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Dustin86

Is Objectivism Still Relevant Today?

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In 1944, when The Fountainhead was published, the world was locked in a bloody battle between the forces of fascism, communism, and the "free world".

 

In 1957, when Atlas Shrugged was published, Stalin had taken almost all of Eastern Europe and significant parts of Central Europe for Communism just 12 years prior, and Mao Tse-Tung had taken all of China, the world's most populous nation, for Communism just 8 years prior.

 

Today, fascism is no longer in power anywhere in the world, and communism is only in power in a couple of tinpot rogue states that no-one cares about.

 

Also, there is no government of any country (with the possible exception of the tinpot rogue states) that is proposing anything resembling Directive 10-289, or even anything resembling the much "milder" Equalization of Opportunity Law.

 

In a very real way, Atlas Shrugged's prophecy about "People's States" came true. Of the many reasons given for the Fall of Communism, the Chernobyl disaster is by far the most convincing one. This disaster parallels those which happened in the latter half of Atlas (such as the Taggart Tunnel disaster) in that it was caused essentially by communist party good old boys, their inept appointees, and indeed also Stadler-like scientists (i.e., Comrade Dyatlov) who knew better, but who wanted to curry favor with the Party by doing the tests fast rather than doing them safely and well. That disaster spoiled, and continues to spoil, some of the best farmland of Ukraine and Belarus, and it will not be usable again for thousands of years. it was not a hit the Soviet Union could take again, so they knew they had to reform. When reform to such a system proved impossible, Soviet Communism simply fell apart.

 

Ok, so maybe the end result wasn't quite what Objectivists wanted. The world, even the ex-communist world, did not become Objectivist. Rather, it now seems to be in that "middle ground" between total free market capitalism and collective ownership of the economy.

 

In light of that, is Objectivism still relevant today, or is it only a movement that belonged to a particular time in history reacting to particular horrific realities such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Maoist China.

Edited by Dustin86

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... In light of that, is Objectivism still relevant today, or is it only a movement that belonged to a particular time in history reacting to particular horrific realities such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Maoist China.

First and foremost, Objectivism is a philosophy that tells you, the individual, to seek certain types of values (e.g. purpose) in order to be happy. Consider philosphies like Epicureanism, Stoicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. They seek to answer questions about morality and happiness and duty. The same with Objectivism. These questions remain relevant under all political systems.

On politics, Objectisim is much more relevant in today's context than in the cold-war context. When Mao, Stalin, Hitler et al were murdering millions, people from all sorts of philosophies condemned them as evil. The evil was much more obvious (and of larger scale) than the insidious evils of welfare state democracies. The post-WW1 world fell in love with self-determination and democracy. With the obvious evils of brutal dictatorships gone from huge areas of the world, what the world really needs is a proper political philosophy: a philosophy that argues that Democracy is secondary to individual rights.

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Is Objectivism still relevant today?

The obvious short answer: Yes.

In the context of the opening post, tyranny exists today, as it has since man's earliest civilizations. Tyranny or any form of absolute autocracy is the ambition of megalomaniacs whenever good people allow them to succeed. Objectivism answers the question, "What do we mean by 'good'." You may as well ask the question, "Does morality matter?" If one is to approach questions of morality with a subjective set of standards, then anything goes, from moral relativism to the absolutism of whim. Can one judge another person without an objective standard of good? Where the lives, freedom, processions, and all that makes a person happy are at stake, then no, one needs an objective standard. On a curious note: There are some people in Russia today who hold to the belief that Stalin was a good leader. The obvious tyrants of the 20th century are dead, and their heirs are contained, for the most part. But military invasion is only one way the bring about the demise of civilization. Ideas matter, (as stated by Steve Simpson in the video in the preceding post.) If our society proceeds on the same false premises of civilizations past, we can expect that our society will pass, and we can only hope good people will write the pages of our history. But they would be well within their rights to write of us as if we were fools for allowing our civilization, (our civilization that conquered mass starvation and travel into out space to name a few achievements) to fall into ruin because of our own folly. On the other hand, if the future historians labor under the oversight of absolute rulers, tyrants, it would be likely that their assessment of us will be judged on our "conceited notion of individual rights." It would serve their needs well to say, "Those idiots had too many choices to make; it's so much easier to live when someone else is making your choices for you." 

Philosophy: Who needs it? I can't think of a time and place where philosophy is more needed than right now, today. Philosophy guides the actions of every living person capable of free will. If you chose to live with no stated moral guidance, you've still made choice. If we claim our common philosophy to be some undefined notion of freedom, then it is high time we define exactly what it is to be free. And what is good. And what is man's highest purpose. Objectivism offers definitions to those questions, but only for those who seek the answers. If life has any relevance to you, your life in particular, then yes, Objectivism is as relevant today as it was in Ayn Rand's lifetime. 

Edited by Repairman
a minor grammarical correction

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