Three Objections to Objectivism

I recently finished reading Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, and I wanted to offer some comments on her moral philosophy.

There are several good reasons why I ought to like Ayn Rand. She was an atheist, and proudly so, and argued for the supremacy of reason as the only valid way of knowing. I agree with this. She denounced communism and supported capitalism. I agree with this as well. Her works are still very popular in some circles and offer a vision of a rational, productive life which many people find powerful and inspiring.

Nevertheless, there are also reasons why I don’t like Rand – neither her as a person, nor her philosophy – and these reasons, in my judgment, far outweigh whatever factors are in her favor. These include her blatant hypocrisy in her adulterous relationship with Nathaniel Branden, the cult-like attitude of absolute obedience and conformity that characterized her movement’s founding, and her genocidal belief that the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people of those continents, all because the Native Americans did not share the European concept of property rights. (Yes, she actually said that.)

This post will detail three of my primary objections to Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, as it’s expressed in TVOS and her other works. Combined, I believe they demonstrate that Rand’s system of thought either contains fatal self-contradictions, or else would be destructive to the welfare of any society that was to adopt it.

The Objectivist Firefighter: Sacrificing Your Life For Strangers

Central to Objectivism is the notion that the individual’s life is the supreme moral value. “The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value — and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man” (p.25). An Objectivist may rationally sacrifice his life, if the cause were so important to him that he would not want to live if it were to fail. Central to Objectivism, however, is the notion that no one can ever have a duty to sacrifice his own life for the sake of others. “[Objectivism] means one’s rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty” (p.27). Even when others are in danger, we have no obligation to assist them. “If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one’s own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it…” (p.45).

Let’s see how this principle would play out in a real-world situation. Cast your mind back to the morning of September 11, 2001, and ponder the situation from the point of view of a rescue worker, like a paramedic or a firefighter. The hijacked planes have crashed into the Twin Towers, which are in flames and badly damaged; it’s plain to see they may collapse soon. Yet there are still thousands of people inside who could be saved. Let’s say you’re one of the first responders, as well as an Objectivist, and your superior orders you into the towers to rescue as many people as you can. How should you respond?

Here’s how one real firefighter actually did respond:

I will always remember one panting reporter talking to a fireman who was shrugging into his respirator. “What are you doing?” “I’m going to that other tower,” he said. “I think that other tower is going to collapse,” said the reporter, seeming to forget that he was on the air. “You would do the same for me,” the fireman said, and ran up the street.

And yet, from the principles just stated, it seems the Objectivist course of action is clear. Unlike the firefighter quoted above, the Objectivist rescue worker has to refuse – because he’s being asked to risk his life for strangers, which can never be a moral duty according to Rand. In fact, since the preservation of one’s individual life is the highest virtue, the consistent Objectivist not only ought to refuse to enter the towers, he ought to get himself out of the area and to safety as soon as possible, and never mind what happens to anyone else. As long as no one you personally know is in danger, your duty is to protect yourself and only yourself. This is what Ayn Rand calls morality; I think most people would more accurately describe it as contemptible cowardice.

Perhaps the objection could be raised that, having committed himself to the job already, the Objectivist is bound to follow through. But that just moves the problem back, because then the conclusion would seem to be that an Objectivist should always turn down any job – firefighter, policeman, infectious-disease specialist – that might potentially put his life in danger. These all entail putting yourself at risk for the sake of strangers, a thought intolerable to any consistent Objectivist. Yet, just as clearly, society needs people to do these jobs if it is to survive.

Ayn Pangloss: Conflicts of Interest Among Rational Men

Central to the Objectivist morality is the idea that “there are no conflicts of interests among rational men” (p.50). This is crucial to Rand’s position because she argues that all people should make all their decisions on the basis of reason. If reason led people to want mutually exclusive things, then either some people would have to surrender the goals dictated by reason and seek something else (a thought Rand finds intolerable), or else no one would surrender their goals and the result would be an attempt to achieve a contradiction, which “can lead only to disaster and destruction” (p.51).

It’s hard to see at first how this principle could apply in a capitalist economy. What if two people apply for the same job? Isn’t there a genuine conflict of interest between them as to who will be hired?

Rand’s answer to this question is that, just because two people want the same thing, it does not follow that they both rationally want it. “The mere fact that a man desires something does not constitute a proof… that its achievement is actually to his interest” (p.50). Rand argues that reason leads to the conclusion that capitalism is the best economic system possible, because it maximizes human productiveness and freedom, both of which are to everyone’s interest. Thus a rational person accepts that, in the context of his entire life, competition on the basis of merit is a good thing, even if it may cause him to lose out occasionally. “He knows that the struggle to achieve his values includes the possibility of defeat” (p.53). An Objectivist also believes he is only entitled to what he has earned by his own effort, and in a rational, merit-based system, if he loses out to a superior applicant, that is the only outcome he had any right to expect. He has no rational interest in the job unless he earns and deserves it by his own effort. “Whoever gets the job, has earned it… The failure to give a man what has never belonged to him can hardly be described as ‘sacrificing his interests’” (p.56).

So far, so good. But now, consider a case Rand never discusses: What if two equally qualified people apply for the same job? This certainly seems to be possible. Let’s assume that there are two applicants who are equally intelligent, equally skilled, and would perform equally well if given the job. In that case, is it not in both their interests to get that job, and since only one of them can have it, is this not a contradiction? Rand fiercely disparages “whim”, and yet in this situation it seems there could be no other way to resolve the deadlock.

But we need not even go this far. There’s something else that Rand has overlooked: her doctrine requires that the market be not just free, but infallible. For if the market ever selects wrongly – that is, if it ever chooses the less qualified applicant for a given job – then I, as the more qualified but unsuccessful applicant, am faced with an irreconcilable contradiction: I want to live in a free-market society, which is in my rational interest, but I also wanted that job, the obtaining of which was also in my rational interest.

In that case, the act of obeying reason leads to a contradiction. Rand would hold that this is, by definition, impossible. That being so, she and her followers are committed to believing that the market always knows best, that its choices are always the correct ones. Otherwise, they’re faced with the fatal self-contradiction of rationally wanting to live in a capitalist society, yet also rationally wanting something that it has denied them. Obviously, on this point the Objectivist philosophy clashes with reality: there undoubtedly are many situations where capitalist economies make erroneous decisions. A less rigid philosophy would recognize that, although a free society is in everyone’s interest in the long term, that does not mean it will not make mistakes or block our interests on occasion; it’s just that the alternatives are even worse.

“You Will Not Be Stopped”: The Heartless Core of Objectivism

Since Objectivists reject all notions of a social safety net, it’s natural to ask what would happen to the poor and needy in an Objectivist society. This is Ayn Rand’s answer: “If you want to help them, you will not be stopped” (p.80).

This chilling response, which carries with it the unmistakable implication that she will not be participating in any such effort, illustrates Objectivist philosophy’s cruel, heartless ethic of social Darwinism. Its guiding principle is not “we’re all in this together”, but rather “every man for himself” – and whatever misery strikes the worthless and the inferior as a result ought not to trouble the brave, heroic, superior souls whom Rand imagines are mankind’s salvation. The parallels between this doctrine and the beliefs of tyrants throughout history should be too obvious to need pointing out.

