I'm a ragged individualist.
~Jane Ace



Ayn Rand Received Social Security, Medicare

I’ve pitched the following article to 10 publications since May, including the Huffington Post on Nov. 30, without any luck. Today HuffPo published an article on the subject, “Ayn Rand and the VIP-DIPers,” by Michael Ford. Perhaps it’s just coincidence. To be fair, I didn’t realize that Scott McConnell’s book, “100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand,” was published last month. And if Ayn received Medicare benefits under an assumed name (is that even possible?), that explains why my FOI request came up empty. But rather than let all my hard work go to waste, I’ve decided to go ahead and publish my article here on my blog.


Ayn Rand, Hypocrite?
Legendary opponent of “welfare state” received Social Security and probably Medicare

By Patia Stephens

Critics of Social Security and Medicare frequently invoke the words and ideals of author and philosopher Ayn Rand, one of the fiercest critics of federal insurance programs. But a little-known fact is that Ayn Rand herself collected Social Security. She may also have received Medicare benefits.

An interview recently surfaced that was conducted in 1998 by the Ayn Rand Institute with a social worker who says she helped Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor, sign up for Social Security and Medicare in 1974.

Federal records obtained through a Freedom of Information act request confirm the Social Security benefits. A similar FOI request was unable to either prove or disprove the Medicare claim.

Between December 1974 and her death in March 1982, Rand collected a total of $11,002 in monthly Social Security payments. O’Connor received $2,943 between December 1974 and his death in November 1979.

According to a spokesman in the Baltimore headquarters of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Rand and O’Connor were eligible for both Part A, which provides hospital coverage, and Part B, medical. The spokesman said their eligibility for Part B means they did apply for Medicare; however, he said he was not authorized to release any documentation and referred the request to the CMS New York regional office. That office said they could not locate any records related to Rand and O’Connor.

The couple registered for benefits shortly after Rand, a two-pack-a-day smoker, had surgery for lung cancer in the summer of 1974. Medicare had been enacted nine years earlier in the Social Security Act of 1965 to provide health insurance to those age 65 and older.

Evva Joan Pryor, a New York social worker, was interviewed on July 21, 1998, by Scott McConnell, then director of communications for the Ayn Rand Institute. Pryor later became a prominent film rights agent before her death in 2008. McConnell recorded interviews with at least 130 Rand friends and associates for ARI’s Oral History Program between 1996 and 2000. Most of the interviews remain unpublished, although McConnell, now listed as a researcher with the Institute’s Ayn Rand Archives, is working on a book containing material from them.

In the interview, Pryor recounts working as a consultant for Rand’s attorneys, who asked her to speak with Rand about applying for Social Security and Medicare. The two women ended up becoming friends, meeting regularly to play Scrabble and argue politics. While they had philosophical differences, Pryor’s respect and affection for Rand is clear.

“She was coming to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn’t like, which was Medicare and Social Security,” Pryor told McConnell. “I remember telling her that this was going to be difficult. For me to do my job she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory. So that started our political discussions. From there on – with gusto – we argued all the time.

“The initial argument was on greed,” Pryor continued. “She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world. Doctors could cost an awful lot more money than books earn, and 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.”

McConnell asked: “And did she agree with you about Medicare and Social Security?”

Pryor replied: “After several meetings and arguments, she gave me her power of attorney to deal with all matters having to do with health and Social Security. Whether she agreed or not is not the issue, she saw the necessity for both her and Frank. She was never involved other than to sign the power of attorney; I did the rest.”

The interview continued with Pryor’s reminiscences about her friendship with Rand — their Scrabble playing, political discussions and shared love of Agatha Christie novels – and other observations about Rand, including her relationships with her cook Eloise Huggins, sister Nora and husband Frank. Pryor said that when Frank O’Connor died, she went with Rand to the cemetery in Valhalla, New York, to choose a burial plot and make his funeral arrangements. Rand chose to make her own arrangements at the same time. When Rand later became ill and died, Pryor, who still had power of attorney, made necessary decisions together with Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s legal and intellectual heir.

