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Faust

What about plumbers, electricians and builders?

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Case in point, Rand focuses on 'great men', namely businessmen, CEOs, etc a lot. But what of average workers and people? I know the stereotype of Objectivism is that these people are useless moochers, but I doubt this is so, they're individuals too. How is their role in society viewed by Objectivists? Are they equally as important in their individual endeavours as the richest and most powerful? Or are they beneath them/worth less? This is something I cant wrap my head around, as I see an electrician as, in his own way, contributing as much as a businessman. Without the electricians of the world in their places, the rest of things dont work.

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Objectivism doesn't consider average workers moochers. Objectivism considers welfare recipients moochers. Workers aren't moochers,  they're producers. As for how much a person produces, that is quantifiable. Obviously, not everyone produces the same amount, some produce more than others.

This is something I cant wrap my head around, as I see an electrician as, in his own way, contributing as much as a businessman.

Let's forget about a comparison between an electrician and a businessman, for now. Let's, for now, compare two hypothetical electricians: electrician A, who sets up the electrical wiring of 25 homes in a year, and electrician B, who wires up 30 equal sized homes in a year.

Are these two electricians really equal, or is one of them better (placing the other one, by extension, "beneath" the first one, in a ranking of electricians)?

Edited by Nicky

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Let's forget about a comparison between an electrician and a businessman, for now. Let's, for now, compare two hypothetical electricians: electrician A, who sets up the electrical wiring of 25 homes in a year, and electrician B, who wires up 30 equal sized homes in a year.

Are these two electricians really equal, or is one of them better (placing the other one, by extension, "beneath" the first one, in a ranking of electricians)?

I mean, a variety of factors could affect this: how many people go to both in that time of year, where are the geographical positions of the electricians that could affect their customer base, did one have a wider friend circle or advertising network, etc. Setting aside that and sticking to the pure theoretical, while I can see what you're getting at, I dont mean equal in terms of ability or productivity, in fact I dont think this is even really a question of equality but how one can actually quantify ones 'overall worth' effectively. 

The electrician that only wires 25 homes, if he were not there, would not have wired those 25 homes, and everyone would be at a disadvantage. If we were to eject a handful of electricians from the market, then people lose out, and so on. What I mean is why should I not value the electrician on the same level as the businessman? Both are individuals engaged in productive activities in different sectors of the economy, and without one the other doesn't function as well/at all. Of course, we're talking about a productive electrician here, not one that doesn't sit around and do nothing. 

What ultimately raised this question for me was the electrician (whose name escapes me) in The Fountainhead, who Rand seems to praise for his enterprising nature driving around the country on his own, taking up odd jobs, angry at conniving depersonalised architects unfamiliar and uncaring about their own projects. Was this intentional levelling on her behalf or am I reading that wrong?

Edited by Faust

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When Rand calls someone a "great man", she's not quantifying his overall worth, just how productive he is.

In this case, we can quantify each electrician's productiveness by the number of houses they wire up in a year.

Edited by Nicky
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Case in point, Rand focuses on 'great men', namely businessmen, CEOs, etc a lot. But what of average workers and people? I know the stereotype of Objectivism is that these people are useless moochers, but I doubt this is so, they're individuals too.

Certainly Objectivism does not hold plumbers, electricians, builders to be "moochers," let alone "useless."

How is their role in society viewed by Objectivists?

Honestly, when we speak of "utility" and one's "role in society," it makes me a touch uneasy. An individual is not obligated to have a "useful role in society" as judged by me, Ayn Rand, or anybody else.

Are they equally as important in their individual endeavours as the richest and most powerful? Or are they beneath them/worth less?

Worth less to whom?

Every individual is (or ought to be) supremely important in his individual endeavors to himself--that's what matters. It's the only thing that matters. To be honest, I don't understand the point of Nicky comparing "electrician A" to "electrician B," either. You're right in your reply that the truth of the matter depends on their individual context. So much does, and a person born in the slums of India could fight out of their poverty tooth-and-nail, and maybe achieve a success that would appear to be middling, when viewed from middle-class America... yet in so doing be more virtuous and heroic than an apparently successful socialite who was born to wealth. (If you're familiar with The Fountainhead, Roark in the quarry was far more admirable than Keating at the top of his profession.)

As for evaluating one's self, there are questions that only you can answer: are you doing the most with what you have available to you? Do you strive? Work hard? Are you as honest with yourself as you can be?

Being an Objectivist is not about being a Titan of Industry, or bringing the most value to society, and being wealthy or apparently successful is no sure sign of morality. It's about being the best you can be (in your individual context/situation) for the purpose of leading the best life you possibly can.

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 ...or am I reading that wrong?

Faust, welcome to the forum.

