When Ayn Rand Collected Social Security & Medicare, After Years of Opposing Benefit Programs


Image via YouTube, 1959 interview with Mike Wallace

A robust social safety net can benefit both the individuals in a society and the society itself. Free of the fear of total impoverishment and able to meet their basic needs, people have a better opportunity to pursue long-term goals, to invent, create, and innovate. Of course, there are many who believe otherwise. And there are some, including the acolytes of Ayn Rand, who believe as Rand did: that those who rely on social systems are—to use her ugly term—“parasites,” and those who amass large amounts of private wealth are heroic supermen.

Rand disciple Alan Greenspan, for example, initiated the era of “Reaganomics” in the early 1980s by engineering “an increase in the most regressive tax on the poor and middle class,” writes Gary Weiss, “the Social Security payroll tax—combined with a cut in benefits.” For Greenspan, “this was no contradiction. Social Security was a system of altruism at its worst. Its beneficiaries were looters. Raising their taxes and cutting their benefits was no loss to society.”

One problem with Rand’s reasoning is this: whether “parasite” or titan of industry, none of us is anything more than human, subject to the same kinds of cruel twists of fate, the same existential uncertainty, the same illness and disease. Suffering may be unequally distributed to a great degree by human agency, but nature and circumstance often have a way of evening the odds. Rand herself experienced such a leveling effect in her retirement. After undergoing surgery in 1974 for lung cancer caused by her heavy smoking, she found herself in straitened circumstances.

Two years later, she was paired with social worker Evva Pryor, who gave an interview in 1998 about their relationship. “Rarely have I respected someone as much as I did Ayn Rand,” said Pryor. When asked about their philosophical disagreements, she replied, “My background was social work. That should tell you all you need to know about our differences.” Pryor was tasked with persuading Rand to accept Social Security and Medicare to help with mounting medical expenses.

I had read enough to know that she despised government interference, and that she felt that people should and could live independently. She was coming to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn’t like…. For me to do my job, she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory…. She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world…. She could be totally wiped out by medical bills if she didn’t watch it. Since she had worked her entire life and had paid into Social Security, she had a right to it. She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.

Finally, Rand relented. “Whether she agreed or not is not the issue,” said Pryor, “She saw the necessity for both her and [her husband] Frank.” Or as Weiss puts it, “Reality had intruded upon her ideological pipedreams.” That’s one way of interpreting the contradiction: that Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, “has no practical purpose except to promote the economic interests of the people bankrolling it”—the sole function of her thought is to justify wealth, explain away poverty, and normalize the sort of Hobbesian war of all against all Rand saw as a societal ideal.

Rand taught “there is no such thing as the public interest,” that programs like Social Security and Medicare steal from “creators” and illegitimately redistribute their wealth. This was a “sublimely enticing argument for wealthy businessmen who had no interest whatever in the public interest…. Yet the taxpayers of America paid Rand’s and Frank O’Connor’s medical expenses.” Randians have offered many convoluted explanations for what her critics see as sheer hypocrisy. We may or may not find them persuasive.

In the simplest terms, Rand discovered at the end of her life that she was only human and in need of help. Rather than starve or drop dead—as she would have let so many others do—she took the help on offer. Rand died in 1982, as her admirer Alan Greenspan had begun putting her ideas into practice in Reagan’s administration, making sure, writes Weiss, that the system was “more favorable to the creators and entrepreneurs who were more valuable to society,” in his Randian estimation, “than people lower down the ladder of success.” After well over three decades of such policies, we can draw our own conclusions about the results.

Related Content:

Ayn Rand Helped the FBI Identify It’s A Wonderful Life as Communist Propaganda

Free Audio: Ayn Rand’s 1938 Dystopian Novella Anthem

In Her Final Speech, Ayn Rand Denounces Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority & Anti-Choicers (1981)

Flannery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)

Ayn Rand Argues That Believing in God Is an Insult to Reason on The Phil Donahue Show (Circa 1979)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (109)
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  • Jonathan collins says:

    I wish this website was as forthcoming when a liberal pipe dream burts as it is when a conservative’s does. That notwithstanding, Rand did pay into the social security system, and the monies she received, were rightly hers.

  • John says:

    Really? Ayn Rand wrote publicly about her taking back wealth that was confiscated from her, and you choose not to even cite her response. You are the worst kind of intellectual fraud.

    Her position on this matter is quite clear, and is quite logically consistent. If you support a program such as Social Security, if you advocate in favor of it, you are supporting theft. You are, in every sense of the word, an accomplice. You do not deserve any benefits from such a system.

    But, if you have actively and consistently opposed such programs, you are not an accomplice. You are a victim. You are entitled to restitution of that which was stolen from you.

    It is pretty clear to me. It is also, in my opinion, correct. You may disagree, but only someone of limited intelligence wouldn’t be able to reconcile her philosophy with her actions in this instance.

  • Brian says:

    Like others here, I don’t think she was a hypocrite because there are two parts to Social Programs; paying and receiving. If she had not paid, her theories could have been tested because she could have used/invested the money she was forced to pay into Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid. I would prefer to do that myself, but I am not given a choice, therefore I too will accept my money back when the time comes.

  • John Donohue says:

    Josh Jones,

    Two commenters have already smashed your entire essay. So have hundreds of other people who actually understand Ayn Rand, when hundreds of times people have tried to pin contradiction on Ayn Rand for retrieving $11,000 of the vastly higher amount taken from her by a coercive system. So, I can’t even say to you, “nice try.”

    It would be a contradiction for Rand to not get the money back. A producer respects the wealth he/she created, and to simply let it be taken, when means exist to get it back, would be to disrespect her entire belief system.

    As to reality impinging on ideology, it is the ideology of being legally in thrall to one’s “brother” that has nearly bankrupted the Federal Government, and it now faces two impingements: either Trump of another leader will spark a move to obliterate it, or if not, it will destroy our nation.

  • Robin Smith says:

    The point is is that when a liberal pipe dream bursts, life goes on. When a conservative pipe dream bursts, people die.
    See the difference?

