Voluntary Society - Conditioning - This is John Galt Speaking
Pages 767-814 of "Atlas Shrugged" (store opens August 15; available here is a 6.1 MB PDF)
"For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John
Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does
not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you
of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know
why you are perishing—you who dread knowledge—I am the man who will now
The chief engineer was the only one able to move; he ran to a
television set and struggled frantically with its dials. But the screen
remained empty; the speaker had not chosen to be seen. Only his voice
filled the airways of the country—of the world, thought the chief
engineer—sounding as if he were speaking here, in this room, not to a
group, but to one man; it was not the tone of addressing a meeting, but
the tone of addressing a mind.
"You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have
said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words had no
You have cried that man's sins are destroying the world and you have
cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you
demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have
demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a
return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held
as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You
have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to
You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to
self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.
"You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all
that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from
the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of
your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your
moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You
have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, you have wished it, and I
—I am the man who has granted you your wish.
"Your ideal had an implacable enemy, which your code of morality was
designed to destroy. I have withdrawn that enemy. I have taken it out
of your way and out of your reach. I have removed the source of all
those evils you were sacrificing one by one. I have ended your battle.
I have stopped your motor. I have deprived your world of man's mind.
"Men do not live by the mind, you say? I have withdrawn those who do.
The mind is impotent, you say? I have withdrawn those whose mind isn't.
There are values higher than the mind, you say? I have withdrawn those
for whom there aren't.
"While you were dragging to your sacrificial altars the men of justice,
of independence, of reason, of wealth, of self-esteem—I beat you to it,
I reached them first. I told them the nature of the game you were
playing and the nature of that moral code of yours, which they had been
too innocently generous to grasp. I showed them the way to live by
another morality—mine. It is mine that they chose to follow.
“All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose,
it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us.
We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve
you. We do not recognize such duty- Do not cry that you need us. We do
not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don't, Do
not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.
"We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the
creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike
dogma that the pursuit of one's happiness is evil. We are on strike
against the doctrine that life is guilt.
"There is a difference between our strike and all those you've
practiced for centuries: our strike consists, not of making demands,
but of granting them. We are evil, according to your morality. We have
chosen not to harm you any longer. We are useless, according to your
economics. We have chosen not to exploit you any longer. We are
dangerous and to be shackled, according to your politics. We have
chosen not to endanger you, nor to wear the shackles any longer. We are
only an illusion, according to your philosophy. We have chosen not to
blind you any longer and have left you free to face reality—the reality
you wanted, the world as you see it now, a world without mind.
"We have granted you everything you demanded of us, we who had always
been the givers, but have only now understood it. We have no demands to
present to you, no terms to bargain about, no compromise to reach. You
have nothing to offer us. We do not need you.
"Are you now crying: No, this was not what you wanted? A mindless world
of ruins was not your goal? You did not want us to leave you? You moral
cannibals, I know that you've always known what it was that you wanted.
But your game is up, because now we know it, too.
"Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your
code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that
the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak
and too selfish to spill al! the blood it required. You damned man, you
damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question
your code. Your victims took the blame and struggled on, with your
curses as reward for their martyrdom—while you went on crying that your
code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it.
And no one rose to ask the question: Good?—by what standard?
"You wanted to know John Galt's identity. I am the man who has asked
"Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment
for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not
human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that's
through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind
alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what
you now need is not to return to morality—you who have never known any—
but to discover it.
"You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social.
You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you
by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to
serve God's purpose or your neighbor's welfare, to please an authority
beyond the grave or else next door—but not to serve your life or
pleasure. Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be found in
immorality, your interests would best be served by evil, and any moral
code must be designed not for you, but against you, not to further your
life, but to drain it.
"For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who
claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it
belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is
self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached
that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth.
And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good
is to live it.
"Both sides agreed that morality demands the surrender of your self
interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are
opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the
province of faith and force. Both sides agreed that no rational
morality is possible, that there is no right or wrong in reason—that in
reason there's no reason to be moral.
"Whatever else they fought about, it was against man's mind that all
your moralists have stood united. It was man's mind that all their
schemes and systems were intended to despoil and destroy. Now choose to
perish or to learn that the anti-mind is the anti-life.
"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him,
survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His
mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act,
and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his
action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of
the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch—or build a
cyclotron—without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve
it. To remain alive, he must think.
"But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly
call 'human nature,' the open secret you live with, yet dread to name,
is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason
does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the
connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your
stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not.
In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade
that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the
fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a
human being, the question 'to be or not to be' is the question 'to
think or not to think.'
"A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of
behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is
that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which
one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question:
of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a
purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative.
Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible.
"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence
or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to
living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional,
the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of
action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot
cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant
alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of
self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that
action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of
existence. It is only the concept of 'Life'
that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living
entity that things can be good or evil.
"A plant must feed itself in order to live; the sunlight, the water,
the chemicals it needs are the values its nature has set it to pursue;
its life is the standard of value directing its actions. But a plant
has no choice of action; there are alternatives in the conditions it
encounters, but there is no alternative in its function: it acts
automatically to further its life, it cannot act for its own
"An animal is equipped for sustaining its life; its senses provide it
with an automatic code of action, an automatic knowledge of what is
good for it or evil. It has no power to extend its knowledge or to
evade it. In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies.
But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge, with automatic
safety and no power of choice, it is unable to ignore its own good,
unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer.
"Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from
all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of
alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic
knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends
on, what course of action it requires. Are you prattling about an
instinct of self preservation? An
instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess.
An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire
is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge
required for living. And even man's desire to live is not automatic:
your secret evil today is that (hat is the desire you do not hold. Your
fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the
knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose
his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him
to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is
the way he has acted through most of his history.
"A living entity that regarded its means of survival as evil, would not
survive. A plant that struggled to mangle its roots, a bird that fought
to break its wings would not remain for long in the existence they
affronted. But the history of man has been a struggle to deny and to
destroy his mind.
"Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of
choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or
suicidal animal, Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life
as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has
to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice.
"A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.
"Whoever you are, you who are hearing me now, I am speaking to whatever
living remnant is left uncorrupted within you, to the remnant of the
human, to your mind, and I say: There is a morality of reason, a
morality proper to man, and Man's Life is its standard of value.
"AH that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good;
all that which destroys it is the evil.
"Man's life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless
brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a
thinking being—not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means
of achievement—not survival at any price, since there's only one price
that pays for man's survival: reason.
"Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its
purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your
actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for
the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable
value which is your life.
"Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will
destroy it- A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and
goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death.
Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose,
negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly
amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain.
"Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death.
Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the
achievement of one's values. A morality that dares to tell you to find
happiness in the renunciation of your happiness—to value the failure of
your values—is an insolent negation of morality. A doctrine that gives
you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on
the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard. By the
grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in
himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own
happiness is his highest moral purpose.
"But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of
irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any
random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires,
so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the
torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the
happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you, not
to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
"Sweep aside those parasites of subsidized classrooms, who live on the
profits of the mind of others and proclaim that man needs no morality,
no values, no code of behavior. They, who pose as scientists and claim
that man is only an animal, do not grant him inclusion in the law of
existence they have granted to the lowest of insects. They recognize
that every living species has a way of survival demanded by its nature,
they do not claim that a fish can live out of water or that a dog can
live without its sense of smell—but man, they claim, the most complex
of beings, man can survive in any way whatever, man has no identity, no
nature, and there's no practical reason why he cannot live with his
means of survival destroyed, with his mind throttled and placed at the
disposal of any orders they might care to issue.
"Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of
humanity and preach that the highest virtue man can practice is to hold
his own life as of no value. Do they tell you that the purpose of
morality is to curb man's instinct of self-preservation? It is for the
purpose of self-preservation that man needs a code of morality. The
only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.
"No, you do not have to live; it is your basic act of choice; but if
you choose to live, you must live as a man—by the work and the judgment
of your mind.
"No, you do not have to live as a man; it is an act of moral choice.
But you cannot live as anything else—and the alternative is that state
of living death which you now see within you and around you, the state
of a thing unfit for existence, no longer human and less than animal, a
thing that knows nothing but pain and drags itself through its span of
years in the agony of unthinking self-destruction.
"No, you do not have to think; it is an act of moral choice. But
someone had to think to keep you alive; if you choose to default, you
default on existence and you pass the deficit to some moral man,
expecting him to sacrifice his good for the sake of letting you survive
by your evil.
"No, you do not have to be a man; but today those who are, are not
there any longer. I have removed your means of survival—your victims.
"If you wish to know how I have done it and what I told them to make
them quit, you are hearing it now. I told them, in essence, the
statement I am making tonight. They were men who had lived by my code,
but had not known how great a virtue it represented. I made them see
it. I brought them, not a re-evaluation, but only an identification of
"We, the men of the mind, are now on strike against you in the name of
a single axiom, which is the root of our moral code, just as the root
of yours is the wish to escape it: the axiom that existence exists.
"Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two
corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that
one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of
perceiving that which exists.
"If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with
nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness
conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it
could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of
something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you
possess is not consciousness.
"Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two—existence and
consciousness—are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the
irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part
of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you
perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might
acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the
structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists
and that you know it.
"To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of
non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of
specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his
errors —the greatest of. your philosophers, has stated the formula
defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is
A. A. thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his
statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity,
Consciousness is Identification.
"Whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an
action, the law of identity remains the same. A leaf cannot be a stone
at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time,
it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it
stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.
"Are you seeking to know what is wrong with the world? AH the disasters
that have wrecked your world, came from your leaders1 attempt to evade
the fact that A is A. All the secret evil you dread to face within you
and all the pain you have ever endured, came from your own attempt to
evade the fact that A is A. The purpose of those who taught you to
evade it, was to make you forget that Man is Man.
"Man cannot survive except by gaining knowledge, and reason is his only
means to gain it. Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and
integrates the material provided by his senses. The task of his senses
is to give him the evidence of existence, but the task of identifying
it belongs to his reason, his senses tell him only that something is,
but what it is must be learned by his mind.
"All thinking is a process of identification and integration. Man
perceives a blob of color; by integrating the evidence of his sight and
his touch, he learns to identity it as a solid object: he learns to
identify the object as a table; he learns that the table is made of
wood; he learns that the wood consists of cells, that the cells consist
of molecules, that the molecules consist of atoms. All through this
process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question:
What is it? His means to establish the truth of his answers is logic,
and logic rests on the axiom that existence exists. Logic is the art of
A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the
universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part
contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he
integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his
knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's
thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to
evict oneself from the realm of reality.
"Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is
merely that negation of existence which is the content of a human
consciousness when it attempts to abandon reason. Truth is the
recognition of reality; reason, man's only means of knowledge, is his
only standard of truth.
"The most depraved sentence you can now utter is to ask: Whose reason?
The answer is: Yours. No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest,
it is your own mind that has to acquire it. It is only with your own
knowledge that you can deal. It is only your own knowledge that you can
claim to possess or ask others to consider. Your mind is your only
judge of truth—and if others dissent from your verdict, reality is the
court of final appeal. Nothing but a man's mind can perform that
complex, delicate, crucial process of identification which is thinking.
Nothing can direct the process but his own judgment. Nothing can direct
his judgment but his moral integrity.
"You who speak of a 'moral instinct' as if it were some separate
endowment opposed to reason—man's reason is his moral faculty. A
process of reason is a process of constant choice in answer to the
question: True or False?—Right or Wrong? Is a seed to be planted in
soil in order to grow—right or wrong? Is a
man's wound to be disinfected in order to save his life—right or wrong?
Does the nature of atmospheric electricity permit it to be converted
into kinetic power—right or wrong? It is the answers to such questions
that gave you everything you have—and the answers came from a man's
mind, a mind of intransigent devotion to that which is right.
"A rational process is a moral process. You may make an error at any
step of it, with nothing to protect you but your own severity, or you
may try to cheat, to fake the evidence and evade the effort of the
quest—but if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there
is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a
man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.
"That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and
that which you call 'free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not,
the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all
the choices you make and determines your life and your character.
"Thinking is man's only basic virtue, from which all the others
proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that
nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit:
the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one's consciousness,
the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not
ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your
mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of
judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only
you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not
pronounce the verdict 'It is.'
Non-thinking is an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an
attempt to wipe out reality. But existence exists; reality is not to be
wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper. By refusing to say 'It
you are refusing to say 'I am.' By suspending your judgment, you are
negating your person. When a man declares: 'Who am I to know?'—he is
declaring: 'Who am I to live?'
"This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice:
thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A,
entity or zero.
"To the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise
directing his actions. To the extent to which he is irrational, the
premise directing his actions is death.
"You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no
morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need
it most. Let him try to claim, when there are no victims to pay for it,
that a rock is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into
his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest
tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today—and reality will wipe him
out, as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be
bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it.
"If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only
moral commandment is: Thou shall think. But a 'moral commandment' is a
contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the
understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason
accepts no commandments.
"My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom:
existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds
from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and
ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his
only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which
that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate
certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy
of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values
imply and require all of man's virtues, and all his virtues pertain to
the relation of existence and consciousness:
rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness,
"Rationality is the recognition of the fact that existence exists, that
nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that
act of perceiving it, which is thinking—that the mind is one's only
judge of values and one's only guide of action—that reason is an
absolute that permits no compromise—that a concession to the irrational
invalidates one's consciousness and turns it from the task of
perceiving to the task of faking reality—that the alleged short-cut to
knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the
mind—that the acceptance of a mystical invention is a wish for the
annihilation of existence and, properly, annihilates one's
"Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the
responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no
substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—
that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the
subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an
authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts,
his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your
consciousness and your existence.
"Integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your
consciousness, just as honesty is the recognition of the fact that you
cannot fake existence—that man is an indivisible entity, an integrated
unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness, and that he may
permit no breach between body and mind, between action and thought,
between his life and his convictions—that, like a judge impervious to
public opinion, he may not sacrifice his convictions to the wishes of
others, be it the whole of mankind shouting pleas or threats against
him—that courage and confidence are practical necessities, that courage
is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to
truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one's own
"Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and
can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if
obtained by fraud—that an attempt to gain a value by deceiving the mind
of others is an act of raising your victims to a position higher than
reality, where you become a pawn of their blindness, a slave of their
non-thinking and their evasions, while their intelligence, their
rationality, their perceptiveness become the enemies you have to dread
and flee—that you do not care to live as a dependent, least of all a
dependent on the stupidity of others, or as a fool whose source of
values is the fools he succeeds in fooling—that honesty is not a social
duty, not a sacrifice for the sake of others, but the most profoundly
selfish virtue man can practice: his refusal to sacrifice the reality
of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others.
"Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the
character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that you
must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects,
with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, by
as pure and as rational a process of identification—that every man must
be judged for what he is and treated accordingly, that just as you do
not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of
shining metal, so you do not value a rotter above a hero—that your
moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and
this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to
financial transactions—that to withhold your contempt from men's vices
is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from
their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement—that to place any other
concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral currency and
defraud the good in favor of the evil, since only the good can lose by a
default of justice and only the evil can profit—and that the bottom of
the pit at the end of that road, the act of moral bankruptcy, is to
punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices, that that
is the collapse to full depravity, the Black Mass of the worship of
death, the dedication of your consciousness to the destruction of
"Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the
fact that you choose to live—that productive work is the process by
which man's consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of
acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one's purpose, of
translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the
image of one's values—that all work is creative work ft done by a
thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats
in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others—that your
work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that
nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human—that to cheat
your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a
fear corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle
down into a job that requires less than your mind's full capacity is to
cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion:
decay—that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to
lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live—that
your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive
as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your
road—that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill
at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that
the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust,
that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being
towed to the scrap heap, and the man who makes another man his goal is
a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up—that your work is the
purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes
the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work,
any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share
your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same
"Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest
value and, like all of man's values, it has to be earned—that of any
achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the
creation of your own character—that your character, your actions, your
desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your
mind—that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain
his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life
worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a
being of self-made soul—that to live requires a sense of self-value,
but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of
self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his
moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to
create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of
self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best
in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above
all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher
than itself—and that the proof of an achieved self-esteem is your
soul's shudder of contempt and rebellion against the role of a
sacrificial animal, against the vile impertinence of any creed that
proposes to immolate the irreplaceable value which is your
consciousness and the incomparable glory which is your existence to the
blind evasions and the stagnant decay of others.
"Are you beginning to see who is John Galt? I am the man who has earned
the thing you did not fight for, the thing you have renounced,
betrayed, corrupted, yet were unable fully to destroy and are now
hiding as your guilty secret, spending your Me in apologies to every
professional cannibal, lest it be discovered that somewhere within you,
you still long to say what I am now
saying to the hearing of the whole of mankind: I am proud of my own
value and of the fact that I wish to live.
"This wish—which you share, yet submerge as an evil—is the only remnant
of the good within you, but it is a wish one must learn to deserve. His
own happiness is man's only moral purpose, but only his own virtue can
achieve it. Virtue is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own
reward or sacrificial fodder for the reward of evil. Life is the reward
of virtue—and happiness is the goal and the reward of life.
"Just as your body has two fundamental sensations, pleasure and pain,
as signs of its welfare or injury, as a barometer of its basic
alternative, life or death, so your consciousness has two fundamental
emotions, joy and suffering, in answer to the same alternative. Your
emotions are estimates of that which furthers your life or threatens
it, lightning calculators giving you a sum of your profit or loss. You
have no choice about your capacity to feel that something is good for
you or evil, but what you will consider good or evil, what will give
you joy or pain, what you will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on
your standard of value. Emotions are inherent in your nature, but their
content is dictated by your mind. Your emotional capacity is an empty
motor, and your values are the fuel with which your mind fills it. If
you choose a mix of contradictions, it will clog your motor, corrode
your transmission and wreck you on your first attempt to move with a
machine which you, the driver, have corrupted.
"If you hold the irrational as your standard of value and the
impossible as your concept of the good, if you long for rewards you
have not earned, for a fortune or a love you don't deserve, for a
loophole in the law of causality, for an A that becomes non-A at your
whim, if you desire the opposite of existence—you will reach it. Do not
cry, when you reach it, that life is frustration and that happiness is
impossible to man; check your fuel: it brought you where you wanted to
"Happiness is not to be achieved at the command of emotional whims.
Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you
might blindly attempt to indulge. Happiness is a state of non
contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not
clash with any of your values and does not work for your own
destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your
mind's fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving
values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer.
Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires
nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds
his joy in nothing but rational actions.
"Just as I support my life, neither by robbery nor alms, but by my own
effort, so I do not seek to derive my happiness from the injury or the
favor of others, but earn it by my own achievement. Just as I do not
consider the pleasure of others as the goal of my life, so I do not
consider my pleasure as the goal of the lives of others. Just as there
are no contradictions in my values and no conflicts among my desires—so
there are no victims and no conflicts of interest among rational men,
men who do not desire the unearned and do not view one another with a
cannibal's lust, men who neither make sacrifices nor accept them.
"The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of
respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by
loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who
earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader
does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved
for his flaws, A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his
soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for
material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love,
his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human
virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure,
which he receives from men he can respect. The mystic parasites who
have, throughout the ages, reviled the traders and held them in
contempt, while honoring the beggars and the looters, have known the
secret motive of their sneers: a trader is the entity they dread—a man
"Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow men?
None—except the obligation I owe to myself, to material objects and to
all of existence: rationality. I deal with men as my nature and theirs
demands: by means of reason. I seek or desire nothing from them except
such relations as they care to enter of their own voluntary choice.
It is only with their mind that I can deal and only for my own self
interest, when they see that my interest coincides with theirs. When
they don't, I enter no relationship; I let dissenters go their way and
I do not swerve from mine. I win by means of nothing but logic and I
surrender to nothing but logic. I do not surrender my reason or deal
with men who surrender theirs. I have nothing to gain from fools or
cowards; I have no benefits to seek from human vices: from stupidity,
dishonesty or fear. The only value men can offer me is the work of
their mind. When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our
final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one
of us will win, but both will profit.
"Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that
may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may
sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may
initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force
"To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his
perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival;
to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to
act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent,
initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death
in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man's capacity
"Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of
your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality
ends where a gun begins. When you declare that men are irrational
animals and propose to treat them as such, you define thereby your own
character and can no longer claim the sanction of reason—as no advocate
of contradictions can claim it. There can be no 'right' to destroy the
source of rights, the only means of judging right and wrong: the mind.
"To force a man to drop his own mind and to accept your will as a
substitute, with a gun in. place of a syllogism, with terror in place
of proof, and death as the final argument—is to attempt to exist in
defiance of reality. Reality demands of man that he act for his own
rational interest; your gun demands of him that he act against it.
Reality threatens man with death if he does not act on his rational
judgment; you threaten him with death if he does. You place him into a
world where the price of his life is the surrender of all the virtues
required by life—and death by a process of gradual destruction is all
that you and your system will achieve, when death is made to be the
ruling power, the winning argument in a society of men.
"Be it a highwayman who confronts a traveler with the ultimatum: 'Your
money or your life,' or a politician who confronts a country with the
ultimatum: 'Your children's education or your life,' the meaning of
that ultimatum is: 'Your mind or your life'—and neither is possible to
man without the other.
"If there are degrees of evil, it is hard to say who is the more
contemptible: the brute who assumes the right to force the mind of
others or the moral degenerate who grants to others the right to force
That is the moral absolute one does not leave open to debate. I do not
grant the terms of reason to men who propose to deprive me of reason. I
do not enter discussions with neighbors who think they can forbid me to
do not place my moral sanction upon a murderer's wish to kill me. When
a man attempts to deal with me by force, I answer him—by force.
"It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the
man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his
concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the
only destruction he had the right to choose: his own. He uses force to
seize a value; I use it only to destroy destruction. A holdup man seeks
to gain wealth by killing me; I do not grow richer by killing a holdup
man. I seek no values by means of evil, nor do I surrender my values to
"In the name of all the producers who had kept you alive and received
your death ultimatums in payment, I now answer you with a single
ultimatum of our own: Our work or your guns. You can choose either; you
can't have both. We do not initiate the use of force against others or
submit to force at their hands. If you desire ever again to live in an
industrial society, it will be on our moral terms. Our terms and our
motive power are the antithesis of yours. You have been using fear as
your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for
rejecting your morality. We offer him life as his reward for accepting
"You who are worshippers of the zero—you have never discovered that
achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. Joy is not 'the
absence of pain,' intelligence is not 'the absence of stupidity,' light
is not 'the absence of darkness,' an entity is not 'the absence of a
nonentity.' Building is not done by abstaining from demolition;
centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one
single girder for you to abstain from demolishing—and now you can no
longer say to me, the builder: 'Produce, and feed us in exchange for
our not destroying your production.' I am answering in the name of all
your victims: Perish with and in your own void. Existence is not a
negation of negatives. Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation,
evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from.
us. Perish, because we have learned that a zero cannot hold a mortgage
"You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness.
You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of
earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our
incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish
"You, who have lost the concept of the difference, you who claim that
fear and joy are incentives of equal power—and secretly add that fear
is the more 'practical’—you do not wish to live, and only fear of death
still holds you to the existence you have damned. You dart in panic
through the trap of your days, looking for the exit you have closed,
running from a pursuer you dare not name to a terror you dare not
acknowledge, and the greater your terror the greater your dread of the
only act that could save you: thinking. The purpose of your struggle is
not to know, not to grasp or name or hear the thing I shall now state
to your hearing: that yours is the Morality of Death.
"Death is the standard of your values, death is your chosen goal, and
you have to keep running, since there is no escape from the pursuer who
is out to destroy you or from the knowledge that that pursuer is
yourself. Stop running, for once—there is no place to run—
stand naked, as you dread to stand, but as I see you, and take a look
at what you dared to call a moral code.
"Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose,
means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands
that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to
practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his
own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a
standard of value, but
with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then
to define the good: the good is that which he is not.
"It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced
glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible
design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some
inexplicable claim upon him—it does not matter, the good is not for him
to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning
for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible
debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is
"The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin, "A sin without
volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms:
that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province
of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to
change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot
is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a
mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of
nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a
mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence
exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and
reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be
matched. Yet that is the root of your code.
"Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free
will, but with a 'tendency’ to evil. A free will saddled with a
tendency is. like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle
through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the
game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had
no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess
it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.
"What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original
Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they
consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the
tree of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became a rational being.
It was the knowledge of good and evil—he became a moral being. He was
sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he became a productive being.
He was sentenced to experience desire—he acquired the capacity of
sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason,
morality, creativeness, joy—all the cardinal values of his existence.
It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to
explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt,
but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that robot in the
Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without
labor, without love—he was not man.
"Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues
required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin.
His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is
that he lives.
"They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man.
"No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only
that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill
him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him,
they say, against his pain—and they point at the torture rack to which
they've tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite
directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body.
"They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They
have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies
engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures,
contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to
injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but
his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth—and that
the good is to defeat his body, to undermine
it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious
jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.
"They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two
elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a
soul without a body is a ghost—yet such is their image of man's nature:
the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse
endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the
knowledge that everything known to man is non-existent, that only the
"Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine was designed to
ignore? It was man's mind that had to be negated in order to make him
fall apart. Once he surrendered reason, he was left at the mercy of two
monsters whom he could not fathom or control: of a body moved by
unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations—
he was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot
and a dictaphone.
"And as he now crawls through the wreckage, groping blindly for a way
to live, your teachers offer him the help of a morality that proclaims
that he'll find no solution, and must seek no fulfillment on earth.
Real existence, they tell him, is that which he cannot perceive, true
consciousness is the faculty of perceiving the non-existent—and if he
is unable to understand it, that is the proof that his existence is
evil and his. consciousness impotent.
"As products of the split between man's soul and body, there are two
kinds of teachers of the Morality of Death: the mystics of spirit and
the mystics of muscle, whom you call the spiritualists and the
materialists, those who believe in consciousness without existence and
those who believe in existence without consciousness. Both demand the
surrender of your mind, one to their revelations, the other to their
reflexes. No matter how loudly they posture in the roles of
irreconcilable antagonists, their moral codes are alike, and so are
their aims: in matter—the enslavement of man's body, in spirit—the
destruction of his mind.
"The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only
definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive—a definition
that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of
existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society—a thing
which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a
super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general
except yourself. Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be
subordinated to the will of God, Man's mind, say the mystics of muscle,
must be subordinated to the will of Society. Man's standard of value,
say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are
beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith.
Man's standard of value, say the mystics of muscle, is the pleasure of
Society, whose standards are beyond man's right of judgment and must be
obeyed as a primary absolute. The purpose of man's life, say both, is
to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for
reasons he is not to question. His reward, say the mystics of spirit,
will be given to him beyond the grave. His reward, say the mystics of
muscle, will be given on earth—to his great-grandchildren.
"Selfishness—say both—is man's evil. Man's good—say both—is to give up
his personal desires, to deny himself, renounce himself, surrender;
man's good is to negate the life he lives. Sacrifice—cry both—is the
essence of morality, the highest virtue within man's reach.
"Whoever is now within reach of my voice, whoever is man the victim,
not man the killer, I am speaking at the deathbed of your mind, at the
brink of that darkness in which you're drowning, and if there still
remains within you the power to struggle to hold on to those fading
sparks which had been yourself—use it now. The word that has destroyed
you is 'sacrifice.' Use the
last of your strength to understand its meaning. You're still alive.
You have a chance.
" 'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the
precious. 'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of the evil for the
sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. 'Sacrifice'
is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you
"If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you
exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you
wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then
renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk
and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give
it to your neighbor's child and let your own die, it is.
"If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give
it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you
can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of
your own discomfort, it is only a partial virtue, according to this
sort of moral standard; if you give him money at the cost of disaster
that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.
"If you renounce all personal desires and dedicate your life to those
you love, you do not achieve full virtue: you still retain a value of
your own, which is your love. If you devote your life to random
strangers, it is an act of greater virtue. If you devote your life to
serving men you hate—that is the greatest of the virtues you can
practice, "A sacrifice is the surrender of a value. Full sacrifice is
full surrender of all values. If you wish to achieve full virtue, you
must seek no gratitude in return for your sacrifice, no praise, no
love, no admiration, no self-esteem, not even the pride of being
virtuous; the faintest trace of any gain dilutes your virtue. If you
pursue a course of action that does not taint your life by any joy,
that brings you no value in matter, no value in spirit, no gain, no
profit, no reward—if you achieve this state of total zero, you have
achieved the ideal of moral perfection.
"You are told that moral perfection is impossible to man—and, by this
standard, it is. You cannot achieve it so long as you live, but the
value of your life and of your person is gauged by how closely you
succeed in approaching that ideal zero which is death.