Winding down the interview, McConnell asked: “Would you say that Ayn Rand practiced what she preached?”

Pryor replied, laughing: “Yes, that’s why I had so much trouble with her.”

“You mean the Social Security issue and all that?” McConnell said.

“Yes,” Pryor said.

Peikoff went on to found the Ayn Rand Institute in 1985. In 1993, he delivered his now-famous speech, “Health Care is Not a Right,” in which he described “socialized medicine” as impractical, immoral and evil. “According to the Founding Fathers,” Peikoff said, “we are not born with a right to a trip to Disneyland, or a meal at McDonald’s, or a kidney dialysis (nor with the 18th-century equivalent of these things).” He continued:

Some people can’t afford medical care in the U.S. But they are necessarily a small minority in a free or even semi-free country. If they were the majority, the country would be an utter bankrupt and could not even think of a national medical program. As to this small minority, in a free country they have to rely solely on private, voluntary charity. Yes, charity, the kindness of the doctors or of the better off—charity, not right, i.e. not their right to the lives or work of others. And such charity, I may say, was always forthcoming in the past in America. The advocates of Medicaid and Medicare under LBJ did not claim that the poor or old in the ’60’s got bad care; they claimed that it was an affront for anyone to have to depend on charity.

But the fact is: You don’t abolish charity by calling it something else. If a person is getting health care for nothing, simply because he is breathing, he is still getting charity, whether or not any politician, lobbyist or activist calls it a “right.” To call it a right when the recipient did not earn it is merely to compound the evil. It is charity still—though now extorted by criminal tactics of force, while hiding under a dishonest name.

Rand herself called altruism a “basic evil” and referred to those who perpetuate the system of taxation and redistribution as “looters” and “moochers.” She wrote in her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” that accepting any government controls is “delivering oneself into gradual enslavement.” In a 1972 edition of her newsletter, she said:

Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites. Since need, not achievement, is held as the criterion of rewards, the government necessarily keeps sacrificing the more productive groups to the less productive, gradually chaining the top level of the economy, then the next level, then the next.

Rand is one of three women the Cato Institute calls founders of American libertarianism. The other two, Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel “Pat” Paterson, both rejected Social Security benefits on principle. Lane, with whom Rand corresponded for several years, once quit an editorial job in order to avoid paying Social Security taxes. The Cato Institute says Lane considered Social Security a “Ponzi fraud” and “told friends that it would be immoral of her to take part in a system that would predictably collapse so catastrophically.” Lane died in 1968.

Paterson, according to Barbara Branden in her book “The Passion of Ayn Rand,” was for a time a close friend and mentor to Rand. After retiring in 1949, Paterson left the envelope with her Social Security card unopened. According to the Cato Institute, Paterson chose to “live well enough” on her investments, although according to Branden, she moved in with friends in 1959, “ill and poor.” She died in 1961.

Rand may have rationalized that since she had paid into Social Security and Medicare, she was entitled to receive benefits. In a 1966 article for The Objectivist newsletter, she wrote about the morality of accepting Social Security, unemployment insurance or similar payments:

It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

One of two biographies of Ayn Rand published in 2009, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” by Anne C. Heller, contains a sentence about Rand’s receipt of Social Security benefits. Heller writes that Rand and her protégée, former chair of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, “clashed over his leadership of a committee whose purpose was to bolster Social Security (a benefit she deplored but, unlike Isabel Paterson, accepted because she had paid into the fund).”

Rand often spoke of moral absolutism, saying “There can be no compromise on basic principles,” but the realities of aging and illness seem to have softened her stance. Social Security, and perhaps Medicare, allowed Rand and her husband to maintain their quality of life, remain in their apartment and live out their final years with dignity.

