For Ayn Rand fans: a 1979 interview to enjoy

All best wishes for a very happy New Year to OoL readers, administrators and contributors!  May 2012 turn out to be better than we anticipate — personally and politically!

As I understand it, OoL contributors can now schedule their own posts.

As such, it seems a good time for me to opt for the Gay Byrne role here and create The Late, Late Show slot.  When my work schedule allowed it, I enjoyed watching Byrne’s RTE shows as rebroadcast on Channel 4 in the early 1990s, prior to Oprah Winfrey filling that afternoon slot.  That said, I won’t guarantee this being the world’s longest running succession of blog posts at this time of day — or night!

Speaking of talk shows, a few years ago, I happened upon a set of YouTube videos comprising an episode of The Phil Donahue Show, which, as it happens, preceded Oprah Winfrey in the United States in a similar afternoon slot.

Interestingly, both Byrne and Donahue are Irish Catholics and of similar age.  Byrne appears to have had the more stable family situation over the years; stories of Donahue’s marital problems appeared in the US press frequently in the 1970s when his show was broadcast from Chicago. However, both hosts tackled controversial socio-political subjects which otherwise might not have reached a wider audience except through the medium of television. Personally, I prefer Byrne, but Donahue’s influence in the US cannot easily be dismissed.

The Donahue show in question featured the late libertarian, author and philosopher, Ayn Rand. It appears to have been recorded in 1979, as it was her first public appearance after the death of her husband, Frank O’Connor, that same year. Furthermore, the Iran Hostage Crisis was still going on then, as is mentioned in the show, and she spoke of President Jimmy Carter but not Ronald Reagan, who began his first term in January 1980.  Rand died in 1982.

I disagree with some of Rand’s stances and some of what occurred in her personal life, however, she did understand the Soviet mind, particularly when it came to collectivism and communitarianism, as you’ll see below.

Below are the five segments of the Donahue show featuring Rand as sole guest. If you enjoy reading her novels, you won’t want to miss these. For those who are unable to play the YouTube videos, my summary follows each segment. I’ve highlighted points worth considering and remembering.

Part 1:


Rand tells Donahue that his success encourages others and that he should make more of his achievements instead of downplaying them. She dislikes Jimmy Carter’s smile, observing that he does so at inappropriate times, as if it were a ‘nervous’ reaction.  She says that, for this reason, television can reveal much about a person.  She says that she is a follower of Aristotle, not Plato; she defends logic and reason.

Part 2:


Rand calls altruists ‘evil’, taking Donahue — a Catholic committed to ‘social justice’ — by surprise. Rand explains that it is a ‘big mistake’ to help others through ‘self-sacrifice’, wherein a person gives up more than the person he is helping. She says that it is akin to ‘committing suicide’. She asks why the life of a person outside of one’s family and friends is more important than one’s own. She maintains that that type of outlook involves making sacrifices for a ‘lesser value’ and advises not to sacrifice a friend for the benefit of an enemy.

Donahue doesn’t understand. Rand explains that misguided self-sacrifice reduces us all to the same level, that of the lowest common denominator. She cites an example of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going to schools for the educationally subnormal and far fewer contributions to schools for gifted children. She reasons that it should be the other way around; after all, the gifted children will be carrying the burden for the educationally subnormal throughout life.  Rand adds that the ungifted children should benefit from charitable donations, not taxpayer subsidy ‘at the sacrifice of one’s own child’.  She closes by advocating the smallest government possible — essential services only.

Part 3:


In this segment, Rand says that the US has built and ‘owns by contract right’ the oil fields in the Middle East. Therefore, she says that the US never should have allowed Arab states to nationalise these oil companies, particularly when they still rely on US and European know-how to operate them.

Donahue and Rand discuss faith from opposing viewpoints. The usual arguments come to the fore. Interestingly, Rand says that she does not like looking at the stars. She prefers admiring Man’s achievements on Earth and cites skyscrapers as an example.

She briefly recounts her family history. Born in 1905, she lived both under Czarist and Bolshevik regimes, both of which she terms ‘materialistic’. She says she left Russia for the United States — alone — in 1926.

Rand said that to the Soviets, people are but a ‘collection of atoms’. Man has ‘no soul, no mind’ of his own as far as they are concerned.

Part 4:


Continuing the discussion on the Soviets, Rand says they wanted people to sacrifice themselves to the State ‘for the good of the State’.

A Q&A session follows, which continues into the final segment. One woman asks Rand to reconsider her previous statement on educating the intellectually challenged. Rand replies that it is commendable to help other people as long as it does not become a primary obligation. She adds, ‘There is no such thing as “society” — it’s all of us.’

In response to a former Rand reader and follower who has now ‘matured’ and accepts her social ‘responsibility’, Rand counters, ‘Freedom is the right to your own life’.

Part 5:


Still in the Q&A session, Rand declares herself ‘for freedom of the mind’. She advocates self-defence but not murder. She calls the Shah of Iran ‘dictatorial’.

She concludes by thanking Phil Donahue for inviting her on the show and admits that she had reservations about appearing on national television so soon after her husband’s death.  She is pleased with the way the show went.  She says, ‘I lost my top value, but I will survive because I love the world’.

Incidentally, for those wondering how Rand’s first name is pronounced as well as its provenance. It rhymes with ‘nine’ and comes from either a Finnish name or a Hebrew word (ayin, meaning “eye”).

2 comments for “For Ayn Rand fans: a 1979 interview to enjoy

  1. Voice of Reason
    January 6, 2012 at 3:34 am

    I have my own disagreements with her, and some agreements, although she needed a better editor.

    However, ‘US oil companies own the Middle East oilfields’?

    • January 6, 2012 at 10:07 am

      She emphasised the words ‘owns by contract right’. It seems she has a point. I’m no expert and was a youngster at the time of the 1970s oil shortages in the US, however, my parents and their friends said much the same thing.

      Note, for example, the history of Saudi Aramco on Wiki (emphases mine below):

      The origins of Saudi Aramco can be traced back to May 29, 1933, when the Saudi government granted a concession to Standard Oil of California (Socal) which allowed the company to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia. Socal assigned this concession to a wholly owned subsidiary called California-Arabian Standard Oil Co. (Casoc). In 1936, with the company having no success at locating oil, the Texas Oil Company (Texaco) purchased a 50% stake of the concession

      In 1950, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud threatened to nationalize his country’s oil facilities, thus pressuring Aramco to agree to share profits 50/50. A similar process had taken place with American oil companies in Venezuela a few years earlier. The American government granted US Aramco member companies a tax break known as the golden gimmick equivalent to the profits given to Ibn Saud. In the wake of the new arrangement, the company’s headquarters were moved from New York to Dhahran.

      In 1973, following US support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the Saudi Arabian government acquired a 25% share of Aramco, increased the share to 60% by 1974, and finally acquired full control of Aramco by 1980. In November 1988, the company changed its name from Arabian American Oil Company to Saudi Arabian Oil Company (or Saudi Aramco) and officially cut all oil supply to Israel by order of the CEO. In addition, Saudi Aramco has become a fully owned privately held company with no shareholders or partners in business. Today Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest and most valuable company and thus concerns for monopolization of the world’s economy have been raised.’

      The only Americans likely to know this today are 80+ years old. No doubt, there are other examples. If you check the oil and gas industry adverts, these companies still recruit Western executives and specialists.

      Back to Rand, though. Saudi Aramco became 100% Saudi-owned the year after her interview on Donahue.

Comments are closed.