"If you start, however, as a passionless blank, as a vegetable seeking
to be eaten, with no values to reject and no wishes to renounce, you
will not win the crown of sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice to renounce
the unwanted. It is not a sacrifice to give your life for others, if
death is your personal desire. To achieve the virtue of sacrifice, you
must want to live, you must love it, you must burn with passion for
this earth and for all the splendor it can give you—you must feel the
twist of every knife as it slashes your desires away from your reach
and drains your love out of your body. It is not mere death that the
morality of sacrifice holds out to you as an ideal, but death by slow
"Do not remind me that it pertains only to this life on earth. I am
concerned with no other. Neither are you.
"If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best
actions a 'sacrifice': that term brands you as immoral. If a mother
buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not
a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a
sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who
would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of
duty. If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a
sacrifice: he is not willing to live as a slave; but it is a sacrifice
to the kind of man who's willing.
If a man refuses to sell his convictions, it is not a sacrifice, unless
he is the sort of man who has no convictions.
"Sacrifice could be proper only for those who have nothing to
sacrifice—no values, no standards, no judgment—those whose desires are
irrational whims, blindly conceived and lightly surrendered. For a man
of moral stature, whose desires are born of rational values, sacrifice
is the surrender of the right to the wrong, of the good to the evil.
"The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral—a morality that
declares its own bankruptcy by confessing that it can't impart to men
any personal stake in virtues or values, and that their souls are
sewers of depravity, which they must be taught to sacrifice. By its own
confession, it is impotent to teach men to be good and can only subject
them to constant punishment.
"Are you thinking, in some foggy stupor, that it's only material values
that your morality requires you to sacrifice? And what do you think are
material values? Matter has no value except as a means for the
satisfaction of human desires. Matter is only a tool of human values.
To what service are you asked to give the material tools your virtue
has produced? To the service of that which you regard as evil: to a
principle you do not share, to a person you do not respect, to the
achievement of a purpose opposed to your own—else your gift is not a
"Your morality tells you to renounce the material world and to divorce
your values from matter. A man whose values are given no expression in
material form, whose existence is unrelated to his ideals, whose
actions contradict his convictions, is a cheap little hypocrite—
yet that is the man who obeys your morality and divorces his values
from matter. The man who loves one woman, but sleeps with another—
the man who admires the talent of a worker, but hires another—the man
who considers one cause to be just, but donates his money to the
support of another—the man who holds high standards of craftsmanship,
but devotes his effort to the production of trash—these are the men who
have renounced matter, the men who believe that the values of their
spirit cannot be brought into material reality.
"Do you say it is the spirit that such men have renounced? Yes, of
course. You cannot have one without the other. You are an indivisible
entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you
become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake.
Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil.
"And that is precisely the goal of your morality, the duty that your
code demands of you. Give to that which you do not enjoy, serve that
which you do not admire, submit to that which you consider evil—
surrender the world to the values of others, deny, reject, renounce
your self. Your self is your mind; renounce it and you become a chunk
of meat ready for any cannibal to swallow.
"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.'
"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
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
or live. You are the only servant, the rest are the masters, you 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.'
"For those of you who might ask questions, your code provides a
consolation prize and booby-trap: it is for your own happiness, it
says, that you must serve the happiness of others, the only way to
achieve your joy is to give it up to others, the only way to achieve
your prosperity is to surrender your wealth to others, the only way to
protect your life is to protect all men except yourself—and if you find
no joy in this procedure, it is your own fault and the proof of your
evil; if you were good, you would find your happiness in providing a
banquet for others, and your dignity in existing on such crumbs as they
might care to toss you.
"You who have no standard of self-esteem, accept the guilt and dare not
ask the questions. But you know the unadmitted answer, refusing to
acknowledge what you see, what hidden premise moves your world.
You know it, not in honest statement, but as a dark uneasiness within
you, while you flounder between guiltily cheating and grudgingly
practicing a principle too vicious to name.
"I, who do not accept the unearned, neither in values nor in guilt, am
here to ask the questions you evaded. Why is it moral to serve the
happiness of others, but not your own? If enjoyment is a value, why is
it moral when experienced by others, but immoral when experienced by
you? If the sensation of eating a cake is a value, why is it an immoral
indulgence in your stomach, but a moral goal for you to achieve in the
stomach of others? Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for
others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but
moral to give it away? And if it is not moral for you to keep a value,
why is it moral for others to accept it? If you are selfless and
virtuous when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they
Does virtue consist of serving vice? Is the moral purpose of those who
are good, self-immolation for the sake of those who are evil?
'The answer you evade, the monstrous answer is: No, the takers are not
evil, provided they did not earn the value you gave them. It is not
immoral for them to accept it, provided they are unable to produce it,
unable to deserve it, unable to give you any value in return. It is not
immoral for them to enjoy it, provided they do not obtain it by right.
"Such is the secret core of your creed, the other half of your double
standard: it is immoral to live by your own effort, but moral to live
by the effort of others—it is immoral to consume your own product, but
moral to consume the products of others—it is immoral to earn, but
moral to mooch—it is the parasites who are the moral justification for
the existence of the producers, but the existence of the parasites is
an end in itself—it is evil to profit by achievement, but good to
profit by sacrifice—it is evil to create your own happiness, but good
to enjoy it at the price of the blood of others.
"Your code divides mankind into two castes and commands them to live by
opposite rules: those who may desire anything and those who may desire
nothing, the chosen and the damned, the riders and the carriers, the
eaters and the eaten. What standard determines your caste? What passkey
admits you to the moral elite? The passkey is lack of value.
"Whatever the value involved, it is your lack of it that gives you a
claim upon those who don't lack it. It is your need that gives you a
claim to rewards. If you are able to satisfy your need, your ability
annuls your right to satisfy it. But a need you are unable to satisfy
gives you first right to the lives of mankind.
"If you succeed, any man who fails is your master; if you fail, any man
who succeeds is your serf. Whether your failure is just or not, whether
your wishes are rational or not, whether your misfortune is undeserved
or the result of your vices, it is misfortune that gives you a right to
rewards. It is pain, regardless of its nature or cause, pain as a
primary absolute, that gives you a mortgage on all of existence.
"If you heal your pain by your own effort, you receive no moral credit:
your code regards it scornfully as an act of self-interest. Whatever
value you seek to acquire, be it wealth or food or love or rights, if
you acquire it by means of your virtue, your code does not regard it as
a moral acquisition: you occasion no loss to anyone, it is a trade, not
alms; a payment, not a sacrifice. The deserved belongs in the selfish,
commercial realm of mutual profit; it is only the undeserved that calls
for that moral transaction which consists of profit to one at the price
of disaster to the other. To demand rewards for your virtue is selfish
and immoral; it is your lack of virtue that transforms your demand into
a moral right.
"A morality that holds need as a claim, holds emptiness—nonexistence—as
its standard of value; it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness,
inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster, the lack, the
fault, the flaw—the zero.
"Who provides the account to pay these claims? Those who are cursed for
being non-zeros, each to the extent of his distance from that ideal.
Since all values are the product of virtues, the degree of your virtue
is used as the measure of your penalty; the degree of your faults is
used as the measure of your gain. Your code declares that the rational
man must sacrifice himself to the irrational, the independent man to
parasites, the honest man to the dishonest, the man of justice to the
unjust, the productive man to thieving loafers, the man of integrity to
compromising knaves, the man of self-esteem to sniveling neurotics. Do
you wonder at the meanness of soul in those you see around you? The man
who achieves these virtues will not accept your moral code; the man who
accepts your moral code will not achieve these virtues.
"Under a morality of sacrifice, the first value you sacrifice is
morality; the next is self-esteem. When need is the standard, every man
is both victim and parasite. As a victim, he must labor to fill the
needs of others, leaving himself in the position of a parasite whose
needs must be filled by others. He cannot approach his fellow men
except in one of two disgraceful roles: he is both a beggar and a
"You fear the man who has a dollar less than you, that dollar is
rightfully his, he makes you feel like a moral defrauder. You hate the
man who has a dollar more than you, that dollar is rightfully yours, he
makes you feel that you are morally defrauded. The man below is a
source of your guilt, the man above is a source of your frustration.
You do not know what to surrender or demand, when to give and when to
grab, what pleasure in life is rightfully yours and what debt is still
unpaid to others—you struggle to evade, as 'theory,' the knowledge that
by the moral standard you've accepted you are guilty every moment of
your life, there is no mouthful of food you swallow that is not needed
by someone somewhere on earth—and you give up the problem in blind
resentment, you conclude that moral perfection is not to be achieved or
desired, that you will muddle through by snatching as snatch can and by
avoiding the eyes of the young, of those who look at you as if
self-esteem were possible and they expected you to have it Guilt is all
that you retain within your soul—and so does every other man, as he
goes past, avoiding your eyes. Do you wonder why your morality has not
achieved brotherhood on earth or the good will of man to man?
"The justification of sacrifice, that your morality propounds, is more
corrupt than the corruption it purports to justify. The motive of your
sacrifice, it tells you, should be love—the love you ought to feel for
every man. A morality that professes the belief that the values of the
spirit are more precious than matter, a morality that teaches you to
scorn a whore who gives her body indiscriminately to all men—this same
morality demands that you surrender your soul to promiscuous love for
"As there can be no causeless wealth, so there can be no causeless love
or any sort of causeless emotion. An emotion is a response to a fact of
reality, an estimate dictated by your standards. To love is to value.
The man who tells you that it is possible to value without values, to
love those whom you appraise as worthless, is the man who tells you
that it is possible to grow rich by consuming without producing and
that paper money is as valuable as gold.
"Observe that he does not expect you to feel a causeless fear. When his
kind get into power, they are expert at contriving means of terror, at
giving you ample cause to feel the fear by which they desire to rule
you. But when it comes to love, the highest of emotions, you permit
them to shriek at you accusingly that you are a moral delinquent if
you're incapable of feeling causeless love. When a man feels fear
without reason, you call him to the attention of a psychiatrist; you
are not 1034 so careful to protect the meaning, the nature and the
dignity of love.
"Love is the expression of one's values, the greatest reward you can
earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and
person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives
from the virtues of another. Your morality demands that you divorce
your love from values and hand it down to any vagrant, not as response
to his worth, but as response to his need, not as reward, but as alms,
not as a payment for virtues, but as a blank check on vices. Your
morality tells you that the purpose of love is to set you free of the
bonds of morality, that love is superior to moral judgment, that true
love transcends, forgives and survives every manner of evil in Its
object, and the greater the love the greater the depravity it permits
to the loved. To love a man for his virtues is paltry and human, it
tells you; to love him for his flaws is divine. To love those who are
worthy of it is self-interest; to love the unworthy is sacrifice. You
owe your love to 'those who don't deserve it, and the less they deserve
it, the more love you owe them—the more loathsome the object, the
nobler your love—the more unfastidious your love, the greater your
virtue—and if you can bring your soul to the state of a dump heap that
welcomes anything on equal terms, if
you can cease to value moral values, you have achieved the state of
"Such is your morality of sacrifice and such are the twin ideals it
offers: to refashion the life of your body in the image of a human
stockyards, and the life of your spirit in the image of a dump.
"Such was your goal—and you've reached it. Why do you now moan
complaints about man's impotence and the futility of human aspirations?
Because you were unable to prosper by seeking destruction? Because you
were unable to find joy by worshipping pain? Because you were unable to
live by holding death as your standard of value?
"The degree of your ability to live was the degree to which you broke
your moral code, yet you believe that those who preach it are friends
of humanity, you damn yourself and dare not question their motives or
their goals. Take a look at them now, when you face your last
choice—and if you choose to perish, do so with full knowledge of how
cheaply how small an enemy has claimed your life.
"The mystics of both schools, who preach the creed of sacrifice, are
germs that attack you through a single sore: your fear of relying on
your mind. They tell you that they possess a means of knowledge higher
than the mind, a mode of consciousness superior to reason—like a
special pull with some bureaucrat of the universe who gives them secret
tips withheld from others. The mystics of spirit declare that they
possess an extra sense you lack: this special sixth sense consists of
contradicting the whole of the knowledge of your five. The mystics of
muscle do not bother to assert any claim to extrasensory perception:
they merely declare that your senses are not valid, and that their
wisdom consists of perceiving your blindness by some manner of
unspecified means. Both kinds demand that you invalidate your own
consciousness and surrender yourself into their power. They offer you,
as proof of their superior knowledge, the fact that they assert the
opposite of everything you know, and as proof of their superior ability
to deal with existence, the fact that they lead you to misery,
self-sacrifice, starvation, destruction.
"They claim that they perceive a mode of being superior to your
existence on this earth. The mystics of spirit call it 'another
dimension,' which consists of denying dimensions. The mystics of muscle
call it 'the future,' which consists of denying the present. To exist
is to possess identity. What identity are they able to give to their
They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is.
All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no
human mind can know, they say—and proceed to demand that you consider
it knowledge—God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body,
virtue is non-profit, A is non-A, perception is non-sensory, knowledge
is non-reason. Their definitions are not acts of defining, but of
"It is only the metaphysics of a leech that would cling to the idea of
a universe where a zero is a standard of identification. A leech would
want to seek escape from the necessity to name its own nature—escape
from the necessity to know that the substance on which it builds its
private universe is blood.
"What is the nature of that superior world to which they sacrifice the
world that exists? The mystics of spirit curse matter, the mystics of
muscle curse profit. The first wish men to profit by renouncing the
earth, the second wish men to inherit the earth by renouncing all
profit. Their non-material, non-profit worlds are realms where rivers
run with milk and coffee, where wine spurts from rocks at their
command, where pastry drops on them from clouds at the price of opening
their mouth. On this material, profit-chasing earth, an enormous
investment of virtue—of intelligence, integrity, energy, skill—is
required to construct a railroad to carry them the distance
of one mile; in their nonmaterial, non-profit world, they travel from
planet to planet at the cost of a wish. If an honest person asks them:
'How?'—they answer with righteous scorn that a 'how' is the concept of
vulgar realists; the concept of superior spirits is 'Somehow.' On this
earth restricted by matter and profit, rewards are achieved by thought;
in a world set free of such restrictions, rewards are achieved by
"And that is the whole of their shabby secret. The secret of all their
esoteric philosophies, of all their dialectics and super-senses, of
their evasive eyes and snarling words, the secret for which they
destroy civilization, language, industries and lives, the secret for
which they pierce "their own eyes and eardrums, grind out their senses,
blank out their minds, the purpose for which they dissolve the
absolutes of reason, logic, matter, existence, reality—is to erect upon
that plastic fog a single holy absolute: their Wish.
