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Society of Cannibals
prev. posted - 1999 - Noumenon | 1957 | Ayn Rand

Posted on 07/01/2002 1:43:51 PM PDT by cd jones

A Society of Cannibals

Philosophy Miscellaneous
Source: AtLas Shrugged
Published: 1957 Author: Ayn Rand
Posted on 11/12/1999 12:21:46 PST by Noumenon

The newspapers had snarled that the cause of the country's troubles, as this case demonstrated, was the selfish greed of rich industrialists; that it was men like Hank Rearden who were to blame for the shrinking diet, the falling temperatures and the cracking roofs in the homes of the nation; that if it had not been for the men who broke regulations and hampered the government's plans, prosperity would have been achieved long ago; and that a man like Hank Rearden was prompted by nothing but the profit motive. This last was stated without explanation or elaboration, as if the words 'profit motive' were the self-evident brand of ultimate evil.

The crowd remembered that these same newspapers, less than two years ago, had screamed that the production of Rearden Metal should be forbidden, because its producer was endangering peoples' lives for the sake of his greed; they remembered that the man in gray had ridden in the cab of the first engine to run over a track of his own Metal; and that he was now on trial for the greedy crime of withholding from the public a load of the Metal which it had been his greedy crime to offer in the public market.

According to the procedure established by directives, cases of this kind were not tried by a jury, but by a panel of three judges appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources; the procedure, the directives had stated was to be informal and democratic. The judge's bench had been removed from the old Philadelphia courtroom for this occasion and replaced by a table on a wooden platform; it gave the room an atmosphere suggesting the kind of meeting where a presiding body puts something over on a mentally retarded membership.

One of the judges, acting as prosecutor, had read the charges. "You may now offer whatever plea you wish to make in your own defense," he announced.

Facing the platform, his voice inflectionless and peculiarly clear, Hank Rearden answered:

"I have no defense."

"Do you-" The judge stumbled; he had not expected it to be that easy. "Do you throw yourself on the mercy of this court?"

"I do not recognize the court's right to try me."


"I do not recognize the court's right to try me."

But, Mr. Rearden, this is the legally appointed court to try this particular category of crime."

"I do not recognize my action as a crime."

"But you have admitted that you have broken our regulations concerning the sale of your Metal."

"I do not recognize your right to control the sale of my Metal."

"Is it necessary to point out that your recognition was not required?"

"No. I am fully aware of it and I am acting accordingly."

He noted the stillness of the room. By the rules of the complicated pretense which all these people played for one another's benefit, they should have considered his stand as incomprehensible folly; there should have been rustles of astonishment and derision; there were none. They sat still, they understood.

'Do you mean that you are refusing to obey the law?" asked the judge.

"No. I am complying with the law - to the letter. Your law holds that my life , my property, my work may be disposed of without my consent. Very well, you may now dispose of ,e without my participation in the matter. I will not play the part of defending myself, where no defense is possible, and I will not simulate the illusion of dealing with a tribunal of justice."

"But, Mr. Rearden, the law provides specifically that you are to be given an opportunity to present your side of the case and to defend your self."

"A prisoner brought to trial can defend himself only if there is an objective principle of justice recognized by his judges, a principle upholding his rights which they may not violate and which he can invoke. The law, by which you are trying me, holds that there are no principles, that I have no rights, and that you may do with me whatever you please. Very well. Do it."

"Mr. Rearden, the law which you are denouncing is based upon the highest principle - the principle of the public good."

"Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that 'the good' was a concept to be defined through a moral code of values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they need it - well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act...."

"Are we to understand," asked the judge, "that you hold your own interests above the interests of the public?"

"I hold that such a question can never arise except in a society of cannibals."

"What.... What do you mean?"

"I hold that there is no clash of interests among men who do not demand the unearned and do not practice human sacrifices."

"Are we to understand that if the public deems it necessary to curtail your profits you do not recognize its right to do so?"

"Why yes, I do. The public may curtail my profits any time it wishes - by refusing to buy my product."

"We are speaking of - other methods."

"Any other method of curtailing profits is the method of looters - and I recognize it as such."

"Mr. Rearden, this is hardly the way to defend your self."

"I said that I will not defend myself."

'But this is unheard of! Do you realize the gravity of the charge against you?"

"I do not care to consider it."

"Do you realize the possible consequences of your stand?"


"It is the opinion of this court that the facts presented by the prosecution seem to warrant no leniency. The penalty which this court has the power to impose on you is extremely severe."

"Go ahead."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Impose it."

The three judges looked at one another. Then their spokesman turned back to Rearden. "This is unprecedented," he said. "It is completely irregular," the second judge said. "The law requires you to submit a plea in your own defense. Your only alternative is to state for the record that you throw yourself on the mercy of the court."

"I do not."

"But you have to."

"Do you meant hat what you expect from me is some voluntary action?"


"I volunteer nothing."

"But he law demands that the defendant's side be represented on the record."

"Do you mean that you need my help to make this procedure legal?"

"Well, no...yes...that is, to complete the form."

"I will not help you."