  • Bea says:

    Brian, “choice” is just that. If a government program offends you, you have the right to refuse it. I suggest you do so rather than being offended by taking it. Rand couldn’t have had nearly as much money in the kitty as she pulled out. She got into America by illegally overstaying her visa until she found a husband, which allowed her to stay. She spruned the suffering of others, felt it was just fine to let them die without help, and if you can justify this ideological crap, you’re a pretty sad excuse for a human, just as she, Alisa Rosenbaum, was.

  • Eric says:

    Is it a problem of hypocrisy ? Or one of intellectual lucidity ? Is this reasonable, that one person needs to be near death or poverty to discover at last the legitimacy of benefiting from social security programs ? wasn’t she suppose to be a thinker ? Isn’t a “creative mind” supposed to be capable of sympathy ?

  • Jayn says:

    @John So, it’s okay to accept your share of the spoils of thievery as long as you protest loudly about the immorality of it before pocketing it? While the people who paid in in good faith that they were supporting a just and equitable system are vile thieves and moochers?Come on.
    Medicare was a nearly new benefit when Rand started collecting from it – she cannot have pretended that she was only collecting what she had paid in for it – and the aftermath of lung cancer is not cheap. She threw the burden of her healthcare on the taxpayers…which is fine if you believe that old people at the end of their financial rope in poor health deserve care, but if you’re Ayn Rand or a believer in her creed that anyone who doesn’t have money at the end of their life don’t deserve health, then you’re being a hypocrite to accept such help – and the fact that you’ve spent your life vilifying people who accept the help because they’ve paid into the system they believe in does not exonerate you from that hypocrisy.

  • G. Williams says:

    She took the money because most liberals, communists and conservatives are scared to die, you sound like you would be surprised how you could compromise your beliefs when the grim reaper is at your door. We are but humans after all. Many an atheist has asked for gods help on their deathbed. He is a lot less likely to help you than healthcare could.

  • Fritz Doerring says:

    Argue as you like, Ayn Rand was wrong!
    It is clearly obvious humans cannot
    take care of themselves – in THE mass.
    We cannot devise even a government that is practical; such ever has to be
    Revised in order to survive. And if people, even just some, are so able in themselves, why do they die also?

  • John Donohue says:

    Many falsehoods: here’s your correction on one: “She spruned [sic] the suffering of others.”

    First, Rand’s entire project is about removing the main cause of un-earned suffering: coercion. True, she has no sympathy for those who cause their own grief. Do you? And do you think it’s your duty to force me to pay for people who are destroying themselves?

    Second, Rand’s actual life is filled with incidents of her helping family members and strangers with the right attitude.

  • Joe says:

    I am opposed to Social Security, progressive tax rates for the wealthy, massive inheritance taxes and Medicare. Now I’ve said it, so I can morally benefit from all of those programs. Thanks Ayn for doing the mental contortions necessary to make me NOT a hypocrite.

  • Elias says:

    How do you feel about the American tax dollars used to murder people in third-world countries in the name of corporate interests? Speaking of Reagan, how about his involvement in the School of the Americas facility in Panamá?

    I count this as money stolen from America, yet here you are defending the brood mother of a disgusting justification for evil and greed. No doubt you support Thatcherism as well.

    Your ilk is accountable for the lax view towards the greedy bankers and disgusting corporate parasites who robbed America under Bushes watch. I have no respect for scissorbills and Pinkerton apologists.

    To be clear not only is she a hypocrite, her antisocial philosophy is book learning at its worst. Utterly ignorant and harmful to society and a thought virus that infects minds.

  • Manel says:

    I really don’t understand american values. Why is it ok to use taxed, public money on protecting US citizens by violence (US military budget is more than all the other countries on the earth combined)… but it is not ok to protect US citizens by giving them clothes or food? What did Ayn Rand write about the military industrial complex?

    If the government spending is evil, why is it not there a strong grassroots movement to stop spending in the military? The only complain is about inefficient spending (F35) not spending as such.

    I am not writing this as a criticism. I really can’t understand the logic, or values, behind this dissonance. Can anyone hint at an explanation?

  • John says:

    @Jayn – Wow! You really are slow.

    Let’s try again. Was her money taken from her against her will? Yes. Should she attempt to recover what was stolen from her with interest? Yes.

    See. Even a two-year old can understand that.

  • John Donohue says:


    The fundamental purpose of the United States Federal Government, as founded, is to protect the nation from attack, and to adjudicate (federal courts) crimes and law suits that cross state lines. The U.S. was not founded, nor ever intended to be, a “social democracy” where the fundamental purpose of government is to use force to redistribute wealth from some citizens to others, and directly provide helping services to citizens.

    Here is the logic of Ayn Rand, as interpreted by me (other Objectivists may say I have it wrong.): The fundamental metaphysical fact for humans is that each is a distinct entity, in full ownership of their body, mind, and property. They are free sovereigns. This is true for every individual. Therefore, “chosen action” must not include violation of others’ sovereignty.

    The determining bright line is: force. One citizen must not force another; that is a crime. The government must not proactively force a citizen to do anything, nor prevent them from acting as they wish to act; that would be worse than a crime.

    The government is the only entity that rightly deploys force. It must not initiate force, only respond and rectify crime, as its job to secure the freedom and sovereignty of every individual. (A citizen retaliating against force in a moment of self-defense is not a contradiction here.)

    So, there is a fundamental difference between the use of force by government to defend the nation, and use of force by government to confiscate wealth from its citizens to be used for social services.

  • Brian Gay says:


    You said: “Brian, “choice” is just that. If a government program offends you, you have the right to refuse it.”

    You are dead wrong. If you had actually taken the time to read what I wrote, you would see that I pointed out the two parts of Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid; to pay and receive.

    You say I have a choice not to accept; that is true. But what I don’t have a choice whether to pay or not. If they gave me the option not to, I would not. However, I will not pay for something and then refuse it. That is just stupid and I don’t know of anyone who would do such a thing, ideology or not.


  • John says:

    @Manel – Some of us are opposed to any form of involuntary taxation. It doesn’t matter whether it it used for military purposes or healthcare.

    With that said, I believe in the rule of law. The US Constitution gives our federal government a role in national defense. But the US Constitution gives the federal government absolutely no power to provide clothes, housing, healthcare, or retirement services.

    That is a very important distinction to some of us.

