Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Applicability of Objectivism

Rate this topic


Maken
 Share

Recommended Posts

So I was doing a lot of thinking about Objectivist morals and capitalism being predominant in society and how it would work.

The question I came across was, simply put, would it even be possible to live in a pure free market and objective society without having a majority of people being educated about what a moral and free life is. With the statist and altruist mindset being overly predominant in today's society, how would it ever be possible to even implement or arrange for a pure capitalist society to rule. It seems that even if we formed an Objectivist government, there would still be so many people uneducated about what Objectivist morals entailed and what it means to live "selfishly".

Let me know if I need to elaborate more, but I think you can understand what I am asking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have actually had a similar question to this.

First of all, I would assume that, once we have achieved the Separation of Economy and State necessary for a laissez-faire capitalism, there would be a temporary and painful withdrawal. The problem with an immoral system of government, is that people adjust to it.

Would a laissez-faire capitalist system work whether or not people were altruistic? If you're talking about in terms of society as a whole, it would probably not work very well for the altruists, haha.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is some more food for thought that I realized.

In an Objectivist society, the government would rely on volunteerism to maintain a budget to spend on its few necessary duties. As Objectivists/Capitalists on this forum, I am sure that a majority (if not all) of us would be willing to donate to a proper government as it would be in our rational self interest. But what about the people who would not donate. Would there really be enough people who would VOLUNTEER to donate? I ask this only because of the state of society, it seems that many people are either to ignorant or to stubborn to understand what a proper government is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, here's how Ayn Rand suggested the government received funding:

Trust Funds - If you own land, you'll have to pay a trust fund

Citizenship Fees - Citizenship will be optional. But you'll need it in order to vote.

User fees - This is the hardest for me to defend, actually. Basically, you pay the government when the government provides a service for you

Lotteries - The government would take a certain percentage of the pool used in lotteries

It would be very difficult to get through life without paying the government, and a laissez-faire government would not have that many expenditures.

Edited by Black Wolf
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maken, I think your point is well taken by most Objectivists today. This is one of the reasons that many Objectivists are skeptical about activities such as political activism; simply trying to change the people who are in office will not be an effective means to a stable, just government if people's prevailing attitudes towards morality and political rights shift. Thus, while bodies such as the Ayn Rand Institute have much to say about politics today, they are more fundamentally oriented towards cultural and social change. Most Objectivists believe that a proper moral foundation must be adopted by many more people before lasting political change can occur.

From ARI's website:

"ARI seeks to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today’s culture. The major battleground in this fight for reason and capitalism is the educational institutions—high schools and, above all, the universities, where students learn the ideas that shape their lives.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy—known as Objectivism—holds that historical trends are the inescapable product of philosophy. To reverse the current political and economic trends in America and throughout the world requires a reversal of our society’s fundamental philosophy. Victory in this war of ideas will ultimately mean the defeat of the widely held, pernicious ideologies that dominate contemporary culture and threaten our liberty—ideologies such as collectivism, moral relativism and multiculturalism."

After all, the United States was founded with a government which was much closer to ideal than today's government. Of course, the structure of the government set up in the Constitution was imperfect, but by and large it has been cultural shifts towards various forms of collectivism which have caused the deterioration of our government, more so than flaws in the original design. No Constitution can stand for long against a collectivist or altruist populace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would there really be enough people who would VOLUNTEER to donate?

Many people have attempted to confront the problem of voluntarily supporting the activity of a protective agency or government. Ayn Rand proposed a few ideas, mostly in her essay "Government Financing in a Free Society." Others have also worked on the issue. Most of the others have been anarchists envisioning what an anarcho-capitalist environment would look like. Rand most definitely disagreed with the anarchist view that a just government has no right to maintain a monopoly over the use of retaliatory force in a society, but I'm sure some of their purely logistical methods of financing voluntary protective agencies aren't without merit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maken, I think your point is well taken by most Objectivists today. This is one of the reasons that many Objectivists are skeptical about activities such as political activism; simply trying to change the people who are in office will not be an effective means to a stable, just government if people's prevailing attitudes towards morality and political rights shift. Thus, while bodies such as the Ayn Rand Institute have much to say about politics today, they are more fundamentally oriented towards cultural and social change. Most Objectivists believe that a proper moral foundation must be adopted by many more people before lasting political change can occur.

