Ayn Rand opened up her thought provoking book The Virtue of Selfishness, a primer on Objectivist ethics, with a question people sometimes asked her. Why do you use the word selfishness to denote virtuous qualities of character, when the word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?
She said for the reason that makes you afraid of it, which is obviously a bold statement. Of course, we need to understand that she was referring to rational selfishness, not the irrationality people normally associate with selfishness.
I’m sure you realize…the Everyday, Impeccable Warrior prefers peace and harmony over antagonism and conflict. However, he understands where she’s coming from. Although he used the term rational selfishness in some of his writings…he now leans towards the use of Enlightened Self-Interest to convey his philosophy of life. He knows the two are interchangeable. Since the article refers to Objectivism…we will use Ayn Rand’s wording.
Let’s discover if the Objectivist ethics are reality or illusion.
What is Rational Selfishness?
We define selfishness as a concern with one’s own interests. Now a person might act in ways that allow him to effectively achieve his goals and desires…or he may act in self-defeating ways that completely sabotage his efforts. Using the power of your mind to accomplish your aspirations is rational selfishness. Indulging in mind numbing activities such as drug abuse, drunkenness, excessive TV viewing, overeating, laziness etc. amounts to irrationally selfish behavior.
Note: Some Objectivists criticize me for referring to irrational selfishness. I will go over the objection in Friday’s article.
One moral principle Rand firmly believed in is…the sanctity of an individual’s life, liberty and property. She uncompromisingly supported the social system of unhampered capitalism. Obviously, Rand’s selfishness disdains stomping on individual rights.
Here’s a question for you. Do you you support minority rights? If you do…you must realize the smallest minority on earth is the individual.
An aspect of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy people completely misunderstand is her antipathy towards altruism. In light of the fact… she believed individuals should deal with each other by trading value for value, it’s easy to understand why she felt that way.
Altruists would have you believe social altruism reigns as a giving, loving philosophy…when in fact it manifests as an anti-life philosophy of self-sacrifice. Of course, helping someone on an individual level can be pleasurable and rewarding. However, once do-gooders, world-improvers and social altruists institutionalize altruism…you end up with the monstrosity of big government interventionism.
Can you see the life being sucked out of the productive members of society? Our economic system slowly but surely sinks in the abyss of establishment selfishness. That’s exactly what the Elite and its Soldiers desire.
You may wonder what their purpose is. Well, these parasites seek a New World Money and a One World Government.
The Fatal Flaw of Objectivist Ethics?
Many people associate ethics with spiritual or religious beliefs. Ayn Rand didn’t approve of religions; in fact, she was a professed atheist…which caused some inner conflict for the spiritual person who otherwise found the Objectivist philosophy attractive.
Critics claim Objectivism manifests as a religion, pointing out the cult following she achieved. Unfortunately, some of most her ardent followers reached an almost religious devotion towards her.
Let’s put Objectivism and spiritual beliefs into perspective. You can accept most of Rand’s political, economic and philosophical beliefs and still practice a spiritual discipline. Acting as if she possessed godly powers…thinking you have to either accept Objectivism 100% or reject it is unrealistic. Anyway, Quantum Physics seems to be revealing truths that mystics have seen in their prayers and meditations for centuries. Even though, I endorse Objectivism…I also meditate and strive to find the peace that comes from the Zen State of Mind. The Everyday Warrior doesn’t allow himself to become a slave to any philosophical system…no matter how beneficial it is.
Here two closest associates were Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. Nathaniel’s book “My Years with Ayn Rand” and Barbara’s book “The Passion of Ayn Rand” highlight the highs and lows of the Objectivist movement.
The Wonders of Atlas Shrugged
When Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, the establishment ridiculed Ayn Rand’s masterpiece as cartoonish and unrealistic. You know, clear-cut heroes and villains. How rude of her to distinguish the difference between good and evil.
You do know…we live in a morally hazy environment of government interventionism where anything goes. Atlas Shrugged scared “the you know what” out of the Soldiers of the Elite. That’s why their attitude is understandable.
Enemies of life, liberty and property rights certainly prefer that nothing should be pure, clear-cut or honest. I guess these parasites don’t believe they indulge in selfishness. After all, aren’t social altruists loving, giving people. Yeah, but only if they can confiscate the love and giving from someone else.
The weakness of Atlas Shrugged seems to be its indifference to middle class people of average skills and abilities. In his masterpiece Human Action, the great economist Ludwig von Mises conclusively demonstrated…value is subjective. It’s not our place to tell someone what he should or should not like. Still, Rand’s glorification of the best men and women can be remains unsurpassed. The productive individual gains and keeps values.
Anyway, here it is 59 years later …and Ayn Rand looks like a prophet and Atlas Shrugged her prophecy. I’m sure this undeniable fact drives her critics up a wall. Certainly, they attempt to remain in denial as witnessed by their absurd economics policies…policies that destroy the delicate fabric of Western Civilization. That’s what you call living in a world of illusion.
Defining Your Terms the Objectivist Way
Rand believed in defining her terms…something members of the political and financial establishment find distasteful. It’s obvious these purveyors of human misery define morality or ethics as anything they decide it is. Massive bailouts that benefited the Elite designers of economic mayhem are a perfect example of the unspoken definition. It appears her critics find no fault in that type of selfishness. Of course, what can you expect from professional hypocrites and Soldiers of the Elite.
Are you ready for some clarity? Here’s Rand’s clear definition of ethics. “Ethics is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions, the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” Since Rand believes in trading value for value…you can see just how honest and sublime her definition is. It might suddenly occur to you that maybe the Objectivist philosophy has some validity after all…because it corresponds to reality.
Your Code of Values
You might ask why someone needs a code of values. First, let me explain that an individual’s code of values must conform to reality…and be in tune with his best interests. Without this criteria his or her values are meaningless and (or) destructive to self and others.
How does a man or woman of integrity live? He or she lives by his or her values and beliefs without compromise. Ask yourself these questions. Do your values and beliefs correspond to reality? Do you live by your values and beliefs without compromise? The rationally selfish individual lives by his code of values without compromise…which helps him Master the Social Maze.
RA Meyer – Master the Social Maze