  • Frank says:

    Ayn Rand seemed to understand that taking the benefits was in contradiction to her philosophy. That’s why a social worker had to step in and convince her to do otherwise.

    Rand knew she was essentially committing a hypocritical act. And yet her supporters today do their best to explain it away. A third-rate thinker gets a third-rate defense.


  • Manel says:

    If you look at the constitution, (it’s not “my” constitution) it seems to consider defense and welfare

    ” 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

    So how is that “general Welfare” carried out? Should it? Is there any amendment that cancels that goal? Or, what is inside of that “welfare” statement?

  • Mark says:

    It’s been said already many times here, and if anyone reading these comments doesn’t want to accept the difference between choice and coercion, then there’s nothing anybody else can say that’s going to make them accept it. All I’ll add is this: if you really want to understand Ayn Rand and her philosophy, then go straight to the source. There’s plenty of material written by Rand herself–you don’t need to come to a hack site like this one to come to a conclusion about the legitimacy of what Rand had to say.

  • John Donohue says:

    “General Welfare” has indeed been used by Counter-Revolutionaries (Progressives, Social Democrats) to mean “provide a social safety net and direct services” to citizens. They do not care about the “Force” bright line I brought up.

    In fact, “General Welfare of the United States” means: peaceful streets, rectification of crimes, protection of freedom and property, freedom of movement and association.

    The way the other concept of welfare must be carried out in a free country: prosperity, integrity, hard work, savings and insurance to take care of oneself and family, and private volunteer agencies to help the unfortunate few who are prevented from self-sufficiency through no fault of their own.

  • Manel says:

    @John Donohue: Thanks for clarifying. Really! I did not grasp how these values were articulated in the US. I start to understand… slowly (I live in Europe and these values are not common here).

    Two questions … and a half (yes, they are “limit” questions, but they help to define the edges of the philosophy).

    a) Anti trust laws: would Objectivism agree on that? How would it justify enforcing that law? (or not)

    b) The government as a safeguard against “crime”: that only pushes the problem back a bit? because “crime” is just what is against the law, and by manipulating the law, one can justify governmental violence against basically anything? What is the check and balance against that? Specially under your statement “The government must not proactively force a citizen to do anything, nor prevent them from acting as they wish to act; that would be worse than a crime.”
    b.1) Forced conscription as an example of b)

    What is your view on those?

    Again, thanks!

  • John Donohue says:

    Forced conscription is indeed a violation of a sovereign citizen by government. I personally fought against it 50 years ago, and Ayn Rand wrote specifically against it. A nation with the high value of freedom, under threats from outside, will have no difficulty finding men and women to volunteer to defend it.

    “…because “crime” is just what is against the law, and by manipulating the law, one can justify governmental violence against basically anything?”
    Yes, this is a true problem. This is why tremendous discipline and integrity must be kept to prevent the passing of laws that violate the sovereignty of individuals. “Crime” must be clearly, rationally, and seriously defined as violations by force. Ayn Rand became sorrowful that the people of the United States did not maintain this vigilance, and allowed vast numbers of wrong laws to be passed over the prior 120 years, each one chipping away at the fundamentals.

    Anti-trust is a more complex issue. There is extensive writing by Objectivists on it. Here’s a link…


  • Neil says:

    The idea put across here, that her taxes for social welfare were stolen from her, and that she was taking back her stolen property, does not make sense to me. She chose to immigrate to the US and become a citizen. Surely she voluntarily made a contract with the nation to pay all taxes as per the laws. At the height of her fame she undoubtedly had the resources to move to another country where less tax is paid. She had a choice in the matter and decided that the benefits of where she lived outweighed her disagreement on the amount of tax she paid. So her taxes were not stolen from her, and in the end she decided to use the services that her taxes provided.

  • John Donohue says:

    Forced conscription is indeed a violation of a sovereign citizen by government. I personally fought against it 50 years ago, and Ayn Rand wrote specifically against it. A nation with the high value of freedom, under threats from outside, will have no difficulty finding men and women to volunteer to defend it.

    “…because “crime” is just what is against the law, and by manipulating the law, one can justify governmental violence against basically anything?”
    Yes, this is a true problem. This is why tremendous discipline and integrity must be kept to prevent the passing of laws that violate the sovereignty of individuals. “Crime” must be clearly, rationally, and seriously defined as violations by force. Ayn Rand became sorrowful that the people of the United States did not maintain this vigilance, and allowed vast numbers of wrong laws to be passed over the prior 120 years, each one chipping away at the fundamentals.

    Anti-trust is a more complex issue. There is extensive writing by Objectivists on it. Here’s a link…

    Go to AynRandLexicon dot com…search for AntiTrust_laws

  • John Donohue says:

    Neil says:

    “… she voluntarily made a contract with the nation to pay all taxes as per the laws.”
    Yes, she paid her taxes.

    “…and in the end she decided to use the services that her taxes provided.”

    So? It sounds like you are agreeing that there is no hypocrisy in Ayn Rand for receiving Medicare/SS. Is that correct?

  • Tom Gyory says:

    There is,no definition of the term welfare in the constitution. The Founders created a contradiction by including this term and it should be removed. The definition of government is force. Anything that needs to be enforced is a proper role of government. The military, police and courts are the only proper role of a limited government.

  • Neil says:


    I think it’s more internally inconsistent than hypocritical, but I value compassion more than sticking to a principle or ideology, so I would never goad somebody for making this decision near the end of their life.

    I would see it more as hypocrisy if she deliberately acted against professed beliefs, but I accept that she can see her actions as consistent (ie taking back what was stolen). I’m also not calling her hypocritical as it is a more loaded and rhetorical way of attacking her actions.

    But it sounds inconsistent because she makes the argument that she has been coerced to do something she doesn’t want to do and that she doesn’t value (tax for welfare). But she has always had the choice to move to a nation where the small government she aspires to is closer to reality. And she didn’t. So it seems to me that she accepted the contract and was never in the position of having something stolen from her, so shouldn’t see accepting welfare as taking back what was hers. It would be different if she lived in North Korea, but she didn’t.

  • Neil says:

    (That is, I see it as inconsistent to feel coerced on paying tax when as a powerful US citizen she had enough agency to choose to leave the US if she wanted. So she was never coerced.)