From ARI's website:

"ARI seeks to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today’s culture. The major battleground in this fight for reason and capitalism is the educational institutions—high schools and, above all, the universities, where students learn the ideas that shape their lives.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy—known as Objectivism—holds that historical trends are the inescapable product of philosophy. To reverse the current political and economic trends in America and throughout the world requires a reversal of our society’s fundamental philosophy. Victory in this war of ideas will ultimately mean the defeat of the widely held, pernicious ideologies that dominate contemporary culture and threaten our liberty—ideologies such as collectivism, moral relativism and multiculturalism."

After all, the United States was founded with a government which was much closer to ideal than today's government. Of course, the structure of the government set up in the Constitution was imperfect, but by and large it has been cultural shifts towards various forms of collectivism which have caused the deterioration of our government, more so than flaws in the original design. No Constitution can stand for long against a collectivist or altruist populace.

Ok, so basically it doesn't matter what happens in politics so long as the chief institutions (altruism, anti-individualism, socialism, etc) prevail in society.

I completely agree that the key to curing ignorance lies within a proper high school education. The state/government has done a bloody awful job at teaching students the value of education. I am a Junior in high school and I feel that the biggest thing that has educated me in high school was Atlas Shrugged and other Rand essays/books. The ability to reason and think logically will trump any of the snooty, altruistic, socialist theories that we learn in school and if we want a shift in culture, it will have to happen in the schools.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would there really be enough people who would VOLUNTEER to donate?

Think of it this way:

The cost of "donating" to the government for *only* the protection of your individual rights WILL BE the exact costs necessary for you to exist in this truly free society. If you (and everyone else) chose to evade this responsibility, the society will collapse and you can go live in a place where you'll be forced to pay that amount and more.

Those who profit the most from the situation will have the most to lose, so yes, they'll donate.

Also, funds don't have to come so directly. Will you do your hardware shopping at Home Depot (who promises to donate 10% of their revenue to national defense and local police)? -- Or, will you choose Lowes (who donates to the legal system)?

Edited by freestyle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Think of it this way:

The cost of "donating" to the government for *only* the protection of your individual rights WILL BE the exact costs necessary for you to exist in this truly free society. If you (and everyone else) chose to evade this responsibility, the society will collapse and you can go live in a place where you'll be forced to pay that amount and more.

Those who profit the most from the situation will have the most to lose, so yes, they'll donate.

Also, funds don't have to come so directly. Will you do your hardware shopping at Home Depot (who promises to donate 10% of their revenue to national defense and local police)? -- Or, will you choose Lowes (who donates to the legal system)?

I see what you did there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, so basically it doesn't matter what happens in politics so long as the chief institutions (altruism, anti-individualism, socialism, etc) prevail in society.

I completely agree that the key to curing ignorance lies within a proper high school education. The state/government has done a bloody awful job at teaching students the value of education. I am a Junior in high school and I feel that the biggest thing that has educated me in high school was Atlas Shrugged and other Rand essays/books. The ability to reason and think logically will trump any of the snooty, altruistic, socialist theories that we learn in school and if we want a shift in culture, it will have to happen in the schools.

I agree and have a similar story, except that I was not introduced to Rand until college (but for one very brief foray with "Anthem"... too bad I was a Christian at the time). I'm working toward a career in education, and this is an issue I wrestle with almost every day: what can I do to help turn things around--to teach kids to use reason in a world that tells them to rely on faith--especially when the educational establishment is so geared against that goal? So far, I've decided that teaching "Fountainhead" is going to be necessary; and perhaps I'll teach logic in a writing course, disguised as "Writing and Thinking" (using that textbook, of course :) ).

Incidentally, Lisa VanDamme has done a lot of work in this area, and her k-8 school in California is, hopefully, just the beginning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree and have a similar story, except that I was not introduced to Rand until college (but for one very brief foray with "Anthem"... too bad I was a Christian at the time). I'm working toward a career in education, and this is an issue I wrestle with almost every day: what can I do to help turn things around--to teach kids to use reason in a world that tells them to rely on faith--especially when the educational establishment is so geared against that goal? So far, I've decided that teaching "Fountainhead" is going to be necessary; and perhaps I'll teach logic in a writing course, disguised as "Writing and Thinking" (using that textbook, of course :) ).