117 comments to Ayn Rand Received Social Security, Medicare

  • randy

    is it wrong to accept payment on a loan. money owed to you? what about restitution for theft? we now see what the welfare state has wrought. are you people blind. even jesus(whom the liberals like to bring up at every opportunity) said “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man HOW TO FISH AND YOU FEED HIM (AND OTHERS) FOR LIFE. what will we do when we’ve given our last fish away? do you expect the parasites to suddenly become producers and share their fish with us, or will they come for our very bodies next. search history. the answer is obvious to anyone.

  • Rudy

    Ayn Rand collecting Social Security is precisely in line with her belief in ethical egoism. Do what’s best for your own self-interest. She had to pay money, by law, into Social Security. When the time came for her to collect on it, she did.
    If she had left her money in without collecting, that money would be going to other people, which would mean she was practicing altruistic behavior, something she was against.
    Just because someone is forced into participating in Social Security doesn’t mean they believe in it. What else can you do? She was true to her principles by collecting some of the money she paid into the program, instead of leaving it in there for others to collect.

  • Sir Loin of Beef

    Rand Idolized a serial child-murderer, William Hickman, who was hanged by the state of California in 1927. She based her last, unfinished novel (“The Little Street”) on this man, who strangled and dismembered a 12-year old girl, then delivered the severed head and torso to her father, who thought he was ransoning his living daughter.

    Rand wrote about Hickman in her “journals”: “The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the ‘virtuous’ indignation and mass-hatred of the ‘majority.’… It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal…”

    “Worse sins and crimes”? what kind of people was Rand accustomed to?

    This is the the most crytaline statement of sociopathy I’ve ever seen, short of those made by the child-murderer himself. Rand was a vile skank that is worshipped by self-hating gimps, and her plodding, two-dimensional prose with its heartless “message” should be forgotten.

  • John Rusell


    Degeneracy: Corrupt, vulgar, vicious behavior, especially sexual perversion.

    “The novel was never finished, but Rand wrote notes for it which were published after her death in the book Journals of Ayn Rand. Rand wanted the hero of her novel to be “[B] A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy.[/B] It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.”

  • Joseph Dimon

    The author is wrong. The author is clearly insinuating that Rand’s choice was a concession to statism and altruism by, a: ignoring that the money is stolen property, b: ignoring Rand’s explicit principles that the property was stolen from her. The authors argument is as follows: Mr. Kennedy and his friends stole Miss Rands money. Years later Mr. Kennedy and his friends are offering it back and Miss Rand accepts. Therefore, Miss Rand is advocating theft since she cooperated with thieves by taking her money back…and p.s. Rand is a thief for making money in the first place because Mr. Kennedy and his friends couldn’t….

  • tomwins

    Her ideas failed her in the end!

    Her ideas are failing us all as the teaparty and most Republicans push them on us.

  • JCC

    By creating a welfare system:
    – You punish those who can take care of themselves and reward those how can not
    – You Make the service yo provide as government very inefficient and expensive, creating the need to tax even more than nescisary
    – You make alternative forms of care that might be much better en effictive redundant
    – Take away money form people that could otherwise take care of themselves with that money in a free market

    In other words, unless you have a free society you are baically forced to take what the government provides for you or die. Or be VERY wealthy.

  • RKwas

    I love the hate you all spit out for her and others. So maybe she was wrong, she called out looters, moochers by name, apparently she forgot the haters.

  • Michael Hardesty

    Hortense, I just saw your incredible ad hominem response to my criticism of the stupid premise that receiving funds from a government that taxes you in every way is theft !
    What a moron you are !
    Rand was not only taxed for SS & Medicare but governments at all levels had been taking tons of her money via the theft of taxes.
    She was writing in an era where incomes above 100K were taxed at the 90% rate. Ask Gore Vidal, no fan of Rand’s.
    When the government monopolizes a large segment of medicine are you supposed to die than get some of that stolen loot back for yourself ?
    Only an altruist fool would go along with that and Ayn was no altruist.
    As far as your psychobabble nonsense that drugs cure egoism, you are are non compos mentos.
    You proved Rand’s premise which is mine too.