Am I too harsh? Rand’s defenders might point to passages like the following one, which condemns the Soviet Union, as proof that she does care about the suffering of others and wants to see it alleviated:

“Two generations of Russians have lived, toiled and died in misery, waiting for the abundance promised by their rulers, who pleaded for patience and commanded austerity, while building public ‘industrialization’ and killing public hope in five-year installments. At first, the people starved while waiting for electric generators and tractors; they are still starving, while waiting for atomic energy and interplanetary travel” (p.84).

This sounds very compassionate of her – until you remember that Ayn Rand believes that the free market is, by definition, infallible (see last point). In Objectivist philosophy, if you succeed it’s because you deserve to succeed, and if you’re poor it’s because you deserve to be poor. Combined with Rand’s repeated expressions of fierce disdain for “parasites” and “looters” and “moochers”, it seems hard to escape the conclusion that a consistent Objectivist would never give any money or other assistance to others. After all, if they were deserving of your help, they wouldn’t need it; they’d have already achieved success and security on their own through hard work and persistence. To an Objectivist, the way you prove you’re worthy of help is by proving you don’t need help. And the reason Rand was so upset about the starving citizens of the USSR wasn’t because they were starving; it was because they were starving under the wrong ideology. In an Objectivist society, people might still starve, but we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that they must have deserved it.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • durandal_1707

    In fact, since the preservation of one’s individual life is the highest virtue, the consistent Objectivist not only ought to refuse to enter the towers, he ought to get himself out of the area and to safety as soon as possible, and never mind what happens to anyone else. As long as no one you personally know is in danger, your duty is to protect yourself and only yourself. This is what Ayn Rand calls morality; I think most people would more accurately describe it as contemptible cowardice.

    I agree with many of your points here Ebon but this one I will disagree with. The act of staying away from the tower is perfectly aligned with our survival instincts; it is perfectly natural for someone to not charge head-first into a very dangerous situation. My argument is this: no bad is resulting from the firefighter keeping his/her distance, but at the same time, no good is happening as a result of this action/inaction either. I wouldn’t say it’s “contemptible cowardice”, but simply “not praiseworthy in any manner”. What is extraordinary in this case is the courage of the firefighters who go in spite of their survival instincts telling them not to.

  • dutch

    I would never bother to read a Rand book, so I thank you for shedding some light on how this person thinks. There are many instances, like the firefighter above, where someone sacrifices his or her life for another; this is uniquely human and humane.
    Objectivism, eeh gads, yet another philosophy on life.

  • http://backlit-cows.spaces.live.com Kilted Dad

    Excellent post. I’ve always had trouble with other atheists who subscribe to Objectivism (and its parent, Libertarianism). It’s biggest problem being that it assumes too much perfection in rationality and the market.

  • http://www.aristotleadventure.com Burgess Laughlin

    her genocidal belief that the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people of those continents, all because the Native Americans did not share the European concept of property rights. (Yes, she actually said that.) [Bold added]

    Please cite Ayn Rand’s exact words, and an exact source, where she says Europeans have a right to enslave the native people.

    I have read most of Rand’s writings. Nowhere have I seen any statement even remotely supporting your claim that one individual has a right to enslave others. To the contrary, everything she has written in her works on philosophy supports the opposite.

    If you have not created a straw man, then you need to prove your case.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    My biggest problem with Rand is her rigidity. I think her principles are basically sound, but need to be tempered with a layer of compassion. It’s pretty clear her work was in some measure a reaction to the farcical circumstances in the Soviet Union. So she constructed a theoretical society that was its antithesis. The ideal would be more moderate.

    Regarding the impulse to risk one’s life to help others: I would agree that a firefighter rushing into damaged towers is noble and heroic. But I disagree that failing to do so would be cowardly. The key point is that self-sacrifice should be voluntary, not required. Which makes it that much more poignant when people do choose to put their lives at risk for others.

    Where Rand goes wrong is when she says it would be immoral to make that choice. I’ve always felt that people who act sacrificially are getting something out of the deal. Even if it’s simply an elevated sense of themselves as heroes. Saving other people’s lives is pretty heady stuff. Then there’s the daredevil aspect about facing death and danger. I’m not saying that first responders aren’t heroes–they are. But they also get some very unique personal rewards. And that corresponds to a kind of self-interest for them.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Please cite Ayn Rand’s exact words, and an exact source, where she says Europeans have a right to enslave the native people.

    Gladly. The quote can be found in Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A. Amazon gives you the ability to search inside the book (see here). The quote in question appears on page 103 of Amazon’s searchable edition, near the end of the section “Politics and Economics”. Here it is:

    Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you’re a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures” – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.

    …you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

  • http://flibbertigibbet.mu.nu/ Flibbert

    I think you’ve misunderstood many of the arguments that Ayn Rand posed.

    First, on the count of the Native Americans: if they don’t own their land — and by their own accounts they do not — then there is no reason one cannot claim it for his own use. Simply saying that other people can’t use what you don’t want to use is petty and foolish. Also, her comment on that point is not that white people (or anyone with a proper sense of rights) could just come in and “slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people of those continents.” She made many other remarks that make that clear, so there you are blatantly misrepresenting her views. Shame on you!

    Second, with regard to emergency workers and people who enter into dangerous situations to do their jobs, the Objectivist position is not that it is immoral for firefighters to go into buildings to save people ever. The point is that it is immoral to go into those buildings to save people for their own sake. The egoistic (according to Rand’s formulation) firefighter might still do so because that is what they’ve chosen for their job according to the values that he or she has chosen to sustain and promote his life. Now, in the case of savings strangers when doing so will certainly cause one to die, she would not approve. I’m not sure on what grounds you think one should approve of blatant, suicidal acts like that, though.

    Check out her essay “The Ethics of Emergencies” as well. You may find it helpful in understanding her view.

    Third, simply because two rational men want the same thing and one must inevitably win and the other lose, does not represent a conflict of interest. That is mere competition and in losing (rightly or wrongly), one need not “surrender the goals dictated by reason and seek something else.” Take the case of two people running for office. Only one can hold the office. So, one wins. The other one may be sad about it, but they needn’t give up the goal of running for that office next term. The question of holding a particular job is even easier. Let’s say you want to be CEO and they hire someone else. Well, there are other companies you could work for, if just being CEO is your goal. If your objective is to hold a particular job within a particular company (and assuming there is only one of those jobs ever), then the fact that someone else has the job doesn’t stop you from working to be the best qualified person and replacing them or being hired when they leave.

    And what if the hiring manager is an irrational person and doesn’t hire the most qualified person? So. The rational candidate may observe the injustice and feel rightfully angry, but he has no right to force that person to be rational and hire him. He need not surrender his principles, either. In fact, the case would present him with countervailing reasons for his desire for that job. Why would he want to work for someone so unjust?

    When Ayn Rand speaks of conflicts of interest among rational men, she is not speaking of a particular job or item they both wish to claim. She is discussing the principles behind their actions. The rational man does not want to be a leech and neither does he want someone leeching off of him. When two rational people compete, they compete with their rational faculties and encourage others to do the same so that they may be judged by their merits.