"The restriction they seek to escape is the law of identity. The
freedom they seek is freedom from the fact that an A will remain an A,
no matter what their tears or tantrums—that a river will not bring them
milk, no matter what their hunger—that water will not run uphill, no
matter what comforts they could gain if it did, and if they want to
lift it to the roof of a skyscraper, they must do it by a process of
thought and labor, in which the nature of an inch of pipe line counts,
but their feelings do not—that their feelings are impotent to alter the
course of a single speck of dust in space or the nature of any action
they have committed.
"Those who tell you that man is unable to perceive a reality
undistorted by his senses, mean that they are unwilling to perceive a
reality undistorted by their feelings. 'Things as they are' are things
as perceived by your mind; divorce them from reason and they become
'things as perceived by your wishes.'
"There is no honest revolt against reason—and when you accept any part
of their creed, your motive is to get away with something your reason
would not permit you to attempt. The freedom you seek is freedom from
the fact that if you stole your wealth, you are a scoundrel, no matter
how much you give to charity or how many prayers you recite—that if you
sleep with sluts, you're not a worthy husband, no matter how anxiously
you feel that you love your wife next morning—that you are an entity,
not a series of random pieces scattered through a universe where
nothing sticks and nothing commits you to anything., the universe of a
child's nightmare where identities switch and swim, where the rotter
and the hero are interchangeable parts arbitrarily assumed at will—that
you are a man—that you are an entity—that you are.
"No matter how eagerly you claim that the goal of your mystic wishing
is a higher mode of life, the rebellion against identity is the wish
for non-existence. The desire not to be anything is the desire not to
"Your teachers, the mystics of both schools, have reversed causality in
their consciousness, then strive to reverse it in existence. They take
their emotions as a cause, and their mind as a passive effect. They
make their emotions their tool for perceiving reality. They hold their
desires as an irreducible primary, as a fact superseding all facts. An
honest man does not desire until he has identified the object of his
desire. He says: 'It is, therefore I want it.' They say: 'I want it,
therefore it is.’
"They want to cheat the axiom of existence and consciousness, they want
their consciousness to be an instrument not of perceiving but of
creating existence, and existence to be not the object but the subject
of their consciousness—they want to be that God they created in their
image and likeness, who creates a universe out of a void by means of an
arbitrary whim. But reality is not to be cheated. What they achieve is
the opposite of their desire. They want an omnipotent power over
existence; instead, they lose the
power of their consciousness. By refusing to know, they condemn
themselves to the horror of a perpetual unknown.
"Those irrational wishes that draw you to their creed, those emotions
you worship as an idol, on whose altar you sacrifice the earth, that
dark, incoherent passion within you, which you take as the voice of God
or of your glands, is nothing more than the corpse of your mind.
An emotion that clashes with your reason, an emotion that you cannot
explain or control, is only the carcass of that stale thinking which
you forbade your mind to revise.
"Whenever you committed the evil of refusing to think and to see, of
exempting from the absolute of reality some one small wish of yours,
whenever you chose to say: Let me withdraw from the judgment of reason
the cookies I stole, or the existence of God, let me have my one
irrational whim and I will be a man of reason about all else—that was
the act of subverting your consciousness, the act of corrupting your
mind. Your mind then became a fixed jury who takes orders from a secret
underworld, whose verdict distorts the evidence to fit an absolute it
dares not touch—and a censored reality is the result, a splintered
reality where the bits you chose to see are floating among the chasms
of those you didn't, held together by that embalming fluid of the mind
which is an emotion exempted from thought.
"The links you strive to drown are causal connections. The enemy you
seek to defeat is the law of causality: it permits you no miracles.
The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. Al!
actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and
determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act
in contradiction to its nature. An action not caused by an entity would
be caused by a zero, which would mean a zero controlling a thing, a
nonentity controlling an entity, the non-existent ruling the
existent—which is the universe of your teachers' desire, the cause of
their doctrines of causeless action, the reason of their revolt against
reason, the goal of their morality, their politics, their economics,
the ideal they strive for: the reign of the zero.
"The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it,
too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before
you have it. But if you drown both laws in the blanks of your mind, if
you pretend to yourself and to others that you don't see—then you can
try to proclaim your right to eat your cake today and mine tomorrow,
you can preach that the way to have a cake is to eat it first, before
you bake it, that the way to produce is to start by consuming, that
"all wishers have an equal claim to all things, since nothing is caused
by anything. The corollary of the causeless in matter is the unearned
"Whenever you rebel against causality, your motive is the fraudulent
desire, not to escape it, but worse: to reverse it. You want unearned
love, as if love, the effect, could give you personal value, the cause—
you want unearned admiration, as if admiration, the effect, could give
you virtue, the cause—you want unearned wealth, as if wealth, the
effect, could give you ability, the cause—you plead for mercy, mercy,
not justice, as if an unearned forgiveness could wipe out the cause of
your plea. And to indulge your ugly little shams, you support the
doctrines of your teachers, while they run hog-wild proclaiming that
spending, the effect, creates riches, the cause, that machinery, the
effect, creates intelligence, the cause, that your sexual desires, the
effect, create your philosophical values, the cause.
"Who pays for the orgy? Who causes the causeless? Who are the victims,
condemned to remain unacknowledged and to perish in silence, lest their
agony disturb your pretense that they do not exist? We are, we, the men
of the mind.
"We are the cause of all the values that you covet, we who perform the
process of thinking, which is the process of defining identity and
discovering causal connections. We taught you to know, to speak, to
produce, to desire, to love. You who abandon reason—were it not for us
who preserve it, you would not be able to fulfill or even to conceive
your wishes. You would not be able to desire the clothes that had not
been made, the automobile that had not been invented, the money that
had not been devised, as exchange for goods that did not exist, the
admiration that had not been experienced for men who had achieved
nothing, the love that belongs and pertains only to those who preserve
their capacity to think, to choose, to value.
"You—who leap like a savage out of the jungle of your feelings into the
Fifth Avenue of our New York and proclaim that you want to keep the
electric lights, but to destroy the generators—it is our wealth that
you use while destroying us, it is our values that you use while
damning us, it is our language that you use while denying the mind.
"Just as your mystics of spirit invented their heaven in the image of
our earth, omitting our existence, and promised you rewards created by
miracle out of non-matter—so your modern mystics of muscle omit our
existence and promise you a heaven where matter shapes itself of its
own causeless will into all the rewards desired by your non-mind.
"For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a
protection racket—by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you
for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make
existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by
declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from
the sinners. We, the men of the mind, were the unnamed victims of their
creed, we who were willing to break their moral code and to bear
damnation for the sin of reason—we who thought and acted, while they
wished and prayed—we who were moral outcasts, we who were bootleggers
of life when life was held to be a crime—while they basked in moral
glory for the virtue of surpassing material greed and of distributing
in selfless charity the material goods produced by—blank-out.
"Now we are chained and commanded to produce by savages who do not
grant us even the identification of sinners—by savages who proclaim
that we do not exist, then threaten to deprive us of the life we don't
possess, if we fail to provide them with the goods we don't produce.
Now we are expected to continue running railroads and to know the
minute when a train will arrive after crossing the span of a continent,
we are expected to continue running steel mills and to know the
molecular structure of every drop of metal in the cables of your
bridges and in the body of the airplanes that support you in mid-air—
while the tribes of your grotesque little mystics of muscle fight over
the carcass of our world, gibbering in sounds of non-language that
there are no principles, no absolutes, no knowledge, no mind.
"Dropping below the level of a savage, who believes that the magic
words he utters have the power to alter reality, they believe that
reality can be altered by the power of the words they do not utter—and
their magic tool is the blank-out, the pretense that nothing can come
into existence past the voodoo of their refusal to identify it.
"As they feed on stolen wealth in body, so they feed on stolen concepts
in mind, and proclaim that honesty consists of refusing to know that
one is stealing. As they use effects while denying causes, so they use
our concepts while denying the roots and the existence of the concepts
they are using. As they seek, not to build, but to take over industrial
plants, so they seek, not to think, but to take over human thinking.
"As they proclaim that the only requirement for running a factory is
the ability to turn the cranks of the machines, and blank out the
question of who
created the factory—so they proclaim that there are no entities, that
nothing exists but motion, and blank out the fact that motion
presupposes the thing which moves, that without the concept of entity,
there can be no such concept as 'motion.' As they proclaim their right
to consume the unearned, and blank out the question of who's to produce
it—so they proclaim that there is no law of identity, that nothing
exists but change, and blank out the fact that change presupposes the
concepts of what changes, from what and to what, that without the law
of identity no such concept as 'change' is possible. As they rob an
industrialist while denying his value, so they seek to seize power over
all of existence while denying that existence exists.
" 'We know that we know nothing,' they chatter, blanking out the fact
that they are claiming knowledge—'There are no absolutes,' they
chatter, blanking out the fact that they are uttering an absolute—'You
cannot prove that you exist or that you're conscious,' they chatter,
blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence, consciousness
and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know,
of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned
to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved.
"When a savage who has not learned to speak declares that existence
must be proved, he is asking you to prove it by means of
nonexistence—when he declares that your consciousness must be proved,
he is asking you to prove it by means of unconsciousness—he is asking
you to step into a void outside of existence and consciousness to give
him proof of both—he is asking you to become a zero gaining knowledge
about a zero, "When he declares that an axiom is a matter of arbitrary
choice and he doesn't choose to accept the axiom that he exists, he
blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence,
that the only way to reject it is to shut one's mouth, expound no
theories and die.
"An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of
any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement
necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker
chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats
its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the
process of any attempt to deny it. Let the caveman who does not choose
to accept the axiom of identity, try to present his theory without
using the concept of identity or any concept derived from it—let the
anthropoid who does not choose to accept the existence of nouns, try to
devise a language without nouns, adjectives or verbs—let the
witchdoctor who does not choose to accept the validity of sensory
perception, try to prove it without using the data he obtained by
sensory perception —let the head-hunter who does not choose to accept
the validity of logic, try to prove it without using logic—let the
pigmy who proclaims that a skyscraper needs no foundation after it
reaches its fiftieth story, yank the base from under his building, not
yours—let the cannibal who snarls that the freedom of man's mind was
needed to create an industrial civilization, but is not needed to
maintain it, be given an arrowhead and bearskin, not a university chair
"Do you think they are taking you back to dark ages? They are taking
you back to darker ages than any your history has known. Their goal is
not the era of pre-science, but the era of pre-language. Their purpose
is to deprive you of the concept on which man's mind, his life and his
culture depend: the concept of an objective reality. Identify the
development of a human consciousness—and you will know the purpose of
"A savage is a being who has not grasped that A is A and that reality
is real. He has arrested his mind at the level of a baby's, at the
stage when a consciousness acquires its initial sensory perceptions and
has not learned to distinguish solid objects. It is to a baby that the
world appears as a blur of motion, without things that move—and the
birth of his mind is the day when
he grasps that the streak that keeps flickering past him is his mother
and the whirl beyond her is a curtain, that the two are solid entities
and neither can turn into the other, that they are what they are, that
they exist. The day when he grasps that matter has no volition is the
day when he grasps that he has—and this is his birth as a human being.
The day when he grasps that the reflection he sees in a mirror is not a
delusion, that it is real, but it is not himself, that the mirage he
sees in a desert is not a delusion, that the air and the light rays
that cause it are real, but it is not a city, it is a city's
reflection—the day when he grasps that he is not a passive recipient of
the sensations of any given moment, that his senses do not provide him
with automatic knowledge in separate snatches independent of context,
but only with the material of knowledge, which his mind must learn to
integrate—the day when he grasps that his senses cannot deceive him,
that physical objects cannot act without causes, that his organs of
perception are physical and have no volition, no power to invent or to
distort, that the evidence they give him is an absolute, but his mind
must learn to understand it, his mind must discover the nature, the
causes, the full context of his sensory material, his mind must
identify the things that he perceives—that is the day of his birth as a
thinker and scientist.
"We are the men who reach that day; you are the men who choose to reach
it partly; a savage is a man who never does.
"To a savage, the world is a place of unintelligible miracles where
anything is possible to inanimate matter and nothing is possible to him.
His world is not the unknown, but that irrational horror: the
unknowable. He believes that physical objects are endowed with a
mysterious volition, moved by causeless, unpredictable whims, while he
is a helpless pawn at the mercy of forces beyond his control. He
believes that nature is ruled by demons who possess an omnipotent power
and that reality is their fluid plaything, where they can turn his bowl
of meal into a snake and his wife into a beetle at any moment, where
the A he has never discovered can be any non-A they choose, where the
only knowledge he possesses is that he must not attempt to know. He can
count on nothing, he can only wish, and he spends his life on wishing,
on begging his demons to grant him his wishes by the arbitrary power of
their will, giving them credit when they do, taking the blame when they
don't, offering them sacrifices in token of his gratitude and
sacrifices in token of his guilt, crawling on his belly in fear and
worship of sun and moon and wind and rain and of any thug who announces
himself as their spokesman, provided his words are unintelligible and
his mask sufficiently frightening—he wishes, begs and crawls, and dies,
leaving you, as a record of his view of existence, the distorted
monstrosities of his idols, part-man, part-animal, part-spider, the
embodiments of the world of non-A.
"His is the intellectual state of your modern teachers and his is the
world to which they want to bring you.
"If you wonder by what means they propose to do it, walk into any
college classroom and you will hear your professors teaching your
children that man can be certain of nothing, that his consciousness has
no validity whatever, that he can learn no facts and no laws of
existence, that he's incapable of knowing an objective reality. What,
then, is his standard of knowledge and truth? Whatever others believe,
is their answer. There is no knowledge, they teach, there's only faith:
your belief that you exist is an act of faith, no more valid than
another's faith in his right to kill you; the axioms of science are an
act of faith, no more valid than a mystic's faith in revelations; the
belief that electric light can be produced by a generator is an act of
faith, no more valid than the belief that it can be produced by a
rabbit's foot kissed under a stepladder on the first of the moon—truth
is whatever people want it to be, and people are everyone except
reality is whatever people choose to say it is, there are no objective
facts, there are only people's arbitrary wishes—a man who seeks
knowledge in a laboratory by means of test tubes and logic is an
old-fashioned, superstitious fool; a true scientist is a man who goes
around taking public polls—and if it weren't for the selfish greed of
the manufacturers of steel girders, who have a vested interest in
obstructing the progress of science, you would learn that New York City
does not exist, because a poll of the entire population of the world
would tell you by a landslide majority that their beliefs forbid its
"For centuries, the mystics of spirit have proclaimed that faith is
superior to reason, but have not dared deny the existence of reason.
