Objectivism Is The Everyman's Philosophy
In the universe, what you see is what you get,
figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,
and each person's independence is respected by all
Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words
- "Metaphysics: Objective Reality" "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
- "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
- "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
- "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"
Objectivism Online Chat
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There are certain words, such as 'morality', 'moral/immoral', 'evil', etc. that have a powerful unconscious negative/discomfort 'load', due to their miss-use and tarnishing by different religious groups or otherwise sadistic weirdos. These words have become extremly caricaturized in contemporany society. For example, if I listen to a speech of dr. Peikoff and he frequently uses these words that create psychological discomfort for the audience, some of his message gets lost, and some people might even end up disliking him (or rather disliking his presence, not his ideas). These words have a powerul emotional conotation of disconform and are usually associated with bad memories of being chastized or something simillar, therefore the audience is, psychologically, on the defensive even if the topic does not apply to them. I think that this is the number 1 cause of why Objectivism has been compared and misidentified as a cult or pseudo-religion, because of its extensive use of 'discomfort words', something lacking in a vast majority of the other ethics theories, even the more 'aggresive' ones. From my experience, the most powerful change that Objectivists could make in their private and public lifes is to keep the message but speak in the language of the audience, that is, to use words with positive emotional conotations, which are more likely to support the message than disrupt it. I am aware that Ayn Rand was very precise of her choice in words, the most memorable example for me being her defence of 'selfishness' at the begining of 'The Virtue of Selfishness', but I personally think this is one point she is wrong on. An interesting experiment would be to take an ARI Op-Ed and 'translate' it into a more friendly language, which would be less likely to be mistaken as over-demonizing some people and over-evaluating the value of others, simply on an emotional level, due to the verbiage.
I think we all agree that the focus of the lives of most people is the procurement of desired goods and services. In practice, goods can be obtained through production or trade. Professional politicians, the kind you meet in all western states today, are, from this perspective, traders of popularity and pull. They trade popularity because that's the main capital/raw material of their trade. It is their main concern to appeal to the most people, ideally to the most powerful, and to do so in way that is safe from the perspective of their life-long carrer in politics. Therefore, the chief aim of the skilled politician is 2 fold: first, to obtain decision positions in the public sector, and secondly, to secure the political support/pull and/or votes to attain higher positions in the State's hierarchy. Much like in a Karl Popper-esque debate, the fact that truth sides with one group or another is irrelevant, since a politicians has more chances to a prosperous life by selling the illusion of truth than truth itself. We regard politicians as master con-artists, because we perceive them via the condescending moral superiority of production. But simply because production is mandatory for survival, that doesn't make it otherwise superior to other means of attaining valuables. The question I'd like to ask you is this: Why should one person who would make a particularly succesful and gifted politician, repress in himself this skill and instead try to shoe-horn himself into a mediocre production job? Is that really self-interest? If one is knowleagable in matters of human nature, politics and manipulation, why should he feel ashamed of his nature? My "larger" theory is that the Objectivist view of universal self-interest as expressed in laissez-faire capitalism is not best for everyone. I do agree that there are certain people who are best suited for life in capitalism, but I do also think that capitalism can be a disaster for a large portion of the population, from the perspective of their self-interest. At this point, I'm equating self-interest with survival and material prosperity. I see no reason to expect self-interest to any other kind of 'ethical considerations'. 'Man's survival qua man', but not all men are the same, therefore, all with which we are left is 'survival'. 'Qua man' is too contextual for anything other than individual/particular considerations.