Incidentally, Lisa VanDamme has done a lot of work in this area, and her k-8 school in California is, hopefully, just the beginning.

I wish I had a teacher that taught Rand. Most of my teachers scoff at her as a philosopher but every one of them seems to like Atlas Shrugged.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, so basically it doesn't matter what happens in politics so long as the chief institutions (altruism, anti-individualism, socialism, etc) prevail in society.

Not that it doesn't matter, but it's not the proper starting point for lasting change. Change cultural mindsets, and politics will follow. Get a few better politicians in office without changing the prevailing ideas in society, and they'll be voted back out soon enough.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not that it doesn't matter, but it's not the proper starting point for lasting change. Change cultural mindsets, and politics will follow. Get a few better politicians in office without changing the prevailing ideas in society, and they'll be voted back out soon enough.

But can't capitalist ideals be dangerous unless its a full capitalist society? It seems like under current laws, a mixed economy leaning towards capitalism could be problematic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But can't capitalist ideals be dangerous unless its a full capitalist society? It seems like under current laws, a mixed economy leaning towards capitalism could be problematic.

In what ways? I would argue that in almost every case, changes in laws which move the economy further towards a free market make the economy more just and more efficient. There are better and worse ways to mix markets with government control, of course, so particular policy discussions can become quite complicated. However, incremental shifts in policy towards free markets are, in general, positive policy moves.

Now, I would certainly not claim, and you will find few Objectivists who do claim that any and all "deregulation" is always a good thing. For example, much of the banking deregulation which has occurred in the past few decades has decreased oversight of people who remain able to socialize their risk and their losses. When deregulation allows people more freedom to play with other people's money, it is not necessarily a good thing.

Nevertheless, in general, decreasing government control and more fully recognizing property rights, even if done only incrimentally, makes the economy more functional.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In what ways? I would argue that in almost every case, changes in laws which move the economy further towards a free market make the economy more just and more efficient. There are better and worse ways to mix markets with government control, of course, so particular policy discussions can become quite complicated. However, incremental shifts in policy towards free markets are, in general, positive policy moves.

Now, I would certainly not claim, and you will find few Objectivists who do claim that any and all "deregulation" is always a good thing. For example, much of the banking deregulation which has occurred in the past few decades has decreased oversight of people who remain able to socialize their risk and their losses. When deregulation allows people more freedom to play with other people's money, it is not necessarily a good thing.

Nevertheless, in general, decreasing government control and more fully recognizing property rights, even if done only incrimentally, makes the economy more functional.

I guess the banking industry is what I was getting at more or less. If you give the banks more economic freedom, and they use that economic freedom in a bad way, they can rely on government bailouts instead of the "invisible hand" to deal with them. So really, too much capitalistic freedom in a mix economy can lead to bad economic spending and when these companies fail, they are revived by the government instead of failing. And that just starts the chain over.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that the power to tax must be part of the scope of government. I've tried to think of another way around it, but can't.

The government has to have the power to defend people's rights no matter who they are or what they contribute. Otherwise, you will have a system of patronage as an inevitability. If some people have to rely on the goodwill of other people to protect their basic rights, then those aren't rights. A government must be empowered to use force to protect rights, and that includes the seizure of funds to afford the means to use force. This becomes apparent as you look at history, especially early American history (US History). I suppose a government with the ability to seize funds could decide to rely on donations so long as the citizenry was mature and wanted it that way. But as long as a voting bloc came around that demanded better protection of their rights, some ability to fund that protection would be necessary.

You have to define what rights are clearly. Nobody has the right to prosper off of a situation where someone else's rights are being violated. If some people in your society are slaves in a factory - say in Jersey - and nobody's willing to pay for a police force to break up these rings, then you have no right to prosper from trading in a market with those violations. Thus, the government can very legitimately confiscate your funds to the extent that they are able to realistically and properly preserve the individual rights of all in the society. Technically, they couldn't tax what you as an individual have produced, but what you've gained from trade in that market they could.

