Letters of Ayn Rand
Edited by Michael S. Berliner
When Senator Barry Goldwater sent Ayn Rand an autographed copy of The Conscience of a Conservative in May 1960, Ayn Rand was “profoundly disturbed” by the book, and she wrote a lengthy letter to Senator Goldwater to explain the philosophical roots of capitalism.
Here’s an excerpt from Rand’s letter, which is published in 6-pages (Page 565 to 572) in Letters of Ayn Rand:
“The major contradiction in your book is between Chapter 1 and the rest of the book’s content. More specifically, it is between the fight for capitalism and the issue of religion. There can be no more disastrous error—morally, philosophically and politically—than to assert that the ultimate justification of Capitalism rests on faith. To assert this is to announce that there is no rational justification for Capitalism, no rational arguments to support the principles which created this country—and that reason is on the side of the enemy.” (Rand to Goldwater; June 1, 1960)
The 681-page Letters of Ayn Rand contains hundreds of letters that Rand wrote from 1926 to two months before her death in 1982. Clearly, she was a patient letter writer—in most letters she explains in detail her views on important political, cultural, and philosophical issues.
Michael S. Berliner, the editor of Letters of Ayn Rand, says in the preface: “Readers of this book will quickly realize that Ayn Rand’s letters seem more like polished documents than casual conservations. This is no accident. For one thing, she took letter writing very seriously, once commenting at the top of page five of a letter to Isabel Paterson that she had already been writing it for four hours. Ayn Rand was uninterested in “small talk,” either in person or on paper.”
The organization of the letters is largely chronological, but specific sections have been dedicated to the Rand’s correspondence with Frank Lloyd Wright, Isabel Paterson, and John Hospers.
The book can be seen as an intellectual biography of Ayn Rand. The letters it contains are a treasure-trove of information—they give you an understanding of Rand’s mind—of her thoughts at different periods of her life. Her letters to famous contemporaries like Cecil B. DeMille, H. L. Mencken, Frank Lloyd Wright, Isabel Paterson, John Hospers, Alexander Kerensky, Barry Goldwater, John T. Flynn, and Mickey Spillane are of great interest.
Leonard Peikoff has written the introduction. He says, “These letters do not merely tell you about Ayn Rand’s life. In effect, they let you watch her live it, as though you were an invisible presence who could follow her around and even read her mind.”