    Losing removes only that particular instance of that goal. It does not remove their ability to pursue it, nor does it mean that they can’t pursue something else that is identical or in the same line with their values and objectives.

    To fuss and pout about the fact that two people cannot possess the same particular thing at the same time would be silly and is obviously not a situation Rand was referring to in her statement about conflicting interests.

    Tara Smith does a good job of exploring this situation in her book *Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics* as well.

    Fourth, no, Ayn Rand did not praise charity as a virtue as so many religionists and altruists do. In her interview with Playboy, she made the following remark:

    “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong with helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

    So, she would not advocate running out into the street and throwing your life savings into the air for just anyone who passes by. She would recommend that when you give to charity, that they are not supporting things that are antithetical to your life and happiness. Would you donate money to the communist party? I should hope not. They don’t have your interests in mind.

    Finally, Ayn Rand did not think that individuals are infallible. I am being sure to say “individuals” because your comments mix up individual cases and the broad concept of the market.

    At the broadest of levels, free markets do inexorably drive toward greater wealth and prosperity over all. This does not mean that everyone comes to possess the same amount of wealth — quite the opposite and necessarily so. Compare the wealthiest people of the Dark Ages to the wealthiest people today. Even in basic, concrete terms of luxury and material possessions, the wealthy people of today make whole continents of people from the Middle Ages look like paupers one and all. For the comparatively more free systems, the poorest people are wealthier than the poorest of people in less free systems.

    On an individual level, a person might be relatively poor compared to others within the market for a great number of reasons. They might be lazy moochers who just feed off of charity and welfare. They may have suffered some devastating loss and are building their wealth up from a very low level to recover.

    The concept of just deserts that you’ve invoked when talking about poverty is extremely narrow and does not accurately reflect Rand’s view on the subject.

    Rand’s philosophy is far more robust than the view that you could get through the Virtue of Selfishness, which sketches out major issues. I hope that you will continue to explore it.

    I highly recommend Tara Smith’s book mentioned above. It’s a far more robust discussion and addresses several issues that you’ve mentioned.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommy

    While there is a lot of overlap between Libertarians and Objectivists, one big difference I have noticed is that a lot of Objectivists seem very gung ho about a militaristic foreign policy and are pretty much unrecognizable from neocons. The Libertarian foreign policy position, as expressed by Ron Paul in the Republican debates was of a non-interventionist foreign policy. Libertarians see, and rightly I would argue, that militarism abroad hurts our freedom here at home.

    As for the Native Americans, while they did not have the concept of property rights in the sense that we understand it, such as deeds of title, I am sure that each tribe had a sense that certain lands were theirs to use for hunting and such, and in the absence of Europeans, Native Americans would fight each other over lands that contained plants and wildlife upon which they depended on food for survival.

  • http://www.frihet.org/ Thomas M. Johanson

    [...] an Objectivist should always turn down any job – firefighter, policeman, infectious-disease specialist – that might potentially put his life in danger. These all entail putting yourself at risk for the sake of strangers, a thought intolerable to any consistent Objectivist. Yet, just as clearly, society needs people to do these jobs if it is to survive.

    All jobs (in fact, every action) implies some potential risk of putting one’s life in danger. In a free market, if no one wants to take on a certain job, the wage of that job will raise. So, in an Objectivist society, of course there will be firefighters, and they will probably be paid well for the important job they are doing.

    Think of it as a lottery — if nothing happens in your town (“a winning ticket”), the firefighters will live in luxury. If a firefighter lives in a city struck by a terrorist attack, she may loose her life on duty.

    Some people prefer living a safe life with low wages, while others like to take on more risk and thus live in luxury (or die). I would say that both choices can be rational.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    You loose all intellectual credibility when you outright begin your post with two lies and one serious distortion:

    Your two lies are merely second-handed repitition of charges you picked up from somewhere. The following are the two lies: “These include her blatant hypocrisy in her adulterous relationship with Nathaniel Branden, the cult-like attitude of absolute obedience and conformity that characterized her movement’s founding,”

    First, the words “hypocrisy” and “adulterous” are entirely out of place in a relationship that was mutually consented upon by all people involved openly, including Ayn Rand’s husband. Second, your reliance on second-hand sources and/or those with a “dog in the fight” only belies your lack of intellectual honesty in uncovering the truth; it reveals more your adamant zeal to justify your preconcieved emotionalism against Ayn Rand.

    If you had read the “Journals of Ayn Rand” (which is as primary of a source as you can get to her life today) or the book “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics”, which relies and excerpts heavily from her journals as well as from two other books written by the Brandens on her life, you would be able to easily identify the lies and deceit spread by her early followers that smother and smear Ayn Rand’s true character.

    Your other lie regarding the charges of cultism are also thoroughly unsubstantiated. Even a careful reading of the link you provided will substantiate my claim. Much of the early cultish traits surrounding Ayn Rand was started by and persisted due to the sole encouragement of Nathaniel Branden and his behavior (who’s also probably one of your sources regarding the lie mentioned above). If you read the link you provided, note that it was Nathaniel Branden who monitored Ayn Rand’s correspondence with people and erected a grotesque caricature of the “Randian” man. For example, the Justin Raimondo’s account and Tibor Machan’s encounter with Ayn Rand both mention the significant role that Nathaniel Branden played in screening people, creating an air of exclusivity, and acting ruthlessly with others during his NBI Lecture series. Much of this was occurring without the knowledge of Ayn Rand, who for obvious reasons, was more occuppied with finishing her 1000+ page magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, and then was piled with speaking and writing engagements, in addition to publishing her various non-fiction works, in the immediate wake of Atlas fame.

    Likewise, Rothbard–a full-blown anarchist–had a major axe to grind against Ayn Rand because she condemnded his anarchist philosophy in the sharpest words (calling it subjective nihilism and a hippie movement of the right), and moreover, she won over to her side many of his own students, notably George Reisman–the economist who wrote the seminal “Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics.” Read Reisman’s account of how Rothbard had a falling out with Ayn Rand and then went on to avenge his embarrasment by smearing her name.

    Your third point is the serious distortion. You said: “her genocidal belief that the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people of those continents, all because the Native Americans did not share the European concept of property rights. (Yes, she actually said that.)”

    Now, since you provided her quote yourself, take some time to read it and highlight for me the area where she said “slaughter, despoil, and enslave the native people of those continents” (because those are the words you used). I hope you do know the difference between saying that one is within his rights to claim an unowned piece of property (squatters have no right to a property, just as being born in a hospital does not give you the right to that bed, or the hospital, or the city it is based in), and saying I’m going to “slaughter and enslave you” because I want to own this property.

    The rest of your post was not worth reading because, as I said in the beginning, you’ve already lost all credibility when you began the post with two lies and a third serious and deliberate distortion.

  • SPQR

    Your first point is an appeal to duty. “Sacrifice” is a moral imperative to suffer or die. What creates this imperative? And is the firefighter in your example taking a calculated risk, or is he choosing to sacrifice his life (i.e. end it) out of a sense of duty? If the latter, what good can possibly come of it, and for whom? We’ve lost the firefighter in addition to the other victims.

