At the very core of what we believe in, and proudly stated in our organization’s name, is the concept of individualism. We believe that every human being has the right to lead his or her life free of political, societal, religious, or other kinds of pressure. This entails that only a society where individuals are free to live their personal and economic lives free of external pressures, limited only by the freedom of others to do the same, is a righteous society.
In practice, this means basing judgments on political and societal developments on their outcomes for the individual, rather than an abstract group. We reject the idea of group rights or guilt, as responsibility for its actions can only lie with the individual. Rewards and responsibility for behavior should only be assigned to specific persons. In consequence, this leads to the rejection of discrimination based on any factor which is out of the individual’s control.
Do not make the mistake of the ignorant who think that an individualist is a man who says: “I’ll do as I please at everybody else’s expense.” An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man—his own and those of others.An individualist is a man who says: “I will not run anyone’s life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself."
- Ayn Rand, Textbook of Americanism, The Ayn Rand Column
We believe that freedom is generally most easily divided into two categories - personal and economic freedom.
Personal freedom means that each individual is free to pursue their own happiness, without collectives such as the state impending on their choices. The individual owns him or herself, and the government has no business infringing on personal choices. Each person must be free to make choices that pertain to their mind, their body and property. The government has no place in their bedrooms, nor in governing their consumption or non-consumption of substances, nor should it discriminate against individuals based on their background, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
Economic freedom means that an individual's right to engage in consensual economic activity with others to their mutual benefit must not be infringed upon by any third party. This includes decisions like what to do with one’s property, which wages to pay, which rent to charge and how to run one’s business. This sort of freedom can only be protected in a free-market system.
Are these two aspects of freedom connected? Yes.
It is not enough to have economic freedom. Unfortunately, today there are examples of governments adopting more business-friendly policies while keeping their authoritarian grip on political power. But no modern society has ever had personal freedoms respected properly without also allowing for a large amount of economic freedom.
Private property and freedom to economically engage without significant stifling from the government is are absolutely necessary components in any society that also wants to protect personal freedoms and human rights.
"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition."
- Milton Friedman
While the term capitalism is often defined negatively in popular culture and political discourse, our definition is similar to those of economists like Ludwig von Mises and philosophers like Ayn Rand. Capitalism describes an economic and political system in which individuals are free to choose what to do with their property as they see fit without third-party interference. The sole role of the government is to protect property rights and enforce contracts, thus facilitating the peaceful interactions that define the free market.
While it has been shown that economic freedom is the primary contributor to economic prosperity and a high standard of living, it is important that capitalism as defined above is the only moral system. It is the only system to respect the rights of the individual vis-a-vis the collective and the only political system compatible with individualism and freedom.
"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.
The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control."
- Ayn Rand,
What Is Capitalism?, in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966)