On November 21, 1981, just four months prior to her death, Ayn Rand made her final television appearance. The interview on Louis Rukeyser’s Business Journal is now available on the Ayn Rand Institute’s YouTube channel by special arrangement with the copyright owners.
At the time, Rukeyser was referred to by some as “America’s foremost business journalist,” drawing millions of viewers every week as the host of Wall Street Week on PBS.1 The Business Journal was a newly launched weekly show that, at the time of the interview with Rand, was broadcast in more than one hundred TV markets. 2 As was her regular practice, Rand laid down ground rules for the interview, agreeing to appear on condition that the interview would be a discussion, not a debate, and that no cuts or changes would be made to her statements.3 The interview was recorded in New Orleans shortly after Rand’s final public lecture, “The Sanction of the Victims,” given at a conference of the National Committee for Monetary Reform.
Rukeyser began by asking Rand about the speech she had just given, specifically why she suggested that American businessmen are their own worst enemies. Rand responded that American businessmen regard ideas as unimportant and impractical. “As a result of it, they are supporting universities and every other kind of organization preaching anti-businessman and anti-capitalist propaganda.”
Rukeyser countered that most businessmen are just trying to sell their products and woo their customers. But Rand rejected this, stating, “I supposedly have to ‘woo’ my readers. But do I? No. I state what I want to state, and those who agree with me will come to me.”
Rand also expressed her dissatisfaction with Ronald Reagan, who had been elected president the previous year. “He is not for capitalism. He stands for a mixed economy, and he is not a very good politician,” said Rand. “The public is tired of the welfare state. They would like to return to some rational Americanism. But there is no intellectual leadership. None at all.”
On the journey home from New Orleans, Rand fell ill and passed away a few months later on March 6, 1982.
Rand’s legacy of fascinating television appearances began in 1959 with her interview with Mike Wallace and included three appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Edited transcripts of many of Rand’s broadcast interviews are available in Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed, edited by Marlene Podritske and Peter Schwartz, including her insightful interaction with Rukeyser, the last public recording of Ayn Rand’s voice and image.
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- David Zurawik, “Financial Advice TV Show Pioneer,” Baltimore Sun, May 3, 2006.
- Arthur Unger, “‘Wall Street’s’ Lou Rukeyser Gives Hope to Small Investors,” Christian Science Monitor, December 10, 1981.
- Letter from Cynthia Pastor to Craig Fisher, dated November 10, 1981, Ayn Rand Archives, 154_03D_041_001.