  • John Donohue says:


    There’s no inconsistency in Rand’s position. She paid her taxes. She collected a small portion of her money back. Perfectly consistent.

    When a citizen has no choice when coerced by government, except: “well, you are always free to leave,” that is a direct attempt to unalienate the person from citizenship.

    It’s terrorism.

  • Manel says:

    @John Donohue: Thanks for your explanations. It is, as I said, a very different “value set” of the one I live in/with, but now I understand better.

    Although some of the ideas have indeed “passed on” to Europe (Tatcherism, etc), many are also very alien: maybe christianism plays a role in making Welfare completely acceptable. Also, violence in Europe is irreversibly linked to the two world wars, in which nobody won anything really, except… peace. At an infinite cost. Even the brits, who theoretically were part of the “winning side”, basically consumed all their wealth in trying to resist Nazi Germany. The US has not had a big “domestic” war defeat, and in a Nuclear world, possibly never will. That changes mindsets!

    I can’t help but wonder what would Ayn think about the rise of Trump… but that is another story.

    Thanks all!

  • Seán Garland says:

    Excellent article and pitch of content. Sufficiently digestible and informative to the uninitiated as to encourage further reading on the subject.

  • Traba says:


    I’m all for free healthcare over defense spending. I think Ayn’s fears are worth listening to. However, I like to put it this way: ALL organizations, whether public or private must be scrutinized to every last penny. There are crooks in each case. There are people and other organizations always looking to game their way in and suck the wealth from them. From the North Korean party official to the cush Aerospace / Defense contractor stealing from tax payers.

  • Everett says:

    I’ve seen a lot of comments stating it was not a contradiction that she was just getting back what she put in. There is no way you can say that without knowing what was put in and what was taken out. Not sure if anyone has done the math on this specific case, but my understanding is that most recipients of Social Security and Medicare benefits surpass the amount they put in, even after accounting for the rates of inflation. The costs of medical treatment has grown far faster than the none medical inflation rate.

  • Stevo says:

    Oh man. You’ve got to read that Ayn Rand organization response. It’s pretzel logic.

  • Jerry Biggers says:

    A commentary on the critics’ reaction to Atlas Shrugged – written 52 years ago – and still relevant! “It is hard to say which is the more eloquent proof of its signal relevance to the crucial issues of our age: the widespread admiration and enthusiasm it has inspired – or the hysteria of the attacks unleashed against it. The nature of those attacks is an instructive index of the current intellectual condition of our culture.

    Rand’s antagonists have unfailingly elected to pay her what is, perhaps, the greatest tribute one can offer to a thinker whom one opposes: they have all felt obliged to misrepresent her ideas in order to attack them.

    No one has dared publicly to name the essential ideas of Atlas Shrugged and to attempt to refute them. No one has been willing to declare: “Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his own values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force – and I consider such ideas wrong, evil, and socially dangerous.”

    Rand’s opponents have found it preferable to debate with strawmen, to equate her philosophy with that of Spencer or Nietzsche or Spinoza or Hobbes and thus expose themselves to the charge of philosophic illiteracy – rather than identify and publicly argue against that for which Rand actually stands.

    Were they discussing the ideas of an author whose work was not known to the general public, their motive would appear obvious. But it is a rather grotesque spectacle to witness men seemingly going through the motions of concealing from the public the ideas of an author whose readers number in the millions.

    When one considers the careful precision with which Rand defines her terms and presents her ideas, and the painstaking manner in which each concept is concretized and illustrated – one will search in vain for a non-psychiatric explanation of the way in which her philosophy has been reported by antagonists. Allegedly describing her concept of rational self-interest, they report that Ayn Rand extols disregard for the rights of others, brutality, rapacity, doing whatever one feels like doing and general animal self-indulgence. This, evidently, is the only meaning they are able to give to the concept of self-interest. One can only conclude that this is how they conceive their own self-interest, which they altruistically and self-sacrificially renounce. Such a viewpoint tells one a great deal about the man who holds it – but nothing about the philosophy of Rand.”
    (- Nathaniel Branden, in “The Moral Revolution In Atlas Shrugged,” WHO IS AYN RAND? (N.Y., Random House, 1962 ).

  • Manel says:

    @Jerry Biggers:

    No one has been willing to declare: “Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his own values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force – and I consider such ideas wrong, evil, and socially dangerous.”

    Well, I do.

    I do think that combining the three ideas, one can get rationally to do atrocious stuff, and then get a comfy justification of being right in that action. You choose rationally, (without empathy, which is out of rationality), you choose thinking about yourself and nobody else, and then let’s see what happens. To your children, for example…

    From Ayn’s Lexicon:

    “Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character”

    Spiritual payment? Selfish pleasure? In exchange??!

    While I am not so naïve as to not recognize the strength of egoism and self interest… that is losing half of your life’s happiness. Have you heard the expression “pay it forward”? It is impossible under these ideas.

  • Manel says:

    Re: the previous comment

    “The mere fact that man has the capacity to procreate, does not mean that it is his duty to commit spiritual suicide by making procreation his primary goal and turning himself into a stud-farm animal . . . .” (found in Ayn’s Lexicon)

    So having children makes you a “stud-farm animal” and “commit spiritual suicide”. Tell that to your mother !

    Fact is, yes, as an individual you have a duty and a right to freedom, but also you are part of something bigger, whether you want it or not. You are part of a group, clan, country and species. And the nature of that is that your real “natural” goal is to perpetuate that species, you are wired for that, and some of the actions you will perform and give happiness to you (in a DNA-encoded, prehistorically deep happiness way) are, from the point of view of an an individual, irrational, because they will be done *completely* in behalf of others. Just as other did the same so that you could exist! (Hi, mom!)

  • ATexan says:

    Ayn Rand despite her weirdness should be required reading in highschool or college literature classes. I dislike some aspects of her object-ism but if you read Atlas Shrugged she does make some good point which have been in motion for sometime now regardless of of the uni party system.

    The original purpose of SS was to provide a ‘supplement’ to one’s lifetime of work. Unfortunately, this program has been looted over the decades along with some serious central bank depreciation of the money.

    I don’t like centers of power whether corporate or government, but Josh needs to move to Cuba or North Korea ASAP.

  • Carl says:

    Money was not taken from her against her will.