Their heirs and product, the mystics of muscle, have completed their
job and achieved their dream: they proclaim that everything is faith,
and call it a revolt against believing. As revolt against unproved
assertions, they proclaim that nothing can be proved; as revolt against
supernatural knowledge, they proclaim that no knowledge is possible; as
revolt against the enemies of science, they proclaim that science is
superstition; as revolt against the enslavement of the mind, they
proclaim that there is no mind.
"If you surrender your power to perceive, if you accept the switch of
your standard from the objective to the collective and wait for mankind
to tell you what to think, you will find another switch taking place
before the eyes you have renounced: you will find that your teachers
become the rulers of the collective, and if you then refuse to obey
them, protesting that they are not the whole of mankind, they will
answer: 'By what means do you know that we are not? Are, brother?
Where did you get that old-fashioned term?'
"If you doubt that such is their purpose, observe with what passionate
consistency the mystics of muscle are striving to make you forget that
a concept such as 'mind' has ever existed. Observe the twists of
undefined verbiage, the words with rubber meanings, the terms left
floating in midstream, by means of which they try to get around the
recognition of the concept of 'thinking.' Your consciousness, they tell
you, consists of 'reflexes,' 'reactions,' 'experiences,' 'urges,’ and
—and refuse to identify the means by which they acquired that
knowledge, to identify the act they are performing when they tell it or
the act you are performing when you listen. Words have the power to
'condition' you, they say and refuse to identify the reason why words
have the power to change your—blank-out. A student reading a book
understands it through a process of—blank-out. A scientist working on
an invention is engaged in the activity of—blank-out. A psychologist
helping a neurotic to solve a problem and untangle a conflict, does it
by means of—blank-out. An industrialist—blank-out—there is no such
person. A factory is a 'natural resource,' like a tree, a rock or a mud
"The problem of production, they tell you, has been solved and deserves
no study or concern; the only problem left for your 'reflexes' to solve
is now the problem of distribution. Who solved the problem of
production? Humanity, they answer. What was the solution? The goods are
here. How did they get here? Somehow. What caused it? Nothing has
"They proclaim that every man born is entitled to exist without labor
and, the laws of reality to the contrary notwithstanding, is entitled
to receive his 'minimum sustenance'—his food, his clothes, his
shelter—with no effort on his part, as his due and his birthright. To
receive it—from whom? Blank-out. Every man, they announce, owns an
equal share of the technological benefits created in the world.
Created—by whom? Blank-out. Frantic cowards who posture as defenders of
industrialists now define the purpose of economics as 'an adjustment
between the unlimited desires of men and the goods supplied in limited
Supplied—by whom? Blank-out. Intellectual hoodlums who pose as
professors, shrug away the thinkers of the past by declaring that their
social theories were based on the impractical assumption that man was a
rational being—but since men are not rational, they declare, there
ought to be established a system that will make it possible for them to
exist while being irrational, which means: while defying reality. Who
will make it possible? Blank-out. Any stray mediocrity rushes into
print with plans to control the production of mankind—and whoever
agrees or disagrees with his statistics, no one questions his right to
enforce his plans by means of a gun. Enforce—on whom? Blank-out. Random
females with causeless incomes flitter on trips around the globe and
return to deliver the message that the backward peoples of the world
demand a higher standard of living. Demand—of whom? Blank-out.
"And to forestall any inquiry into the cause of the difference between
a jungle village and New York City, they resort to the ultimate
obscenity of explaining man's industrial progress—skyscrapers, cable
bridges, power motors, railroad trains—by declaring that man is an
animal who possesses an 'instinct of tool-making.'
"Did you wonder what is wrong with the world? You are now seeing the
climax of the creed of the uncaused and unearned. All your gangs of
mystics, of spirit or muscle, are fighting one another for power to
rule you, snarling that love is the solution for all the problems of
your spirit and that a whip is the solution for all the problems of
you who have agreed to have no mind. Granting man less dignity than
they grant to cattle, ignoring what an animal trainer could tell
them—that no animal can be trained by fear, that a tortured elephant
will trample its torturer, but will not work for him or carry his
burdens —they expect man to continue to produce electronic tubes,
supersonic airplanes, atom-smashing engines and interstellar
telescopes, with his ration of meat for reward and a lash on his back
"Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your
consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages
—and power, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only
"From the rites of the jungle witch-doctors, which distorted reality
into grotesque absurdities, stunted the minds of their victims and kept
them in terror of the supernatural for stagnant stretches of centuries—
to the supernatural doctrines of the Middle Ages, which kept men
huddling on the mud floors of their hovels, in terror that the devil
might steal the soup they had worked eighteen hours to earn—to the
seedy little smiling professor who assures you that your brain has no
capacity to think, that you have no means of perception and must
blindly obey the omnipotent will of that supernatural force:
Society—all of it is the same performance for the same and only
purpose: to reduce you to the kind of pulp that has surrendered the
validity of its consciousness.
"But it cannot be done to you without your consent. If you permit it to
be done, you deserve it.
"When you listen to a mystic's harangue on the impotence of the human
mind and begin to doubt your consciousness, not his, when you permit
your precariously semi-rational state to be shaken by any assertion and
decide it is safer to trust his superior certainty and knowledge, the
joke is on both of you: your sanction is the only source of certainty
he has. The supernatural power that a mystic dreads, the unknowable
spirit he worships, the consciousness he considers omnipotent is—yours.
A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at its first encounter with
the minds of others. Somewhere in. the distant reaches of his
childhood, when his own understanding of reality clashed with the
assertions of others, with their arbitrary orders and contradictory
demands, he gave in to so craven a
fear of dependence that he renounced his rational faculty. At the
crossroads of the choice between 'I know' and 'They say,'
he chose the authority of others, he chose to submit rather than to
understand, to believe rather than to think. Faith in the supernatural
begins as faith in the superiority of others. His surrender took the
form of the feeling that he must hide his lack of understanding, that
others possess some mysterious knowledge of which he alone is deprived,
that reality is whatever they want it to be, through some means forever
denied to him.
"From then on, afraid to think, he is left at the mercy of unidentified
feelings. His feelings become his only guide, his only remnant of
personal identity, he clings to them with ferocious possessiveness—
and whatever thinking he does is devoted to the struggle of hiding from
himself that the nature of his feelings is terror.
"When a mystic declares that he feels the existence of a power superior
to reason, he feels it all right, but that power is not an omniscient
super-spirit of the universe, it is the consciousness of any passer-by
to whom he has surrendered his own. A mystic is driven by the urge to
impress, to cheat, to flatter, to deceive, to force that omnipotent
consciousness of others. 'They' are his only key to reality, he feels
that he cannot exist save by harnessing their mysterious power and
extorting their unaccountable consent, 'They' are his only means of
perception and, like a blind man who depends on the sight of a dog, he
feels he must leash them in order to live. To control the consciousness
of others becomes his only passion; power-lust is a weed that grows
only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.
"Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator.
A mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement. He wants them
to surrender their consciousness to his assertions, his edicts, his
wishes, his whims—as his consciousness is surrendered to theirs. He
wants to deal with men by means of faith and force—he finds no
satisfaction in their consent if he must earn it by means of facts and
reason. Reason is the enemy he dreads and, simultaneously, considers
precarious; reason, to him, is a means of deception; he feels that men
possess some power more potent than reason—and only their causeless
belief or their forced obedience can give him a sense of security, a
proof that he has gained control of the mystic endowment he lacked.
His lust is to command, not to convince: conviction requires an act of
independence and rests on the absolute of an objective reality. What he
seeks is power over reality and over men's means of perceiving it,
their mind, the power to interpose his will between existence and
consciousness, as if, by agreeing to fake the reality he orders them to
fake, men would, in fact, create it.
"Just as the mystic is a parasite in matter, who expropriates the
wealth created by others—just as he is a parasite in spirit, who
plunders the ideas created by others—so he falls below the level of a
lunatic who creates his own distortion of reality, to the level of a
parasite of lunacy who seeks a distortion created by others.
"There is only one state that fulfills the mystic's longing for
infinity, non-causality, non-identity: death. No matter what
unintelligible causes he ascribes to his incommunicable feelings,
whoever rejects reality rejects existence—and the feelings that move
him from then on are hatred for all the values of man's life, and lust
for all the evils that destroy it, A mystic relishes the spectacle of
suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a
feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality. But no
other reality exists.
"No matter whose welfare he professes to serve, be it the welfare of
God or of that disembodied gargoyle he describes as 'The People,'
no matter what ideal he proclaims in terms of some supernatural
dimension—in fact, in reality, on earth, his ideal is death, his
craving is to kill, his only satisfaction is to torture.
"Destruction is the only end that the mystics' creed has ever achieved,
as it is the only end that you see them achieving today, and if the
ravages wrought by their acts have not made them question their
doctrines, if they profess to be moved by love, yet are not deterred by
piles of human corpses, it is because the truth about their souls is
worse than the obscene excuse you have allowed them, the excuse that
the end justifies the means and that the horrors they practice are
means to nobler ends. The truth is that those horrors are their ends.
"You who're depraved enough to believe that you could adjust yourself
to a mystic's dictatorship and could please him by obeying his
orders—there is no way to please him; when you obey, he will reverse
his orders; he seeks obedience for the sake of obedience and
destruction for the sake of destruction. You who are craven enough to
believe that you can make terms with a mystic by giving in to his
there is no way to buy him off, the bribe he wants is your life, as
slowly or as fast as you are willing to give it in—and the monster he
seeks to bribe is the hidden blank-out in his mind, which drives him to
kill in order not to learn that the death he desires is his own.
"You who are innocent enough to believe that the forces let loose in
your world today are moved by greed for material plunder—the mystics'
scramble for spoils is only a screen to conceal from their mind the
nature of their motive. Wealth is a means of human life, and they
clamor for wealth in imitation of living beings, to pretend to
themselves that they desire to live. But their swinish indulgence in
plundered luxury is not enjoyment, it is escape. They do not want to
own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to
succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you
to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep
running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is
"You who've never grasped the nature of evil, you who describe them as
'misguided idealists'—may the God you invented forgive you!—
they are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek,
by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is
not your wealth that they're after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the
mind, which means: against life and man.
"It is a conspiracy without leader or direction, and the random little
thugs of the moment who cash in on the agony of one land or another are
chance scum riding the torrent from the broken dam of the sewer of
centuries, from the reservoir of hatred for reason, for logic, for
ability, for achievement, for joy, stored by every whining anti-human
who ever preached the superiority of the 'heart' over the mind.
"It is a conspiracy of all those who seek, not to live, but to get away
with living, those who seek to cut just one small corner of reality and
are drawn, by feeling, to all the others who are busy cutting other
corners—a conspiracy that unites by links of evasion all those who
pursue a zero as a value: the professor who, unable to think, takes
pleasure in crippling the mind of his students, the businessman who, to
protect his stagnation, takes pleasure in chaining the ability of
competitors, the neurotic who, to defend his self-loathing, takes
pleasure in breaking men of self-esteem, the incompetent who takes
pleasure in defeating achievement, the mediocrity who takes pleasure in
demolishing greatness, the eunuch who takes pleasure in the castration
of all pleasure—and all their intellectual munition-makers, all those
who preach that the immolation of virtue will transform vices into
Death is the premise at the root of their theories, death is the goal
of their actions in practice—and you are the last of their victims.
"We, who were the living buffers between you and the nature of your
creed, are no longer there to save you from the effects of your chosen
beliefs. We are no longer willing to pay with our lives the debts you
incurred in yours or the moral deficit piled up by all the generations
behind you. You had been living on borrowed time—and I am the man who
has called in the loan.
"I am the man whose existence your blank-outs were intended to permit
you to ignore. I am the man whom you did not want either to live or to
die. You did not want me to live, because you were afraid of knowing
that I carried the responsibility you dropped and that your lives
depended upon me; you did not want me to die, because you knew it.
"Twelve years ago, when I worked in your world, I was an inventor.
I was one of a profession that came last in human history and will be
first to vanish on the way back to the sub-human. An inventor is a man
who asks 'Why?' of the universe and lets nothing stand between the
answer and his mind.
"Like the man who discovered the use of steam or the man who discovered
the use of oil, I discovered a source of energy which was available
since the birth of the globe, but which men had not known how to use
except as an object of worship, of terror and of legends about a
thundering god. I completed the experimental model of a motor that
would have made a fortune for me and for those who had hired me, a
motor that would have raised the efficiency of every human installation
using power and would have added the gift of higher productivity to
every hour you spend at earning your living.
"Then, one night at a factory meeting, I heard myself sentenced to
death by reason of my achievement. I heard three parasites assert that
my brain and my life were their property, that my right to exist was
conditional and depended on the satisfaction of their desires. The
purpose of my ability, they said, was to serve the needs of those who
were less able. I had no right to live, they said, by reason of my
competence for living; their right to live was unconditional, by reason
of their incompetence.
"Then I saw what was wrong with the world, I saw what destroyed men and
nations, and where the battle for life had to be fought. I saw that the
enemy was an inverted morality—and that my sanction was its only power.
I saw that evil was impotent—that evil was the irrational, the blind,
the anti-real—and that the only weapon of its triumph was the
willingness of the good to serve it. Just as the parasites around me
were proclaiming their helpless dependence on my mind and were
expecting me voluntarily to accept a slavery they had no power to
enforce, just as they were counting on my self-immolation to provide
them with the means of their plan—so throughout the world and
throughout men's history, in every version and form, from the
extortions of loafing relatives to the atrocities of collectivized
countries, it is the good, the able, the men of reason, who act as
their own destroyers, who transfuse to evil the blood of their virtue
and let evil transmit to them the poison of destruction, thus gaining
for evil the power of survival, and for their own values—the impotence
I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue,
when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of
injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his
consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing
a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was 'No.'
"I quit that factory. I quit your world. I made it my job to warn your
victims and to give them the method and the weapon to fight you. The
method was to refuse to deflect retribution. The weapon was justice.
