Objections to Objectivism

I’m a big fan of the Cato Institute. I don’t always agree with them, but I check them regularly.

The Cato Institute is a big fan of Ayn Rand. And since everyone needs philosophy, I decided, to take a look, and it was nice that Anthem fit in my summertime dystopian kick. At the back of the short novel, is the essentials of “Objectivism” the philosophics viewpoint of Ayn Rand. (I’ll be doing a bit of quoting…)

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”

Once asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot*

  1. “Metaphysics: Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology: Reason
  3. Ethics: Self Interest
  4. Politics: Capitalism”

Translated into familiar terms….

  1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
  2. You can’t eat your cake and have it too.
  3. Man is an end in himself.
  4. Give me liberty or give me death.”

More…

Man, is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.”

Men must deal with one another as traders, giving value for value, by free, mutual consent to mutual benefit. The only system that bars physical force from human relationships is laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on the recognition of individual rights,…in which the only function of government is to protect individual rights, i.e., to protect men from those who initiate the use of physical force.”

So, if I am to read it correctly, as long as you are happy with your free will choice, then you are OK…so, under Objectivism, it is OK to

  • father 8 kids by 8 women and not support them
  • divorce your wife who’s in the cancer ward
  • divorce your wife when she’s “old”
  • ignore a drowning man
  • not take the risk of immunizations, and rely on the herd immunity provided by others

If Objectivism is all about self interest, that seems very childish. My children, are selfish, and get very upset when they don’t get what they want, when they want it, especially if the other one has it.  But according to AynRand, when they are trying to achieve their own happiness, they are being very moral.

Evidently, monopolies aren’t a problem. I suspect fire departments should be avoided by the government.

The Hero for AynRand is the individual. But I believe that many of our greatest achievements as humans come from team work, think, the symphony, the sychronized swim team, movies, buildings, the US Constitution, jazz, wiping out small-pox, democracy,…

But, when I think about it, maybe, I am a bit of an objectivist when it comes to the government. I don’t think we should implement policy A, because it is the right thing to do. I think that the US government should implement policy A, because of the benefits.

  • Fire department, sort of like a non-profit insurance company to help me if I might need it, and, help my neighbor, if they might need it to also reduce the risk of my house burning down.
  • Subsidizing the buses, especially important during rush hour, because less cars on road, means everyone can drive faster, (I think of this when I see three buses filled with 50+ people each infront of me on the freeway. What if instead of those three buses, there were 150 additional cars in front of me?)
  • Public health, I don’t want poor diseased children coughing on my childrens.
  • Public education. Teaching everyone to read is good for society.
  • No monopolies. Because when there is no competition, then the business can charge what ever.

I want to comment on something about how big business are about to get a huge government bailouts, because “they are too big to fail.” That, I think is immoral. I think these bailouts only encourage risky behavior. If you want to play wild and go for great rewards, fine, but be prepared to suffer the consequences if you fail.

But for individuals, I think that it is better “To love your neighbor as yourself.” That, I believe is the highest moral purpose in life.

*I think it is great to be able to define your philosophy standing on one foot. I would reply:

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

I think Miles Davis would say

  1. Play and pray.
  2. Pray and play.

PS to Moonbeam…did I put in enuff bullet points?

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5 Responses to “Objections to Objectivism”

  1. John Donohue Says:

    1) you did not get it;
    2) prayer does not work (Aristotle)

  2. Favela Says:

    Maybe it would be a good idea to read something Ayn Rand wrote before you comment on her philosophy. Try “Atlas Shrugged.”

  3. Heather Says:

    Isn’t Anthem an Ayn Rand book? That would seem to be reading something Ayn Rand wrote.

  4. :-jon Says:

    Oooh…very happy to have comments! Thanxies!
    (looks like tagging for AynRand brings in the readers)

    to Favela… Ayn Rand did write “Anthem”. I read it. Since “Atlas Shrugged” is one of the longest books in the English language, and I didn’t particularly like her style, I don’t think I’ll read it. Now if only there was a place that could sum up her philosophy…like maybe, the Ayn Rand Institute…and as you can see, what they have by her, matches what I attribute to her:

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro

    …and thus, I feel free to comment.

    to J.Donohue, thanxies for link to your website
    1) is there someplace better than Aynrand.org that can simply explain her philosophy so that I will get it?
    2) in this post, I never said prayer works.

  5. Aristotle The Geek Says:

    Tagging is meant to bring in visitors, and if you tag your post with “Ayn Rand” it means you have written something that relates to her. So its natural people will drop in to see what’s it that you have to say.

    Everything essential to Objectivism is already there on the page you linked to. Maybe you need to contrast it with some other system so that you can get what she is talking about. Have you tried Objectivism at the wikipedia?

    Now to your post. You have not got it correctly. Rand does not simply talk about “self interest” or “selfishness” – but about “rational self-interest” or “rational selfishness”. And that is what Objectivism says is its ethics. And I assume you know what ethics refers to. Read “The Objectivist Ethics” to know why ethics is important for man’s survival.

