What I Hate About Republicans–Objectivism

Ayn Rand is definitely one of the more interesting thinkers of the 20th Century.  Conservatives absolutely love her.  She’s the jam to their jelly roll.

Ms. Rand pioneered a philosophy called Objectivism, which argues that reality exists as an independent absolute.  There is no God, no spirituality, no insight, no intuition, and no instinct; there is only man–made heroic by self-determination–his perception, and the cold hard reason by which he can comprehend this reality.  Since there are no higher powers, the crux of morality is rational self-interest.  We have no intrinsic moral responsibility to our community.  Self sacrifice is a fool’s endeavor.  In other words, get yours.

It’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s rational–after a fashion–and served as an interesting counterbalance to the existentialist malaise pervading 20th century Europe.

According to Ms. Rand,  the highest form of government is 100% free-market capitalism: No regulations, no health or safety standards, no taxes, no labor laws, etc.  This is the best environment for the self-determined individual to prosper  and the cream to rise.  As for the unlucky, well, they deserve whatever fate they receive.  Life’s hard.

This is where her philosophy goes wonky.  Ms. Rand believed that in an utterly laissez-faire environment people will somehow, for some inexplicable and–by her own rationale–unjustified reason, come together and engage in honest, fair, well-intentioned business with one another.

Liberals are always painted as dreamers and idealists with our heads in the clouds.  Meanwhile, this free-market-heals-all-wounds Shangri-la bullshit is the biggest political fiction of the last century…except for maybe supply-side economics.   (Ironically, Rand was a chain smoker and contracted lung cancer from cigarettes manufactured by an unregulated tobacco company that lied about the effects of its product.)

The fundamental flaw here is that objectivism holds the rights of the individual as the highest moral good.  Yet it doesn’t take much thinking to come up with plenty of circumstances where the needs of the group would exceed the needs of the individual.  We are not islands.  Establishing and maintaining market standards, transportation, communication, and defense would ensure an overall better standard of living for more people.  In objectivism, the rights of one individual supercede the rights of the group.  The theory that unregulated markets will lead us to Utopia where there won’t be rampant lying, cheating, scamming, robbery, graft, racketeering, intimidation, violence, and murder is fantastical and was disproved by history long ago.

I could spend all day picking apart this cockamamie philosophy.  But the truly repugnant aspect I take from it–and that Republicans embrace–is the disregard for their fellow man.   Objectivists believe that we are not beholden to one another; that it’s a better world when we’re all just looking out for ourselves.  There are no higher authorities, therefore the ultimate moral good is to get as filthy stinking rich as you can.

Decent, rational people cannot possibly believe this.

To Ms. Rand’s credit, she was at least consistent.  She believed the government had no right to impose, either to help or to hinder.

Republicans however, use Rand’s philosophy to justify corporate cronyism.  It is the ultimate goal of the Republican Party to eliminate all government-run social programs and give those proceeds to the top 1%.  There is no level of success or amount of good that can be done that will change their minds about the social safety net.  We could end illiteracy, end hunger, hell, we could wipe out cancer;  if the government took a penny from a single citizen to do it, they consider it philosophically and morally wrong.  And they will continue to actively undermine these programs to further their agenda…no matter who gets hurt by it.

This is grand-scale sociopathy.   Republicans justify their cruelty by blaming the poor and infirm, stereotyping them as weak, lazy, and dumb.  They admit that “something” should be done to help them; but proclaim that the government has no place imposing in such matters, even if it’s the will of the majority.  Somebody has to die of disease or starvation or exposure–not because we can’t prevent it, but because we have no responsibility TO prevent it.  

This is some sinister shit.

It’s Republican red meat.

And it’s yet another reason to hate what they represent.

P.S.  A longer, more objective version of Ayn Rand’s interview (Mike Wallace still kinda steps all over her rather than just letting her speak her piece):

Advertisements

Author: therealkenjones

writer, artist, wannabe photographer, recovering Southern Californian...

9 thoughts on “What I Hate About Republicans–Objectivism”

    1. I find her fascinating. Kooky, but fascinating. The worst part is how Republicans have adopted just enough Objectivism to justify their greediness. The parts that contradict their world view, they toss aside. Much like they do with the Bible.

  1. At first I was surprised by the content of this post, but once I got past the first paragraph, it was obvious that the writer had not really thought through his chosen subject. He thinks that the problem with Republicans is that they are Objectivists. For the most part Republicans are traditionalists, conservatives and progressives who believe, as do the Democrats, that they can define reality rather than discover it; that they can know through faith, hope, and charity rather than through reason; that their morality is commanded from on high – by God or by Society – rather than by the facts of reality that govern living a life proper to a human being; that political and economic systems can be built on the basis of subjective hopes and dreams rather than on the understanding of objective reality. The beauty of Objectivism is that it meets our need for a “non-contradictory and consistent” philosophy for living.
    I apologize for laying down a series of assertions unsupported by proofs, but the proofs are easy to find in the utterances of both Republicans and Democrats. Go take a look. On the other hand, this post’s statements about Ayn Rand’s philosophy cannot be confirmed by reading Rand’s books and articles. A for instance: this post lumps the following activities into one basket that must be carried out by government – “Establishing and maintaining market standards, transportation, communication, and defense” – Rand has defined those activities that are the responsibility of a proper government – maintaining the police force, the military and the courts of law – while explaining exactly why the free market, transportation and communication are properly the responsibility of the individuals who make up the society living under that form of government and are off limits to that government. You can find these explanations by reading Rand’s “Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal”.
    This post proposes that “The fundamental flaw here is that objectivism holds the rights of the individual as the highest moral good. Yet it doesn’t take much thinking to come up with plenty of circumstances where the needs of the group would exceed the needs of the individual. We are not islands.” I would like to see a list of those circumstances. This statement is an excellent case of not thinking through the subject. The concept of a group of people such as “society” or “the public” is a higher level of abstraction based on the concept of “individual”. The only entity that exists is the individual – there is no such entity as “society”. To insist that the good of the group can be in conflict with the good of the individual is to insist on a contradiction. The rest of the post can be similarly analyzed.