"If you want to know what you lost when I quit and when my strikers
deserted your world—stand on an empty stretch of soil in a wilderness
unexplored by men and ask yourself what manner of survival you would
achieve and how long you would last if you refused to think, with no
one around to teach you the motions, or, if you chose to think, how
much your mind would be able to discover—ask yourself how many
independent conclusions you have reached in the course of your life and
how much of your time was spent on performing the actions you learned
from others—ask yourself whether you would be able to discover how to
till the soil and grow your food, whether you would be able to invent a
wheel, a lever, an induction coil, a generator, an electronic tube—then
decide whether men of ability are exploiters who live by the fruit of
your labor and rob you of the wealth that you produce, and whether you
dare to believe that you possess the power to enslave them. Let your
women take a look at a jungle female with her shriveled face and
pendulous breasts, as she sits grinding meal in a bowl, hour after
hour, century by century—then let them ask themselves whether their
'instinct of tool-making' will provide them with their electric
refrigerators, their washing machines and vacuum cleaners, and, if not,
whether they care to destroy those who provided it all, but not 'by
"Take a look around you, you savages who stutter that ideas are created
by men's means of production, that a machine is not the product of
human thought, but a mystical power that produces human thinking. You
have never discovered the industrial age—and you cling to the morality
of the barbarian eras when a miserable form of human subsistence was
produced by the muscular labor of slaves. Every mystic had always
longed for slaves, to protect him from the material reality he dreaded.
But you, you grotesque little atavists, stare blindly at the
skyscrapers and smokestacks around you and dream of enslaving the
material providers who are scientists, inventors, industrialists.
When you clamor for public ownership of the means of production, you
are clamoring for public ownership of the mind. I have taught my
strikers that the answer you deserve is only: 'Try and get it.'
"You proclaim yourself unable to harness the forces of inanimate
matter, yet propose to harness the minds of men who are able to achieve
the feats you cannot equal. You proclaim that you cannot survive
without us, yet propose to dictate the terms of our survival. You
proclaim that you need us, yet indulge the impertinence of asserting
your right to rule us by force—and expect that we, who are not afraid
of that physical nature which fills you with terror, will cower at the
sight of any lout who has talked you into voting him a chance to
"You propose to establish a social order based on the following tenets:
that you're incompetent to run your own life, but competent to run the
lives of others—that you're unfit to exist in freedom, but fit to
become an omnipotent ruler—that you're unable to earn your living by
the use of your own intelligence, but able to judge politicians and to
vote them into jobs of total power over arts you have never seen, over
sciences you have never studied, over achievements of which you have no
knowledge, over the gigantic industries where you, by your own
definition of your capacity, would be unable successfully to fill the
job of assistant greaser.
"This idol of your cult of zero-worship, this symbol of impotence—
the congenital dependent—is your image of man and your standard of
value, in whose likeness you strive to refashion your soul. 'It's only
human,' you cry in defense of any depravity, reaching the stage of
self-abasement where you seek to make the concept 'human' mean the
weakling, the fool, the rotter, the liar, the failure, the coward, the
fraud, and to exile from the human race the hero, the thinker, the
producer, the inventor, the strong, the purposeful, the pure—as if 'to
feel' were human, but to think were not, as if to fail were human, but
to succeed were not, as if corruption were human, but
virtue were not —as if the premise of death were proper to man, but the
premise of life were not.
"In order to deprive us of honor, that you may then deprive us of our
wealth, you have always regarded us as slaves who deserve no moral
recognition. You praise any venture that claims to be nonprofit, and
damn the men who made the profits that make the venture possible. You
regard as 'in the public interest' any project serving those who do not
pay; it is not in the public interest to provide any services for those
who do the paying. 'Public benefit' is anything given as alms; to
engage in trade is to injure the public. 'Public welfare'
is the welfare of those who do not earn it; those who do, are entitled
to no welfare. 'The public,' to you, is whoever has failed to achieve
any virtue or value; whoever achieves it, whoever provides the goods
you require for survival, ceases to be regarded as part of the public
or as part of the human race.
"What blank-out permitted you to hope that you could get away with this
muck of contradictions and to plan it as an ideal society, when the
'No' of your victims was sufficient to demolish the whole of your
structure? What permits any insolent beggar to wave his sores in the
face of his betters and to plead for help in the tone of a threat? You
cry, as he does, that you are counting on our pity, but your secret
hope is the moral code that has taught you to count on our guilt. You
expect us to feel guilty of our virtues in the presence of your vices,
wounds and failures—guilty of succeeding at existence, guilty of
enjoying the life that you damn, yet beg us to help you to live, "Did
you want to know who is John Galt? I am the first man of ability who
refused to regard it as guilt. I am the first man who would not do
penance for my virtues or let them be used as the tools of my
destruction. I am the first man who would not suffer martyrdom at the
hands of those who wished me to perish for the privilege of keeping
them, alive. I am the first man who told them that I did not need them,
and until they learned to deal with me as traders, giving value for
value, they would have to exist without me, as I would exist without
them; then I would let them learn whose is the need and whose the
ability—and if human survival is the standard, whose terms would set
the way to survive.
"I have done by plan and intention what had been done throughout
history by silent default. There have always been men of intelligence
who went on strike, in protest and despair, but they did not know the
meaning of their action. The man who retires from public life, to
think, but not to share his thoughts—the man who chooses to spend his
years in the obscurity of menial employment, keeping to himself the
fire of his mind, never giving it form, expression or reality, refusing
to bring it into a world he despises—the man who is defeated by
revulsion, the man who renounces before he has started, the man who
gives up rather than give in, the man who functions at a fraction of
his capacity, disarmed by his longing for an ideal he has not
found—they are on strike, on strike against unreason, on strike against
your world and your values. But not knowing any values of their own,
they abandon the quest to know—in the darkness of their hopeless
indignation, which is righteous without knowledge of the right, and
passionate without knowledge of desire, they concede to you the power
of reality and surrender the incentives of their mind—and they perish
in bitter futility, as rebels who never learned the object of their
rebellion, as lovers who never discovered their love.
"The infamous times you call the Dark Ages were an era of intelligence
on strike, when men of ability went underground and lived undiscovered,
studying in secret, and died, destroying the works of their mind, when
only a few of the bravest of martyrs remained to keep the human race
alive. Every period ruled by mystics was an era of stagnation and want,
when most men were on strike against existence, working for less than
their barest survival,
leaving nothing but scraps for their rulers to loot, refusing to think,
to venture, to produce, when the ultimate collector of their profits
and the final authority on truth or error was the whim of some gilded
degenerate sanctioned as superior to reason by divine right and by
grace of a club.
The road of human history was a string of blank-outs over sterile
stretches eroded by faith and force, with only a few brief bursts of
sunlight, when the released energy of the men of the mind performed the
wonders you gaped at, admired and promptly extinguished again.
"But there will be no extinction, this time. The game of the mystics is
up. You will perish in and by your own unreality. We, the men of
reason, will survive.
"I have called out on strike the kind of martyrs who had never deserted
you before. I have given them the weapon they had lacked: the knowledge
of their own moral value. I have taught them that the world is ours,
whenever we choose to claim it, by virtue and grace of the fact that
ours is the Morality of Life. They, the great victims who had produced
all the wonders of humanity's brief summer, they, the industrialists,
the conquerors of matter, had not discovered the nature of their right.
They had known that theirs was the power. I taught them that theirs was
"You, who dare to regard us as the moral inferiors of any mystic who
claims supernatural visions—you, who scramble like vultures for
plundered pennies, yet honor a fortune-teller above a fortune
maker—you, who scorn a businessman as ignoble, but esteem any posturing
artist as exalted—the root of your standards is that mystic miasma
which comes from primordial swamps, that cult of death, which
pronounces a businessman immoral by reason of the fact that he keeps
you alive. You, who claim that you long to rise above the crude
concerns of the body, above the drudgery of serving mere physical
needs—who is enslaved by physical needs: the Hindu who labors from
sunrise to sunset at the shafts of a hand-plow for a bowl of rice, or
the American who is driving a tractor? Who is the conqueror of physical
reality: the man who sleeps on a bed of nails or the man who sleeps on
an inner-spring mattress? Which is the monument to the triumph of the
human spirit over matter: the germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of
the Ganges or the Atlantic skyline of New York?
"Unless you learn the answers to these questions—and learn to stand at
reverent attention when you face the achievements of man's mind—
you will not stay much longer on this earth, which we love and will not
permit you to damn. You will not sneak by with the rest of your
lifespan. I have foreshortened the usual course of history and have let
you discover the nature of the payment you had hoped to switch to the
shoulders of others. It is the last of your own living power that will
now be drained to provide the unearned for the worshippers and carriers
of Death. Do not pretend that a malevolent reality defeated you—you
were defeated by your own evasions. Do not pretend that you will perish
for a noble ideal—you will perish as fodder for the haters of man.
"But to those of you who still retain a remnant of the dignity and will
to love one's life, I am offering the chance to make a choice.
Choose whether you wish to perish for a morality you have never
believed or practiced. Pause on the brink of self-destruction and
examine your values and your life. You had known how to take an
inventory of your wealth. Now take an inventory of your mind.
"Since childhood, you have been hiding the guilty secret that you feel
no desire to be moral, no desire to seek self-immolation, that you
dread and hate your code, but dare not say it even to yourself, that
you're devoid of those moral 'instincts' which others profess to feel.
The less you felt, the louder you proclaimed your selfless love and
servitude to others, in dread of ever letting them discover your own
the self that you betrayed, the self that you kept in concealment, like
a skeleton in the closet of your body. And they, who were at once your
dupes and your deceivers, they listened and voiced their loud approval,
in dread of ever letting you discover that they were harboring the same
unspoken secret. Existence among you is a giant pretense, an act you
all perform for one another, each feeling that he is the only guilty
freak, each placing his moral authority in the unknowable known only to
others, each faking the reality he feels they expect him to fake, none
having the courage to break the vicious circle.
"No matter what dishonorable compromise you've made with your
impracticable creed, no matter what miserable balance, half-cynicism,
half-superstition, you now manage to maintain, you still preserve the
root, the lethal tenet: the belief that the moral and the practical are
opposites. Since childhood, you have been running from the terror of a
choice you have never dared fully to identify: If the practical,
whatever you must practice to exist, whatever works, succeeds, achieves
your purpose, whatever brings you food and joy, whatever profits you,
is evil—and if the good, the moral, is the impractical, whatever fails,
destroys, frustrates, whatever injures you and brings you loss or pain—
then your choice is to be moral or to live.
"The sole result of that murderous doctrine was to remove morality from
life. You grew up to believe that moral laws bear no relation to the
job of living, except as an impediment and threat, that man's existence
is an amoral jungle where anything goes and anything works.
And in that fog of switching definitions which descends upon a frozen
mind, you have forgotten that the evils damned by your creed were the
virtues required for living, and you have come to believe that actual
evils are the practical means of existence. Forgetting that the
impractical 'good' was self-sacrifice, you believe that self-esteem is
impractical; forgetting that the practical 'evil' was production, you
believe that robbery is practical.
"Swinging like a helpless branch in the wind of an uncharted moral
wilderness; you dare not fully to be evil or fully to live. When you
are honest, you feel the resentment of a sucker; when you cheat, you
feel terror and shame. When you are happy, your joy is diluted by
guilt; when you suffer, your pain is augmented by the feeling that pain
is your natural state. You pity the men you admire, you believe they
are doomed to fail; you envy the men you hate, you believe they are the
masters of existence. You feel disarmed when you come up against a
scoundrel: you believe that evil is bound to win, since the moral is
the impotent, the impractical.
"Morality, to you, is a phantom scarecrow made of duty, of boredom, of
punishment, of pain, a cross-breed between the first schoolteacher of
your past and the tax collector of your present, a scarecrow standing
in a barren field, waving a stick to chase away your pleasures —and
pleasure, to you, is a liquor-soggy brain, a mindless slut, the stupor
of a moron who stakes his cash on some animal's race, since pleasure
cannot be moral.
"If you identify your actual belief, you will find a triple damnation
—of yourself, of life, of virtue—in the grotesque conclusion you have
reached: you believe that morality is a necessary evil.
"Do you wonder why you live without dignity, love without fire and die
without resistance? Do you wonder why, wherever you look, you see
nothing but unanswerable questions, why your life is torn by impossible
conflicts, why you spend it straddling irrational fences to evade
artificial choices, such as soul or body, mind or heart, security or
freedom, private profit or public good?
"Do you cry that you find no answers? By what means did you hope to
find them? You reject your tool of perception—your mind—then complain
that the universe is a mystery. You discard your key, then wail that
all doors are
locked against you. You start out in pursuit of the irrational, then
damn existence for making no sense.
"The fence you have been straddling for two hours—while hearing my
words and seeking to escape them—is the coward's formula contained in
the sentence: 'But we don't have to go to extremes!' The extreme you
have always struggled to avoid is the recognition that reality is
final, that A is A and that the truth is true. A moral code impossible
to practice, a code that demands imperfection or death, has taught you
to dissolve all ideas in fog, to permit no firm definitions, to regard
any concept as approximate and any rule of conduct as elastic, to hedge
on any principle, to compromise on any value, to take the middle of any
By extorting your acceptance of supernatural absolutes, it has forced
you to reject the absolute of nature. By making moral judgments
impossible, it has made you incapable of rational judgment. A code that
forbids you to cast the first stone, has forbidden you to admit the
identity of stones and to know when or if you're being stoned.
"The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who
declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes
responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now
spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute,
a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live
or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an
Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter's stomach, is
"There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is
wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still
retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility
But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in
order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit
out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the
innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice
by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves
conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other
halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death
that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil
that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to
feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube.
"You, who are half-rational, half-coward, have been playing a con game
with reality, but the victim you have conned is yourself. When men
reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force
of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the
virtuous, it's picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent
spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a
self-righteously uncompromising evil. As you surrendered to the mystics
of muscle when they told you that ignorance consists of claiming
knowledge, so now you surrender to them when they shriek that
immorality consists of pronouncing moral judgment. When they yell that
it is selfish to be certain that you are right, you hasten to assure
them that you're certain of nothing.
When they shout that it's immoral to stand on your convictions, you
assure them that you have no convictions whatever. When the thugs of
Europe's People's States snarl that you are guilty of intolerance,
because you don't treat your desire to live and their desire to kill
you as a difference of opinion—you cringe and hasten to assure them
that you are not intolerant of any horror. When some barefoot bum in
some pesthole of Asia yells at you: How dare you be rich—you apologize
and beg him to be patient and promise him you'll give it all away.
"You have reached the blind alley of the treason you committed when you
agreed that you had no right to exist. Once, you believed it was 'only
a compromise': you conceded it was evil to live for yourself, but moral
to live for the sake of your children. Then you conceded that it was
selfish to live for your children, but moral to live for your
community. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your
community, but moral to live for your country. Now, you are letting
this greatest of countries be devoured by any scum from any corner of
the earth, while you concede that it is selfish to live for your
country and that your moral duty is to live for the globe. A man who
has no right to life, has no right to values and will not keep them.