    By earning money she accepted the rules of the state in which she earned those monies. If she didn’t want to pay taxes, she shouldn’t have taken a job.

  • Susan Coffey says:

    It seems as if the mighty were laid low when Rand experienced great need. She had to swallow her pride and ask for the assistance to which she was entitled, even though she’d previously challenged the same assistance for others. Paint it any way you like, it’s still the same picture, need versus greed.

  • Veganwarrior says:

    A number of Rand’s followers espouse the virtues of objectivism and rationalism, and so it is worth considering whether her decision was a rational one. It may certainly have been irrational to have refused assistance at a time of need; irrespective of whether one believed their was an ‘entitlement’ to such assistance.

    By accepting state help Rand arguably behaved in a rational manner. Her beliefs, odious as they may be to some, should not have prevented her acting in self-interest once hardship approached. We may all have ideals about how we would like to see the world, but they may rarely be worth going to the gutter or the grave for; or consigning other likewise.

  • Michael Flores says:

    This is a blend of fact and a bending of fact. Ayn Rand spoke in public as young as in her 20’s that people should collect Social Security rather than let the military take it.

  • David Arceneaux says:

    What’s the citation for this 1998 interview with Pryor?

  • Kaleberg says:

    Rand’s philosophy denies human reality. She took help from her mother and father when she was a child. Did she ever pay them back? Was their some rational negotiation as to terms of repayment? Of course not, that’s not how human society works. If here parents knew what they were raising, they should have done the old fashioned, rational thing and exposed her, left her out to die.

    Whiners like Rand always annoy me. They take and take and take and whine like stricken dogs when asked to put something back in the pot. We should bring back 90% marginal tax rates and let the billionaires and multi-national corporations who don’t like move elsewhere. Billionaires and multi-national corporations are a dime a dozen. They’ll be replaced in a few months and good riddance to the ones who left.

    Maybe Rand should have been true to her philosophy and not let anyone help her. She should not have had cancer surgery, not because she couldn’t pay for it, but because she, personally, could not pay for the research involved in developing it, the overhead of the medical system, the costs of its medical schools and so on.

  • Carol Burns says:

    It is hard to stick to your principles in the face of adversity, which explains why there are so many death bed religious conversions. She did pay into the Social Security system, which is not a savings account but is an insurance plan. You pay in to the system which funds payment to the current beneficiaries. She was down on her luck and entitled, legally, to collect, which is also true of many of the people she called losers and parasites. I found her black and white views very appealing when I was an adolescent, but they did not hold up well over time. I am a 58 year old lawyer who had some kind of job since I was 11 years old. But I also recognize that I have been very lucky and other people haven’t. That is why there is a safety net, as Ayn Rand discovered.

  • Beetinick says:

    […] Her position on this matter is quite clear, and is quite logically consistent. If you support a program such as Social Security, if you advocate in favor of it, you are supporting theft. You are, in every sense of the word, an accomplice. You do not deserve any benefits from such a system.[…]

    So I suppose you are on the side of the general population that especially considers programs to subsidize, incentivize or bail out corporate interests and corporations the grandest of larcenies?

    Would your chagrin expand to the foreign military aid to subsidize military expenditures of foreign governments as well.

    Unless you are ok with these above types of thefts, as long as the individual or family have no expectation of support from the very system that is meant to represent them?

  • Todd's Written Word says:

    I think Open Culture needs to post something on logical fallacies, as I notice a substantial number of commenters that disagreed with Jones resorted to ad hominem arguments, specifically attacks on his intellect. Claiming someone has a limited intellect does not dispute the argument made by that person. Actual citations to evidence, provided in a well-mannered fashion, are more likely to sway an audience. Additionally, one could look at the Buckley/Vidal debate, in which Buckley resorted to homophobic ad hominem slurs, and see how that tactic can make the user look brutish and weak.

  • Wiser says:


    She is a worthless hypocrite, PERIOD. Her ideas are null and void because she herself went against them in the end, and out of convenience at that.

  • Wiser says:

    Liberal ideas bust, huh?

    Yeah. I suppose the noble, honorable, and true ideas of human rights, a united humanity (for a change), and keeping our eco-system healthy instead of destroying it is a bust. Because fuck it, a bright future for all humanity isn’t worth it. We should just continue to self-destruct ourselves and laugh insanely until we make ourselves go the way of the dinosaur by our own hand. Cause fuck it, another asteroid is coming to destroy us all anyway.

  • Wiser says:

    “Ayn Rand wrote publicly about her taking back wealth that was confiscated from her”


    “You may disagree, but only someone of limited intelligence wouldn’t be able to reconcile her philosophy with her actions in this instance.”

    Nah, nobody is disagreeing with you. We are simply calling you out on your lying bullshit, mate.

  • Wiser says:

    Blah, blah, blah. All I heard is that you’re a piece of trash who is desperately attempting to justify your own hypocrisy.

  • Wiser says:

    Carl says:
    “Money was not taken from her against her will.

    By earning money she accepted the rules of the state in which she earned those monies. If she didn’t want to pay taxes, she shouldn’t have taken a job.”

    Exactly what Carl said. The rest of you trying to defend Ayn are in denial and pathetically brainwashed.

  • Matt says:

    The funniest thing about this is the comments with all the paulbots twisting themselves into knots trying to justify and explain the hypocrisy that is evident to anyone with functioning grey matter. My other favorite response is to point fingers at liberals. Conservatives love to respond to criticism of conservatives by pointing at something liberals may or may not have done. Is that really the only argument you toolbags can ever come up with?

  • Matt says:

    “Money was confiscated from her!!!”

    Oh my god, do the right wing histrionics ever end? She could have moved to any other country she wanted or worked for cash or just not worked at all. She CHOSE to work in this system, knowing full well the rules.

    Give me a break you little right-wing snowflakes

  • Jerry says:

    Oh is that why Ayn Rand worshipped child killer William Hickman AFTER the public turned against him for murdering a child and hacking her body up?

  • SRP says:

    Holy crap is that a poorly strung together argument. I mean, that may have been her reasoning, but it is a sheisty premise at best. How about this, let’s keep the programs and pay in while we all talk about how parasitic they are, then be grateful when we can retire with benefits.

