The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead Glossary


An economic system characterized by the free use of capital (generally money) by individuals and corporations, rather than the government, for the purpose of profit and ultimately for fulfilling the values of the holders of capital. People control their own means of production and exchange with limited interference by the government. The free exchange of goods and services promotes efficiency in pricing and providing various goods.


A social principle whereby the collective good (usually across a whole society) trumps each individual's good. The principle tends to lead to systems of government whereby a small number of planners control the means of production and exchange in order to make decisions binding on everyone. It also tends to lead to mediocrity and equality of conditions rather than giving the best people a chance to meet their full potential. Collectivism also is similar to utilitarianism in the latter's pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number.


An economic (and, in practice, a political) system whereby the means of production and exchange are held collectively by the state. Goods and profits are distributed according to need, and all property is held collectively. Thus, there are to be no economic classes, with the intention of the disappearance of social classes if not also the state apparatus itself. The ideals of communism have never been achieved, either because the system is impossible or because conditions have not favored its fruition. Karl Marx advocated a transitional form of communism whereby the government would hold all property and the means of production and would redistribute wealth, promoting the worker as the most important unit of society. Marx believed that eventually this form would naturally evolve into the more perfect form of communism. Even this transitional form, however, is not quite the same as the forms of communism practiced throughout the 20th century.


A form of government in which individuals pledge nationalistic, chauvinistic allegiance to an all-powerful state, over and above other social groups (often including one's own family). The leader or leading class often attempts to inspire the support of the people through the promulgation of a national myth or principle. Though the fascist state needs public support, decisions are made by an individual or small group who are taken to represent the will of the nation. Given the extreme power of the state, fascism tends to lead to totalitarian control, political suppression, and disproportionate violence against detractors. The chauvinism of the regime can also lead to racial purges or genocides, particularly when race is a central part of the national myth of superiority.


A philosophical and social outlook whereby the individual is the most important unit of society. Thus, no regulations or institutions can be tolerated if they restrict the right of the individual to act voluntarily for his own good. That is, an individualist does not necessarily see any pleasure in acting for the common good and cannot accept being coerced in any way to do so. On the contrary, individualists tend to believe that a person's potential can only be reached if he is allowed to work solely for his own benefit and enjoyment, without interference. Individualists at the same time must face the reality that much of their ability to fulfill themselves depends on prior contracts and agreements established by others. Individualism is the view espoused by Rand in The Fountainhead.