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How much of your success came from you?

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1. Are you a self-labeled "Objectivist"? (If yes, the following questions are intended for you.)

2. For secondary education, did you graduate from a public secondary education institution?

3. If you graduated from a private institution for secondary education, did you pay for all of the tuition (or almost all of it) with money you personally earned from your own labor at a job?

4. Did you earn your diploma for secondary education from being home-schooled? If so, what would you have done (with respect to secondary education) if your parents were too uneducated and stupid to home-school you?

5. Who taught you the English language that you understand well enough to read this post? Did you teach yourself?

Edited by determinist
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1. Are you a self-labeled "Objectivist"? (If yes, the following questions are intended for you.)

Mostly, yes. I've found a few items I disagree with Ayn Rand on, but I agree with her major points.

2. For secondary education, did you graduate from a public secondary education institution?

No, a private one.

3. If you graduated from a private institution for secondary education, did you pay for all of the tuition (or almost all of it) with money you personally earned from your own labor at a job?

No, my parents paid for it.

4. Did you earn your diploma for secondary education from being home-schooled? If so, what would you have done (with respect to secondary education) if your parents were too uneducated and stupid to home-school you?

No.

5. Who taught you the English language that you understand well enough to read this post? Did you teach yourself?

My parents, of course.

To answer the question in the title: "How much of your success came from you?"

All of it. Let me explain.

It sounds like you're equating "success" with "wealth". It's entirely true that, if I lived on a desert island, or a third-world country, I would not have been able to produce as much wealth as I have in the US. I wouldn't have a car, internet access, an education, etc. As you point out, if I had been abandoned as a child, I wouldn't even speak English.

However, success isn't about how much money you have, it's about happiness. True, long-term happiness comes from taking pride in the products of your efforts. This means that successful and happy people will be more productive, and therefore wealthier, but the same isn't true in reverse. Getting money you didn't earn doesn't make you successful or happy. Let me give you an example.

Consider someone who grows up in a third-world country where they don't even have clean water. They have several options: They could resign themselves to the situation and do nothing. They could make a half-hearted attempt to find new sources of water, and give up after a short search. Finally, they could devote every waking moment to finding a way to clean their water supply, persisting even after many failed attempts. If they finally find a way to filter their water supply, they still wouldn't be considered wealthy by western standards - but they could absolutely be considered successful.

On the opposite end, consider a westerner who inherits millions of dollars, but spends all day watching television. This person is much more wealthy - they have a TV, computer, a car, etc. - but nobody would consider them successful. People who spend their lives living off of others are never happy in any meaningful sense.

To return to your original questions: Yes, my parents paid for my education. I do not consider this evidence of my success. It is evidence of my parents' success. My success comes from the fact that I've used that education well.

The basic principle is: If it didn't come from me, It would not be my success.

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1. Are you a self-labeled "Objectivist"? (If yes, the following questions are intended for you.)

2. For secondary education, did you graduate from a public secondary education institution?

3. If you graduated from a private institution for secondary education, did you pay for all of the tuition (or almost all of it) with money you personally earned from your own labor at a job?

4. Did you earn your diploma for secondary education from being home-schooled? If so, what would you have done (with respect to secondary education) if your parents were too uneducated and stupid to home-school you?

5. Who taught you the English language that you understand well enough to read this post? Did you teach yourself?

Not to discount the value of the things you mention... parents, education (whatever its source), friends, teachers, rolemodels, etc., are all potentially sources of great value. And its hard (if not impossible) to imagine my particular successes in life without many/most/all of them.

However, another person given those same advantages/opportunities may have done more or less than I. Even a great teacher will not teach a student indisposed to learn, and of people raised among libraries, some will opt to read Shakespeare, some will read Harlequin romances, and some will use the pages to start a bonfire.

To put this another way, imagine driving from New York to Los Angeles. Such a journey would not be possible without the existence of the car and the roads and the gas stations. Yet would we doubt that the success or failure of their journey depends on their decision to undertake it, and their skill in executing their plans? The world is awash in opportunity, and without such opportunity a man can accomplish nothing. Yet when a man accomplishes something as opposed to nothing (as others may do), the success is rightly his.

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DonAthos, beautifully written.

I'd also like to add, to the original poster:

Having access to a school and books, having a language already established in our lifetimes, etc., are facts of reality that we can choose to use-- or not.

Consider your question differently. Your question is really asking the same thing as: How much of your success came from you, given that the world contains the necessary water and oxygen? How much of your success came from you, given that your physical body is composed of bone and muscle that can move? How much of your success came from you, given that a tree existed, thereby providing a source of wood from which to build your house?