I'm not sure how that translates into taxation, or what the best way to do it is, but the general rule that the force monopoly must also have the ability to fund and empower itself is inherent.

Although, 'democrats' in the sense that I mean people who believe in democracy, are fools. The public vote is not a representation of popular will, but rather a check on the government should it not perform its proper role. That role is given and constant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^ The Objectivist position is that the government gets funding only if and when it provides a service for you. Ie: User fees.

This works great for contract/civil law and things, but national defense and also protection against criminals is a different matter.

I know there's this idea that everyone donate to national defense, and I understand the problem of the 90%(plus military contractors) grasping at the money of the 10% to pursue military adventures, but that doesn't change the realities of how nations work. But leaving that issue aside for a moment, the issue of criminal law is more important.

Consider a mafia. They run a number of legitimate businesses, and illegitimate ones. They're philosophically pragmatic. They lie, cheat and steal when necessary, but don't when they don't have to. You might ask what a mafia could do in a free society when nothing is banned?

Well, they can run slave shops. They can say what businesses are allowed to open in a neighborhood, and which cannot. They can blow up their rivals' factories or warehouses. They can do a lot of bad.

You might then ask: who would tolerate them? A lot of people, if the mafia is well organized and deceitful. How do you know your banker is or is not affiliated with the mafia? Do you have the right to search his records, to surveil his property? Do you have the capacity, time, or training?

So, donations to a police force cover this. But who donates? Is a majority of business infiltrated one way or another by the mafia? Will the police, despite elections, go against the guys buying their guns, when the mafia has twice as many guns?

Ultimately, in the absence of a governmental structure that has the absolute authority and corresponding capacity to step in to uphold the law, then economic power is political power. I think you can make a distinction between interfering with trade and commerce, and levying a tax to fund the proper functions of government.

So a good question to ask is: how? I don't accept 'democracy' as a proper answer, because my rights are not to be in the hands of everybody else. So how do you empower the government to tax in a fair and proper way? I understand that the answer is often: you can't. Maybe you can, because I've now decided that you must. But we lose sight of the real for the sake of the ideal. That goes both ways here.

Here's one idea that makes more sense philosophically, but is hard to reckon with practically: confiscate the wealth of criminals, conscript your enemies, charge fees to the guilty. Let the troublemakers pay for their trouble. But then the government looks for troublemakers... And what if, at the beginning, the troublemakers are more powerful. You need to afford to beat them before you can do it...

I'd say tax has to happen at the marketplace - you can't tax income or property, progressive, regressive, all that is too scheming and inconsistent. You have a point of sale, 1 time consumption tax (no added value). The government is then constitutionally limited in what it can spend money on, period. Then we can argue about stretching the 'Crime and Defense' clause rather than efforts to stretch the interpretation of the Commerce clause.

I'm sure there's a better specific way of enacting a tax, but nonetheless I still am convinced that a government needs to have some ability to forcibly acquire funding for itself in order to properly protect rights - and like I said earlier: if it can't properly protect the individual rights of all the individuals within its scope, it doesn't have the right to protect the rights of any of the individuals.

Edited by ZSorenson
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A national defense will receive it's money when a nation initiates force against us, ie, the offending nation will be responsible for the costs once we kick their ass. Really, it's a good thing if national defense can only receive voluntary contributions from it's citizens. It's a final check on government abuse. If our government is waging war for reasons other than retaliation, it's going to stop receiving the funding it would usually get.

As for your point about public institutions granting special privileges in favor of funding.. well, this all assumes that there aren't plenty of donors to chose from.

Edited by Black Wolf
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, here's how Ayn Rand suggested the government received funding:

Trust Funds - If you own land, you'll have to pay a trust fund

Citizenship Fees - Citizenship will be optional. But you'll need it in order to vote.

User fees - This is the hardest for me to defend, actually. Basically, you pay the government when the government provides a service for you

Lotteries - The government would take a certain percentage of the pool used in lotteries

It would be very difficult to get through life without paying the government, and a laissez-faire government would not have that many expenditures.

^ The Objectivist position is that the government gets funding only if and when it provides a service for you. Ie: User fees.