    Also, see here: http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/emergencies.html

    In your second point, you fabricate an impossible situation, where two applicants for a job are identical in all respects. And you are treating the job as something metaphysically given, ignoring the fact that the employer is a human being with his own independent value-judgments.

    There is no conflict in the situation where you want to live in a free society, but you also want that job that was given to your lesser. Should you really want to work for the kind of employer who chooses the inferior candidate? What does that say about you? And what is the alternative? To MAKE them hire you?

    Link to more information: http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/traderprinciple.html

    You attribute something to Rand that isn’t hers; the idea that markets are infallible. Where does that omnipotence come from? The market is just a collection of individuals acting on their own judgment. The alternative is to force them to act against their judgment. How would that help, and who would do the forcing?

    Link to more information: http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/freemarket.html

    Your third point is again an appeal to duty. Where does such a moral imperative come from? What premises must you accept in order to arrive at it? And what do your words mean in practice? Ayn rand says, in effect: “Be charitable if you want, no one will stop you.” What’s the alternative? In effect: “Be charitable, or I will make you.”

    An Objectivist approach to “helping others” is to achieve, and to let achievement inspire others to achieve, to show them that it’s possible and proper.

    Ayn Rand on compassion: http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/compassion.html

  • ex machina

    Now, since you provided her quote yourself, take some time to read it and highlight for me the area where she said “slaughter, despoil, and enslave the native people of those continents” (because those are the words you used). I hope you do know the difference between saying that one is within his rights to claim an unowned piece of property (squatters have no right to a property, just as being born in a hospital does not give you the right to that bed, or the hospital, or the city it is based in), and saying I’m going to “slaughter and enslave you” because I want to own this property.

    Well, if we’re talking about someone baking a cake. And I say, “It’s alright.” It’s a bit of a distortion for someone else to say: “Oh no, he didn’t say specifically that it was all right to bake a cake, he just said ‘it was alright.’”

    Slaughter, despoil, and enslave the native people of those continents; that’s what actually happened. Rand seems to think, for whatever reason, that it was alright.

  • http://www.aristotleadventure.com Burgess Laughlin

    Thank you, Ebonmuse. You have confirmed what I suspected. Nowhere in the passage you cited–which by the way is an edited transcript of an off-the-cuff comment, not an element of her published writings–is there any evidence that Rand held that Europeans had a right to enslave Amerinds.

    Once, again, I will ask you if you have evidence of such a position. If not, I urge you to reconsider your inference–and, more importantly, the method by which you arrived at it.

  • OMGF

    …her 1000+ page magnum opus Atlas Shrugged…

    I actually read that. It sucked.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Ergo, you are wrong. I won’t deal with the first two (her personal character is none of my business), but your attitude towards the natives is disturbing. Last I checked, certain groups had concepts and others didn’t. However, the ones that dealt with the Europeans the most definately did- they tended to be agricultural groups, and farmers always recognize property. I also don’t see how the land is “unowned”. Although there are cases where the entire native population has died from disease and the Europeans moved in (Pilgrims) for the most part expansion was accomplished by killing those in the way.

    You basically commit the flaw of overestimating how different Native Americans are. Although people can go for extremely large cultural variations, certains things are very constant because there are so few answers. Land use is one of them. Farmers may use different terminology, but it all boils down to one thing- you need permission of farmer A to use farmer A’s land.

  • ex machina

    Thank you, Ebonmuse. You have confirmed what I suspected. Nowhere in the passage you cited–which by the way is an edited transcript of an off-the-cuff comment, not an element of her published writings–is there any evidence that Rand held that Europeans had a right to enslave Amerinds.

    Was that directed at me? I’m not Ebon. You can identify the posters by looking directly below their post in the “Comment by:” section.

    And nice try, by the way, but it’s just equivocation. One does not have to utter exact words to make their position clear. The English language depends on context and one isn’t out of line to make distinctions based on it. It might be that Rand was ignorant of the method by which the European settlers took land from the Native Americans, but I doubt it. By justifying the actions of the European Settlers, she seems to gave tacit approval to their methods. I don’t think that’s an unfair interpretation.

  • Curiosis

    I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of Rand’s. I think that in economic matters (i.e. a free market), that selfishness can be a good thing, it doesn’t always apply well to other human interactions.

    Please note that Objectivism is not libertarianism. Libertarianism deals with the legal requirements that we have as opposed to the moral ones. For example, I think that we all have a moral obligation to stop and help a stranded motorist, but we should not have a legal one. You may think less of me for not wanting to help, but you shouldn’t be able to use the police power of the government to punish me for refusing to render aid.

  • Jesse

    I fail to see how the passage Ebon quoted supports the interpretation that Ayn Rand thought “the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people.” Nothing said in the passage rationally leads to the inference that she supported the European settlers in slaughtering or enslaving the Indians. To despoil is to deprive them of their property through the use of force, and I see nothing in Ayn Rand’s passage that leads to the inference that she thought the Indians owned those goods or the Europeans should take them by force. The only valid inference I see is that she thought European settlers had the right to move and settle there. There is nothing in the quoted text that rules out the idea of peaceful cohabitation.

    (Disclaimer: I know very little about the Indians of that time period and even less of Ayn Rand. I am looking at the dispute from a purely linguistic perspective.)

  • Brit-nontheist

    Burgess Laughlin:

    Thank you, Ebonmuse. You have confirmed what I suspected. Nowhere in the passage you cited–which by the way is an edited transcript of an off-the-cuff comment, not an element of her published writings–is there any evidence that Rand held that Europeans had a right to enslave Amerinds.

    Once, again, I will ask you if you have evidence of such a position. If not, I urge you to reconsider your inference–and, more importantly, the method by which you arrived at it.

    Lets go through this point by bloody point:
    1) The passage cited clearly states not only acceptance of, or approval of, but celebration of, the actions of the European settlers – accepting no complaint against them despite the clear historical evidence for their abhorrent behaviour.
    2) A transcript of a comment is just as valid as, and maybe even more so than, books which have gone through the softening-up process of editing and publication. If you want to get a reasoned theory, read her books: if you want to get her own viciousness, listen to her words.
    3) Are you by any chance an Objectivist yourself? You seem to display exactly the kind of cultish-hysterical reaction which has been an enduring criticism of objectivists (Ebon was particularly gentle on this point).

  • Jeff T.

    I think it is important to understand that selfishness is a natural trait but it is not a trait that should be idolized. The endless pursuit of personal happiness at any cost is a recipe for grief. I find that the acceptance of the reality of the world and my own place in it is the best source of peace.

    Ayn’s position on Native Americans seems to imply that the Europeans were justified in the taking of the North American continent based on social concepts of property rights. This is wrong because it assumes that the Europeans would not have taken over North America regardless of the social concepts or culture of the Native Americans. When has a war or conquest ever been taken that was not because of the self serving purpose of the instigator? The Native Americans had cities (ie Incas and Aztecs) and that didn’t stop Cortez did it? Give me a break, the Europeans were selfish, had superior might, and therefore took what they wanted because they could.