From what I've seen so far, I think you're reading it wrong. In a rational capitalist social order, everyone's individual rights are recognized and respected. Wage-earners are entitled to the same rights as a factory owner or independent taxi driver. The electrician in The Fountainhead, Mike, is entitled to negotiate for his wages, just as the contractor has a right to negotiate for the building materials he will purchase for his construction project. Free-market forces ultimately determine the price of goods and services.

Fundamentally, equality is a matter of one's right to accept, or to refuse to accept, the terms of a negotiation. As for workers, one's value is reflected in his/her reputation as a producer. One cannot expect all electricians to be equals. Neither can one expect all business operators to be equals.The egalitarian notion that all workers are equal, or that they must be paid equal wages is generally rejected in Objectivist thought. I concur with Nicky in this matter and his distinction between those on the social-welfare role and workers.

Speaking as a member of the social class that Marx would refer to as proletariat, I accept the terms of my employer, and they find my labor worthy of my wages. (If they didn't, they'd figure out some way to can me.) If I understand Ayn Rand's term, "second-hander," I might fall into that category, i.e. I did not design, construct, or finance the manufacturing facility at which I work; I merely fit into the team of the labor force that keeps my employer profitable. Are all businessmen "great men"? That question may require more analysis.

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What I mean is why should I not value the electrician on the same level as the businessman?

There are no out of context shoulds in Objectivism.  You decide what you value as it relates to your life.  If you think electricians add as much (or more) value to your actual life than the businessman, then you will value the electrician as much or more than the businessman and none of us will criticize that or try to stop you.  

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The misunderstanding that the OP had about Objectivism has been clarified, so I'm going to add a point that I think more people need to realize about interpreting philosophers correctly: In general, don't trust any claim about what a philosopher believed that you find on the internet, on radio talk shows, etc., unless it is backed up by textual evidence from the philosopher or you know that it is true on independent grounds. If you have the opportunity, then you should also ask the person who made the claim for concrete evidence that that is what the philosopher believed. 

People are way too quick to accept claims about what a philosopher believed given how hard it is to interpret a philosopher correctly, and there are misconceptions in circulation about most philosophers. Usually these are just honest misreadings, but there are also more serious misconceptions about Ayn Rand and other philosophers who said very controversial things, like Nietzsche, that could be malicious.

Here is the rule I use: You know that a philosopher thought X if and only if (1) you have read something they wrote in context and know of specific passages that support the claim that they believed X, or (2) you have read a reputable secondary source and confirmed that the secondary source says that they believed X.

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Is there a word or a concept for labeling the phenomenon of someone continuing to "want" to be against a philosophy or framework even after the person has discovered that his/her reasons for being against it were based on false premises?

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Case in point, Rand focuses on 'great men', namely businessmen, CEOs, etc a lot. But what of average workers and people? I know the stereotype of Objectivism is that these people are useless moochers, but I doubt this is so, they're individuals too. How is their role in society viewed by Objectivists? Are they equally as important in their individual endeavours as the richest and most powerful? Or are they beneath them/worth less? This is something I cant wrap my head around, as I see an electrician as, in his own way, contributing as much as a businessman. Without the electricians of the world in their places, the rest of things dont work.

Though Rand admires people who achieve great things, it is not because they "contribute". She believes every individual should strive for his personal happiness.

Rand does say one should be pursue a productive purpose. However, consider this: even apart from Rand, and apart from the notion of "contribution" other intellectuals have identified the link between purpose and happiness (see the religious Rick Warren for instance).

Unlike Warren, Rand reasons that the link between purpose and happiness is natural (i.e. biological), and is tied to productiveness: evolution has shaped man (inter alia) as pursuer of productive purpose. Now, if one is super-productive, one is bound to benefit a whole lot of other people, but that is not Rand's reasoning for why one ought to be productive. It is a secondary effect in her philosophy. 

It is hard (impossible?) to measure one person's happiness against another -- if they're both pretty happy people. I would speculate that a person is happy if he is productive within what is possible to him. So, someone who can achieve a lot may actually be less happy if he's only achieving marginally more than someone he knows to be far less capable than himself. (This is not Rand here; this is my own speculation.)

Edited by softwareNerd

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When Rand calls someone a "great man", she's not quantifying his overall worth, just how productive he is.

In this case, we can quantify each electrician's productiveness by the number of houses they wire up in a year.

I agree with your point that this is one way to indicate if a person is productive. It's worth pointing out though productivity is a way of acting in order to create, so if one electrician wires more houses isn't necessarily more productive under Rand's meaning. What counts is: does the electrician dedicate himself to being the best electrician possible, and take the steps to do that?

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Is there a word or a concept for labeling the phenomenon of someone continuing to "want" to be against a philosophy or framework even after the person has discovered that his/her reasons for being against it were based on false premises?

