I’ve never paid all that much attention to Ayn Rand. I did read her book on objectivist epistemology in my early 20s and didn’t find it all that interesting or compelling. I was shocked to come across this quote from her recently justifying the genocide of Native Americans, and the quote is accurate:
“[The Native Americans] 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…. What was it 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, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.
Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you’re a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights–they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”–they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It’s wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you’re an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a “country” does not protect rights–if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief–why should you respect the “rights” that they don’t have or respect? The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too–that is, you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages–which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existnece; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched–to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today–those who condemn America–do not respect individual rights.”
This was said during the Q&A session after she had addressed the graduating class of West Point in 1974. To call it terribly confused, internally contradictory and morally bankrupt would be to understate the case rather severely. To not just excuse away but affirmatively justify the slaughter of millions of people while simultaneously declaring that those who criticize those who carried out that genocide “do not respect individual rights” is to make an argument so galactically idiotic that it should result on them never being taken seriously again, on that or any other issue.
If murdering someone to get the land they live on is not a violation of individual rights, then what on earth could be? No, it is clear that Rand is the one who does not believe in individual rights.