    Opinion: Ebon is completely justified in his opinion of Ayn Rand. Any viewpoint that promotes the pursuit of selfish pleasure at the expense of others is doomed. The truth is that the pursuit of selfish pleasure at the micro scale does not equate to harmony on the macro scale.

    I am not that big a fan of philosophy so I could be wrong, but this is how I see it.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Two other Objectivists have already exposed the lies and distortions of the original post, something that is very disappointing indeed given my initial high regard to the owner of this webpage. I think Ebon, for his obvious dislike of Rand, seriously misunderstands the position he attempts to attack. For the benefit of readers who are honestly interested, I’ll take one of his points that demonstrates that Ebon’s oft-used faulty thought-experiments are, once again, faulty:

    So far, so good. But now, consider a case Rand never discusses: What if two equally qualified people apply for the same job? This certainly seems to be possible. Let’s assume that there are two applicants who are equally intelligent, equally skilled, and would perform equally well if given the job. In that case, is it not in both their interests to get that job, and since only one of them can have it, is this not a contradiction? Rand fiercely disparages “whim”, and yet in this situation it seems there could be no other way to resolve the deadlock.

    Ebon has missed one vital point: being qualified to get the job requires that one actually be offered it! Even if two equally qualified people apply for the same job, they both know that only one of them can get it, and that part of “deserving” the job is actually being offered it. To see why this is not a conflict of rational interests, consider the alternative: one of the men would have to believe he should be given the job, even though the employer chooses not to give it to him!

    Also, the free market doesn’t have to be infallible. In the free market, employers use their best rational judgment when dealing with other men freely, whether it be fellow traders or employees. The rational person accepts that other people must use their free rational choice when deciding whether to deal with him or not. They MAY make the wrong decision but 1. if a decision is IRRATIONAL then clearly then is no rational conflict of interest anyway, and 2. it is in the rational self-interest of every individual that other individuals (including himself) be totally free who they choose to deal with or not. Just as there are no conflicts of interest amongst rational people, there is no conflict for a rational person between his rational values. Even if a rational person was truly the right man for a job, he knows that since other rational people must succeed (employ the right person) or fail (employ the wrong person) based on their free decisions, they are able to reap the rewards of downsides of good/bad decisions. This overriding principle is of more value than any particular job/decision that he or something else has to make. Once again, there is no conflict.

    I have still yet to see Ebon elucidate his theory of morality on any objective basis. Not surprising, since no such basis of his exists. Anyway, this comment was for the benefit of those who might have thought Ebon was onto something with his “flaws” in Rand’s moral theory. But as others have pointed out, this was not a very insightful or honest attempt to attack Objectivism. Disappointing.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Ebon is completely justified in his opinion of Ayn Rand. Any viewpoint that promotes the pursuit of selfish pleasure at the expense of others is doomed. The truth is that the pursuit of selfish pleasure at the micro scale does not equate to harmony on the macro scale.

    Well Jeff, there’s your problem right away: Ayn Rand NEVER promoted Selfishness at the expense of others. Ever. The whole principle behind rational egoism is that no man should be sacrificed to other men, or have other men sacrificed to him.

    It is never in one’s rational self-interest to live off, or at the expense of, others.

    Also, Ayn Rand never advocating the pursuit of selfish ‘pleasure’. Unlike utilitarians, she never saw happiness or suffering as the standard for morality. She saw rationality as the standard – that which objectively benefits or harm man’s life. The single minded pursuit of pleasure at the expense of others is immoral, and most certainly NOT Objectivism.

    If you’re going to attack Ayn Rand, it would be good for you to actually know what you’re talking about. All you did is read a few lines that attacked a strawman and got it all wrong.

    Just thought I’d clear that up for you.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Hi all,

    I’m pleased to see that my major points haven’t been successfully disputed yet by anyone. In fact, several commenters defending Rand have substantially confirmed some of them.

    First, let me talk about Rand’s views on the Native Americans. Burgess Laughlin said this:

    Nowhere in the passage you cited… is there any evidence that Rand held that Europeans had a right to enslave Amerinds.

    What he seems to have missed (or wishes to overlook) is this part:

    …you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

    According to Rand, Native Americans had no rights that anyone was bound to respect. What can you do to someone who has no rights? Obviously, you can do anything you like, up to and including enslaving and slaughtering them. And Rand cheers on those crimes, not condemning them in any way. On the next page, she says: “Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.”

    Read that again: it’s great that some of them did. She’s glad that the Europeans “took over” the continent, decimating the native inhabitants as they did so. She dismisses natives’ protests as “alleged complaints”, and calls them “savages” who had no rights to the land, leaving it open for exploitation by the first capitalists who arrived. There is no need for interpretation here: Ayn Rand, in her own words, supported and cheered on the genocide of native Americans by capitalist Europeans. In her worldview, people who don’t hold to her conception of capitalism and individual rights are subhumans who have no rights at all that anyone is obligated to respect, and people who do hold to her morality are within their rights to enslave, expel, or wipe out those wretched savages, as they see fit. This is a disgusting, evil view, the mirror image of the communist genocides Rand condemned so vociferously. She may not have recognized her hypocrisy in doing so, but anyone who’s defending these awful dogmas nowadays should be ashamed of themselves.

    I particularly like this comment by Ergo, which so clearly sums up the vicious absurdity at the heart of the Objectivist view:

    I hope you do know the difference between saying that one is within his rights to claim an unowned piece of property (squatters have no right to a property, just as being born in a hospital does not give you the right to that bed, or the hospital, or the city it is based in), and saying I’m going to “slaughter and enslave you” because I want to own this property.

    In Ergo’s eyes, Native Americans were “squatters”, and Europeans were within their rights to claim the land of the Americas. Just think about that for a moment: the Native Americans, who had been born, lived and died on this continent for thousands of years and hundreds of generations, who knew all its wild plants and animals intimately, who had cultivated and transformed the land, who had built villages and homes and cities here, were “squatters”, and the land they lived on was “unowned”. Meanwhile, the capitalist Europeans, the instant they stepped off the boat, became the rightful owners of the land and were fully within their rights to “claim” it and to expel anyone who was currently living there.

    And how, exactly, do Objectivists imagine that expulsion was carried out? Do they think it was done peacefully? Even if you hold that the natives shouldn’t have been killed or enslaved, granting Europeans the right to expel them would by itself allow for about 90% of the atrocities committed against them. Do the words “Trail of Tears” ring a bell? That is exactly the kind of genocidal mania that anyone who supports Rand’s views on this subject is supporting. She was a profoundly evil person who held profoundly evil views; I can’t put it any more plainly than that.

  • Jeff T.

    evanescent—
    You are right that I am no student of Rand and made my comments based off the few lines written here and the wikipedia stuff that I read prior to posting. I will say this however; reality shows that there are people that die for others every day. Some are heroes, some victims, some martyrs, some murderers. Reality also shows that the universe is random and chaotic, and that to survive then you must be competitive. To compete implies conflict, rational or not.
    I also encourage you to not talk down to me as you did with your last sentence since it just encourages me to dislike you from the start rather than consider your position.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Next, let’s talk about Objectivism and firefighting. Several people have claimed that, if you as an Objectivist have freely chosen to help others, then you could rationally enter the burning Twin Towers. This is a serious distortion of Rand’s views.

