Ayn Rand’s verdict on totalitarian motives* is remarkably similar to mine.  From Galt’s Speech:

[I]f the ravages
wrought by their acts have not made them question their doctrines, if they
profess to be moved by love, yet are not deterred by piles of human corpses, it
is because the truth about their souls is worse than the obscene excuse you have
allowed them, the excuse that the end justifies the means and that the horrors
they practice are means to nobler ends. The truth is that those horrors are
their ends.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as Randian hyperbole.  But consider: As a young Russian intellectual growing up during the Russian Revolution, Rand had a lot of first-hand experience with sanguinary Russian radicals.  She knew how they thought.  Indeed, the first edition of We The Living shows that Rand actually fell under their influence.  When the Communist Andrei says, “I know what you’re going to say.  You’re going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods,” the Randian Kira responds: “I loathe your ideals.  I admire your methods.”  Kira then continues:

“I don’t know, however, whether I’d include blood in my methods.”

“Why not?  Anyone can sacrifice his own life for an idea.  How many know the devotion that makes you capable of sacrificing other lives?”

She looked at him.  She said slowly, simply:

“I’ve never thought of that.  Perhaps you’re right.”

P.S. Like Tyler Cowen, I was a teenage Dostoyevsky fan.  Unlike Tyler, though, I don’t “find it hard to go back and enjoy things at lower levels than I did before.”  I know that many of my juvenile favorites were wrong on important points, but I still have fun re-reading them.  See e.g. my book club on For a New Liberty.

* Rand says “mystics” rather than “totalitarians,” but her use of the term “mystics” is idiosyncratic.  Context strongly suggests that she sees modern totalitarianism as a leading example of “mysticism.”