Ayn RandAyn Rand, [Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum] (1905-1982) Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter

Ayn Rand Quote

“There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system.”

Ayn RandAyn Rand
~ Ayn Rand

"Atlas Shrugged", Part II, Chapter 3

Ratings and Comments

Logan, Memphis, TN

Any socialist will disagree with this statement, because it attacks the idea that public trust can be fully placed in the government. I don't agree with all of Rand's hedonistic approaches to life, however, I completely agree with the quote.

David L. Rosenthal

Blustering vomit.

Joe, Rochester, MI

A socialist would say so Rosenthal. What do you do that our government made illegal? Are you a criminal because you smoke a joint every so often? What do you do???

jacq, Kansas City

Mарксисты должны умереть

Mike, Norwalk

For Joe, to answer your question, "What do you do that our government made illegal?" (Rosenthal is a happy slave, he won't understand Ayn Rand, your question or my answer): I the sovereign, act in the personal capacity of owning and driving a vehicle without a foreign tyrant's permission, charitably help and feed my fellow man without a foreign tyrant's permission, working for a living in my chosen field without a foreign tyrant's permission, exchanging my labors for an otherwise medium of exchange and keeping one hundred percent of the fruits thereof, etc. etc., etc. I do not smoke, nor do I take drugs more than an occasional vitamin (probably to become illegal also).

Elizabeth, Los Angeles

How this affects the people with political ambitions who could probably contribute something viable to governance is a dimension of a less direct form of criminality of behavior that demonizes opinion, like breaking sexual taboos, believing that stem cells should save lives, and that promoting a peaceful resolution of conflict is un patriotic. A small sampling but you get the point.

E Archer, NYC

Congress writes 200,000 new laws each year -- and ignorance of the law is no excuse. Luckily there is a legion of lawyers out there to 'represent' us in 'court' while they negotiate the dividing of the spoils. There are now jurisdictions upon jurisdictions each laying claim to our labors, our conversations, our travels, our food, our relationships, our property, our family -- the last time it was like this, a few separatists started a revolution -- and won! Mike's response above is spot on.

David L. Rosenthal

Joe: You are unable to distinguish between a socialist and anyone else who disagrees with Rand or with you. Why should I care about your ill-formed opinions?

David L. Rosenthal

Mike: You could not imagine the extent of my dissidence and consequent rebellion. I dare say I am freer than you, Joe, or most of thse who comment here. I both express my disagreement with the government, when I disagree, and act accordingly. You do what? Blustering vomit. Believe it or not: I am paid by the government not to work, as a result of being "unable to tolerate harassment in the workplace." I receive more than enough to live, and my mortgage is paid off. If the disability is unbelievable, that is the point. Since the government refused to investigate my claims of criminality in the workplace, I filed for disability on the grounds stated above, and they approved it. I have disabilty income from two federal agencies. I did not use an attorney. Now I do with my time whatever I wish, including continuing to criticize the government, to its face, when I feel it is appropriate - NOT when you feel it is appropriate. Make sure to set yoyr alarm clock before you sleep.

Dick, Fort Worth

Such a positive response to the drivel of Ayn Rand's fascist meanderings portends a sad future for this country. Americans' minds have been so brainwashed over the many years that rational thought is scarce. If only people knew real history we wouldn't have responses like these.

E Archer, NYC

David, you call being a ward of the state freer than the rest of us? You do not know what freedom is -- nor the courage to stand on your own two feet. I see no honor in living off a government payoff. This helps put all your comments into perspective. Makes sense -- defending your bread and butter. Your arrogance amazes me -- you have no idea who is on this list and what they do or don't do to further Freedom.

David L. Rosenthal

Archer: Every two years they have me fill out forms to continue to justify my receipt of the funds and every two years I tell them I still cannot tolerate harassment in the workplace. The federal agencies that should have investigated criminality in the workplace refguse to do so. The same agencies are telling me, by their inaction, that I am required to tolerate what the laws are designed to eliminate. I am successfully standing up to the federal government, by insisting that my rights must also be respected. As for not knowing the other people on this site, perhaps you could refer to their comments, your own comments, about others whom ythey do not know. You are a little fellow, aren't you, Archer, without much experience in the real world, huh?

E Archer, NYC

Justify it all you want, David, you are producing nothing, changing nothing, and living off a government payoff to shut you up. You constantly equate freedom with government subsidies -- a subsidy you depend on. Don't worry about my age and experience -- it is irrelevant. Suffice it to say I produce something real and tangible, trade it on the open market, have never accepted government assistance, and keep the fruits of my labors -- thus whatever government agency you work for gets zero of my hard earned dollars to keep you 'disabled' and fat. Use some mental floss.

David L. Rosenthal

I don't shut up, Archer. And you can't make me. What I produce is that which others are too scared to produce, which is dissidence, opposition to injustice. Like it or lump it.

Rob, Santa Clara, CA

This is not the strongest of quotes from Ann Rand, but it will do. To those who see it as drivel or worse, I suggest that you do not wish to operate from reason. I have encountered problems with Ann's system, but every time I work through one, I find it is a case of my not understnading her or my being incorrect in my reasoning. Ann is a tough read and hers is NOT an easy system because it requires absolute responsibility and allows no "wiggle room." This means absolutes in reasoning. Many today will not accept a philosophy with absolutes. To admit wiggle room is to admit non-reason to the process. Refusing absolutes makes reasoning a matter of faith, rather than logic.

warren, olathe

Right on Rob.