"At the end of your road of successive betrayals, stripped of weapons,
of certainty, of honor, you commit your final act of treason and sign
your petition of intellectual bankruptcy: while the muscle-mystics of
the People's States proclaim that they're the champions of reason and
science, you agree and hasten to proclaim that faith is your cardinal
principle, that reason is on the side of your destroyers, but yours is
the side of faith. To the struggling remnants of rational honesty in
the twisted, bewildered minds of your children, you declare that you
can offer no rational argument to support the ideas that created this
country, that there is no rational justification for freedom, for
property, for justice, for rights, that they rest on a mystical insight
and can be accepted only on faith, that in reason and logic the enemy
is right, but faith is superior to reason. You declare to your children
that it is rational to loot, to torture, to enslave, to expropriate, to
murder, but that they must resist the temptations of logic and stick to
the discipline of remaining irrational—
that skyscrapers, factories, radios, airplanes were the products of
faith and mystic intuition, while famines, concentration camps and
firing squads are the products of a reasonable manner of existence—that
the industrial revolution was the revolt of the men of faith against
that era of reason and logic which is known as the Middle Ages.
Simultaneously, in the same breath, to the same child, you declare that
the looters who rule the People's States will surpass this country in
material production, since they are the representatives of science, but
that it's evil to be concerned with physical wealth and that one must
renounce material prosperity—
you declare that the looters' ideals are noble, but they do not mean
them, while you do; that your purpose in fighting the looters is only
to accomplish their aims, which they cannot accomplish, but you can;
and that the way to fight them is to beat them to it and give one's
Then you wonder why your children join the People's thugs or become
half-crazed delinquents, you wonder why the looters' conquests keep
creeping closer to your doors—and you blame it on human stupidity,
declaring that the masses are impervious to reason.
"You blank out the open, public spectacle of the looters' fight against
the mind, and the fact that their bloodiest horrors are unleashed to
punish the crime of thinking. You blank out the fact that most mystics
of muscle started out as mystics of spirit, that they keep switching
from one to the other, that the men you call materialists and
spiritualists are only two halves of the same dissected human, forever
seeking completion, but seeking it by swinging from the destruction of
the flesh to the destruction of the soul and vice versa—that they keep
running from your colleges to the slave pens of Europe to an open
collapse into the mystic muck of India, seeking any refuge against
reality, any form of escape from the mind.
"You blank it out and cling to your hypocrisy of 'faith' in order to
blank out the knowledge that the looters have a stranglehold upon you,
which consists of your moral code—that the looters are the final and
consistent practitioners of the morality you're half-obeying,
that they practice it the only way it can be practiced: by turning the
earth into a sacrificial furnace—that your morality forbids you to
oppose them in the only way they can be opposed: by refusing to become
a sacrificial animal and proudly asserting your right to exist—that in
order to fight them to the finish and with full rectitude, it is your
morality that you have to reject, "You blank it out, because your
self-esteem is tied to that mystic 'unselfishness' which you've never
possessed or practiced, but spent so many years pretending to possess
that the thought of denouncing it fills you with terror. No value is
higher than self-esteem, but you've invested it in counterfeit
securities—and now your morality has caught you in a trap where you are
forced to protect your self-esteem by fighting for the creed of
self-destruction. The grim joke is on you: that need of self-esteem,
which you're unable to explain or to define, belongs to my morality,
not yours; it's the objective token of my code, it is my proof within
your own soul.
"By a feeling he has not learned to identify, but has derived from his
first awareness of existence, from his discovery that he has to make
choices, man knows that his desperate need of self-esteem is a matter
of life or death. As a being of volitional consciousness, he knows that
he must know his own value in order to maintain his own life. He knows
that he has to be right; to be wrong in action means danger to his
life; to be wrong in person, to be evil, means to be unfit for
"Every act of man's life has to be willed; the mere act of obtaining or
eating his food implies that the person he preserves is worthy of being
preserved; every pleasure he seeks to enjoy implies that the person who
seeks it is worthy of finding enjoyment. He has no choice about his
need of self-esteem, his only choice is the standard by which to gauge
it. And he makes his fatal error when he switches this gauge protecting
his life into the service of his own destruction, when he chooses a
standard contradicting existence and sets his self-esteem against
"Every form of causeless self-doubt, every feeling of inferiority and
secret unworthiness is, in fact, man's hidden dread of his inability to
deal with existence. But the greater his terror, the more fiercely he
clings to the murderous doctrines that choke him. No man can survive
the moment of pronouncing himself irredeemably evil; should he do it,
his next moment is insanity or suicide. To escape it—if he's chosen an
irrational standard—he will fake, evade, blank out; he will cheat
himself of reality, of existence, of happiness, of mind; and he will
ultimately cheat himself of self-esteem by struggling to preserve its
illusion rather than to risk discovering its lack. To fear to face an
issue is to believe that the worst is true.
"It is not any crime you have ever committed that infects your soul
with permanent guilt, it is none of your failures, errors or flaws, but
the blank-out by which you attempt to evade them—it is not any sort of
Original Sin or unknown prenatal deficiency, but the knowledge and fact
of your basic default, of suspending your mind, of refusing to think.
Fear and guilt are your chronic emotions, they are real and you do
deserve them, but they don't come from the superficial reasons you
invent to disguise their cause, not from your 'selfishness,' weakness
or ignorance, but from a real and basic threat to your existence: fear,
because you have abandoned your weapon of survival, guilt, because you
know you have done it volitionally.
"The self you have betrayed is your mind; self-esteem is reliance on
one's power to think. The ego you seek, that essential 'you' which you
cannot express or define, is not your emotions or inarticulate dreams,
but your intellect, that judge of your supreme tribunal whom you've
impeached in order to drift at the mercy of any stray shyster you
describe as your 'feeling.' Then you drag yourself through a self-made
night, in a desperate quest for a nameless fire, moved by some fading
vision of a dawn you had seen and lost.
"Observe the persistence, in mankind's mythologies, of the legend about
a paradise that men had once possessed, the city of Atlantis or the
Garden of Eden or some kingdom of perfection, always behind us.
The root of that legend exists, not in the past of the race, but in the
past of every man. You still retain a sense—not as firm as a memory,
but diffused like the pain of hopeless longing—that somewhere in the
starting years of your childhood, before you had learned to submit, to
absorb the terror of unreason and to doubt the value of your mind, you
had known a radiant state of existence, you had known the independence
of a rational consciousness facing an open universe. That is the
paradise which you have lost, which you seek—which is yours for the
"Some of you will never know who is John Galt. But those of you who
have known a single moment of love for existence and of pride in being
its worthy lover, a moment of looking at this earth and letting your
glance be its sanction, have known the state of being a man, and I —I
am only the man who knew that that state is not to be betrayed. I am
the man who knew what made it possible and who chose consistently to
practice and to be what you had practiced and been in that one moment.
"That choice is yours to make. That choice—the dedication to one's
highest potential—is made by accepting the fact that the noblest act
you have ever performed is the act of your mind in the process of
grasping that two and two make four.
"Whoever you are—you who are alone with my words in this moment, with
nothing but your honesty to help you understand—the choice is still
open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to
stand naked in the face of reality and, reversing a costly historical
error, to declare: I am, therefore I'll think.1
"Accept the irrevocable fact that your life depends upon your mind.
Admit that the whole of your struggle, your doubts, your fakes, your
evasions, was a desperate quest for escape from the responsibility of a
volitional consciousness—a quest for automatic knowledge, for
instinctive action, for intuitive certainty—and while you called it a
longing for the state of an angel, what you were seeking was the state
of an animal.
Accept, as your moral ideal, the task of becoming a man.
"Do not say that you're afraid to trust your mind because you know so
little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the
little that you know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge
and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from
the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not
omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that
your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you
infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths
accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct
it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from
error. In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the
fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and
effort, and that that is his distinction in the universe, that is his
nature, his morality, his glory.
"Discard that unlimited license to evil which consists of claiming that
man is imperfect. By what standard do you damn him when you claim it?
Accept the fact that in the realm of morality nothing less than
perfection will do. But perfection is not to be gauged by mystic
commandments to practice the impossible, and your moral stature is not
to be gauged by matters not open to your choice. Man has a single basic
choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral
perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your
intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the
extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.
"Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and
breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw,
provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human
beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a
breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be
evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of
thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you;
but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in
your soul. Make every allowance for errors of "knowledge; do not
forgive or accept any breach of morality. Give the benefit of the doubt
to those who seek to know; but treat as potential killers those
specimens of insolent depravity who make demands upon you, announcing
that they have and seek no reasons, proclaiming, as a license, that
they 'just feel if —or those who reject an irrefutable argument by
saying: 'It's only logic’ which means: 'It's only reality.' The only
realm opposed to reality is the realm and premise of death.
"Accept the fact that the achievement of your happiness is the only
moral purpose of your life, and that happiness—not pain or mindless
self-indulgence—is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the
proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.
Happiness was the responsibility you dreaded, it required the kind of
rational discipline you did not value yourself enough to assume—and the
anxious staleness of your days is the monument to your evasion of the
knowledge that there is no moral substitute for happiness, that there
is no more despicable coward than, the man who deserted the battle for
his joy, fearing to assert his right to existence, lacking the courage
and the loyalty to life of a bird or a flower reaching for the sun.
Discard the protective rags of that vice which you called a virtue:
humility—learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your
happiness—and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you
will learn to live like a man.
"As a basic step of self-esteem, learn to treat as the mark of a
cannibal any man's demand for your help. To demand it is to claim that
your life is his property—and loathsome as such claim might be, there's
something still more loathsome: your agreement. Do you ask if it's ever
proper to help another man? No—if he claims it as his right or as a
moral duty that you owe him. Yes—if such is your own desire based on
your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle.
Suffering as such is not a value; only man's fight against suffering,
is. If you choose to help a man who suffers, do it only on the ground
of his virtues, of his fight to recover, of his rational record, or of
the fact that he suffers unjustly; then your action is still a trade,
and his virtue is the payment for your help. But to help a man who has
no virtues, to help him on the ground of his suffering as such, to
accept his faults, his need, as a claim —is to accept the mortgage of a
zero on your values. A man who has no virtues is a hater of existence
who acts on the premise of death; to help him is to sanction his evil
and to support his career of destruction. Be it only a penny you will
not miss or a kindly smile he has not earned, a tribute to a zero is
treason to life and to all those who struggle to maintain it. It is of
such pennies and smiles that the desolation of your world was made.
"Do not say that my morality is too hard for you to practice and that
you fear it as you fear the unknown. Whatever living moments you have
known, were lived by the values of my code. But you stifled, negated,
betrayed it. You kept sacrificing your virtues to your vices, and the
best among men to the worst. Look around you-: what you have done to
society, you had done it first within your soul; one is the image of
the other. This dismal wreckage, which is now your world, is the
physical form of the treason you committed to your values, to your
friends, to your defenders, to your future, to your country, to
"We—whom you are now calling, but who will not answer any longer—we had
lived among you, but you failed to know us, you refused to think and to
see what we were. You failed to recognize the motor I invented—and it
became, in your world, a pile of dead scrap. You failed to recognize
the hero in your soul—and you failed to know me when I passed you in
the street. When you cried in despair for the unattainable spirit which
you felt had deserted your world, you gave it my name, but what you
were calling was your own betrayed self-esteem. You will not recover
one without the other.
"When you failed to give recognition to man's mind and attempted to
rule human beings by force—those who submitted had no mind to
surrender; those who had, were men who don't submit. Thus the man of
productive genius assumed in your world the disguise of a playboy and
became a destroyer of wealth, choosing to annihilate his fortune rather
than surrender it to guns. Thus the thinker, the man of reason, assumed
in your world the role of a pirate, to defend his values by force
against your force, rather than submit to the rule of brutality. Do you
hear me, Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold, my first friends,
my fellow fighters, my fellow outcasts, in whose name and honor I speak?
"It was the three of us who started what I am now completing. It was
the three of us who resolved to avenge this country and to release its
imprisoned soul. This greatest of countries was built on my morality—on
the inviolate supremacy of man's right to exist—but you dreaded to
admit it and live up to it. You stared at an achievement unequaled in
history, you looted its effects and blanked out its cause. In the
presence of that monument to human morality, which is a factory, a
highway or a bridge—you kept damning this country as immoral and its
progress as 'material greed,' you kept offering apologies for this
country's greatness to the idol of primordial starvation, to decaying
Europe's idol of a leprous, mystic bum.
"This country—the product of reason—could not survive on the morality
of sacrifice. It was not built by men who sought self-immolation or by
men who sought handouts. It could not stand on the mystic split that
divorced man's soul from his body. It could not live by the mystic
doctrine that damned this earth as evil and those who succeeded on
earth as depraved. From its start, this country was a threat to the
ancient rule of mystics. In the brilliant rocket-explosion of its
youth, this country displayed to an incredulous world what greatness
was possible to man, what happiness was possible on earth. It was one
or the other: America or mystics. The mystics knew it; you didn't. You
let them infect you with the worship of need—and this country became a
giant in body with a mooching midget in place of its soul, while its
living soul was driven underground to labor and feed you in silence,
unnamed, unhonored, negated, its soul and hero: the industrialist. Do
you hear me now, Hank Rearden, the greatest of the victims I have
"Neither he nor the rest of us will return until the road is clear to
rebuild this country—until the wreckage of the morality of sacrifice
has been wiped out of our way. A country's political system is based on
its code of morality. We will rebuild America's system on the moral
premise which had been its foundation, but which you treated as a
guilty underground, in your frantic evasion of the conflict between
that premise and your mystic morality: the premise that man is an end
in himself, not the means to the ends of others, that man's life, his
freedom, his happiness are his by inalienable right.
"You who've lost the concept of a right, you who swing in impotent
evasiveness between the claim that rights are a gift of God, a
supernatural gift to be taken on faith, or the claim that rights are a
gift of society, to be broken at its arbitrary whim—the source of man's
rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity.
A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by
man's nature for his proper survival.
If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is
right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his
values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his
purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him
the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate
man's rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.
"Rights are a moral concept—and morality is a matter of choice.
