This view is used, among other things, to justify Rand’s anger. “Ayn Rand not infrequently became angry at me over some philosophical statement I made that seemed to ally me with one of the intellectual movements she was fighting,” confessed Leonard Peikoff in his short memoir “My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand.” ”Since her [Rand’s] mind immediately integrated a remark to the fundamentals it presupposes, she would project at once, almost automatically, the full, horrendous meaning of what I had uttered, and then she would be shocked at me.”
This “justification” of Rand’s anger is important, because Rand’s anger is a weapon Rand used to keep her disciples in line. That it was taken to absurd lengths can be heard in question and answer periods in which Rand participated. Anyone who ventured to submit any question in the least challenging would go out of his way to insist he did not advocate any of the philosophical implications of the challenge. Even then, Rand would sometimes go ballistic and attack the questioner. Ludwig von Mises and his wife were shocked at Rand’s conduct toward questioners when they attended a lecture in the early sixties.
That this notion of denouncing people, not merely for their views, but especially for the implications of their views, is highly mischievous can easily be established by simply examining some of the implications of the Objectivist philosophy of history. If the terrible evil of history finds its roots, not in the psychology of evil men, but in ideas, then why should evil ideas be tolerated? Why shouldn’t they be put down by force?
In his essay “Philosophy and Psychology in History,” Peikoff wrote:
Millions, billions of men may be oblivious to the mind, they may be ignorant of philosophy, they may be contemptuous of abstractions. But, knowingly or not, they are shaped ultimately by the abstractions of a small handful. It is far to weak, therefore, to say the pen is mightier than the sword. The pen, and only a very few pens, create all the swords and the swordsmen, and set the cause of their battles and the final outcome.
Now if the pen is so very mighty, shouldn’t it be regulated? If somebody is hatching “horrendous” philosophical premises and letting them loose against an unsuspecting world, shouldn’t that person be stopped? While Objectivism strongly opposes state supported censorship, the implications of their philosophy of history could easily be used to support such censorship. And indeed, that has always been the main argument for censoring thought. Since some thoughts are heretical and heresy is “dangerous,” the authorities have to put it down by force.
The sociologist Vilfredo Pareto took a different view of the matter. He believed that men were motivated by psychological states, not by ideas. Ideas merely rationalized those psychological states. From this point of view, Pareto concluded that all censorship was futile, because it attacked rationalizations, rather than what was being rationalized. If one rationalization were suppressed by the state, that was of little consequence, because there were many more that could be brought forward to rationalize the very same human sentiments and interests defended in the suppressed rationalization.