The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned
at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. He was considered an evildoer
who had dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter men had fire to keep
them warm, to cook their food, to light their caves. He had left them a gift
they had not conceived and he had lifted dardness off the earth. Centuries later,
the first man invented the wheel. He was probably torn on the rack he had taught
his brothers to build. He was considered a transgressor who ventured into forbidden
terrritory. But thereafter, men could travel past any horizon. He had left them
a gift they had not conceived and he had opened the roads of the world.
man, the unsubmissive and first, stands in the opening chapter of every legend
mankind has recorded about its beginning. Prometheus was chained to a rock and
torn by vultures—because he had stolen the fire of the gods. Adam was condemned
to suffer—because he had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Whatever
the legend, somewhere in the shadows of its memory mankind knew that its glory
with one and that that one paid for his courage.
the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing
but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common:
that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response
they received—hatred. The great creators—the thinkers, the artists, the scientists,
the inventors—stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new
thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor
foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered
vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went
ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.
creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers, for his brothers rejected
the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives.
His truth was his only motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it
in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a
building—that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated,
believed, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users.
The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave
form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.
vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man's spirit, however,
is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge,
to act are functions of the ego.
creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that
it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount
a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived
only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory
of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain
is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs,
no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To
plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make
weapons—a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious
abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything
we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning
the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective
brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by
a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual
thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act—the process of reason—must
be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot
digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another
man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body
and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.
inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make
a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But
all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of
their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product
as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot
be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men.
That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another.
But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the
capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.
is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man
faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways—by
the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others.
originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite
faces nature through an intermediary.
creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern
is the conquest
creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within
himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime
basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under
any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any
consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive.
To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.
basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be
fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve
others. He preaches altruism.
is the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above
man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share
his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of expoloitation
and reversed the base of mankind’s moral principles. Men have been taught
every precept that destroys the creator. Men have been taught dependence as a
man who attemps to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive
and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but
mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to it in
reality—the man who lives to serve others—is the slave. If physical
slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of
The conquered slave has a vestige of honor. He has the merit of having resisted
and of considering his condition evil. But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily
in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man
and he degrades the conception of love. But this is the essence of altruism.
have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet
one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution—or
there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the
need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander
who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible.
We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the sufferings of others.
But suffering is a disease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief
and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering
the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer—in order
that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned
with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creators has eliminated one
form of disease after another, in man’s body and spirit, and brought more
from suffering than any altruist could ever conceive.
have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is
the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with
the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have
been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man
who stands alone.
have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal
of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless
man is the one who does not think, feel, judge or act. These are functions of
the basic reversal is most deadly. The issue has been perverted and man has been
left no alternative—and no freedom. As poles of good and evil, he was offered
two conceptions: egotism and altruism. Egotism was held to mean the sacrifice
of others to self. Altruism—the sacrifice of self to others. This tied man irrevocably
to other men and left him nothing but a choice of pain: his own pain borne for
the sake of others or pain inflicted upon others for the sake of self. When it
was added that man must find joy in self-immolation, the trap was closed. Man
was forced to accept masochism as his ideal—under the threat that sadism
his only alternative. This was the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.
was the device by which dependence and suffering were perpetuated as fundamentals
choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence.
The code of the creator or the code of the second-hander. This is the basic issue.
It rests upon the alternative of life or death. The code of the creator is built
on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. The code of the
second-hander is built on the needs of a mind incapable of survival. All that
which proceeds from man’s independent ego is good. All that which proceeds from
man’s dependence upon men is evil.
egotist is the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the
man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function
through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his
aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source
of his energy. He does not exist for any other man—and he asks no other
man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect
of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s
independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent
as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue
and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t
for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard
of personal dignity except independence.
all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. An architect
needs clients, but he does not subordinate his work to their wishes. They need
him, but they do not order a house just to give him a commission. Men exchange
their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests
agree and they both desire the exchange. If they do not desire it, they are not
forced to deal with each other. They seek further. This is the only possible
form of relationship between equals. Anything else is a relation of slave to
master, or victim to executioner.
work is ever done collectively, by a majority decision. Every creative job is
achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought. An architect requires
a great many men to erect his building. But he does not ask them to vote on his
design. They work together by free agreement and each is free in his proper function.
An architect uses steel, glass, concrete, produced by others. But the materials
remain just so much steel, glass and concrete until he touches them. What he
them is his individual product and his individual property. This is the only
for proper co-operation among men.
first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself.
His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others.
His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend primarily upon other men. This includes the whole sphere of his creative
faculty, his thinking, his work. But it does not include the sphere of the gangster,
the altruist and the dictator.
man thinks and works alone. A man cannot rob, exploit or rule—alone. Robbery,
exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. They are the
province of the second-hander.
of men are not egotists. They create nothing. They exist entirely through the
persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving.