False consciousness or Cognitive Dissonance? I guess?

I imagine you were referring to me. I actually have a fair amount of other issues with Objectivism that i'd like to tackle elsewhere, so im far from the converted, but right now i'd like to knock down a few misconceptions I may or may not have (and in this case, it was indeed a misconception apparently). Im also just interested in understanding Objectivism as a philosophy overall.

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There are no out of context shoulds in Objectivism.  You decide what you value as it relates to your life.  If you think electricians add as much (or more) value to your actual life than the businessman, then you will value the electrician as much or more than the businessman and none of us will criticize that or try to stop you.  

I think out of all the answers here this one explained it best. I'd say my question has been thoroughly answered. So if im not mistaken: ones contributions and productivity are valued on what others value in them, and if they are striving to the best of their ability at them as individuals. Electrician A and Electrician B can both strive to be amazing electricians, producing and contributing as much as they can, even if one produces less than the other. Of course, this is productivity and improvement in the context of being electricians.

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...  ones contributions and productivity are valued on what others value in them, ...

Well, others may value them that way, but that does not mean either electrician should value them that way. There is no concept of value outside the context of some valuer. So, one cannot say the electrician's contribution "is valued" because that does not clarify by whom. The point of Objectivist Ethics is that the value must be to the actor, not to some philosopher judging him from outside.

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False consciousness or Cognitive Dissonance? I guess?

I imagine you were referring to me. I actually have a fair amount of other issues with Objectivism that i'd like to tackle elsewhere, so im far from the converted, but right now i'd like to knock down a few misconceptions I may or may not have (and in this case, it was indeed a misconception apparently). Im also just interested in understanding Objectivism as a philosophy overall.

Faust, we've seen this phenomenon before from others.  Some people want to pick a fight with a persona or a movement (spurred on by misrepresentation and propaganda by others no doubt) and remain so entrenched in their hostility that they refuse to see that what they are fighting ... in the end is not their enemy.  In fact it is the so called friends whispering in their ear who are the enemies.

It seems that you are not one of those kinds of people who.

 

So please keep that open mind about what the philosophy actually means. 

Rely on original and close to original sources like Ayn Rand's works, the Ayn Rand Lexicon, Leonard Piekoff's works (especially OPAR), Yaron Brook, the Ayn Rand Society, and other sources like the Objective Standard, and the works of Tara Smith and others.  

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No. You have a very wrong idea about Rand's philosophy. 

I know the stereotype of Objectivism is that these people are useless moochers

It absolutely is not. If you think this has anything to do with Objectivism then you are completely mistaken. And I mean in a very deep way. No where in Rand's writing did she even come close to calling less skilled workers useless moochers.

Rand's fiction focuses on great men. Her philosophy and morality, on the other hand, is for everyone of any ability. Her fiction also does not cast people of lesser ability as unworthy, immoral moochers.

In Atlas Shrugged, there are passages such as this: 'He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured'

This is a nod to the skill involved in driving a bus. If that is what you have chosen to do, and you do it well, then you are entirely moral. The same goes for electricians, plumbers, and all other trades. They are all moral, rational careers for people. They are skills, and they take a thinking mind when done right.

Are they equally as important in their individual endeavours as the richest and most powerful? Or are they beneath them/worth less? 

Important to whom? To society? To themselves? And what does rich and powerful have to do with anything? Rand's heroes are not the rich and powerful, but the rational, skilled and highly capable. I don't know how this can be missed in Atlas Shrugged without reading the book and deliberately ignoring anything to the contrary. If you cannot see this, simply recall that James Taggart is rich and powerful and is in fact the president of the rail road, (Dagny Taggart is vice president) and he is a major villain. John Galt, the ideal man, the major hero, does not have much money at all. It is not in Rand's morality to judge things by social usefulness. However, if you were to do so, the people of greater ability - especially businessmen - are more important and lift everyone up higher than otherwise possible without them. Of course, without electricians there would be no lights on, but without the businessmen and scientists who run the businesses, the electricians would have nothing to do, and would not be able to perform the same task. Atlas Shrugged shows exactly what would happen if the men of great ability went on strike. Eddie Willers is left to wander the train track as a symbol of what happens to moral, good men without the men of greatest ability. But this is irrelevant to morality. Each individual's life is their own greatest and most important value. Whether you are a genius or below average, you can be morally perfect within your own sphere of ability.

Moochers are people who do not rely on the efforts of their own mind, but rely on other minds. It has nothing to do with ability.