Even though many of us have received value from other people, that does not diminish our accomplishments. Recognizing that metaphysical and human factors have contributed to our success is just acknowledging reality.

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If a person can not afford private school and no public education system is available (or an insufficient number of volunteers), and the individual is consequently illiterate, might he or she be too ignorant to realize why learning is important to compete in a capitalist system?

He or she might be too ignorant. Or he or she might not. It's down to the individual.

But here and now, given private and public education, there are those who remain illiterate, ignorant, and insensitive to the importance of learning. There are also those who have learned to read and value learning (which, note, are not the same thing) despite not having access to quality education, or formal education of any kind. There are scores of homeschooled with varying degrees of success, and also people who are "self-taught" in many ways, and with respect to many subjects.

If your question at heart is something like, "Is it important for a person to be educated -- is education a vital ingredient for success, in this capitalist system (or really any other as well)?", then I think that my answer is bound to be, "yes, education is important."

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How much of your success came from you?

It's complicated. But, the important part to remember is that none of it came with any strings attached (that I agreed to), from any of the people who are now demanding that I "give back".

That means that, irrespective of where my success came from, people who are trying to forcibly take anything from me are still thugs.

Edited by Nicky
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It's complicated. But, the important part to remember is that none of it came with any strings attached (that I agreed to), from any of the people who are now demanding that I "give back".

That means that, irrespective of where my success came from, people who are trying to forcibly take anything from me are still thugs.

It's complicated. But, the important part to remember is that none of it came with any strings attached (that I agreed to), from any of the people who are now demanding that I "give back".

That means that, irrespective of where my success came from, people who are trying to forcibly take anything from me are still thugs.

This is very well put. I would add that a person's success necessarily includes the benefit others derive from it. The businessman doesn't profit at the expense of customers. He profits because what he makes and sells adds a value/benefit to the customer's life.

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1. Are you a self-labeled "Objectivist"? (If yes, the following questions are intended for you.)

2. For secondary education, did you graduate from a public secondary education institution?

3. If you graduated from a private institution for secondary education, did you pay for all of the tuition (or almost all of it) with money you personally earned from your own labor at a job?

4. Did you earn your diploma for secondary education from being home-schooled? If so, what would you have done (with respect to secondary education) if your parents were too uneducated and stupid to home-school you?

5. Who taught you the English language that you understand well enough to read this post? Did you teach yourself?

Am I an Objectivist? Don't know. I am a scientist though, and someone who thinks critically about everything. I'm also pretty successful in life which has entirely been my own doing. It was my own motivation that led me to learn English. Naturally I strongly admire other "self-made men" and to a large extent don't blame them when they object to the idea that they should support people who show no interest in achieving anything.

I guess you're poking towards the idea that those who display Objectivist-style self-entitlement are not actually self-made men. True in some cases no doubt, but not so in many others that I know of.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I would prefer to pay directly for the use of roads and other "public amenities" so that the leaches around me would have no expectation that I owe them anything. I would very much prefer to exchange value for value--the Trader Principle being essential for my morality.

In answer to the questions in the original post, yes, I did go to a private secondary school, and yes, I did work to pay the entire amount of my tuition. I worked full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year from the age of 13. I suspect that this will be considered irrelevant to one who believes that I owe him something. The debt will never be repaid to the teeming leeches. At least, the value that I received from reading Ayn Rand's books was fully paid at the bookstore.

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3. If you graduated from a private institution for secondary education, did you pay for all of the tuition (or almost all of it) with money you personally earned from your own labor at a job?

No. I felt that others owed me an education, so I robbed them. I figured that it was more philosophically consistent to steal for myself and not get the government involved in doing my dirty work for me.

4. Did you earn your diploma for secondary education from being home-schooled? If so, what would you have done (with respect to secondary education) if your parents were too uneducated and stupid to home-school you?

I probably would have started robbing people earlier than I did. I feel that I deserve whatever I want in life, and that it's unfair that anyone has even the slightest bit more than I do. I have the right to take from people who have more.

5. Who taught you the English language that you understand well enough to read this post? Did you teach yourself?

I held a gun to people's heads and made them teach me English, and then I robbed them of their money because I felt that they owed me stuff because they had more than I did. Wanting or needing something justifies taking it from others.

J

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This sounds like a more intellectually spelled out example of "It takes a village".