Men are free not to choose man's survival as the standard of their
morals and their laws, but not free to escape from the fact that the
alternative is a cannibal society, which exists for a while by
devouring its best and collapses like a cancerous body, when the
healthy have been eaten by the diseased, when the rational have been
consumed by the irrational. Such has been the fate of your societies in
history, but you've evaded the knowledge of the cause. I am here to
state it: the agent of retribution was the law of identity, which you
cannot escape. Just as man cannot live by means of the irrational, so
two men cannot, or two thousand, or two billion. Just as man can't
succeed by defying reality, so a nation can't, or a country, or a
globe. A is A. The rest is a matter of time, provided by the generosity
"Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist
without the right to translate one's rights into reality—to think, to
work and to keep the results—which means: the right of property. The
modern mystics of muscle who offer you the fraudulent alternative of
'human rights' versus 'property rights,' as if one could exist without
the other, are making a last, grotesque attempt to revive the doctrine
of soul versus body. Only a ghost can exist without material property;
only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The
doctrine that 'human rights' are superior to 'property rights' simply
means that some human beings have the right to make property out of
others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent,
it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use
them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has
no right to the title of 'human.'
"The source of property rights is the law of causality. All property
and all forms of wealth are produced by man's mind and labor. As you
cannot have effects without causes, so you cannot have wealth without
its source: without intelligence. You cannot force intelligence to
work: those who're able to think, will not work under compulsion; those
who will, won't produce much more than the price of the whip needed to
keep them enslaved. You cannot obtain the products of a mind except on
the owner's terms, by trade and by volitional consent. Any other policy
of men toward man's property is the policy of criminals, no matter what
their numbers. Criminals are savages who play it short range and starve
when their prey runs out—just as you're starving today, you who
believed that crime could be 'practical' if your government decreed
that robbery was legal and resistance to robbery illegal.
"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights,
which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government
is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self-defense, and, as
such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of
force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to
protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign
invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from
breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules,
according to objective law. But a government that initiates the
employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment
of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal
machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its
only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role
of man's deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a
with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of
the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality
the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to
your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.
"Only a brute, a fool or an evader can agree to exist on such terms or
agree to give his fellow men a blank check on his life and his mind, to
accept the belief that others have the right to dispose of his person
at their whim, that the will of the majority is omnipotent, that the
physical force of muscles and numbers is a substitute for justice,
reality and truth. We, the men of the mind, we who are traders not
masters or slaves, do not deal in blank checks or grant them. We do not
live or work with any form of the non-objective.
"So long as men, in the era of savagery, had no concept of objective
reality and believed that physical nature was ruled by the whim of
unknowable demons—no thought, no science, no production were possible.
Only when men discovered that nature was a firm, predictable absolute
were they able to rely on their knowledge, to choose their course, to
plan their future and, slowly, to rise from the cave. Now you have
placed modern industry, with its immense complexity of scientific
precision, back into the power of unknowable demons—the unpredictable
power of the arbitrary whims of hidden, ugly little bureaucrats. A
farmer will not invest the effort of one summer if he's unable to
calculate his chances of a harvest. But you expect industrial
giants—who plan in terms of decades, invest in terms of generations and
undertake ninety-nine-year contracts—to continue to function and
produce, not knowing what random caprice in the skull of what random
official will descend upon them at what moment to demolish the whole of
their effort. Drifters and physical laborers live and plan by the range
of a day. The better the mind, the longer the range. A man whose vision
extends to a shanty, might continue to build on your quicksands, to
grab a fast profit and run. A man who envisions skyscrapers, will not.
Nor will he give ten years of unswerving devotion to the task of
inventing a new product, when he knows that gangs of entrenched
mediocrity are juggling the laws against him, to tie him,, restrict him
and force him to fail, but should he fight them and struggle and
succeed, they will seize his rewards and his invention.
"Look past the range of the moment, you who cry that you fear to
compete with men of superior intelligence, that their mind is a threat
to your livelihood, that the strong leave no chance to the weak in a
market of voluntary trade. What determines the material value of your
work? Nothing but the productive effort of your mind—if you lived on a
desert island. The less efficient the thinking of your brain, the less
your physical labor would bring you—and you could spend your life on a
single routine, collecting a precarious harvest or hunting with bow and
arrows, unable to think any further. But when you live in a rational
society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable
bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your
effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the
world around you.
"When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your
labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory
possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work
of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new,
for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are
pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the
product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the
scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that
product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think
and whom you spend your time denouncing.
"The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power
that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of
If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics' Middle Ages, the whole of
your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your
hands in days and days of effort. How many tons of rail do you produce
per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the
size of your pay check was created solely by your physical labor and
that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of
living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest
is a gift from Hank Rearden.
"Every man is free to rise as far as he's able or willing, but it's
only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which
he'll rise. Physical labor as such can extend no further than the range
of the moment. The man who does no more than physical labor, consumes
the material value-equivalent of his own contribution to the process of
production, and leaves no further value, neither for himself nor
others. But the man who produces an idea in any field of rational
endeavor—the man who discovers new knowledge—is the permanent
benefactor of humanity. Material products can't be shared, they belong
to some ultimate consumer; it is only the value of an idea that can be
shared with unlimited numbers of men, making all sharers richer at no
one's sacrifice or loss, raising the productive capacity of whatever
labor they perform. It is the value of his own time that the strong of
the intellect transfers to the weak, letting them work on the jobs he
discovered, while devoting his time to further discoveries. This is
mutual trade to mutual advantage; the interests of the mind are one, no
matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work
and don't seek or expect the unearned.
"In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new
invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of
material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what
millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory
producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to
the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of
all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability.
The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to
all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment,
receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his
time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his
hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but
receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the
'competition' between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is
the pattern of 'exploitation' for which you have damned the strong.
"Such was the service we had given you and were glad and willing to
give. What did we ask in return? Nothing but freedom. We required that
you leave us free to function—free to think and to work as we
choose—free to take our own risks and to bear our own losses—
free to earn our own profits and to make our own fortunes—free to
gamble on your rationality, to submit our products to your judgment for
the purpose of a voluntary trade, to rely on the objective value of our
work and on your mind's ability to see it—free to count on your
intelligence and honesty, and to deal with nothing but your mind.
Such was the price we asked, which you chose to reject as too high.
You decided to call it unfair that we, who had dragged you out of your
hovels and provided you with modern apartments, with radios, movies and
cars, should own our palaces and yachts—you decided that you had a
right to your wages, but we had no right to our profits, that you did
not want us to deal with your mind, but to deal, instead, with your
gun. Our answer to that, was: 'May you be damned!1 Our answer came
true. You are.
"You did not care to compete in terms of intelligence—you are now
competing in terms of brutality. You did not care to allow rewards to
by successful production—you are now running a race in which rewards
are won by successful plunder. You called it selfish and cruel that men
should trade value for value—you have now established an unselfish
society where they trade extortion for extortion. Your system is a
legal civil war, where men gang up on one another and struggle for
possession of the law, which they use as a club over rivals, till
another gang wrests it from their clutch and clubs them with it in
their turn, all of them clamoring protestations of service to an
unnamed public's unspecified good. You had said that you saw no
difference between economic and political power, between the power of
money and the power of guns—no difference between reward and
punishment, no difference between purchase and plunder, no difference
between pleasure and fear, no difference between life and death. You
are learning the difference now, "Some of you might plead the excuse of
your ignorance, of a limited mind and a limited range. But the damned
and the guiltiest among you are the men who had the capacity to know,
yet chose to blank out reality, the men who were willing to sell their
intelligence into cynical servitude to force: the contemptible breed of
those mystics of science who profess a devotion to some sort of 'pure
the purity consisting of their claim that such knowledge has no
practical purpose on this earth—who reserve their logic for inanimate
matter, but believe that the subject of dealing with men requires and
deserves no rationality, who scorn money and sell their souls in
exchange for a laboratory supplied by loot. And since there is no such
thing as 'non-practical knowledge' or any sort of 'disinterested'
action, since they scorn the use of their science for the purpose and
profit of life, they deliver their science to the service of death, to
the only practical purpose it can ever have for looters: to inventing
weapons of coercion and destruction. They, the intellects who seek
escape from moral values, they are the damned on this earth, theirs is
the guilt beyond forgiveness. Do you hear me, Dr. Robert Stadler?
"But it is not to him that I wish to speak. I am speaking to those
among you who have retained some sovereign shred of their soul, unsold
and unstamped: '—to the order of others.' If, in the chaos of the
motives that have made you listen to the radio tonight, there was an
honest, rational desire to learn what is wrong with the world, you are
the man whom I wished to address. By the rules and terms of my code,
one owes a rational statement to those whom it does concern and who're
making an effort to know. Those who're making an effort to fail to
understand me, are not a concern of mine.
"I am speaking to those who desire to live and to recapture the honor
of their soul. Now that you know the truth about your world, stop
supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is made possible
by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction.
Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies'
terms or to win at a game where they're setting the rules. Do not seek
the favor of those who enslaved you, do not beg for alms from those who
have robbed you, be it subsidies, loans or jobs, do not join their team
to recoup what they've taken by helping them rob your neighbors.
One cannot hope to maintain one's life by accepting bribes to condone
one's destruction. Do not struggle for profit, success or security at
the price of a lien on your right to exist. Such a lien is not to be
paid off; the more you pay them, the more they will demand; the greater
the values you seek or achieve, the more vulnerably helpless you
become. Theirs is a system of white blackmail devised to bleed you, not
by means of your sins, but by means of your love for existence.
"Do not attempt to rise on the looters' terms or to climb a ladder
while they're holding the ropes. Do not allow their hands to touch the
only power that keeps them in power: your living ambition. Go on
strike—in the manner I
did. Use your mind and skill in private, extend your knowledge, develop
your ability, but do not share your achievements with others. Do not
try to produce a fortune, with a looter riding on your back. Stay on
the lowest rung of their ladder, earn no more than your barest
survival, do not make an extra penny to support the looters' state.
Since you're captive, act as a captive, do not help them pretend that
you're free. Be the silent, incorruptible enemy they dread. When they
force you, obey—but do not volunteer. Never volunteer a step in their
direction, or a wish, or a plea, or a purpose.
Do not help a holdup man to claim that he acts as your friend and
benefactor. Do not help your jailers to pretend that their jail is your
natural state of existence. Do not help them to fake reality. That fake
is the only dam holding off their secret terror, the terror of knowing
they're unfit to exist; remove it and let them drown; your sanction is
their only life belt.
"If you find a chance to vanish into some wilderness out of their
reach, do so, but not to exist as a bandit or to create a gang
competing with their racket; build a productive life of your own with
those who accept your moral code and are willing to struggle for a
human existence. You have no chance to win on the Morality of Death or
by the code of faith and force; raise a standard to which the honest
will repair: the standard of Life and Reason.
"Act as a rational being and aim at becoming a rallying point for all
those who are starved for a voice of integrity—act on your rational
values, whether alone in the midst of your enemies, or with a few of
your chosen friends, or as the founder of a modest community on the
frontier of mankind's rebirth.
"When the looters' state collapses, deprived of the best of its slaves,
when it falls to a level of impotent chaos, like the mystic-ridden
nations of the Orient, and dissolves into starving robber gangs
fighting to rob one another—when the advocates of the morality of
sacrifice perish with their final ideal—then and on that day we will
"We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a
city of smokestacks, pipe lines, orchards, markets and inviolate homes.
We will act as the rallying center for such hidden outposts as you'll
build. With the sign of the dollar as our symbol—the sign of free trade
and free minds—we will move to reclaim this country once more from the
impotent savages who never discovered its nature, its meaning, its
splendor. Those who choose to join us, will join us; those who don't,
will not have the power to stop us; hordes of savages have never been
an obstacle to men who carried the banner of the mind.
"Then this country will once more become a sanctuary for a vanishing
species: the rational being. The political system we will build is
contained in a single moral premise: no man may obtain any values from
others by resorting to physical force. Every man will stand or fall,
live or die by his rational judgment. If he fails to use it and falls,
he will be his only victim. If he fears that his judgment is
inadequate, he will not be given a gun to improve it, If he chooses to
correct his errors in time, he will have the unobstructed example of
his betters, for guidance in learning to think; but an end will be put
to the infamy of paying with one life for the errors of another.
"In that world, you'll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit
you had known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure
and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe. No
child is afraid of nature; it is your fear of men that will vanish, the
fear that has stunted your soul, the fear you acquired in your early
encounters with the incomprehensible, the unpredictable, the
contradictory, the arbitrary, the hidden, the faked, the irrational in
men. You will live in a world of responsible beings, who will be as
consistent and reliable as facts; the
guarantee of their character will be a system of existence where
objective reality is the standard and the judge. Your virtues will be
given protection, your vices and weaknesses will not. Every chance will
be open to your good, none will be provided for your evil. What you'll
receive from men will not be alms, or pity, or mercy, or forgiveness of
sins, but a single value: justice. And when you'll look at men or at
yourself, you will feel, not disgust, suspicion and guilt, but a single
"Such is the future you are capable of winning. It requires a struggle;
so does any human value. All life is a purposeful struggle, and your
only choice is the choice of a goal. Do you wish to continue the battle
of your present or do you wish to fight for my world? Do you wish to
continue a struggle that consists of clinging to precarious ledges in a
sliding descent to the abyss, a struggle where the hardships you endure
are irreversible and the victories you win bring you closer to
destruction? Or do you wish to undertake a struggle that consists of
rising from ledge to ledge in a steady ascent to the top, a struggle
where the hardships are investments in your future, and the victories
bring you irreversibly closer to the world of your moral ideal, and
should you die without reaching full sunlight, you will die on a level
touched by its rays? Such is the choice before you. Let your mind and
your love of existence decide.
"The last of my words will be addressed to those heroes who might still
be hidden in the world, those who are held prisoner, not by their
evasions, but by their virtues and their desperate courage. My brothers
in spirit, check on your virtues and on the nature of the enemies
you're serving. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance,
your generosity, your innocence, your love—the endurance that carries
their burdens—the generosity that responds to their cries of
despair—the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and
gives them the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without
understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs—the
love, your love of life, which makes you believe that they are men and
that they love it, too. But the world of today is the world they
wanted; life is the object of their hatred. Leave them to the death
they worship. In the name of your magnificent devotion to this earth,
leave them, don't exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the
triumph of the evil of theirs. Do you hear me . . . my love?
"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to
those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive,
do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly,
the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose
your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an
intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let
your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps
of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the
life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road
and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it
exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.
"But to win it requires your total dedication and a total break with
the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial
animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of
your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence
of that which is man: for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the
radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is
the Morality of Life and that yours is the battle for any achievement,
any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on
"You will win when you are ready to pronounce the oath I have taken at
the start of my battle—and for those who wish to know the day of my
shall now repeat it to the hearing of the world: "I swear—by my life
and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man,
nor ask another man to live for mine."
| Conditioning | Galt |