They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit. The form
of dependence does not matter.
men were taught to regard second-handers—tyrants, emperors, dictators—as
exponents of egotism. By this fraud they were made to destroy the ego, themselves
The purpose of the fraud was to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which
is a synonym.
the beginning of history, the two antagonists have stood face to face: the creator
and the second-hander. When the first creator invented the wheel, the first second-hander
responded. He invented altruism.
creator—denied, opposed, persecuted, exploited—went on, moved forward
and carried all humanity along on his energy. The second-hander contributed nothing
process except the impediments. The contest has another name: the individual
against the collective.
“The ‘common good’ of a collective—a race, a class, a state—was the claim and justification
of every tyranny ever established over men. Every major horror of history was
committed in the name of an altruistic motive. Has any act of selfishness ever
equaled the carnage perpetrated by disciples of altruism? Does the fault lie
in men’s hypocrisy or in the nature of the principle? The most dreadful
butchers were the most sincere. They believed in the perfect society reached
guillotine and the firing squad. Nobody questioned their right to murder since
they were murdering for an altruistic purpose. It was accepted that man must
be sacrificed for other men. Actors change, but the course of the tragedy remains
and ends with a sea of blood. It goes on and will go on so long as men believe
that an action is good if it is unselfish. That permits the altruist to act and
forces his victims to bear it. The leaders of collectivist movements ask nothing
for themselves. But observe the results.
only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper
relationship is—Hands off!
observe the results of a society built on the principle of individualism. This,
our country. The noblest country in the history of men. The country of greatest
achievement, greatest prosperity, greatest freedom. This country was not based
on selfless service, sacrifice, renunciation or any precept of altruism. It was
based on a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness. His own happiness. Not anyone
else’s. A private, personal, selfish motive. Look at the results. Look
is an ancient conflict. Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed
each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress
toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled
by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from
in our age, collectivism, the rule of the second-hander and second-rater, the
ancient monster, has broken loose and is running amuck. It has brought men to
a level of intellectual indecency never equaled on earth. It has reached a scale
of horror without precedent. It has poisoned every mind. It has swallowed most
of Europe. It is engulfing our country.
am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built.
We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live.
you know why I dynamited Cortlandt.
designed Cortlandt. I gave it to you. I destroyed it.
destroyed it because I did not choose to let it exist. It was a double monster.
In form and in implication. I had to blast both. The form was mutilated by two
second-handers who assumed the right to improve upon that which they had not
made and could not equal. They were permitted to do it by the general implication
that the altruistic purpose of the building superseded all rights and that I
had no claim to stand against it.
agreed to design Cortlandt for the purpose of seeing it erected as I dedigned
it and for no other reason. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid.
do not blame Peter Keating. He was helpless. He had a contract with his employers.
It was ignored. He had a promise that the structure he offered would be built
as designed. The promise was broken. The love of a man for the integrity of his
work and his right to preserve it are now considered a vague intangible and an
inessential. You have heard the prosecutor say that. Why was the building disfigured?
For no reason. Such acts never have any reason, unless it’s the vanity of some
second-handers who feel they have a right to anyone’s property, spiritual
or material. Who permitted them to do it? No particular man among the dozens
authority. No one cared to permit it or to stop it. No one was responsible. No
one can be held to account. Such is the nature of all collective action.
did not receive the payment I asked. But the owners of Cortlandt got what they
needed from me. They wanted a scheme devised to build a structure as cheaply
as possible. They found no one else who could do it to their satisfaction. I
could and did. They took the benefit of my work and made me contribute it as
a gift. But I am not an altruist. I do not contribute gifts of this nature.
is said that I have destroyed the home of the destitute. It is forgotten that
but for me the destitute could not have had this particular home. Those who were
concerned with the poor had to come to me, who have never been concerned, in
order to help the poor. It is believed that the poverty of the future tenants
gave them the right to my work. That their need constituted a claim on my life.
That it was my duty to contribute anything demanded of me. This is the second-hander’s
credo now swallowing the world.
came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of
my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter
the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.
had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.
wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man’s creative work is of
greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand
this are the men who’re destroying the world.
wished to come here and state my terms. I do not care to exist on any others.
recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and
to take no part in a slave society. To my country, I wish to give the ten years
which I will spend in jail if my country exists no longer. I will spend them
in memory and in gratitude for what my country has been. It will be my act of
loyalty, my refusal to live or work in what has taken its place.
act of loyalty to every creator who ever lived and was made to suffer by the
force responsible for the Cortlandt I dynamited. To every tortured hour of loneliness,
the battles he won. To every creator whose name is known—and to every creator
lived, struggled and perished unrecognized before he could achieve. To every
creator who was destroyed in body or in spirit. To Henry Cameron. To Steven Mallory.
To a man who doesn’t want to be named, but who is sitting in this courtroom
knows that I am speaking of him.”