    In Objectivism, the supreme moral value is the individual’s own life, and your highest moral duty is to preserve your life. Rand would have rejected – in fact, she did reject – any idea that you could rationally value the life of a stranger enough to risk your own life for them. I quote again from TVOS:

    “If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one’s own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it…” (p.45)

    Immoral to attempt it. Rand stated flatly that individuals have a positive moral duty not to put themselves at risk for strangers’ sake. This follows directly from her view that self-interest is the highest, inviolable moral principle. The idea of wages doesn’t enter into it at any point; obviously, you can’t spend your money if you’re dead. According to Rand, a rational person would never choose to put his own life at risk for the sake of a stranger. And that means no Objectivists are going to be firefighters, or policemen, or any other job that might call upon them to do this – or if they do take that job, they’ll walk off it the first time they’re asked to do something that might put them in danger. I believe my point here stands unaltered.

  • Brit-nontheist

    Ebonmuse:

    In Ergo’s eyes, Native Americans were “squatters”, and Europeans were within their rights to claim the land of the Americas. Just think about that for a moment: the Native Americans, who had been born, lived and died on this continent for thousands of years and hundreds of generations, who knew all its wild plants and animals intimately, who had cultivated and transformed the land, who had built villages and homes and cities here, were “squatters”, and the land they lived on was “unowned”. Meanwhile, the capitalist Europeans, the instant they stepped off the boat, became the rightful owners of the land and were fully within their rights to “claim” it and to expel anyone who was currently living there.

    Ah, at last, the philosophical elements of my legal degree can be used (court cases don’t really allow for the flexing of the old theorist muscles). The argument that the ‘lands of savages’ was in fact unowned was the original legal justification (terra nullius) used by European colonisers – you’d think Randians would have moved on since then, but no! It was an abhorrent legal farce when it was used, and it remains so. The Australian courts have even acknowledged this in the case of Mabo, amongst others.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    On the topic of competition between rational people, I again note that people are confirming my point for me: Rand believes that the choices made by the market are best because they were made by the market. As SPQR said:

    There is no conflict in the situation where you want to live in a free society, but you also want that job that was given to your lesser. Should you really want to work for the kind of employer who chooses the inferior candidate?

    So, in other words, if you were morally qualified and you didn’t get the job, that should prove that you didn’t want it in the first place, because why would you want to work for someone who didn’t recognize your superiority? Sour grapes indeed! Again, my point stands: Rand requires that a capitalist society always choose infallibly (which it manifestly does not). Otherwise, a contradiction has been created by your rationally wanting to live in a free market, but also rationally wanting things to which you are entitled (by virtue of being the best candidate), but you cannot have because of failures of that free market.

    This comment by evanescent, I think, is an example of the word-mangling games Objectivists tend to play to get around problems like this:

    To see why this is not a conflict of rational interests, consider the alternative: one of the men would have to believe he should be given the job, even though the employer chooses not to give it to him!

    Yes, and? If the employer doesn’t offer me the job, then it’s not in my interest to have it? If I deserved the job, it would have been offered to me? Again, he’s simply restated and confirmed my point that Objectivists hold a naive, Panglossian view of the market as always making the best choices.

    I’ll address the issue of charity in an Objectivist society after dinner.

  • Karen

    I read a biography of Ayn Rand some years ago (I don’t recall the title) and got the strong impression that the truly horrifying suffering that she and her family endured in Russia warped her mind at a young age.

    The rest of her life, and her philosophy, seem to flow very directly from that poisoned beginning, and while I felt somewhat sorry for her, I have to agree with Ebon that she wound up promoting and living a seriously evil viewpoint.

    Thankfully Objectivism appeals only to a small (but persistent) minority and will never gain real traction in society. It’s just operating too far away from reality to become viable.

  • RnBram

    Everyone who has here argued that the Indians had some sort of right to North American land has *collectivized* the Indians. Collectives do not own land just because the collective has beaten off their neighbors. Which Indian in a tribe owns what portion of the tribal land? None and all. They have no *property rights*. Did they recognize the right to life of other members of their tribe or of members of neighboring tribes? No? Did they enslave other tribes people? Yes. The idea that the Europeans somehow violated Indian Rights is unmitigated shinola.

    Were all Europeans paragons of virtue and respecters of individual rights? Of course not. That did not come into being until 1776. However, *northern* Europeans DID bring a more consistent and intelligible *trader principle* with them (however inconsistently implemented). It is that trader principle that opened up North America in a way that Central and South America could not experience. The Southern Europeans did not respect such trading.

    Never did Ayn Rand approve of the “slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people”, in the willy nilly fashion Ebonmuse suggests. However, regardless of their race, she did approve of forcible resistance to those who initiated violence against others, and the Indians did initiate such violence. Their tribal collectives treated Europeans as an opposing tribal collective, and waged theft, slavery and war on them just as they waged war on other Indian tribes.

    In short, Ebonmuse is wrong on every count, and the above is just one example. Go and do due diligence on these subjects instead of taking little excerpts and mangling them. It appears plain that your accusation on word-mangling is a projection of your own methods onto Objectivist thinking that you have failed to grasp. Objectivists, not Objectivist thinking, can vary in their expression of ideas, especially extemporaneously and may misrepresent an idea… but hardly to the egregious level of dishonesty revealed in your opening paragraphs.

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    I read “Anthem” when I was about 15 or 16. I thought Rand was a nutjob then, and I still think so now. Even more so now, perhaps, since these days I’ve actually developed a fairly philosophical bent (though unlike my dad, I’m not willing to try to build a career around it. He majored in philosophy, and so spent most of his life working in resturants).

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Okay, I’m back. Some thoughts on giving to the poor:

    Fourth, no, Ayn Rand did not praise charity as a virtue as so many religionists and altruists do.

    I’m glad to see we agree on this.

    So, she would not advocate running out into the street and throwing your life savings into the air for just anyone who passes by. She would recommend that when you give to charity, that they are not supporting things that are antithetical to your life and happiness.

    Flibbert and others who’ve responded to this point have failed to address my reasoning. In an Objectivist society, according to Rand, people who deserve to succeed will succeed, and people who deserve to fail will fail. That being the case, an Objectivist must hold that people who are poor necessarily deserve to be poor. And why would a consistent Objectivist ever desire to help such people? Why help looters and moochers, after all? If they starve, who cares? That’s the fate they brought on themselves! Is that or is it not the inescapable conclusion of Rand’s own logic?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I was an objectivist as a youth, having read several of her NF books, including TVOS. I still agree with some of her tenets, BTW. Then, at 22, I joined the USAF; they made me a firefighter. And to be perfectly honest, the idea that I could legitimately stand outside a burning building was bullshit, not because of the strangers inside, but because of my buddies inside, my bunkmates, my barracks neighbors. This is a profoundly irrational issue. My rational self certainly had to make peace with the idea that I might die. My irrational self preferred death to dishonor, I guess. I never once stood outside and watched it burn, nor did anyone I know.