References for these various things would be appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A national defense will receive it's money when a nation initiates force against us, ie, the offending nation will be responsible for the costs once we kick their ass.

That's assuming we leave two bricks stuck together after the bombing, if not, they will be hard pressed to avoid mass starvation, much less pay us that money.

Really, it's a good thing if national defense can only receive voluntary contributions from it's citizens. It's a final check on government abuse. If our government is waging war for reasons other than retaliation, it's going to stop receiving the funding it would usually get.

Not sure how well this would work.... the public can get fired up enough to go to war enthusiastically then regret it later, and a government idiotic enough to pick fights may not be smart enough to realize it may not have funding for long enough to finish them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A national defense will receive it's money when a nation initiates force against us, ie, the offending nation will be responsible for the costs once we kick their ass. Really, it's a good thing if national defense can only receive voluntary contributions from it's citizens. It's a final check on government abuse. If our government is waging war for reasons other than retaliation, it's going to stop receiving the funding it would usually get.

As for your point about public institutions granting special privileges in favor of funding.. well, this all assumes that there aren't plenty of donors to chose from.

If there is no comprehensive and properly funded law enforcement, then bribes, chicanery, threats, assassinations, conspiracy, and patronage are more than capable of assuring that there will not be plenty of donors to choose from.

As for the national defense, I don't think the same problem with corruption would occur, but I'd be concerned about the Army's ability to be effective on just donations. Ultimately, I guess I'd have to say that my rights should not depend on the will of my countrymen to fight for them. This is an extension of the idea that my rights don't depend on the desire of my neighbors to recognize them (ie, if they want to steal from me). Perhaps that's a fallacy, but it still presents two alternatives.

One: we are all individually responsible for the protection of our rights, and may choose to combine forces with like-minded neighbors with whom we trade, but they may choose at any time to abandon me and my rights to barbarians if it is too costly to them and I can't alone afford it.

Two: rights are incontrovertible, and they are collectively recognized and protected. It is important to think of these as individual rights, and not some other false kind.

It seems that option 1) is more appropriate. After all, imagine a scenario: what if there are powerful barbarians to the south; these men are very costly to fight off. Presumably, there is a choice to live in South or North. Why should the North be forced to pay for the South men lifestyle, when they intentionally expose themselves to that harm and cost? Protection and force are commodities subject to laws of scarcity and commerce like anything else. We don't (well we do, but we shouldn't) pay a whole lot of money to rescue idiots who intentionally expose themselves to the ravaging forces of the wilderness (avalanche, blizzard etc.). They must assume the cost of their choices.

Now a more complicated scenario. Assume all I say here is true. It is the American civil war: if the North and South split, the two republics won't be able to afford collectively to preserve their geopolitical posture, and will both someday be overrun by Spanish, Russian, and British tyranny (and there are no slaves somehow). Collectively, their wealth and manpower can afford to 'keep the flame of freedom alive'. Does the North have a right to conquer and 'loot' the south, if the purpose of that looting (or forcing them into the fold for taxation) is the very survival of rights. Well, no, because then the rights are purchased according to a contradictory premise. But I think this scenario frames the issue more closely.

Now, the right answer to the barbarian scenario has a historical precedent in the militia. The south men would properly have to fund their own defense. The north would be involved only when the conflict threatened the polity as a whole, or if their interests coincided (colonizing the wild west).

What I am concluding from this thought experiment is a hybrid system. States may coercively tax for law enforcement purposes (absolutely necessary), and presumably for defense purposes (national guard) since the scale is small enough that all defense is a public commodity. The federal government may not coercively tax since its scope does not include law enforcement - and when it does a collaboration between states who have secured funding would suffice. The federal government's defensive scope is also very broad. It will raise the funds it needs for the actions it needs when a sufficient number of people consent to and fund the action. It can use: donations from the states (hard pressed to fund law enforcement and militia already), donations from individuals (publicly documented), and theoretically bonds (if you anticipate reparations).

What a state should be, and how the federal system is organized, are then very important. It would really be a confederation with a few beefier powers (feds can strike down trade barriers for interstate commerce, send Marshalls if minority groups are persecuted in one region or another).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...