  • Mike says:

    @John Rand didn’t “attempt to recover it.” She had no other choice than to accept it.

    The longstanding existence of social welfare programs and Rand’s own inevitable fall into their net should offer you and other apologists a well-needed dose of humility. Now swallow.

  • Shannon says:

    You have no idea how the system works. You don’t pay into it for your own benefits; you pay into it for the benefits the previous generation receives. So essentially, Ayn Rand was bitching about having to pay for the retirement of senior citizens, calling it “theft”, but by receiving it showed she had no problem stealing it from the younger generation. So yes, she was indeed a full-blooded hypocrite.

  • Lisa M Tibbitts says:

    I am not sure if I fully understand why she took benefits, if she did, having died with an estate and monies over 800,000 in worth. If she did it would appear she didn’t need it and only did it to preserve her estate after her death. This would make sense for most people in her situation the problem is she diminished the value of other humans, she was intelligent but unkind and in the end showed anyone paying attention one of the ways she valued selfishness. This is one more lesson from her, look out for yourself and your own interests. If those interests need to include safety nets, support politics and groups who provide them and take control of your own life.

    Safety nets mean police and healthcare workers do not need to spend their days picking up dead bodies from decrepit homes and off the street, less disease and less rotting flesh smell for all of us, people do not need to sell their own organs to live or keep their children alive, or resort to slavery to survive. Pay attention to the world, learn history, hell, watch les miserables and be glad we aren’t selling our teeth in the street or buying them from poor people whose life took a turn for the worse.

  • John shot says:


  • simon says:

    Hi John,
    “The fundamental metaphysical fact for humans is that each is a distinct entity, in full ownership of their body, mind, and property.” This statement is dubious to say the least. We are not closed systems. If the input of others significantly determines our notions of personal identity and the categories we use to interpret, explain and interact in the world, then surely this has implications for the notion of sovereign persons/entities?

  • Dave says:

    The fundamental tenant of this “philosophy” is more than just flawed, it is outright false. People are NOT wholly isolated systems, but utterly reliant on our common environment. And that’s just the physical aspects of biology, not accounting for the social aspects of human interaction. But Ayn Rand was really so narcissistic that she thought she was above not just other humans, but the very laws of physics. Her death put the lie to that asinine foolishness.

  • Elle Beaumont says:

    At what point is smoking ones way into lung cancer not causing ones own grief? In point of fact, how much suffering is not caused by the self itself?

  • Chris Merry says:

    So Social Security, the most popular and necessary program in this country. So everyone who is for keeping it are thieves. You have an incredibly simplistic view of the world. You have a problem with giving people in their sixties 1200 a month just to make their lives a little easier? I imagine you are just willing to let them die in the streets because they didn’t save for retirement. I bet you’re proud to be considered an Objectivist, as well as a social Darwinist You obviously have no concept of how many people nowadays are living paycheck to paycheck do to those policies that that a-hole Greenspan put into action. Reagan’s class warfare policies of shifting the tax burden onto the working and middle class and being just super sweet to the poor and calling them “welfare chiselers”. Reagan was an evil sack of shyte. He did the plutocrats bidding. anybody who considers altruism a bad thing, makes me consider them reprobate.

  • muck says:

    Your argument is completely unfounded. How can she be a victim of a program that benefited her?
    That is illogical.

  • Z says:

    The point must be seen in a wider sense. Even if she had been able to hold onto all her resources it is very unlikely she could have bought any working care with it. Because the divided funds are not only a monetary one, but also an investment against a mass of ills.

    Meaning there would be no cures for the “filthy rich” either in such a hypothetical Rand world, because there would not be enough of them or their diseases to make such research worthwile.

    There is this simple reason for medical just like any technology to have exploded in development at convergence over the last 100 years after all. Mass.

  • Marshall Godfrey says:

    Nobody died in the bursting of the liberal pipe dream called the Soviet Union? LMAO.

  • Josh Dodson says:

    That is by far the best article I have ever read; at least the best article written by someone with a perception of my 8 year old. Even she understands what it means to pay back what is owed. She, at 8 years old understands the difference between supporting a policy that is theft, and reclaiming what has been stolen. I suggest you continue your quest for education, and when you start to grow, revise this article to match your mental growth.

  • E. Roycroft says:

    Today’s business leaders are not Ayn Rand’s idea of business leaders – they are cagy manipulators who have learned how to game the system (government and Wall Street) not run a factory.
    They have no interest in producing anything – send it overseas to contractors who do that dirty work. Her business leaders could go to the factory floor and do any job there themselves. What does Rex Tillerson give us? The knowledge, paid for by his company, that global warming is real; this led to Exxon taking steps to protect their property from the results, while at the same time lying for decades to the public about the harm of fossil fuels, and Ayn Rand would not have admired that! Safety net is needed because people are not always able to supply their needs – how I wish there had been help to keep my father in school when his father died. Instead, at age 14, he went to work in a factory to support his mother and two younger sisters – in his spare time he went along the railroad tracks to pick up coal. The only reason we have massive wealth inequalities is because money buys politicians, who pass laws favoring maldistribution of wealth. Want to see a s**thole nation? Stay around a few more years and you will see our poor being no better off than throngs of people in India, where kids are on the street begging and there is no public school and no public sewage or water in places. Watch the rich get richer.

  • johnjohn says:

    Open Culture
    “The best free cultural & educational media on the web”
    You forgot “unbiased”.

  • God says:

    Actually that’s not entirely true. She actually took out far more money then she ever put into social security, as do most people. That’s how it works.

  • God says:

    Except she took out way more than she put in, making your argument null-in void. Even an idiot should be able to understand that.

  • Jackie says:

    It doesn’t matter how she looked at it or how she justified it. It only matters what it actually is. You know, being objective and rational about it all.

    It is not restitution for taxes or monies stolen, but an entitlement benefit for taxes paid. That is what it is. You have to be insane to think otherwise. Clearly, the social worker had to convince her because she knew. Followers that didn’t accept it knew too. Anyone with a brain knows.

    A benefit that likely paid out in the form of medicare insurance and other benefits way more than paid into it. Paying for the results of avoidable unhealthy habits at that.