    Additionally, having once fought a 4000-acre grass fire north of DFW as one of only two Carswell AFB firemen amongst hundreds of civvy vols, I knew also that we’d put our asses on the line not only for ourselves, me and Sully, but for the others, because we knew if it came to pass that the shoe was on the other foot, we’d want them to do so as well.

    This leads me to my final point. The fact that there’s much evidence for an evolutionary basis for altruism only leads me further to believe that this philosophy, like most others, is little more than pissing on my leg and telling me it’s raining.

  • Alex Weaver

    I fail to see how the passage Ebon quoted supports the interpretation that Ayn Rand thought “the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people.” Nothing said in the passage rationally leads to the inference that she supported the European settlers in slaughtering or enslaving the Indians. To despoil is to deprive them of their property through the use of force, and I see nothing in Ayn Rand’s passage that leads to the inference that she thought the Indians owned those goods or the Europeans should take them by force. The only valid inference I see is that she thought European settlers had the right to move and settle there. There is nothing in the quoted text that rules out the idea of peaceful cohabitation.

    ….

    (Disclaimer: I know very little about the Indians of that time period and even less of Ayn Rand. I am looking at the dispute from a purely linguistic perspective.)

    There’s your problem. Perhaps reading this comment from me on another blog will give you some perspective on looking at disputes “from a purely linguistic perspective” (IE, flatly ignoring both context and connotation).

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    The idea that the Europeans somehow violated Indian Rights is unmitigated shinola.

    In a way, I’m pleased to see so many Objectivists in this thread defending the idea that people who don’t believe in the Western conception of property should be treated as if they have no rights. That confirms my hypothesis that this attitude was not some aberration or off-the-cuff misstatement on Rand’s part. It is an intrinsic and fundamental tenet of her philosophy, and those who adopt that philosophy end up believing it as well. Just like all tyrannical philosophies throughout history, it leads inevitably to the conclusion that all non-believers are subhuman and unworthy of moral consideration.

  • Alex Weaver

    …so, in other words, Ayn Rand didn’t endorse the atrocities committed against native Americans, she just felt the Europeans’ treatment of them was appropriate and proper.

    Gotcha.

  • http://www.frihet.org/ Thomas M. Johanson

    Ebonmuse wrote:

    The idea of wages doesn’t enter into it at any point; obviously, you can’t spend your money if you’re dead.

    Obviously. But this is not about spending money if you are dead. Not all firefighters and police officers die, you know. This is like a lottery (please re-read my earlier post).

    According to Rand, a rational person would never choose to put his own life at risk for the sake of a stranger. And that means no Objectivists are going to be firefighters, or policemen, or any other job that might call upon them to do this – or if they do take that job, they’ll walk off it the first time they’re asked to do something that might put them in danger. I believe my point here stands unaltered.

    You didn’t read my comment, did you? As I wrote, every job implies a risk. If you are a firefighter or a police officer, you have in fact made a contract to help and protect strangers (that in fact pay your wages). If you refuse to honor this contract, the case has to be dealt with by the court system.

    Let me give you an even more extreme example than a normal lottery. Take the “Russian Roulette” — you have an 1 in 6 chance of certain death. Even many Objectivist would probably take part in a game of Russian Roulette, IF the prize of winning were big enough (the prize need not be monetary, but for example getting out of North Korea alive).

    Do you believe that Objectivists never would take risks?

  • Kendall J

    Ebonmuse has consistently misquoted Rand in citing her opposition to claims of Native Americans to imply that she was for the enslavement of peoples. Ebonmuse cites a passage where the critical line is presented apart from the rest of the citation, as a single sentence, and even containing a set of ellipsis dots. “…you can’t claim one should respect the ‘rights’ of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.” He then infers that this can mean none other than Rand means that one can do with such a people as one wishes.

    The first tip-off that someone is quoting out of context is this sort of citation. Going back to the original passage one finds a very different story. The phrase refers to the right of an invading people to invade, not with what it has a right to do to the people otherwise. That is, the passage is delimited specifically to the claim of natives of property rights, and nothing else. Anyone who wishes to do so may look up the passage themselves and see what sort of hoax Ebonmuse is attempting to put over. IN fact she specifically claims the opposite regarding the individual rights of the inhabitants.

    “The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights, and anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too. That is, you can’t claim one should respect the ‘rights’ of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.”

    Let’s see what Rand says is proper treatment toward societies such as a dictatorship and how the citizens of a dictatorship are to be treated. From Collectivized Rights in The Virtue of Selfishness:

    “Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the nonexistent “rights” of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.

    This right, however, is conditional. Just as the suppression of crimes does not give a policeman the right to engage in criminal activities, so the invasion and destruction of a dictatorship does not give the invader the right to establish another variant of a slave society in the conquered country.

    A slave country has no national rights, but the individual rights of its citizens remain valid, even if unrecognized, and the conqueror has no right to violate them. Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights.

    woops. Someone [Ebonmuse] has gotten it very wrong.

  • Jesse

    Alex, I think you have misunderstood the word linguistic. Linguistics concerns the study of the grammar, syntax, and context of an expression to determine its meaning. If you remove context, you no longer speak of linguistics. My point was that grammatically, syntactically, and contextually there appears to be no justification for the inference being made of her supporting the slaughtering, despoiling, or enslaving of the Indians. Her statement could be interpreted as supporting the slaughtering, despoiling, or enslaving and it can also be interpreted as supporting peaceful cohabitation so without further information there is no logically valid inference to be made concerning the statement.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I likewise encourage people to look up the passage, because it supports exactly the point I was making, regardless of attempts to spin it otherwise. Rand’s argument is that, in the same way as dictatorships have no national rights, Native Americans had no individual rights (because, supposedly, they didn’t respect individual rights themselves). That is why she says this:

    That is, you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

    That’s why she called it “great” that the Europeans “took over” the continent – i.e., enslaved, expelled and slaughtered the people who were already living there. There is no way around this unless you flagrantly ignore her actual words.

  • Alex Weaver

    I have still yet to see Ebon elucidate his theory of morality on any objective basis. Not surprising, since no such basis of his exists.

    Look a little harder.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Her statement could be interpreted as supporting the slaughtering, despoiling, or enslaving and it can also be interpreted as supporting peaceful cohabitation so without further information there is no logically valid inference to be made concerning the statement.

    Jesse, one can only make such an argument if you ignore what actually happened in history when Europeans met Native Americans. The fact of the matter is that the settlers did not engage in “peaceful cohabitation”; they viewed conquest as their right and slaughtered or enslaved the native people en masse. This actual history of events is what Ayn Rand praises, calling it “great” that they “took over” the continent. She was not speaking of some hypothetical alternate world where things turned out differently; she was speaking of the real world and praising the way events actually unfolded.

  • Justin

    Seems to me the point about the Indians was not that what happened to them was right but merely that land does not belong to you by virtue of your presence. The second point being that because they didn’t respect rights, their rights could not be respected.