Lately, I've been considering the role of the state. I'd like to share with you a scenario I've been examining: Let's say that CountryA starts subsidizes 55% of the cost of producing cars, therefore car manufacturers in CountryA can afford to cut prices with up to 50% Let us also supose, for clarity, that CountryA only exports cars to CountryB. CountryB is also a manufacturers of cars. There are 2 likely scenarios: 1) According to laissez-faire economics, the state of CountryB has no business intervening in import/export matters, therefore it will let the market realign itself: Car manufacturers in CountryB are unable to compete with the much cheaper products imported from CountryA, therefore they declare bankrupcy, their entire staff is fired and all their industrial equipment is sold abroad very cheaply, due to the influx of such equipment on the market. Basically, due to market condition, all car production shifts to CountryA, while the workers from CountryB retrain themselves for new jobs, emigrate or turn to crime. 2) The second choice is for the state of CountryB to have a protectionist/mixed economy reaction and increase import tarrifs to match, or excede, the price drop generate by CountryA's subsidizing. In this case, the scenario goes a little differently: The car manufacturing industry of CountryB will be protected and stable, but citizens of CountryB won't benefit from cheaper cars they would have otherwise got. CountryA's answer is to either drop the subsidizing, because it is unprofitable if sales cannot be boosted by exports, or match the tarrifs of CountryB and start a trade war. Considering this scenario, I'm not interested in the behaviour of CountryA's government, whose initial subsidies generated this situation. I'm interested in CountryB state's best response, considering its role. If the citizens of CountryB are agreeing with the Objectivist theory of the State, then they'll only require the state to protect their individual rights and not intervene in matters of economics. In this case, the results are: cheaper cars, on short term, at least until the indigenous industry goes bankrupt, a few thousand people unemployed, a statistical rise in crime and social upheaval and a major loss of capital in that country due to the selling of industrial equipment at low prices. If the citizens of CountryB are adhering to the mixed economy principles, according to which the role of the state is to provide a safety net againt social upheaval and extrem variation in living condition between individual and in time, then the results are as follows: The citizens of CountryB won't get cheapers cars. The car industry of CountryB won't go bankrupt. The situation is basically the same. We should also consider that the use of tarrifs doesn't imply any bugetary issues, since the government of CountryB doesn't have to divert funds to impose these tarrifs, therefore no tax payer money is used. The only thing which the citizens of CountryB are loosing is the opportunity to get cheaper cars, at least while the gov. of CountryA keeps its subsidies. Free market theory supports the idea that companies should fight it out, on the market, and let customers, prices and individual rights and decision generate the outcome. Unfortunatelly, when the state supports one particular company or groups of companies, the other companies are unlikely to survive. In an Objectivist state, the gov. won't be able to offer special treatment, due to constitutional restraits (if only they'd work), but how are citizens of capitalist state deal with foreign states supporting foreign businesses? Should the state be able to impose tarrifs and subsidies, to counter simillar foreign measures or even use them as bargaining tools? Would you give up some of your individual rights so that your local car industry doesn't go bankrupt, living much of your community in turmoil? In other words, would you pay for social stability? Is that a value for you? Is it in one's best interest, from an individualisting perspective, to adhere to a state where your taxes buy you not only protection for basic individual rights, but also a minimal safety net, so you can pursuit different interests in life without the constanty wory that the arbitrary decision of a collectivist state can ruin you? I haven't reached a conclusion on this issue, but I'm starting to lean towards minimal state intervention, only to prevent major social catastrophies, such as the collapse of entire regions or industries. I do understand that this might imply the violation of the rights of the other citizens, but this is only true if they don't agree with the policy of mixed economy. Much in the same way we use the state for collective millitary protection, could we profit from a state which is also concerned with collective economical protection? Is there a way for the private sector to address the issue of trade wars, without state intervention, and still follow market behaviour?
In her literature, Ayn Rand spoke of man and mankind. In this day of political correctness it is tempting to yield to the objections some people might have to these terms, reasoning that it is better to use different words if it will avoid possible protest, and get the point across quicker. I think there are appropriate places for shying away from the use of these terms. For instance, I wouldn't start a sentence by going: "I would like all the men on this forum to post their ideas" when refering to all people on the forum. This is politeness, because in some contexts, using 'men' to refer to all people is genuinely implying male superiority, or otherwise simply refering to men only. But I think there is another strong reason to stick with and use the words that Rand did. They are the only words in the english language that are used for refering to more than one person that - from my perspective at least - denote individuality. If you used the word "people" when speaking of individuals, it would not carry the implication of individuality across; instead, the words "people" and "person" carry with them the suggestion of a faceless person within the essential collective. I think these terms have gradually amassed these negative messages from their heavy use in the preachings of collectivism and altruism. Speaking of man and mankind carries with it the sense of individuality, and I think this is why Rand was taken to using those terms so especially. Ultimately, the matter seems unsettled for me. Replacing the word 'man' with 'people' when quoting or paraphrasing Rand seems blasphemous, as it diminishes the sense of virtue behind the words. The word 'people' almost seems corrupt and selfless in the context of Rand's writing. Is this an extreme impression or does anyone else share these feelings? Having said that about Rand's work, the words 'man' and 'mankind' would look startlingly archaic and out of place in almost any modern text. For those who think this is a non-issue, I assume that they would know how I should resolve it, and I'd be keen to hear what that resolution is. It's not a big issue for me either, but right now I just go with my gut feeling when choosing my words, rather than going from any rational premise that I'm aware of. EDIT: Another possibility is that I've gradually associated the words with individuality because Rand is one of the few books I've read that uses them- and they really carry no such meaning.