  • Jackie says:

    Just go to wikipedia and read a little about her beliefs about certain people. Read about the psychopath serial killer she hung out with and her thoughts about him and how it is believed he is a model for characters in her stories and her other behavior.

    Pretty horrifying stuff, her collection of entitlement benefits that treated some self induced conditions aside.

  • Dennis says:

    Not true. What she wrote and what she did are different. That’s why this website is calling out hypocrisy.

    That’s what she and Karl Marx have in common: Both of their theories were flawed and impossible to fully carry out, and neither author did so.

  • Vanessa Johnson says:

    In 1981 she denounced everything she once preached. In her last days she understood just how wrong she was!
    Those who call Social Security a handout are wrong. The Great Depression was horrible, many once wealthy people found themselves in soup lines and sleeping in tent cities, a place they never thought they would be. The Social Security program was started to ensure it never happens again.Yes we still struggle with homelessness and we still have hungry people but without this program, that everyone contributes, our streets would be full and civil unrest could easily occur. It’s not a perfect program but it beats the alternative.

  • Wayne says:

    So promoting the general welfare would not include spending tax dollars to protect the public from epidemics like Yellow Fever, Cholera, Malaria, Zika, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Ebola, HIV, Smallpox,Influenza,etc or to provide safe public water supply systems from interstate or international waters such as the Great Lakes or Niagara River or Colorado River, or to protect or reimburse the public for damages caused by hurricanes, floods or landslides caused or intensified by human caused faulty construction, stotage or disposal of hazardous matetials, or climate change, or terrorist activities?
    Should it be the personal responsibility of persons living downstream or downwind from hazardous industrial or military facilities to relocate to safe mountaintops or underground bunkers or purchase high cost disaster insurance policies to protect themselves from negligence or criminal activity of the wealth producing capitalists or corporations?

  • Matt says:

    Rand was a cold hearted bitch. Reganomics has helped destroy the middle class for far to long. Hopefully those acolytes still alive die sooner rather then later.

  • Angel says:

    Oh no, she accepted benefits from a system she literally paid into – the impurity!

    Except this is totally fine and no, she had arguments FOR using it, since she already paid for it. Stop this neckbeard, “aykshewuhly” level intelligence

  • Angie says:

    Ayn was such a phony and obviously not the fountainhead of whatever the F she imagined she was.

    Irritated libertarians stomping on here to complain she paid into the system: stick a cork in it. Seriously. Deploy the hippo-crates. Ayn is a fake.

    Your philosophy is a fake, which is why she was unable to live within it. Accept this basic truth and stop being such arrogant children about it.

  • WATSON says:

    hypocrisy at its finest

  • WATSON says:

    the monetarist system dictates that costs rise in order to profit from hardship … and Rand fell victim to it – like so many other people far less well off that her

    then there’s the “heroic supermen”
    where were these people when rand needed help?
    far too busy being individualists and selfish baskets

    eight years of care
    i fail to see how publishing a few books – instilling selfishness into late 20th century diatribe – paid for that care …. it probably all went on decadent living and a jet set lifestyle … did Rand even do one day`s hard work in her entire life – i seriously doubt it

    and as for the naysayers and supporters of right wing revisionism … the far right wing in other words – literally nobody cares about your indoctrinating kool aid – except for the people already poisoned by your rhetoric – so go jump off the nearest bridge when you get ill and the ruling classes abandon you – instead of poncing off the long suffering tax payer


    Dacă toți colegii mei de Facebook au scris in alte limbi,Eu o sa scriu in românește .Ura

  • johny why says:

    John Donohue plz share your source of the definition of “General welfare” that you stated. Does the US Constitution exclude health care from the definition?

  • Sergio Santana says:

    Leftist hypocrisy is really widespread. In Brazil, leftists criticize conservatives for going to free college and even for using roads LOL. They pretend not to realize that we’re entitled to what we have paid, even if we face the reality: leftist ideas are the worst response to problems and create many other problems, including unemployment and poverty.

  • Johny Why says:

    @Sergio, so Brazilian Leftists say that conservatives should NOT go to free college or use the roads? Do Brazilian Leftists say it’s OK for Leftists to go to free college and use the roads?

  • Johny Why says:

    @Vanessa Johnson: according to this other article, Rand did NOT denounce everything in her last speech. To the contrary, she reaffirmed her views.

    She said the Religious Right was a threat to personal freedom, because they sought to force their values (like anti-abortion) on the rest of society. This is consistent with her lifelong position that individuals should not be coerced.


  • Rik Elswit says:

    Rand had every right to collect SS and Medicare. BUT……don’t you think she owed an apology to the American people, whose social safety net she worked so hard to end? A public apology. She was, after all, a public intellectual, and opinion maker, and the circumstances of her life should have made it clear to her that she was wrong.

    How about something like:

    “I was wrong. At the end of my life, when I was sick and facing bankruptcy, Medicare and Social Security were there for me, as promised, even though my circumstances were of my own making. I’d like to thank the American People, and I’d like to apologize for the damage I attempted to do to the system that ls supporting me now, at the end of my life.

    But she was an intellectual coward, and died ungraciously.

  • Mike Kelley says:

    I’m anti Rand but you’re right. Except in that situation Rand by her own logic would only be entitled to what was taken from her and not the enormous overage likley that a prolonged expense from lung cancer would cost.

  • D. Ball says:

    Actually you’re the one who’s slow……. and vile.

  • Fredrik Wiksaas says:

    Ayn Rand was stupid enough to smoke cigaretts, which caused her health to be destroyed. The illness and the aid she recevied was therefore caused by her own stupidity. Of course, it might be, like the modern climate septics (sic) dismiss science, that she didn’t believe smoking causes cancer. Both the pro-smokers then and the climate septics now seem to follow the same capitalistic, not-science arguments.

  • sd says:

    “If a government program offends you, you have the right to refuse it”
    Bea, don’t be stupid. If you attempt to refuse it, the IRS puts you in jail.

    What you mean is you have the right to refuse the proceeds, when you already paid into it. In other words, anyone who disagrees with government actions should be irrationally self-destructive because you want them to.

  • Steve Springer says:

    This is a twisted rationalization for hypocrisy

  • Steve Springer says:

    Ayn Rand went to a good deal of inconvenience to be a part of the American social contract, complained at an epic scale about it, then despite her vociferous objection regarding it, relied on it. She was an ungracious guest, and a hypocrite.

