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Despite the purposely provocative title, this post is intended to provoke serious discussion. In a discussion in another thread, I said that I found Objectivism to be too simplistic and that this view underlies most of my posts. Here I will make it explicit. My jumping-off point was a discussion of the “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” maxim. As a teenager, this maxim had significant resonance for me, but I have since realized it was derived from an overly simplistic worldview. I find Objectivism to have much truth within it, but to suffer from the same fault of simplicity (though obviously in a different direction). Far from being the outgrowth of “monstrous evil” as Ayn Rand argues, the maxim reflects a hopelessly naive view of mankind’s nature and altruistic instincts. The “monstrous evil” that does, I agree, result from this maxim and other Communist ideas is, I would argue, a certain but unintended consequence of this naivety. But, first, a digression: while I believe the maxim reflects an overly optimistic view of human nature, it also reflects an extremely pessimistic view of human potential. That is, the maxim essentially assumes that there will be no “surplus” created by human endeavours. It assumes that the full realization of everybody’s abilities still creates only enough to satisfy everybody’s needs. There would be no surplus that can be used to satisfy people’s wants and desires. First, the maxim is naive in assuming that everybody would desire to work to their full abilities without any incentive to do so other than seeing their needs and everyone else’s being satisfied. As such, it saps the creative vigour of healthy competition and drains the very desire to work. The “pie” that is created will necessarily be less than the one that could be created. Second, the maxim is naive in assuming that there is some objective or natural way to determine whether people are fulfilling their abilities or what people’s true needs are. Rand’s parable of Twentieth Century Motor Company in Atlas Shrugged (AS) – as well as Orwell’s Animal Farm (AF) – show the monstrous evil that results: there is no need for me to spell it out here. The opportunistic and immoral (like AS’s Gerald and Ivy Starnes or the pigs in AF) will always take advantage of this naivety. But even the hardworking ordinary people, like the TWMC workers in AS, will necessarily be corrupted by trying to make these impossible determinations (although Boxer, the horse in AF, never was corrupted). Now, I come to the title of my post. I think that Objectivism’s worldview is equally naive and simplistic. It assumes that, left to their own in a laissez faire environment, the “best and the brightest” will compete and achieve in a fashion consistent with Objectivist morality. Hank Reardon is AS’s Boxer the horse. He is never corrupted by the power that he could wield using his phenomenal intellect, but instead always focuses on his work. He will not collude with his competitors or lobby for legislation that favors his industry. But how does this compare with what the titans of industry do in real life? The Robber Barons were clearly men of great intellect and capability – the railroads could never have been built without them. But they used collusion, bribery, violence and many other vices – vices that Objectivism soundly condemns – to further increase their fortunes and their power. My argument is two-fold. Objectivist or capitalist principles are necessary and proper in order to create the surplus that mankind is capable of creating while giving people meaning for their exertions. But collectivist principles (e.g., democracy itself) and regulation are necessary to tame the excesses that will naturally result from giving unrestrained power to the elite and to ensure a fairer and more just society. Both Objectivist or Collectivist philosophies alone are overly simplistic and necessarily will result in injustice and evil.
I was reading through the Objectivism Essentials page on the ARI website (found here), because I wanted to link it to a friend. However, I came across this sentence, under the Human Nature section (emphasis added): I'm curious about this. Specifically the bolded part. I understand the cases against God, fate, et cetera, but I want to know if Objectivism has a case against upbringing and genetics, or if this is merely an assertion made by the ARI without reference to reality. I'm taking a college level Intro to Psychology course right now, and modern psychology seems to contradict this. A study conducted by McClearn et. al. in 1977 determined that about 50% of a person's general intelligence (IQ) is inherited, and attributed the other 50% to environmental factors during a child's upbringing. Other aspects of intelligence have been measured and assigned heritability values as well: about 32% of spatial ability is inherited, and 55% of verbal ability and memory is inherited. While this certainly doesn't make man the "victim" of forces beyond his control, it does point toward a certain level of determinism (in a scientific, rather than religious, sense). Let's take things to an extreme for a moment, and examine the case of the child dubbed Genie, sometimes known as "The Wild Child." She spent the first thirteen years of her life immobilized in her bedroom, with limited human contact. She was rendered incapable of all but the most basic speech, and she walked stiffly. Without getting into any of the other aspects that the Genie's case touches on, it certainly seems to make a case for the importance of upbringing on a person's life. For further reading, I direct you to this Wikipedia article. Admittedly, Genie's condition could have been due to severe mental problems, but in other cases of "feral children," similar problems with language use were noted. I want to hear what you all have to say about this. Was this statement made by the ARI consistent with Objectivism, as stated by Rand, and, if so, does Objectivism have a defense against this modern science (should it)? I am proud to call myself an Objectivist, but this particular issue really bothers me.
The utopians Plato (The Republic), Thomas Moore (Utopia), Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan), and Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto) all lead to the Leftist tyranny of socialism. The "paradisists" Moses (Jewish bible), Jesus (Christian bible), Muhammad (Islamic bible), and Joseph Smith (Mormon bible) all lead to the Rightist tyranny of religion. Both groups of irrational idealists hope to deliver us all to a kind of ultimate end place -- a perfect society or Xanadu -- which is never going to happen. Their belief-systems are deeply foolish, naive, and ignorant. And their ideologies are also depraved, since even if you could visit their unreal utopia or paradise, you wouldn't ultimately want to live there. It would be a kind of living hell, unfit for normal, healthy, individualistic, struggling, ambitious, achieving, flawed, mortal, human beings. The utopians above cause physical slavery to the state, while the paradisians above cause mental slavery to "god." One false ideal results in a kind of vast social coercion and destruction of society. The other false ideal results in a kind of vast personal coercion and destruction of the individual. Both mistaken hopes and dreams result in universal self-sacrifice and self-destruction. Their false and evil moral code should probably be described as "the religio-socialist ethic" (not "the Judeo-Christian ethic"). Both families and categories of belief constitute nonsensicality and philosophy gone badly wrong. These massively untrue and immoral groups of ideologies need to be defeated thru the assiduous application of healthy, sound, proper philosophy. A philosophy which provides the hungry, needy Holy Individual with meaning, purpose, pleasure, exhilaration, and personal greatness in his life. And these two related, mistaken categories of ideology need to be defeated thru the Western liberal ideals of reason, individualism, and freedom. Reason will defeat monotheistic paradisism, freedom will defeat communist utopianism, and individualism will defeat both. Unfortunately, so far the champions of reason and philosophy haven't fully done their job. They haven't provided a guide to life with enough rich satisfaction and deep fulfillment to successfully defeat the utopians and paradisists.