In 1974, having dealt with the question of slavery and its undeniable existence in the pre-Civil War United States, Rand backtracked to answer an earlier question from the West Point graduating class concerning the treatment of the Native Americans. If anything bad had been done to them, it was, according to her, entirely their own fault, for not obtaining clear title to the land they occupied before the Europeans arrived. In any case, it was their treatment of the new arrivals that aroused her ire.
“But now, as to the Indians, I don’t even care to discuss that kind of alleged complaints that they have against this country. I do believe with serious, scientific reasons the worst kind of movie that you have probably seen—worst from the Indian viewpoint—as to what they did to the white man”
As an example of what the Amerindians did to the whites, the statistics for the state of California provide one example. In 1848 the Amerindian population of the state was estimated at 150,000, with a European (mainly Spanish) population of a tenth of that number, Fifty years later, at the turn of the century, the European population had increased a thousand fold, while it was the Amerindian population that amounted to a mere 15,000. For Rand that was entirely right and fitting, because:
“I do not think that they have any right to live in a country merely because they were born here and acted and lived like savages. Americans didn’t conquer; Americans did not conquer that country.”
This was very definitely a rewriting of history, and it seems that not quite everyone in the audience agreed with her, although the majority clearly did. On those who dissented she turned the tables by accusing them of the very thing that she was herself displaying.
“Whoever is making sounds there, I think is hissing, he is right, but please be consistent: you are a racist if you object to that [laughter and applause].. You are that, because you believe that anything can be given to Man by his biological birth or for biological reasons.
If you are born in a magnificent country which you don’t know what to do with, you believe that it is a property right; it is not. And, since the Indians did not have any property rights—they didn’t have the concept of property; they didn’t even have a settled, society, they were predominantly nomadic tribes; they were a primitive tribal culture, if you want to call it that—if so, they didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using.”
Rand had, of course, been born in Russia, to a wealthy family, and carried with her to America her hatred of the communist revolution that had deprived her of what she would otherwise have been given by virtue of her ‘biological birth’. She did, however, also receive an education from the communist state. She was amongst the first women to be enrolled at the Petrograd State University, something that would never have been open to her under the Tsarist regime. Was she really as ignorant as she seems to have been of the rich diversity of Amerindian cultures, and the adoption of settled as well as its nomadic life-styles, according to what worked best in a given environment?
Or was she merely following the precepts of her communist teachers, to whom history was a tool to be shaped, not a realityto be studied? Certainly her views on the rights of nations seem to have been shaped by those teachers.
“It would be wrong to attack any country which does respect—or try, for that matter, to respect—individual rights, because if they do, you are an aggressor and you are morally wrong to attack them. But if a country does not protect rights—if a given tribe is the slave of its own tribal chief—why should you respect the rights they do not have?
Or any country which has a dictatorship. Government—the citizens still have individual rights—but the country does not have any rights. Anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in this country and neither you nor a country nor anyone can have your cake and eat it too.”
A philosophy (and never forget she liked to see herself as a philosopher) that could be used by any aggressor to attack any society that had, or sought to have, a different social system. A philosophy, it might be said, that was straight out of the Vladimir Putin playbook, and which she supported, as he supports, with her own distorted re-writing of history.
“In other words, want respect [sic] for the rights of Indians, who, incidentally, for most cases of their tribal history, made agreements with the white man, and then when they had used up whichever they got through agreement of giving, selling certain territory, then came back and broke the agreement, and attacked white settlements.”
Here Rand was, as so often, being inconsistent. If the ‘Indians’ had no concept of property rights, how could they have sold them? And if they did have such concepts, then the basis for their forcible displacement disappears.
But Rand had yet another argument to put before her receptive audience. It was an argument that had been common during the expansionary days of the colonial empires of the Nineteenth Century, and it concerned the use of resources. A people who were not exploiting their environment to the full, it went, should cede that environment to those who would. She finished her consideration of the treatment of the Amerindians with just such an argument.
“I will go further. Let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages, which they certainly were not. What was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves about.
Any white person who brings the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it is great that some people did, and discovered here what they couldn’t do anywhere else in the world and what the Indians, if there are any racist Indians today, do not believe to this day: respect for individual rights.,”
Figure 1. The sale of land expropriated from the Amerindian nations continued well into the Twentieth Century, but it was the purchasers, not the original inhabitants, who did not know how to use it.
The people who followed these precepts, and who in 1911 bought the land the US government was selling, despite it being Indian land that had sustained those peoples for millennia, certainly did not leave their newly acquired earth untouched. In twenty years they had turned it into a dustbowl that they had no choice but to leave.
Sustainability is not a concept with which Rand would have any truck. But then she was not an economist, or even a philosopher.
She was a monster.