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on 25 April 2010
Ayn Rand's book on Capitalism presents itself as a philosophical alternative to "Das Kapital", it explains that Capitalism needs this "psycho-epistemological" viewpoint in order to provide would-be defenders of Capitalism with a basis to defend it. The book presents a fundamental "moral" basis of Capitalism in a self-assertive, powerful collection of essays which does brilliantly in some respects, yet fails to make a clear case for Capitalism.

I will quickly analyse why.

While you will find a well fought defence of Capitalism, especially in the first few chapters, which provide a brilliant beginning on "What is Capitalism" with a very concise and precise essay by Nathaniel Branden on "Common Fallacies of Capitalism", there exist a few critical flaws which prevent this book from being the one stop book for Capitalism as a theory.

First, the book divides itself into two parts, one relevant for the books purpose, the other not. While the first half on the "Theory and History" of Capitalism has the majority of its essays both well written and suited towards the purpose of defending Capitalism, the second half concerns itself with "Current events", which are set in the 1960's and fail to be convincing in the timeless manner a work like this should aspire to.
The latter essays drone on too long about New York times articles, speeches made by students and a document made by the Pope. Rather than rely on academic writing and an erudite approach to constructing an argument, we are treated with extremely irritating slang words (the childish repetition of "Blank Out" when Ayn Rand or her followers feel like they have found a critical gap in someone else's argument), petty elitist slurs, and *worst* of all, the belief that quoting John Galt from Atlas shrugged (a fiction novel) INCESSANTLY, is somehow a legitimate way of making an argument.

Presenting Capitalism as a theory (a theory which I endorse fully and passionately) requires not resorting to fiction as a substitute for scholarship, and presenting the argument from an intelligent *objective* perspective (ie: not have half the book set in the 1960's). All these things erode the foundation of a serious work, and cheapen the case made.