  • Joe says:

    She was a genius, she revolutionised every field of philosophy.

  • Frank says:

    John hit the nail on the head back in December of 2016 when he called you an intellectual fraud. Her position on receiving SS benefits after having paid into the system was articulated well before her illness. This is just a smug, posthumous, hit piece on an intellectual giant who would have eaten your lunch had she had the chance, little man.

  • vikingvista says:

    Not many blogs can maintain a discussion for 4 years. Should we take it into a 5th?

    Although in the 1970’s the SS and MC programs still had tax revenues exceeding outlays, it was still the case that all revenues were simply spent by the federal government, as today. Revenues exceeding MC/SS outlays were simply spent on general budget items, with a Congressional promise to later replace them with general revenues.

    This is relevant to the restitution argument. If a thief steals your property and immediately consumes it all, then restitution becomes impossible, unless the thief somehow becomes sufficiently productive in the voluntary society, or has other sufficient ethical assets–which is not how governments work.

    The fact of the matter is, the money everyone pays into the MC/SS system is all consumed away that very year. The money that recipients receive each year is entirely from that year’s tax revenues. This means that you cannot receive restitution for your previous victimization without victimizing others. Any liquidated assets would have to be equally due to all taxpayers, in proportion to the taxes they paid, which of course would be far less than what was taken.

    The restitution argument, to be consistent with Rand’s voluntaryist principles, requires that the perpetrator has an ethical source of revenues to pay the restitution. Since that is not the case, any demand for restitution is at the expense of other innocents, and in violation of Rand’s principles.

    Any voluntaryist, to be consistent, would have to accept the fact that they were victimized by the forced program, but that ethical restitution is impossible. The only moral action would be to refuse all payments and advocate ending or changing the program.

    Perhaps one might argue that those advocating the unethical program somehow deserve to have their funds taken, and those should be used to pay restitution. But action and advocacy surely do not both merit material punishment. And, there would be no way to isolate advocates from victims anyway.

    Really the closest to a rational Objectivist argument for receiving MC/SS, is the ‘living in an unnecessary world I didn’t create’ argument (which is accessible to any ideology). Unnecessary anti-Objectivist actions are inextricably mixed with everything one needs to live (which Rand recognized). So, your choice then really is either to immediately end your life, or live as close to your principles as you can, within the available world.

    Note that this use of disapproved systems no more disproves Objectivism, than American communists using capital goods disproves communism. E.g., North Koreans who escaped starvation using the NK government food program did not benefit from that program, but truly were victimized by it.

  • Ty Byrnes says:

    It is unfair to rely on the say-so of one person about why Rand took social security and under what circumstances. Rand was not against voluntary offers of help. In fact, if one understand her reasoning, she would have encouraged people to help each other. If she accepted Social Security and Medicare, then given that she had paid into the the system during her adult like (all of her life most likely for SS and for about 10-15 years of Medicare), then she was simply seeking to get a return on her tax dollars in a system she didn’t like but lived within. Her reasoning, he chief contribution to society, is 100% intact in this story. That it is the social worker who twists the truth and undermines Rand’s thinking, is not surprising

  • Bart Millar says:

    i saw a comment upstreat that those who cause their own suffering don’t deserve as much sympathy as hapless victims of circumstance. rand was impoverished due to her lung cancer treatment, caused by her heavy smoking.

  • Ella Starr says:

    How helpful that you talk about how a robust social safety net benefits individuals and society. My parents are getting older and I want to help them with Medicare when the time comes. I will find a great health care clinic to help.

  • Joanna Crews says:

    How convenient.your side stepping her hypocrisy .

  • Brad Bothell says:

    1. A reply here indicated she only got back $11k in benefits but paid in much more. 2. Was it even possible for her to not contribute to those programs? 3. I’ve encountered 1000s of Social Moralist Democrats like you through my CA political activism, the pejorative, condemning,.smug leftist words and attitude your trademark. Your scam on Us the Little Sh*ts is this: “You deluded Little (mostly) Minority Working- & Middle-class Stiffs and your families will pay whatever I demand from you in fees, taxes and bonds to continue “enjoying” our collectivized Social Democracy of Caliconfiscation I actually am enjoying and, in the process, you will accept a compromised std of living (particularly, housing) and the unacceptable quality of the government services provided through the “benevolence” of we Democrats for you, all in the name of assisting I and my fellow (chiefly) White Control-freak Leftists working out the psychological distresses in our heads, just so we can social-morally accept ourselves.”

  • Dan says:

    What if Rand had fallen on hard times earlier on her life, say in her 30s,she smoked like a chimney, so she could have easily contracted cancer earlier on before she accrued benefits. As an individual who apparently had decided she and sahe alone was responsible for her welfare, she could have saved the money she spent on fags and put it away to cover any medical benefits, she was in fact ( if we use your own beliefs ) a feckless and worthless person, as she failed to provide for her health cover as she should have done, in addition she could have refused to pay taxes or contribute to any benefit schemes and chosen to be incarcerated , instead she chose to be like the rest of us and contribute to the common good as many humans have been doing since back to the earliest tribes. In crisis situations its been proven that those who work together have far higher survival rates than those who just took the ‘every person for themselves ” approach. Rand was a loser and so are her adherents.

  • dan says:

    obviously, you have no idea what the term ‘liberal’ means , it does not apply in any respect to the soviet union.
    liberal “relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.”

  • DrCruel says:

    The last big Leftist pipedreams have left 100 million people dead in the last century alone, and today have brought back slave based cotton production and created a new industry around involuntary live organ donation, primarily taken from dissidents of the CCP. By contrast, Tea Party protests regarding high taxes seem to at best mildly inconvenience super-rich Democrats in the federal and state bureaucracies. Is that what you mean?

  • DrCruel says:

    By your definition, Ayn Rand was a liberal while Democrats and socialists are closer to fascists.

  • João C. says:

    If Rand was coherent she would never have stayed in the USA, she would have gone to the jungle or the desert in Africa or somewhere else where there was no state or government at all.
    Same for most of her followers. Act accordingly to what you preach and move to Somalia.

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