Galileo, Wisconsin

This is a great quote. Rand is right. The most powerful power of government is the power to declare someone a criminal.

  • Reply
E.C, UK    12/9/08

This is the United Kingdom of Great Britain- circa 2008, where the Government arrests Opposition MP's and doles out ID cards. I'm getting this in before they start tracking every website I visit. And be warned, American Brothers, Barack Obama's goals ring true of a Welfare State. And we all know "The Difference between a Welfare State and a Totalitarian State, is but a matter of time". "Be careful what you wish for" - ancient proverb- so America, be careful what change you wish for. It may be your liberty's downfall.

Dave, Sydney

Ayn Rand was educated in history and philosophy by the Bolsheviks and while she rejected their conclusions she adopted their idealistic categorical methods (with all of the horror that that leads to - prisons, tumbrils, heresy trials). Real capitalism has never been tried because because real capitalists would never tolerate it. They rely on government's passing law to regulate markets. And if the market doesnt go their way, they expect the government to save them. You can't have pure economics (which is what 'real capitalism' would essentially be) because politics will always intervene. And that is not the same as saying the government will intervene. I love the way Rand equates pure economic behaviour with morality. It has nothing to do with it. Capitalism is a system of production (it is an 'is') but Rand tried to turn it into an 'ought" with her 'real capitalism' BS.

Pete, Dallas

If you believe that true Capitalism is impossible than you must believe that true freedom is impossible. I refuse to live by such a defeatist template for living my life and I believe that anyone who does is a coward.


By the way, Capitalists don't rely on the government passing laws to regulate markets. Thats what Socialists do. You idiots don't know the difference between Socialism and Capitalism even though they are exact opposites; you seem to constantly mix them up.

Brian, Baytown

Capitalism is the only system in history where wealth is obtained not by conquest, looting or force, but by production and voluntary exchange. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  • Reply
anonymous    3/31/14

Ayn Rand got at least one thing right and maybe a few more.

As far as the assertion that "Capitalists don't rely on the government passing laws to regulate markets." :

Thu Mar 27, 2014 - Tesla Motors Inc. struck a deal Wednesday with Ohio auto dealers that could allow the electric-car maker to ease a battle over its direct-to-consumer retailing model, at least for the near term.

Under the agreement, Tesla would be allowed to keep operating two company-owned retail stores in the state, and open just one more. The deal requires approval from the Ohio state legislature. The proposed bill would bar all other auto makers from bypassing franchised dealers to retail cars.

In other words, the capitalist dealers want to prevent the capitalist Tesla from marketing directly by dint of legislation.

H Rearden, Burr Ridge IL

The exchange between Rosenthal/Mike/Archer was most interesting - this not being my favorite Rand quote either. But as a true libertarian this discussion has rekindled the fire under my posterior to continue educating the economic ignoramuses that comprise about 80% of the populace of our great nation. Rosenthal, you are expending your life in shame no matter how you have rationalized it. You thieve from the producers who will leave the world a better place and who can be proud and appreciate all that they have - because they earned it - while being forced to donate a piece of their wealth to you.

jim k, austin tx

Rosenthal. it's hard to believe that you get money because of "harassment in the workplace", and even harder to believe that you would admit it in public.

Ron w13, Or

Rosenthal and many more on the big tit ! It seems for the socialist, to bring about the fall of our Republic, works well with, inundation of undeserving individuals, drawing and wanting much more than they paid in. Let alone blatant throwing away, of our wealth. What to do with an aging population? If, mind you, our savings had been allowed to come to compound. Each would have enough within moderation, after working a life time, say thirty to forty years. Envy of a steady check, regardless if they earned it or not ! It is the sign of a thief, and a cheat. Rearden, if that is your attitude as a teacher, you blame the children for ignorance, when it is, actually the opposite. Greed guards the gold ! That's why so few have it. I am not free because of my pocket book, but by integrity. Some feel the robbery more than others. But we are all, still stolen from. I choose not to hid behind corp privilege. It is a stolen right.
Fear tactics are alive and well, anarchy, doom, gloom. Sells books, TV's , and make up for Halloween. And evidently they gobble it up like candy.

Ron w13, Or

Just as Lincoln new he had let the cat into the room. So did FDR. For those that have done well with their capital ventures and corp privilege, to think you might abolish slavery while being a willing participant, is an insult to common sense. To check greed in a capitalistic way is to maintain the children's rights. Once removed, all become slaves. A closer look at the tax laws, revels the true burden, and where to be placed. Let the real leopard out of the bag, then you have a revolution. Overburdening the people and the planet is caused by unchecked envy and greed. The god of this world helps us to lay in the bed we have made. Unsustainable and self destructive. Anything but natural is business as usual. Cut down all the trees, and dig it all out of the ground. Then what is left ? A desert with no place to live.

Todd Gakk, Anytown

Everyone from capitalists to anarchists seems to be taking this quote out of context and misusing it to make their own points about civilization and government. Ayn Rand didn't say it. One of her fictional villains said it. Ayn Rand was NOT an anarchist. She knew that legitimate governments have limited and legitimate roles. To attribute the words of one of Ayn Rand's fictional villains to Rand herself is a devious and mendacious sleight of hand, calculated to hoodwink gullible and ignorant puppets who will never investigate it further.


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