  • Al Ne

    Maybe she was just getting back the money she put into the system. I wish I can get back all the money I put into SS. I could do a much better job saving and investing it than the Gov. can do for my own future.

  • TomWins

    Al Ne,
    What you cannot gain by investing your own money is a guarantee of return. I have a pension, investments, and savings, but will be depending on Social Security also. I fell comfortable retiring in my 50s because I have two sources of a guaranteed monthly income (pension and Social Security). I will be living on my pension and investment/savings until I elect to receive SS.
    You cannot predict the stock market. Bush and the Reprickuluns tried to sell us on that idea in the wild and crazy market days of the 80s and 90s. Wow, am I glad they didn’t win that one! We’d be in a much worse financial crisis than we are.

  • coyoteliberty

    In your post, you cite the now discredited lie that Thomas Jefferson had sex with his slave. The origional report that asserted that has been retracted for faulty genetic forensics.
    Since you built much of your post around discredited information, why should we pay attention to anything else you say?

  • fsteele


    I hope you’re right about a retraction of the charge against Jefferson. What is your evidence?

  • Prince of Peeps

    I am against the SS program and Medicare and all sources of government welfare, individual, corporate, or otherwise, but that does not make me a hypocrite for taking back what was taken from me against my will, monies that were taken from my paycheck or from my employer, which otherwise would have been given to me as compensation for my work. I don’t like these programs, but participating is the only way to recover what was taken from me. If we could eliminate these government programs, I would happily never hold my hand out to the government again. Such programs are not designed to help people, but rather to put them into a position of dependency on government. They are designed to control the people.

  • Barney

    You people have no idea what her real philosophy was all about. She said “man is not a sacrificial animal”. For her to forgo her SS checks would mean she was sacrificing for some cause for the good of society. She would go against her philosophy to not do something that personally benefited herself.
    She wrote ‘The virtue of selfishness’. So now you criticize her for selfishly taking SS benefits, not sacrificing for the cause. Criticizing Ayn Rand for being selfish is like criticizing the pope for being Catholic.
    You people are hilarious.
    A better analogy would be if a car thief steals you car and then a few years later returns the tires. So anyone that criticizes car theft would be a hypocrite for accepting the tires back. WTF.

  • Tom

    Barney- actually I have a very good idea of what her dogma was all about. What you don’t seem to know or understand or care about is that the reason she accepted government assistance is that she would have been ruined financially had she tried to pay for her cancer treatments herself. Did you even bother to read the article? And to “Prince of Peeps” and all you commenters that say “i take social security and Medicare checks because I contributed”: Fair enough, now please enlighten us as to your exact method for calculating the cutoff point where you’ve already received exactly what you put in and thus refuse all future payments. Pleaee be specific. Because according to you own logic of “justifiable reclamation from the thief”, to take more than the theft would be stealing from the theif.

  • Jim

    Barney – by your logic everyone who takes SS is justified, no? Also you seem to forget that she thought that people who took gov. help were scum. So by taking SS she admits that she is scum.

  • Transatlantic

    All this was very interesting to read.

    The British novelist Anthony Powell wrote that the secret ingredient of most best-sellers was self-pity. I wonder how far those who have read Ayn Rand’s books – which I haven’t – would agree with this.

  • Hyperion

    That Rand received Social Security was a matter of necessity, because she couldn’t afford health care. She was, therefore, a part of the “minority” that the Ayn Rand Institute says shouldn’t have healthcare, becauuse it isn’t a right, because it isn’t earned. Let alone that rights are, by definition, NOT earned (for proof look to our own Declaration of Independence, which states that we are endowed by our creator with rights, and not a word about them being earned.)

    I’m not defending Ayn Rand, except on this one point: Necessity must always overcome greed. In the end, even she had to accept that.

  • Rex

    Everyone had to sign up for a SSN, signing up and receiving payments are two different things. Being eligible for medicare didn’t mean she accepted it.

    The reason nobody will publish your missive is because there are no facts, no official documents to reference, just an assertion based on hearsay.

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