The third and youngest judge, who had acted as a prosecutor, snapped angrily," This is ridiculous and unfair! Do you want to let look as of a man of your prominence had been railroaded without a...." He cut himself short. Someone at the back of the courtroom emitted a long whistle.

"I want," said Rearden gravely, "to let the nature of this procedure appear exactly for what it is. If you need my help to disguise it, I will not help you."

"But we are giving you a chance to defend yourself, and it is you who are rejecting it."

"I will not help you to pretend that I have a chance. I will not help you to preserve the illusion of righteousness where rights are not recognized. I will not help you to preserve an appearance of rationality by entering into a debate in which a gun is the final argument. I will not help you pretend that you are administering justice."

"But the law compels you to volunteer a defense!"

There was laughter at the back of the courtroom.

"That is the flaw in your theory, gentlemen," said Rearden gravely, "and I will not help you out of it. If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary cooperation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition - which you cannot force - that makes you possible. I choose to be consistent and I will obey you in the manner you demand. Whatever you wish me to do, I will do at the point of a gun. If you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there - I will not volunteer to move. If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine - I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe you have the right to force me - use your guns openly. I will not help you disguise the nature of your action."

The eldest judge leaned forward across the table and his voice became suavely derisive: "You speak as if you were fighting for some sort of principle, Mr. Rearden, but what you're actually fighting for is your own property, isn't it?"

"Yes, of course. I am fighting for my property. Do you know what kind of principle that represents?"

"You pose as the champion of freedom, but it's only the freedom to make money that you're after."

"Yes, of course. All I want is the freedom to make money. Do you know what that freedom implies?"

'Surely, Mr. Rearden, you wouldn't want your attitude to be misunderstood. You wouldn't want to give support to the widespread notion that that you are a man devoid of social conscience, who feels no concern for the welfare of his fellows and works for nothing but his own profit."

"I work for nothing but my own profit. I earn it."

There was as gasp, not of indignation, but of astonishment, in the crowd behind him and silence from the judges he faced. He went on calmly:

"No, I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record. I am in full agreement with the facts of everything said about me in the newspapers - with the facts, but not with the evaluation.

I work for nothing but my own profit - which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage - and I am proud of every penny I have earned in this manner.

I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with - the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product.

I shall answer all of the questions you are afraid to ask me openly.

Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not.
Do I wish to sell my product for less than what my customers are willing to pay me? I do not.
Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not.
If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to what ever your standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must.

I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it and do it well.

I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people - the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay me.

I refuse to apologize for my ability -
I refuse to apologize for my success -
I refuse to apologize for my money.

If this is evil then make the most of it.

If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests, let the public destroy me. This is my code - and I will accept no other. I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow man than you could ever hope to accomplish - but I will not say it because I do not seek the good of others to sanction my right to exist, nor do I sanction the good of others as a justification for the seizure of my property of their destruction of my life.

I will not say the good of others was the purpose of my work - my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his.

I could say to you that you do not serve the public good - that nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices - that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation - as any looter must, when he runs out of victims.

I could say it, but I won't. It's not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above, and against my own - I would refuse.

I would reject is as the most contemptible evil, I would fight with every power I posses, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence and justice of my battle and of a living being's right to exist.

Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, than I say: the public good be damned, I will have no part of it."

The crowd burst into applause.

Ayn Rand - from Hank Rearden's trial, Atlas Shrugged

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: atlasshrugged; aynrand; philosophy

1 posted on 07/01/2002 1:43:51 PM PDT by cd jones
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To: cd jones
To me, this has always been one of the most inspirational passages in American literature: a man others thought they could cow rising to the stature of a hero, by proudly proclaiming the moral basis of his stance, in defiance of all opinion to the contrary.

There are places where Atlas Shrugged drags, but this isn't one of them. Miss Rand captured exactly what she wanted to say in the best words in which to say it. Small wonder that this novel has fired the imagination and passion of two generations of freedom lovers.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason:

2 posted on 07/01/2002 2:38:14 PM PDT by fporretto
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To: fporretto
very interesting site......thanks for the link
3 posted on 07/01/2002 4:43:37 PM PDT by cd jones
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To: fporretto
Thanks for the post. It was good to read it again (I've read it quite a few times.) It still lifts my spirits when I get tired or frustrated with the world. Ayn Rand said she was an athiest, but her description of the place in the mountains where people could go to achieve all they could without interference sounded like Heaven to me. John Galt sounded like Jesus to me.

I truly believe that place in the mountains will exist in Heaven, and I hope that before she left here, she realized Who inspired her words. She called "Atlas Shrugged," fiction. I believe it will happen in the next life.

4 posted on 07/02/2002 11:27:38 AM PDT by Constitutions Grandchild
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To: cd jones
Thanks for re-posting this. The message is timeless; it upholds a worldview and a morality that the believer and non-believer alike can honor, understand and respect.

The alternative is ruin, slaughter and slavery. The blood soaked history of the 20th century bears witness to this fact.

We're not doing much better here in the 21st, are we?

5 posted on 10/13/2002 10:24:19 AM PDT by Noumenon
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