This philosophy is too idealistic, not practical enough.” Don’t let it discourage you. When you hear that (I hear it very often), you have actually won—and the rest is a matter of time. The moral code of altruism won its present victories, because people have been saying for years: “It’s idealistic, but not practical.” If you study cultural history, you will find that men are unable to oppose effectively any doctrine that they have recognized as “idealistic,” which means: as morally right. They may try to oppose it short-range, in any given moment or issue, but they are spiritually disarmed in their long-range stand. This is precisely the manner in which capitalism was defeated by altruism—as I have shown you in ATLAS SHRUGGED. So long as men like Rearden were regarded as merely “practical”, but men like James Taggart and Wesley Mouch as “idealistic”, the Taggarts and Mouches had to win. Freedom and capitalism are perishing for lack of a moral base. But once men begin to realize that morality is on the side of capitalism, it will not take them long to see how dreadfully impractical (and immoral) collectivism really is.
Remember that the morality presented in ATLAS SHRUGGED is new, unprecedented and radically opposed to all the traditional versions of morality. You cannot expect it to be accepted by everyone at once. Philosophical innovations take time. But what the collectivists-altruists needed centuries to accomplish, we will accomplish in a matter of years—because reality is on our side.
You ask, what is wrong with the students who seem passive and broken in spirit. The answer is: the kind of philosophy which is taught to them today and which dominates our culture. Again, I refer you to ATLAS SHRUGGED for the essence of modern philosophy, which is: that man’s mind is impotent, that thought is useless, that man is helpless. The students who accept these ideas will necessarily be broken in spirit.
This leads me to your question on: what can you do? Since the cause of today’s collapse lies in philosophy, it is in philosophy that the battle for an intellectual Renaissance has to start. Before men can reach the stage of practical action, they have to learn the right ideas. The first step of any new movement is the spread of the new ideas. Therefore, you and those of your friends who agree with you, should train yourselves to become competent advocates of the philosophy you want to uphold—and then preach that philosophy by every means available to you, from private discussions with your acquaintances, to letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines, to the writing of articles, essays and books (this last if your choice of profession permits it). There is no other way for any philosophical movement to spread and grow—and it is much too early for a formally organized movement.
Observe that I have underscored the words “competent advocates.” You cannot convert others to your ideas, if you have no consistent, logical arguments and proofs to offer. If you agree with my philosophy, you will need a great deal of thought, study and reading to understand it fully and to organize it in your own mind into an integrated set of principles; you will need it to guide your own life and to convince those who are willing to think, among the people you meet.
I am enclosing a brochure about the Nathaniel Branden Lectures, which you will find of interest. These lectures were given only in New York, but the demand for them is growing, and in the coming season they will be brought to other cities; there is a possibility that a tape-recorded course may be sent to a special study group in Chicago. If this is arranged, I will let you know.