You cannot confuse what someone has received/earned/been denied with what they choose to do with what they have/don’t have. That is the path of determinism, which is the denial of the capacity for each person to focus their mind on reality and choose. To go down that path is to assume you are a product of what your environment has given you - Or to use the new metaphor: “You didn’t build that” since others helped get you there.

For example, if I was given the same English lessons, also dropped out of high school, had the same interest in science, worked in a bicycle shop, etc. I could not build the world’s first airplane and neither could have the people that were part of the Wright Brother’s life. But they did. If you introspect on why they did despite little help from the village, and why you or I could not have done so given the same background, you will understand why all of your success is yours.

Edited by Spiral Architect
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On the danger of rethoric.

Once the peace of the world was shattered by this absurd question: Was the male or the female faculty the first cause of the universe?

There was no answer, for man himself had invented the riddle; nevertheless what one believed about it was more important than life, happiness, or civilization.

- Garet Garrett

Language was created as a tool for our service. In time it can be argued that we have become servants to language.

On the Thread Opener's questions> It is as absurd as asking what was first the chicken or the egg...

1. Sort of, actually none of your biz, it is a between Ayn Rand, G-d and myself. No need to advertise my labels.

2. I left private elementary school, took very hard exams to get into a prestigious public high school that depends on the University of Buenos Aires. It was not a wise choice. No doubt my comfortable middle class life facilitated my passing the entrance exams, but richer kids than I didn't, and poorer kids did.

3. The State (actually the University of Buenos Aires) paid for my secondary education/propaganda. I did learn Latin and Math, but in Geography I had to learn about the Chinese Cultural Revolution in a GOOD LIGHT. French was given more importance than English, and I guess that says it all. I had to learn English myself.

4. No homeschooling but indeed Self Schooling. As Borges said 'I had to interrumpt my education to go to school'

5. English is not my mother tongue and I was taught French and Latin in school. I've learnt English thanks to the SAP function in my tv and to the FOX network. Internet also helped. Eventually I took ETS' TOEFL, but I paid for it myself.

Edited by volco
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I want to try this in the form of a syllogism:

If you claim to have invented, say, a new type of electronic device, you didn't actually build that because "somebody else" discovered and developed electricity, and your invention depends on their discoveries. In other words "somebody else made that happen."

Since "somebody else" made that happen, you don't get to claim all, or even most, of the credit, and therefore you don't get to keep all of the profits that the invention earns. You owe "somebody else" for their contributions in the development of electricity upon which your invention depends.

Therefore you owe a large portion of your income for the rest of your life to the lazy crackhead down the street, and others like him, because he is a "somebody else," and we've already established that you owe "somebody else," so therefore you owe any and every "somebody else."

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My income and success is totally dependent on me. I know this just as much because of my failures as much as my successes. Some times I study for tests, and sometimes I work really hard to get tips at my job. Sometimes I don't. The results are correlated to that effort, not to anyone elses.

Its not to say that I am not greatful for my immediate family's contributions to my success, in fact I choose even to help them out with what I can because I do think that they did a decent job at supporting me.

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I want to try this in the form of a syllogism:

If you claim to have invented, say, a new type of electronic device, you didn't actually build that because "somebody else" discovered and developed electricity, and your invention depends on their discoveries. In other words "somebody else made that happen."

Since "somebody else" made that happen, you don't get to claim all, or even most, of the credit, and therefore you don't get to keep all of the profits that the invention earns. You owe "somebody else" for their contributions in the development of electricity upon which your invention depends.

Therefore you owe a large portion of your income for the rest of your life to the lazy crackhead down the street, and others like him, because he is a "somebody else," and we've already established that you owe "somebody else," so therefore you owe any and every "somebody else."

That's just it, what 'they' meant by all being connected, and how communitarism and thus altruism is natural.

As you said, it's a syllogism; it does hold true that the inventor of a motor owes much to the inventor of the wheel, but that's besides the point . A trite but effective way to see the same situation is the half filled, half empty glass.

Thread opener insinuates an individual's success depends on the tribe's previous achievements,

Hairnet says his success or lack of thereof is 'totally dependent' on him.

It is obvious that anyone's success is a product of both inner and outer forces. A plant's success depends on its own genetic constitution as much as on the soil 'providence' allowed it to be located.

But just as the half filled glass, while both POV are equally true, one is more conductive to progress, happiness and dare I say, Reason, than the other.

It actually comes down to what Ayn Rand called the perception of a Malevolent or Benevolent Universe.

Edited by volco
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