In conclusion, there is a great deal to this book that you can walk away with as useful, illuminating knowledge. It presents Capitalism from a necessarily different standpoint than is often taken by Capitalisms other defenders, and it enriches anyone who is interested in the subject. It falls short of being a stand-alone work on the defence of Capitalism however, and for the reasons above I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone as a "read it front to back" book. If I did I would have to advise the reading of only certain chapters, for the fear that others may actually harm the case of Capitalism by the methods which Rand uses to defend it. Passion and force are attributes that helps Rand in this regard, coarse slurs and fiction quoting do not.
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on 30 March 1999
Ayn Rand's book is not about religious cultivism - usually the only argument that critics manage to articulate. It is about the missing ideological link between human rights (individual rights) and economics. This book should be regarded as food for thought - claiming that only a free economy can be part of a free society. This is true by definition but Rand is simply one of the few non-technical minds that put it to paper without equations. (That government intervention is restricting our wealth and personal freedom has been proven infinite times before.) Another striking feature is the non-scientific assumption about man's selfish altruism. It was only decades later that her non-scientific assumptions were actually confirmed by the major biologists of our time. It is true that many of her arguments skip scientific explanations - but she is never dangerously far off from our biological and economic understanding of humans. A must read for every open mind. A must read for those who believe in the possibility of doing good for themselves and others at the same time.
As a European - I know that 99% of all academics in Europe have never come even close to thinking about similiar ideas. That is restricitng their understanding of the US altogether...
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on 29 January 2002
If like me your slightly bewildered and confused with the sudden rise in the anti-capitalist movement and not quite sure what to make of it all, then look no further than "Capitalism: the unknown ideal". In less than 350 pages Ayn Rand sets out in clear English exactly what capitalism means to the ordinary person and dismantles the entire case for socialism and the anti-capitalism , I highly recommend this book!
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on 29 July 1999
thaks to that other reveiwer who said speling is'nt impotent, capatilism is the gratest sistem ever weather or not we spel it write. but he said second-handers was gonna be the tittle of the fountainhead, he is rong it was gonna be second hand lives.
anyway we sure do got to form concepts, i think thats way more impotent then lerning to spel write. capatilism is teriffic and if you do'nt like this book you are a SECOND HANDED.
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on 7 August 1999
There are a million books defended the morality of socialismbut Rand is virtually alone in defending capitalism as a moral system (rather than just as an economic system). Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is thus critically important and a must read for any serious student of political economy.
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This riveting compilation of 26 essays includes contributions by Alan Greenspan, Nathaniel Branden and Robert Hessen. It is primarily a treatise on the moral aspects of capitalism. The themes revolve around human nature and mankind’s relationship to existence. Capitalism is advocated because it is the only system compatible with the life of a rational being.
Rand claims that the classical defenders and modern apologists of capitalism are by default responsible for undermining it. In her view, they are unwilling or unable to fight the battle on moral-philosophical grounds.
The essays provide a plethora of gripping insights and novel angles. Rand detests the idea of using altruism to defend capitalism. She proposes rationality instead, with a ruling principle of justice.
I do not necessarily agree with her on this but I enjoy Rand’s scathing criticism of conservatism’s perceived fallacies. Her vitriolic dissection of the 3 conservative strains is highly amusing! She identifies and attacks the Religious and the Traditionalists but really unleashes the sharp edge of her scorn on those who defend capitalism from the argument of mankind’s depravity.
In the essay Requiem For Man, she savages the encyclical Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI, in which she also rips apart the reactions to it by publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine.
The book consists of two parts. The first is Theory And History, which includes essays on inter alia war, the persecution of big business, antitrust, gold and economic freedom, property status of the airwaves, and patents and copyrights.
Part two: Current State, includes essays on the anatomy of compromise, the art of smearing, rule by consensus as a form of fascism, and the student rebellion. The final two essays: Man’s Rights and The Nature Of Government, appear in the appendix.
Whatever the flaws in Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, this book remains a brilliant and unique defence of freedom and capitalism. Moreover, history has proved Rand a prescient thinker who was correct in many of her analyses.
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal ranks among the very best of her non-fiction works. It is highly engaging, thought-provoking and often quite amusing. The book concludes with an index and a bibliography listing titles by Henry Hazlitt, Isabel Paterson and Ludwig von Mises, amongst others.
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on 5 July 1999
With "defenders" of capitalism like Ayn Rand, who needs enemies. This isn't really philosophy kids.
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on 11 March 1999
The essays by Alan Greenspan present the reader with a glimpse into the motivation of the current Fed Chief. Rand's essays are a modern defence of capitalism. The collection shows how most of the problems with capitalism orginate from government interference with the free market. This is a must read for anyone with an interest in economics.
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on 4 March 1999
Since I am a trained economist I dislike garbage written by charlatans who doesn't have a clue about social scientific methods. This is far from the worst I have seen but nevertheless has little merit in showing the virtues of capitalism.Take an introductory course in Economics instead!!! Another thing that bothers me are the cult-like properties of Objectivism. In Rand's books her followers find justification for behaving in a anti-social manner that is slowly destroying the fabric of the societies of the Western World. This egoism is supposedly derived from "reason". In the real world however there is no reason for people not to find fulfillment and meaning from helping others and caring for their family and friends. The accusation that "altruism", i.e. decency and goodness, leads to tyranny is nothing but products of a very paranoid mind. The craziest thing about this though is the fact that Ayn Rand has been raised to a saint-like status by her followers. No disagreement with her writings is ever accepted and if you disagree you are an evil communist/collectivist. To be a true individualist you must agree with everything she has ever written. Isn't this collectivism in a true sense? No, says her followers, those views are derived by reason and must therefore be share by all intelligent human beings. Pretty scary!! Note that Objectivism, like Marxism, Freudianism and Jungianism, is a closed system of thought in the sense that any critisism of the system is automatically seen as a symptom of unreason. This is what makes Objectivism a religion rather than a philosophy or scientific method. And this is also the reason for the fanatical behavior of her disciples.
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on 5 January 1999
A word of warning! Those who value emotion over reason should proceed with caution while reading this book. Guilt and envy will surely raise their ugly heads for those unwilling to admit and accept that they exist off the efforts of others.
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