Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum; 1905 – 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She was born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum to a Russian-Jewish bourgeois family living in Saint Petersburg.
Her Objectivism rejects primitivism and tribalism, while arguing that they are symptomatic of an “anti-industrial” mentality. She believed that the indigenous Native Americans, who in her estimation exhibited these “savage” traits, thus forfeited their property rights in doing so.
According to Sam Anderson of New York magazine, Rand also contended that Native Americans, “having failed for millennia to create a heroically productive capitalist society, deserved to be stripped of their land.”
When Rand addressed West Point Military Academy cadets in 1974 and was asked about the dispossession and “cultural genocide” of Native Americans which occurred en route to forming the United States, she replied that …
indigenous people “had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages …. 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.”
Rand went on to opine that “in opposing the white man” Native Americans wished to “continue a primitive existence” and “live like animals or cavemen”, surmising that “any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.”
On Columbus Day of 1992, Michael Berliner, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, reiterated this philosophical position and hailed the European conquest of North America, describing the indigenous culture as “a way of life dominated by fatalism, passivity, and magic.”
Western civilization, Berliner claimed, brought “reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement” to a people who were based in “primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism”, and to a land that was “sparsely inhabited, unused, and underdeveloped.”
In a 1999 follow up editorial for Capitalism Magazine, Berliner, who was also senior adviser to the Ayn Rand Archives, expressed objectivism’s “reverence” for Western Civilization which he referred to as an “objectively superior culture” that “stands for man at his best.”
In response to Michael Berliner’s critiques of Native American society, Robert McGhee, an archaeologist with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, stated that the United States Constitution and its concept of democracy “may owe much, to the political concepts of the Iroquois and other Native peoples.”
Harvard Law Professor Alison L. Lacroix counters in her work The Ideological Origins of American Federalism that the case consists of purely circumstantial evidence that does not actually support any hypothesis that suggests Native American influence on the Founding Fathers.
Additionally, in 2005, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights rejected a proposal by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to formally apologize to Native Americans, stating that the proper response from “Indians” instead should be “gratitude.”
The Ayn Rand Center’s remarks went on to decree the transfer of Western civilization to the Americas as “one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Indians almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government”, remarking that “before Europeans arrived, the scattered tribes occupying North America lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition”.
Rand’s rejection of what she deemed to be “primitivism” also extended to the Arab–Israeli conflict. Following the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, Rand denounced Arabs as “primitive” and “one of the least developed cultures” who “are typically nomads.”
Consequently, Rand contended Arab resentment for Israel was a result of the Jewish state being “the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their (Arabs) continent”, while decreeing that “when you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are.”
When asked about the topic during a May 1979 episode of The Phil Donahue Show, Ayn Rand repeated her support for Israel against the Arabs under the reasoning that they were “the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages […] who resent Israel because it’s bringing industry, intelligence, and modern technology into their stagnation.”