Ayn Rand and Children

How does Ayn Rand’s philosophy pertain to the caring and raising of children? One of her most famous quotes sums up her philosophy quite nicely:

“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Now this makes sense for successful full-grown adults looking to ward off institutionalized looting and mooching. However, how does it apply to someone who chooses to raise a child? By definition, having a child requires you to live for the sake of another. How does that reconcile with her philosophy? At what age does a parents obligation to live for another end? What obligation does a parent have to prepare their child to not be a looter or moocher?

I suppose the actual answer is “it doesn’t”, given that she chose not to have any.

It’s been a while since I read her, but I’m damned if I can remember the subject of children coming up in her fiction or nonfiction. I kind of think that this is like lots of other limitations of her “philosophy” of Objectivism. It’s too limited to a small set of idealized relationships, between basically competent independent adults who vary only in their degree of motivation and, perhaps, to what degree they excel in valuable skills.

From the Atlas Society expounding on what she said what asked if children have any rights(“They don’t”).

I’d say that her answer would be along the lines of, “Parenting is a case where one would rightly live for the sake of another because the desires of the parent align with what is best for the child.” You wash, bathe, and feed him because you want them to be healthy and happy. And THAT benefits both the baby and you. If you do not feel that way, you should not have a child. Also, as the child becomes older, it would /is natural to expect to do more for himself. I guess she would encourage as much self-reliance that would be wise as early as it would make sense.

She considered parenthood to be a full-time job, and she did whatever was necessary to avoid having children. She would have to give up her writing career, and nothing could make her do that. And of course she was pro-choice.

Obviously this leaves out the billions of women who cannot care for a child full-time. In a world of Objectivists, the population would shrink to a fraction of its current size.

She also believed that children should not be exposed to any kind of irrationality or people with physical or mental defects (she used the word “botched”).

Well, Rands thoughts on childrens rights pretty much line up with U.S. law on children’s rights. The question is where to draw the line. For example, children generally don’t have the right to enter into contracts, buy guns, drink beer, etc.

The reason Rand said children don’t have rights is for the same reason we don’t give a toddler a gun. The intellectual development is just not there to understand and implement the right(s). However this does not mean that running around killing kids is ok (as I am sure someone will come along and assert since this board goes a bit nuts anytime Rand comes up)

At the same time Rand did state that it is the parents obligation to raise their children and provide for their needs.

On raising children Rand said:



Wasn’t there a woman in Galt’s Gulch who was raising her children, and didn’t she sort of lay out the whole parent (or at least mother) thing there? It’s been awhile so I don’t remember the details.

My guess at an answer from an Rand follower would be:

“I work towards my own needs. I care about my children, when they suffer it hurts me, when they prosper I am proud, therefore my life is improved by having healthy successful progeny”

Good parenting without Altruism.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, she was opposed to teaching children philosophy, even Objectivism. She would teach by example.

Meaning you were better off not teaching instead of teaching (other than by example)? Why would it matter?

It’s not an act of altruism to do something for someone you love.

I’m not so sure about that. Though it would be very difficult to be a single parent. I think lot’s of people choose to have children and view it as their first and full-time job.

Also, in days past there was a very rational self-serving reason to have a bunch of children, as you increased the odds that you’d be taken care of as you became elderly. There was just some guy on TV this Sunday (on John Stossle’s show, I think) who said that according to research that the existence of SS and other programs that help people when they become elderly suppressed people having kids by a significant amount, almost by held a kid per couple.

Right, that’s what I said.


I assume she meant not to give the kid detailed lectures on, say, ethics or epistemology. It wasn’t a subject she wrote/spoke very much on, so perhaps we can only guess. She may just have been referring to small children. I do know that she did not lecture her cats; nor did she prevent them from ruining her furniture. You know, a cat is a higher value than a couch, etc., etc. :wink: I do know that when a visiter entered her apartment, she introduced him to the cat, as if the visitor were on the same exalted level as the cat.

They say all Randian characters are tall, thin and sterile. It was only in “Anthem” wherein the hero mentioned having children and growing a family away from it all. He also said he was going to convince like-minded friends to leave society and join them.

There was an extended passage in Atlas Shrugged about Ragnar’s wife, going into how she was able to raise her children “Objectively.”

So, yes, parenthood is covered in her writings.