By the questions you ask and the misunderstandings you show, I have to assume you are new to Objectivism, and that you have gleamed a few basic things by have not done any real deep investigation as to what it's all about. You may have also taken in false ideas propagated by enemy's of the philosophy. I would suggest reading Atlas Shrugged and reading a few Objectivist texts. I suggest Objectivism: the philosophy of Ayn Rand by Peikoff, and also audio lectures available at the aynrand estore. Also, try not to get too much information from forums like this, but instead from actual source texts by Objectivists like Rand, Peikoff, etc. (http://www.peikoff.com/tag/miscellaneous/page/427/#list) Once you've done some reading and/or listening you will have quality questions to ask that are based on a more accurate, developed idea of Objectivism, and not based on (what seems to me) a caricatured, misrepresented idea of Objectivism.

Edited by Peter Morris
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Also, try not to get too much information from forums like this,

:) Self-referential?

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:) Self-referential?

I literally chuckled. Haha. Yes, I realize the irony. :D And yeah, I have stopped frequenting and relying on these forums myself.

Most of us are not even really Objectivists. *gasp* I said it.

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re second-handedness

The idea of being second- handed, as I understand it,  is centered around how one values or picks values. A secondhanded person will look to others for the things to value. Right , wrong or indifferent they will value that which others do. They will not choose their own values but rely on what others think and adopt them seemingly unquestionably. Secondhanders lack discretion , they not only 'go with the flow' but actively pursue the flow and and mimic it. Secondhandedness is less than virtuous based on the idea of its lack of integrity, not from any socio-economic status.

 

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Well then, I stand corrected (and relieved) on that handle.

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Objectivism asks that we use the entirety of our minds in our pursuits, whether we are housewives or CEOs.  Rand has stated that you don't have to be a genius to live your life as a moral rational egoist - you just have to be honest and not evade the facts of reality.

The CEO that recently gave all of his lowest paid employees a huge salary bump to $75k, regardless of merit, for the sake of equality and altruism, is a more disgusting human being than the owner of a small landscaping company that pays his employees according to their market value.  In this specific context, the latter is more righteous.

You just dissuade yourself of the egalitarian standards that you have been taught.  They have no place in Objectivism.

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Also, be wary of trying to get Objectivism to fit the out of context criticisms levied against it by it's opponents.

You seem to be operating under the *assumption* that Objectivism is a *materialistic* philosophy that judges worth by possessions or power or some other standard.

This is not a conclusion that can be derived by reading Rand.  This is a false conclusion that can only be arrived at by taking snippets of the philosophy out of context.

Objectivisms standard of value is mans life, and it's noblest virtue is the rational usage of ones mind, or rational faculty.

The goal of a materialistic pragmatist may be the accumulation of wealth and power.

The goal of an Objectivist is the moral acheivement of ones values as they pertain to living a flourishing life - something that can be different for everyone!

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To the OP, this would be a composition fallacy for the "useless moochers", and also drops context that Objectivists think in a certain way about all things (Individualism).  Part of the context that's being dropped is the Objectivist virtue of Justice, as justice is a means of rationally judging other men, on their individual merits, an within their context.

Peikoff speaks of this, that in Objectivism Ayn glorifies the potential of man and it is a common question to ask, what about those who aren't the CEOs, industrialists, philosophers?  He answers this that just as not every man is born with the same physical capacities they do not have the same mental capacities--but that doesn't mean a man can't adopt and live by an objective moral code, within his context.  And if he makes mistakes, the judgment--as in the case of all men--has to include the aspect of ignorance (just simply not having acquired that knowledge), a lapse in knowledge (or integration), xor fallacious reasoning--man _is_ fallible after all.  Put simply, Objectivists should judge other men by their morality, by an objective standard, and by not dropping context that all knowledge is contextual.

Edited by KorbenDallas

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On 10/23/2015 at 5:42 PM, Faust said:

Case in point, Rand focuses on 'great men', namely businessmen, CEOs, etc a lot. But what of average workers and people? I know the stereotype of Objectivism is that these people are useless moochers, but I doubt this is so, they're individuals too. How is their role in society viewed by Objectivists? Are they equally as important in their individual endeavours as the richest and most powerful? Or are they beneath them/worth less? This is something I cant wrap my head around, as I see an electrician as, in his own way, contributing as much as a businessman. Without the electricians of the world in their places, the rest of things dont work.

Objectivism never considers electricians or average workers or moochers or parasites.  But it is a fact that they are not as 'great' as businessmen, scientists etc. You will have to read Ayn Rand's concept of 'intellectual pyramid' to understand this. The value created by an average manual worker is though productive, does not extend much to anyone except himself and is mostly range of the moment. But the values created by the top most members of the intellectual pyramid extends to all the members below them. Even after centuries, we are benefited by work of a scientist or a philosopher, hence it is of a much greater value than the work of  bricklayer which does not extend to that extent and neither does it require the  same amount of intelligence, however, that does not mean they are moochers. But they not being  moochers is not same as them being equal to great inventors of the world.

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