The story Anthem, are diary entries written from the perspective of a man labeled as Equality 7-2521. It is very distinct from other diaries in which that “I” was not present in the dairy, but rather “we” which indicated an attempt to eliminate sense of self. Equality 7-2521 lives in a collectivistic city, where the people are divided into different factions and have designated jobs appointed by the Council. Equality 7-2521 is a Street Sweeper of the society, having his profession chosen by the Councils of the city. Equality, curious in nature is being suppressed of his thirst for knowledge. His natural talent for comprehension of different materials was undoubtedly faster than his brothers, which was a sin in a society that preaches equality among individuals. One day while sweeping, he coincidentally discovered an underground tunnel and there he secretly experimented and educated himself about nature. Following this, he met Liberty 5300, who he found himself attached to and in turn ignited his hatred toward his brothers and the society. As the story progressed, Equality 7-2521 was caught secretly studying about nature, plotting his rebellion against the city all while he was struggling internally to rediscover individualism.
Throughout Rand’s writing, she introduced and expresses her idea of rational egoism. Rational egoism is the principle that one’s action is rational only if it maximizes one’s best interests; meaning if the action will result in non-beneficial result, then the action is not rational. She emphasizes the differences between collectivism and rational egoism, in which collectivism eliminates individuality while rational egoism acts according to one’s benefits. One may think that rational egoism is a potential cure for collectivism, but there are loopholes in her idea. Although rational egoism proposed that one should act for the benefits of selves only when the action is rational and moral, not everyone’s interpretation of rational or morals coincide. For instance, one may choose not to harm others simply because there are severe consequences. Since harming someone may result in imprisonment or fines, one can choose not to harm others, but what if a person who is living in poverty, who struggles to live every minute chose to commit murder in order to survive? For that individual, imprisonment may result in a better living environment than what they were living in previously and therefore one may commit murder. It still follows the idea of rational egoism but this in turn can create chaos in a society.
I believe that both collectivism and rational egoism can be beneficial to a society, only when it is not amplified to the extreme. A good amount of collectivism in which everyone acts in the benefit of the whole, but still maintains their individuality would lead to a functional society. As for rational egoism, it can only be effective when most people share similar moral values and that’s living in a society with minimum poverty. Both collectivism and rational egoism have its benefits and flaws. Although collectivism acts to benefit the whole, but when enforced to extreme, it eliminates individualism. While rational egoism may sound like the optimal choice, it most likely won’t stand a chance to the unique environment and situations that each individual encounters.