    1. Ad hominem attacks aside, I respectfully disagree with your assessment. This post (which is part of a series of posts) argues that the practical applications of objectivism are politically unworkable and cruel. Celebrating winners is fine. But it’s also important to note the contributions of others which allowed for that success. I don’t know why that’s so difficult for people–esp. Republicans and their apologists–to comprehend. As for all this “individual” vs. “society” pablum: 1.A society is a group of people connected by shared experience, relations, beliefs, and/or geographical proximity. It’s not abstract at all. It’s an observable, testable thing. 2. Once you realize that, all things being equal, the odds favor ten people with sticks over one person with a stick, you have accepted the supremacy of the group. When it’s Bob vs. Luxembourg, Bob’s chances are nothing more than a statistical curiosity. 3. Anthropologically speaking, the idea of the individual, in terms of preeminent rights, is a late comer…by a couple hundred thousand years.

      1. My comments about the poster were not so much “ad hominem attacks” as they were my willingness to give the writer the benefit of the doubt – my doubt that the argument had been thought through sufficiently. But, as you said, we can put that aside. Concerning your point 1 on the abstraction “society”: we all use the concept “society” and we know what we intend by that concept. However, it is important in this sort of philosophical discussion to remember the hierarchical nature of concepts. In this case, without the concept of the units that logically precede the concept of a “society”, whether it is a unit identified as an “individual ant” or a unit identified as an “individual human being”, the concept of “society” has no meaning. Of course the concept “society” is an abstraction. So is the concept “individual”. They are both perfectly good abstractions because they do refer to that which actually exists, namely the individual or some aspect of the individual such as his relationship to other individuals. The “observable, testable thing” in your point 1 is the units called human beings who make up that society. Other testable things are the towns, etc. that are the result of human activity.

        Your point 2 is a little worrisome to me. I am sure that you don’t see the relationships among people as the equivalent of gang warfare. But in your example of the power of 10 guys with sticks over a single individual, you’ve pretty well named the reason a lot us worry about the “pablum” of society vs. the individual. When individual rights are violated by a group you’re getting into the territory of gang warfare. It doesn’t matter if the group consists of Mob families or a democratic government. That group can become guilty of sacrificing the individual to someone’s idea of a social good. I would ask the question: “Is the violation of rights – the sacrifice of the individual – a good thing or a bad thing”? If you are familiar with the philosophy of Objectivism, you know how Ayn Rand answered that question.

        There are a couple of Ayn Rand essays that might be of interest to you. They are not very long essays and are easy to find online. One is titled “The Nature of Government” and the other is titled “Man’s Rights”. The two of them present a good argument for the importance of a proper government to a society of very important individuals.

      2. Objectivism as an abstract philosophy is harmless. My problem is that most Republicans and many conservatives have appropriated objectivism to justify callous individualism. Yes it is a bastardization objectivism, largely because most politicians are incorrigible hypocrites–but they are not thematically far off the mark from what Ayn Rand envisioned. She focused on what the winners did right, which is fine. But it ignores injustice, discrimination, corruption, that allows the rich and powerful to improve their station often on the backs of the middle and working classes. The government is, at it’s best, a counterbalance to the abuse by the strong of the weak and the majority of the minority. It requires subtle, deft, technocratic understanding and application to work. It must take into account advances in technology, medicine, communication, energy, war, demographics, culture, and the vicissitudes of interacting in a globalizing world. Individualism is great up to the point that it’s interests become a detriment to society, particularly in regards to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it’s antiquated thinking to believe that the best world is one built around the whims and desires of people. The best civilization is one built of systems and laws designed to maximize human potential. Things like robust education programs and protections against poverty have as much to do with our success as the entrepreneurial spirit. Not more. But not less. There were rich Nazi’s. Meanwhile it’s not a coincidence that America’s greatest economic period coincided with it’s broadest foray into collectivism. Because it’s not about the either/or of individualism versus collectivism. Its about finding the way in which they best work together.

        By the way, I find Ayn Rand fascinating and in no way as hypocritical or inconsistent as her acolytes. I’ll check out those essays!

    2. If there is no such thing as “society” because it is comprised of individuals, do you agree then that there is no such thing as a “corporation” and it should not have the same rights as an individual citizen? Do you believe the needs of a corporation never exceed the needs of the individuals who make up the corporation?

  2. “that reality exists as an independent absolute. There is no God, no spirituality, no insight, no intuition, and no instinct; there is only man–made heroic by self-determination–his perception, and the cold hard reason by which he can comprehend this reality. Since there are no higher powers, the crux of morality is rational self-interest.”

    I think it is worth noting that up to this point, Objectivism isn’t wrong. The problem is the moral conclusions the Rand comes to, which don’t at all necessarily follow from these observations. I think it is plain that she was attempting to rationalize a selfish world-view that she already had before codifying Objectivism, and she just didn’t want to even try reconciling altruism with reality.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s