A Free-Market Energy Blog

Ayn Rand on Energy Disruption (1970s message to Bernie and Bloomberg)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 12, 2020

There is no “natural” or geological crisis; there is an enormous political one. It is in the nature of a mixed economy that its policies are rationally inexplicable.

The filling stations of the universities have dried up long ago and have been peddling a corrosive mix that paralyzes the brains of the nation. If you want to fight pollution, start with the philosophy departments; and if you want to refuel–well, look for new sources of energy.

– Ayn Rand, The Energy Crisis, Part I and Part II (November 1973) [1]

Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, known to the world as Ayn Rand, was born 115 years ago in Saint Petersburg, Russian. She died in New York City on March 6, 1982. Best known as a novelist, she wrote on contemporary issues later in life.

Rand’s commentary about Richard Nixon’s wage and price control program of August 1971 (the public acceptance of which represented a “moratorium on brains”), remains biting. And from Nixon’s beginning, she diagnosed the “energy crisis” in terms of the failed mixed economy where distortive regulation expands from its own shortcomings.” [2]

If only Ayn Rand were here to write about the global warming/climate crusade. And the energy industry’s back pedaling and “greenwashing” of the issue, trying to placate its enemies, while winking at its friends.

“The Energy Crisis”

Excerpts below come from “The Energy Crisis,” published just weeks after the Arab Embargo in 1973. As you read Rand below, substitute “fossil fuel” for “oil” and “climate regulators” for Arab OPEC to come to the present.

“The oil industry is being destroyed by a bombardment of paper–of governmental rules, regulations, directives, edicts, commands. But that bombardment is more effective than other kinds of air raids: it blasts your power stations, extinguishes your lights, freezes your homes, stops your motors, locks your factories, wipes out your jobs, and leaves a barren land on which nothing will grow again for generations.”

“The result of our present economic system is that the men who do the work– in this case, the oil industry–know the state of their production at a given moment, but do not know what edict will shatter them next month or next year. The government officials do not know the state of the industry they are controlling– nor what edict they will feel like issuing next week.”

“The Arab oil embargo was not the cause of the energy crisis in this country: it was merely the straw that showed that the camel’s back was broken. There is no “natural” or geological crisis; there is an enormous political one.”

“It is in the nature of a mixed economy that its policies are rationally inexplicable, that there are no identifiable causes, no accountable initiators, no ascertainable villains–and that you are losing your jobs, giving up your automobiles, catching pneumonia in unheated bedrooms, not because some giant evildoers are plotting your destruction, but because some seedy hack wanted an unearned salary, and some crummy professor wanted an undeserved prestige, and some measly shyster wanted a chance to fish in muddy laws, and none of them cared to or could watch the state of the country’s economy, and the sum of such termite aspirations has eaten through the pillars of the structure so that one kick from a sheik was sufficient to make it crumble.”

“Price controls have wrecked the natural gas industry, stopping exploration for new domestic fields; at present, we import increasing amounts of [liquified] natural gas from Algeria, at prices substantially above the price permitted to domestic producers.”


[1] The Ayn Rand Institute, copyright holder of these two essays, has not chosen to make the content from the Ayn Rand Letter available online. Formal citations are as follows:

Ayn Rand, “The Energy Crisis: Part I” (November 5, 1973). Reprinted in The Ayn Rand Letter: Volumes I–IV (1971–1976). Palo Alto, CA: Palo Alto Book Service, 1979, p. 258.

Rand, “The Energy Crisis: Part I” (November 5, 1973). Reprinted in The Ayn Rand Letter: Volumes I–IV (1971–1976). Palo Alto, CA: Palo Alto Book Service, 1979, p. 260.

[2] Rand, “The Moratorium on Brains: Part II.” The Ayn Rand Letter. Vol. 1, No 3 (November 8, 1971). Republished in The Ayn Rand Letter: Volumes I-IV, 971–976. Palo Alto, CA, 1979, pp. 9–14, at 13.

[3] In the online description of the ARL, the section “Mixed Economy” states:

In Ayn Rand’s view, America is no longer a capitalist country, but a mixed economy, i.e., “a mixture of capitalism and statism, of freedom and controls.” The danger of such a mixture is that government controls “create economic dislocations, hardships and problems, which — if the controls are not repealed — necessitate further controls.” A mixed economy, “ultimately, has to repeal the controls or collapse into dictatorship.”

The destructive nature and inner workings of a mixed economy are subjects that Rand discusses frequently in her nonfiction writing. A number of pieces she wrote for The Ayn Rand Letter look in detail at the “dislocations, hardships and problems” caused by government intervention in particular areas of the economy. One example is “The Energy Crisis,” which argues that the 1970s energy crisis — which is typically blamed on the OPEC oil embargo — was the result of decades of strangulation of the oil industry by government regulations.


  1. Mark Martens  

    Actually, I’m following her logic, and I think she had a point.


  2. "Execs’ Open Letter to 2020 Candidates Promotes Oil & Natural Gas" - Master Resource  

    […] It is high time that the major integrated oil and gas companies, not just the independents, play offense rather than defense. Seize the moral high ground and do not appease the disgruntled, obstructionist critics (those with “termite aspirations”). […]


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