    Someone (lets call him X) could claim to follow Objectivism, and-

    father 8 kids by 8 women and not support them
    divorce his wife who’s in the cancer ward
    divorce his wife when she’s “old”
    ignore a drowning man
    not take the risk of immunizations, and rely on the herd immunity provided by others

    but that would say more about his nature than about the philosophy he follow. Objectivism does not advocate crude behavior based on whims, you see?

    If X is sleeping around with eight different women and fathers eight different children, Objectivism will ask him, why? If his answer is “just for fun”, it means that he is following a whim, a fancy – and is not being rational. He could just as easily have had sex with 200 different prostitutes and it would make no difference to him. A rational man knows why he does what he does – everything from buying a car, to marrying someone, to having children and caring for them. Objectivism does not advocate behavior decided by the random toss of a coin.

    If X divorces his wife when she is in a cancer ward or when she is old, Objectivism will ask again, why? Why did he marry her? Does he love her? Did he ever love her? I quote from the chapter – “The Ethics of Emergencies” from Rand’s book “The Virtue of Selfishness”

    The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not “selflessness” or “sacrifice”, but integrity. Integrity is loyalty to one’s convictions and values; it is the policy of acting in accordance with one’s values, of expressing, upholding and translating them into practical reality. If a man professes to love a woman, and yet his actions are indifferent, inimical or damaging to her, it is his lack of integrity that makes him immoral.

    The same principle applies to relationships among friends. If one’s friend is in trouble, one should act to help him by whatever non-sacrificial means are appropriate. For instance, if one’s friend is starving, it is not a sacrifice, but an act of integrity to give him money for food rather than buy some insignificant gadget for oneself, because his welfare is important in the scale of one’s personal values. If the gadget means more than the friend’s suffering, one has no business pretending to be his friend.

    So, if the man didn’t really love the woman, just pretended to do so, he is free to leave her. At least then, he is being truthful and saying that the whole marriage was a sham – and the woman can finally know of his true character. The woman won’t have a claim on him just because they were married (unless they have signed some sort of contract that provides for some kind of income transfer) and she is now old or sick and unable to care for herself. But a rational man who loved his wife will never do that. If he does that, he never loved her in the first place.

    Rand has the answer to the “altruist’s favorite example: the issue of saving a drowning man”. She says that if the man is a stranger to X and the risk involved in saving him is minimal, then (and only then) it is morally proper to save him. If the man is a friend or relative or family member, X should be prepared to take a greater risk – to the extent of that person’s value to X. If the person drowning is X’s wife or son for example, and X values them more than his own life, he should even be prepared to die in the attempt. But that is only if he values them more than his own life. Otherwise he can stand on the shore and look on as they drown and die.

    The answer to immunization against the numerous life and limb threatening diseases depends again on the person. Parents will get their children vaccinated if they believe their doctor who says that the benefits outweigh the risks. Grownups can go in for protection against various strains of Hepatitis depending on their measurement of risk. If either party chooses not to do so, they have only themselves to blame when catastrophe strikes.

    While “there is no I in team”, a team comprises of individuals. A team of illiterate beggars will not discover the cure for the next pandemic. A team works best when its members know and respect each other’s strengths and manage their limitations. An unruly mob of unthinking brutes did not write the US Constitution. To support my assertion, I quote the brilliant scholar and economist Ludwig Von Mises who observed – “Even if a chorus of people were simultaneously to say ‘We,’ it would still be individuals who were saying it.”

    About fire department, buses, public health and public education – all of them will work better when they are private because private enterprises exist solely on the basis of the quality of the service they provide. If there are two companies A and B offering fire services in a particular locality and one of them only manages to come ten minutes late every time, it would go bankrupt within months. And competition drives down rates. If it doesn’t, someone else if free to enter the market. Same is true for the health, education and transportation sector. People will be free to spend “their money” in a manner of “their choosing”. Some bureaucrat in Washington will not be able to tax you to penury and use that money to help his corporatist friends in Wall Street.

    Note that monopolies are only possible through government interference. If Microsoft has 98% of the OS market, it is because Windows is easier to use for the average computer user than most competing operating systems. Those who need specific features not available in Windows are free to choose Mac OS or Sun Solaris or any of the hundreds of different flavors of Linux. So, in effect there is no monopoly – because the government has not interfered in the computer software market and appointed a “Software Regulator”. In the private sector, the fear of unbridled competition means every business has to constantly be on its toes and innovate and satisfy their customers’ needs. It is only when monopolies come into existence or companies pass into government hands do customers suffer – bureaucrats have no incentive to provide good service since they are not competing against anyone nor can they be sent packing if they turn out to be inefficient.

    Objectivism frees you from the tyranny of altruism and says that it is morally right for you to exist for your own sake; that you are not someone else’s property or slave. But following Objectivism means that you have to commit to being rational – using your mind to discover the answer to every issue – something that is not easy at all. Objectivism is not a license to be immoral and unethical. It only provides a radically different interpretation of morality and ethics – one centered around the individual and his values, rather than God or society.

    I think I have spent quite a bit of time and answered most of your questions, making the good faith assumption that you were being serious. I hope that I was right and things are a bit clearer now than they were before I commented on your post.

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