The following are edited excerpts from oral question-and-answer periods that followed two lectures by Ayn Rand. Neither Ayn Rand herself nor the Estate of Ayn Rand has approved the final versions.
Ford Hall Forum 1972: "A Nation's Unity"Q
: What should be done about the killing of innocent people in war?AR
: This is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government. If by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overturn their bad government and choose a better one, then they have to pay the price for the sins of their government--as all of us are paying for the sins of ours.
That's why we have to be interested in the philosophy of government and in seeing, to the extent we can, that we have a good government. A government is not an independent entity: it's supposed to represent the people of a nation.
If some people put up with dictatorship--as some do in Soviet Russia and as they did in Germany--they deserve whatever their government deserves.
The only thing to be concerned with is: who started that war? And once you can establish that it is a given country, there is no such thing as consideration for the "rights" of that country, because it has initiated the use of force, and therefore stepped outside the principle of rights.
Nations as such do not have any rights, governments have no rights, only individuals do. [see "Collectivized Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness
.]Ford Hall Forum 1976: "The Moral Factor"Q
: Assume a war of aggression was started by the Soviet Union; assume also that within the Soviet Union, there were many that opposed the aggressive work of the ruling group there. How would you handle that type of problem?AR
: This question is so blatantly wrong that I cannot understand how anyone can entertain it seriously. It assumes that an individual inside a country can be made secure from the social system under which he lives and which he accepts (because he hasn't left the country). It is the idea that others must surrender to aggression--in other words, be goddamned pacifists, who won't fight, even when attacked, because they might kill innocent people.
In Soviet Russia, there aren't very many innocent ones--and they're mainly in concentration camps.
If you could have a life independent of the system, so that you wouldn't be drawn into an unjust war, you would not need to be concerned about politics. But we should care about having the right social system, because our lives are dependent on it--because a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it.
Nobody has to put up with aggression and surrender his right of self-defense for fear of hurting somebody else, guilty or innocent. When someone comes at you with a gun, if you have one ounce of self-esteem, you will answer him by force, never mind who he is or who is behind him. If he is out to destroy you, that is what you owe to the sanctity of your own life.