The late Ayn Rand, (1905—1982)1 said in response to this question.2
When you consider the cultural genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War Two, how can you have such a positive view of America?
Ayn Rand replied:
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 are 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 existence; for their ‘right’ to keep a 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.
As a principle, one should respect the sanctity of a contract among individuals. But I oppose applying contract law to American Indians. When a group of people or a nation does not respect individual rights, it cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The Indians were savages, with ghastly tribal rules and rituals, including the famous “Indian Torture.” Such tribes have no rights. Anyone had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages as Indians dealt with each other – that is, by force. We owe nothing to Indians, except the memory of monstrous evils done by them.
Ayn Rand right at the start obscenely accuses those who have a problem with the dispossession of the Native Americans of racism. Rather nice considering that her diatribe is filled with racist like sentiments. For example Rand describes the natives as savages, refers to things like Indian torture etc., all indicating an essentialist racist like mind set on her part.
Further she accuses Native Americans of not using the land properly. A rather interesting notion from someone who supposedly believes in individual rights and the right of people to dispose of property in their own way without government interference. Well it seems that people can only dispose of property in a limited proper way otherwise they are not entitled to it. This is both stunningly colonialist and frankly Stalinist.
Aside from revealing Ayn Rand's state of almost complete ignorance of Native American societies. I.E., the great majority of them had at least user-rights, and many had property right ideas not much different from European ideas. And of course most of the Indians what was to become America in 1492 lived in settled communities and practiced agriculture. Ayn Rand then puts Indian “culture” in quotation marks, indicating with a sneer, that she regards Native American culture as so-called and that she as nothing but contempt for it. Of course Ayn Rand seems to think all Native Americans were nomads, which is false by a long shot, but then she prefers to accept Hollywood myths about Native Americans and indicates by her “I don’t care…” comment that she as no interest in learning anything new but wants to comfortably accept myth and legend. But of course Rand will not let something like abysmal ignorance prevent her from spouting off.3
I just love it when so called "Libertarians", reveal they really don't want people to be free to choose. Thus Ayn Rand does not believe that the Native Americans had a right to chose a way of life that does not fit her idea of development. Those people who came over and conquered the Indians had a right to not just conquer them but dispossess and steal from the Natives all because they were the forces of progress and development so their thievery, conquest and all myriad of abuses were right and proper. Of course resisting invasion by so-called progressive forces is evil and wicked in this scheme of things. This is in the end Stalinist. Those who resist “history”, “development” are the “other” who must be and are entirely worthy of being robbed and dispossessed and killed.
I love the comment that countries that don’t respect individual rights are nothing more than targets for invasion. Just who decides this? And how much denial of individual rights is required to invade? Talk about possibly leaving a carte blanche for an invasion virtually anywhere. Of course what Rand is saying is that since, according to her, Native Americans did not respect individual rights it was right and proper to invade them, dispossess them and steal from them. Her comment about tribesmen being slaves to their tribal chiefs only indicates her abysmal ignorance of Native American society in 1492. It would probably have shocked her to know that the Indian societies encountered by the Americans had MORE individual freedom than European colonial societies. A fact often commented on by Native Americans.4
Her last comment in all its ignorant glory reveals the depth of Stalinism in her beliefs. Progress has defined by her trumps individual rights and freedoms. Failure to develop along lines she approves of is a crime punishable by conquest and theft. As for ghastly rituals and rules Rand should have read about punishments in 16th and 17th century Europe. Her horror about “Indian torture”. Would be alleviated if she knew, but obviously she does not, about European atrocities against Native Americans. Finally Rand plays the pity card. European descended Americans should only remember the “monsterous” atrocities of the Native Americans. The very long list of atrocities done to the Native Americans must of course be forgotten and ignored. Say horrors like Wounded Knee 1890.5 Rand the great enemy of government coercion then states explicitly that it was right and proper that the Native Americans were dealt with by force. This is after denying in the first paragraph that the country was conquered. Well if it was not conquered why the hell were they fighting Indians and making treaties with Indian nations? Both of those actions recognized that Americans at the time knew that someone “owned” the land, otherwise why the hell were they dealing with them in any way. Rand’s whole position is basically idiotic.6
What Rand repeats is the cant used to justify the dispossession of the Native Americans and it hasn’t changed in centuries.7
Ayn Rand's formulations here are bigoted and ignorant. I'm not surprised because in the early 60's when Castro's revolution had overwhelming popular support in Cuba, Ayn Rand was gun ho for invading Cuba and imposing "Freedom" on the Cubans by violence and mass coercion. No doubt if the Cubans had resisted through prolonged guerrilla warfare Ayn Rand would have supported terror and murder to impose "Freedom" on the Cubans.8
Beneath Ayn Rand's alleged belief that humans should be free of coercion was a willingness to tolerate mass violence in the name of "progress". So in the end Ayn Rand like a good Stalinist “Collectivist” did not believe in freedom to choose but only freedom to choose a particular way and other ways were by definition illegitimate and those who made such bad choices subject to punishment and destruction in the name of “progress” / “development”.
Ayn Rand = loathsome intellectual.
1. Wikipedia, Ayn Rand Here.
2. All the following quotes from Ayn Rand come from His Vorpal Sword Here. Originally from Rand, Ayn, Ayn Rand Answers, New American Library, 2005, p. 103-104. Source: Q and A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974.
3. For books outlining Native conceptions of property and Native America in 1492 see: Banner, Stuart, How The Indians Lost Their Land, Harvard University Press, New Haven CONN, 2005, pp. 10-48, Josephy, Alvin M., Editor, America in 1492, Vintage Books, New York, 1991, Mann, Charles, C., 1491, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005, Milner, George R., The Moundbuilders, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004.
4. Do I even have to footnote this it is simply a truism. However see Weatherford, Jack, Indian Givers, Ballantine Books, New York, 1988, pp. 117-132. See also Ambrose, Stephen E., Crazy Horse and Custer, New American Library, New York, 1975 where he discusses Sioux society.
5. See the description of the Wounded Knee massacre in Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Bantam Books, New York, 1971, pp. 416-418, and Utley, Robert M., & Washburn, Wilcomb E., Indian Wars, Mariner Books, New York, 1977, pp. 298-301.
6. See Footnote 3, Banner.
7. See Jennings, Francis, The Invasion of America, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1975, pp. 43-57.
8. From Ayn Rand Answers. I cannot remember the page numbers.