Ayn is so anti-collectivism that she willfully ignores the need for systems at all. Yet, ironically enough, in Anthem, what’s the first thing Equality 7-2521 does when he discovers electricity? Goes and tries to share it with the World Council – an oddly “altruistic” act. What does he do when he breaks from the Collective? Takes Liberty 5-3000 with him, regardless of her wishes.
The fundamental flaw in Randian Objectivism is the same flaw I find in Conservative (Greenspanian) economics – they assume that humans are “rational actors”. These systems are built upon the need for humans to have truly inhuman fortitude, …discipline, strength, and education to fulfill these roles of “enlightened self interest”. Yet Greenspan himself went before Congress and admitted “I had no idea that people would act against their own self interest”.
Fact is that we as an animal will never be these Randian Supermen – and the system needed to create these Supermen would be COMPLETELY CONTRARY TO RAND’S IDEALS in the first place. This is also the fundamental flaw in Libertarianism – for L…ibertarianism to work, everyone must be well educated and indoctrinated to the precepts of Libertarianism – which totally goes against the idea of Libertarianism. Five year olds left to their own devices don’t learn to eat vegetables, they eat ice cream until they die. Humans in a moral vacuum – which is what Rand is espousing – do not, by and large, develop moral systems that allow for a larger construct allowing people to live together in peace. They develop moral codes that reinforce their own baser instincts. See: Medieval Europe, 4Chan, any Halo server.
I’m right there with ya, tho – “The Virtues of Selfishness” changed my life. But I’m also well educated enough to apply it in an “enlightened” manner. I do believe “Altruism” is a bullshit force, like “centrifugal force”. “Altruism” a…s pure self sacrifice with no reward or self interest doesn’t – cannot – exist. However, like “centrifugal force” is a real function of centripetal force, we can expand our idea of self interest to realize opportunities to accomplish the same goals as “Altruism”, but realizing the ways in which is benefits us. I don’t support Feminism out of “Altruism”. but because it is in my greater self interest to do so – the more women are free of Patriarchal oppression, the better my world is: socially, economically, and personally. I recognize that supporting certain forms of collective and charitable acts are in my greater self interest. I recognize that a more egalitarian system of economics benefits me more in the long run than an unequal one, even one in my favor. This is not merely “self interest” which 99.999% of Randians seem to cling to, but truly “enlightened self interest”, with the much larger context of what is ultimately in my best interest. A corporation that lobbies against regulations that keep it from immediate profit potential acts in it’s self interest – but it may cost them far more in the long run. A strategy based on actual “enlightened self interest” – which would include higher wages so it;s employees would be more vested in the companies success, which would raise production, which would make sure that the population at large actual has enough money to purchase the products the company makes, and a whole host of other social and financial beneifts – would make more sense (and ultimately more profit) in the long run, however. In realizing that our self interest is inextricably linked with constructs and aggregates larger than ourselves, and that we have to take care of larger things than our immediate needs and our base desire for accruing resources, then and ONLY then can we even BEGIN to act in a way that accepts the moral responsibility Ayn tries – but ultimately fails – to ascribe to her philosophy. In turn, we also must see what collective actions are NOT in our self interest, nor in the interest of the society at large. I’m certainly no supporter of Collectivism as an ideal construct either. I feel that personal responsibility is VERY important, as is personal liberty. However, as with the smoking ban argument (also a blog post on my other page 😀 ), these competing forces must be managed. I am a firm believer in balance, and in checks against extremism. No society based on a monolithic ideology has ever succeeded, nor, I believe, can it. Life is too complex. The genius of America is that we can take the best ideas from many ideologies and apply them as needed in the context of the present, and not be slavishly devoted to ANY single homogenous ideal. In that, I appreciate Ayn’s critiques of Collectivism, yet I remain also skeptical and critical of her own monolithic and flawed ideological gestalt. 😀
Added from TGP:
I think the fundamental flaw in this entire argument is assuming the morality of profit in the first place. This line is akin to allowing thieves to not only go unpunished, and keep their ill-gotten goods, but to reward them for their success, and hold the rest of the economy hostage while they pillage even further.
Most people DON’T succeed because of hard work, they succeed because they ARE sociopathic enough to f**k whoever they need to in order to get ahead. The number of people who have become billionaires by developing a cure for cancer is far smaller than those who screwed millions of American workers out of their pension funds.
Most of these huge conglomerates and massive banks became so by gaming the system. You look at the history of business, and it’s NOT full of “self made men pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” as American economic folklore would have you believe. It’s corruption, buying off politicians, destroying competition, bullying Unions (or making corrupt deals with them), cutting corners at the expense of safety, screwing workers, polluting communities, etc etc etc. It’s vile and nasty, corrupt and diseased. And every year that more and more legislation and regulation gets dismantled, it gets worse.
I’m all for people working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labors. And that’ll happen as soon as we curtail the horrible, horrible sh*t that gets perpetrated on the hard working people of America by lazy, over-powerful, overpaid, greedy sociopathic f**kheads who add absolutely nothing to our marketplace but doom and ruin.
There has been a pogrom of “redistribution of wealth” in this country ALREADY for the last half century – redistributing America’s wealth, the rightful province of the working man, the fruits of OUR labors, to the already wealthy. Ayn’s vision of a Capitalist Utopia has led to exactly the same place EVERY TIME it has been enacted – the economy has tanked. Alan Greenspan, King of the Randists, even admitted as much before Congress.
Rand and Greenspanian economics rely on ignoring the One Great Truth of the human animal: we are NOT “rational actors”. It is impossible for humans as a whole to display the inhuman fortitude, discipline, and “enlightened self interest” that both systems demand of every single participant for their models to work.
I think Ayn has an interesting and valuable perspective, but it CANNOT be taken as a real world ideology. It’s fundamental misuse and willful misunderstanding of the concept of Freedom and Autonomy as a justification for indulgence in the “lizard brain” aspects of our psyche make it completely useless as a societal model.