Musings on Ayn Rand, Hitler and the idea that ‘might makes right’

I just read an article on Ayn Rand’s influence on many in the Republican Party, and it brought the following to mind. I know most people have knee-jerk aversion to the mere mention of Hitler and comparing him with others, but sometimes it helps to take notice when accurate comparisons exist. Like Rand and her ideological heirs, Hitler also despised the weak and any effort to help the unfortunate. Among those he considered unworthy of life because he thought them “weak” were hospital patients, orphans, pacifists, homosexuals, anyone “asocial” and any groups that might uplift the poor such as labor unions. He believed might makes right and justified his views using Darwinian and Machiavellian terms.

In Nazi Germany: A New History, Klaus P. Fischer says Hitler once said to Hermann Rauschning: “Everything weak must be eliminated. My Ordensburgen (Castles of Order) will mold a youth from which the world will shrink in terror. I want a brutal, domineering, fearless and cruel youth . . . They must endure pain; they cannot be weak and tender.” In The Splendid Blonde Beast, Christopher Simpson quotes Hitler’s talk with his commanding generals on the eve of their invasion of Poland in 1939: “Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees him only as a great state builder.”

I’m not comparing Rand to Hitler in any other way than their shared contempt for the “weak” and for governmental help for people they considered unworthy. There are key differences between their attitudes, among them Rand’s individualism clashed with Hitler’s rabid nationalism and, of course, she didn’t advocate killing the “weak.” But since Rand’s admiration for raw power and contempt for tenderness and helping others has gained such a strong foothold here, especially among so many Republicans, it’s noteworthy that the same basic worldview (magnified and more physically brutal, but still essentially the same) was a key part of the cultural mindset that permeated and allowed for Hitler’s Germany. Even the virulent anti-Semitism was rooted in the belief that the “strong” (Germans) had the right to first show contempt for and then eliminate the “weak” (among them the Jewish people).

Isn’t that mindset always at the core of any one individual’s or any one nation’s willingness to exploit other people, animals or the environment; to plunder the earth and to wage war? History is littered with examples of the destructive nature of cultures dominated by individual and collective disdain for compassionate action and dedicated instead to the idea that “might makes right.” We can avoid the pitfalls of those views by remembering where they can lead and by noting why gentleness and caring are the real strength in any individual life and in the larger world.

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3 Responses to Musings on Ayn Rand, Hitler and the idea that ‘might makes right’

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  2. Michael Caution

    For someone claiming to be wary of throwing the Hitler name around you sure are lax about when you do it, especially when facts don’t agree with your side. Instead of reading “he said, she said” rehashes of what other people thought about Rand and her ideas it might be worthwhile to actually have read Rand for yourself. If you had you would have known that Rand is not some evil dictator contempt of the “weak” and no where in her writing will you find such passages. Enough with the smear tactics already; crack a book already.

  3. Johnny Briggs

    You are making a common mistake. Rand spells it out clearly.

    “A disastrous intellectual package-deal, put over on us by the theoreticians of statism, is the equation of economic power with political power. You have heard it expressed in such bromides as: “A hungry man is not free,” or “It makes no difference to a worker whether he takes orders from a businessman or from a bureaucrat.” Most people accept these equivocations—and yet they know that the poorest laborer in America is freer and more secure than the richest commissar in Soviet Russia. What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.

    The difference between political power and any other kind of social “power,” between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.”

    -Ayn Rand