    How do you establish a civil and agreeable arrangement with someone if that person does not understand the concepts involved and has acted against those concepts in the past? How do you establish this agreement over land when the other party is constantly moving about over a very large area? It simply was not possible at the time so you can’t expect Europeans to have done it. Should they have treated Indians wrongly like they did? No, definetly not. Can you reason with someone who is being unreasonable? Only for so long.

    Its not like Ayn Rand considered the Europeans as the perfect models of her philosophy. It stands to reason that they were a mixed bag of things she liked and did not like… the primary thing she liked was reason, something that the Indians of that period had much less of.

    I think its really lame and dishonest on your part to combine the potential reasons to be happy about Europeans “taking over” the country, such as it leading to the founding of the United States, with all the potential reasons to be upset. Its not one or the other, one can find both postive and negative things in what happened.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Not sure if anyone’s mentioned it yet, but the discussion of Native American property rights by Rand is completely factually wrong. Actually, many Native Americans *did* have a very good grasp of property rights. Most tribes were farmers who lived in villages, and they certainly defended their land. One of the main reasons that the Europeans were able to take the land away from Indians at all is because they introduced smallpox. In many, many cases European settlers came upon Indian villages with pantries full, crops ready to harvest, yet every single Indian dead from the disease. It decimated their numbers. The Europeans moved right in to the same homes and harvested those same crops. To even suggest that the Europeans “knew” what to do with the land any more than the Indians is patently false. There were a few nomadic tribes, but even those people moved between rather specific seasonal locales, following the animal herds that they used for sustenance. They didn’t live that much differently or used the land differently than the generations of cowboys who came after them. Again, it’s patently false to claim that they used the land any worse than the Europeans. They used it how they *wanted* to use it, irregardless of what Rand thought of the ways in which they used it. It was still their land. Beyond a doubt, this shows that Rand herself hadn’t the slightest sense of what property rights really are. She only respected property rights if the property was owned by Objectivists like herself.

    And it’s true that after a while, most remaining Indians who were not killed had been kicked from one place to another as starving bands of nomads, finally pushed into unproductive desert wastelands in which they did not know how to survive. And the way that they lived at that point is how the contemprary Hollywood films portrayed them. This shows that, if anything, she was a very ignorant person.

  • Adrian

    (I need to preface my remarks by saying I’ve tried to read Rand twice, and failed to get very far so my knowledge is based on reading about her, and not reading her works directly.)

    Once you understand something of the markets, you can find many, many more flaws in her simplistic, almost naive analysis. (Yeah, it’s presumptuous for an anonymous internet guy to call a famous philosopher simplistic, so I’m sticking to her analysis of the markets.)

    1. I don’t think she has any understanding of the role of luck, chance, whim and sheer randomness in the markets. Everyone that’s successful has a story to tell about how it was their perseverance/vision/whatever that saw them through, but this is survivor bias and hindsight. Fact is that we don’t talk about all of the people and companies that failed, and there are many, many more of them. It’s like interviewing “winners” of a Russian Roulette tournament, you have to be a simpleton if you accept their claims for how they won. Rand seems to believe that luck and randomness are absent, and success comes only from skills.

    I mean this to apply to everything from which people become CEOs, which CEOs are successful, which companies thrive, which products sell, and which stocks boom. Much more important than which people and companies thrive is which people and companies go bust. For instance, when a plant shuts down, all the people working there lose their job and if the plant is big enough, this can ripple through the entire community. It wasn’t their fault and there was probably nothing they could have done. Many of them might have been very successful had chance gone a different way.

    I am open to arguments that I am wrong, be she doesn’t seem to be aware that this is a problem.

    2. I think she constructs an idol of “future human progress” as some abstract goal which is placed above any other consideration, including the human cost of attaining the goal or any human misery it might take to achieve it. I remember reading a lot of derision towards those who would hold back progress, but never why progress is so great. The implication seems to be that all of our lives will improve, but as the improvement is distant, uncertain and amorphous and the costs of achieving this are real and immediate, I think that her method makes a mockery of her goals/values. I personally think that progress is a means to an end, and not an end in itself; human happiness is the end. Rand seems to flip this around and view progress an the end goal, and happiness is irrelevant and possibly distracting. She seems to have no problem accepting a world that’s filled with suffering and misery (indeed, this would probably provide a greater incentive for progress), which right away turns me against her.

  • Justin

    @bbk

    There were indeed tribes that had a better grasp of concepts like property, but they were by no means a majority or even common. I also believe you are the incorrect one, yes the Indians were evently moved to reservations but they were not moved from the east to the west, there were tribes in the east and the west respectively at the time and most tribes still exist in the general area that they originally inhabited. Also, the Indians that are general potrayed in Hollywood (at her time) were mostly western movies… which doesn’t really involve Europeans by that point as America was already settled to a large degree and many treaties were established. Yes, plenty of those treaties were broken by both sides, and yes I think its absurd that my country would do that.

  • Jesse

    Ebonmuse,

    Nowhere in her statement that you provided was there any mention or implication or supporting violence. She merely said that nomadic people with no conception of owning land had no right to claim ownership of the land. The worst implication to be drawn is that she thought the Indians caused part or all of the conflict. Another implication is that she thought the conflict was unnecessary. (From her perspective, if the Indians never claimed ownership to something they didn’t own, there would’ve been much less conflict or no conflict at all.) She comes nowhere close to saying or implying the conflict or ensuing barbarity was justified. As far as I can infer from that single statement, she considered the whole aftermath of the settling unnecessary and stupid. The only event I seen her praise was the settling—nowhere in the statement, implicitly or explicitly, praising the aftermath.

  • Alex Weaver

    Nowhere in her statement that you provided was there any mention or implication or supporting violence

    She said she supported the way things turned out. The way things turned out involved violence.

    What part of this are you failing to grasp?

  • Jesse

    Alex,

    Where in the quote Ebonmuse provided does she say she supported the way things turned out?

    Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you’re a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures” – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.

    …you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

    I don’t see it.

  • Justin

    @Alex Weaver

    You’re implying that she only had good things to say about Europeans for that period, which is wrong.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Jesse,

    As I said in an earlier comment, on the next page of the same essay Rand says this:

    Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.

    If that’s not approval, then I don’t know what could be.

  • Samuel Skinner

    You know, I’m pretty sure the Aztec’s and the Incan’s had property rights, although admitadly they were evil empires… wait, if they had property rights and their neighbors didn’t- we have a new justification! Human sacrifice for trespacing- a proud tradition objectivists can stand behind. Or in the case of the Incans, blatant communism. Because nothing says objectivism like a God King competing with the mummies of his ancestors using the unlimited wealth that are produced by slaves- er peasents. Remember- property rights can be expanded to include people!

    Sarcasm… but there is a point here.

  • Roger

    You might want to do a little more research before writing off Objectivism as a useful philosophy for life. You can only live for a positive and that is why everyone, especially an atheist needs a philosophy of life. Atheism is not a philosophy or a positive idea; it is only a negation of the belief in the existence of any god or gods. You can not live for what you don’t believe in. You must live for what you do believe in.

    You have bundled a slew of complaints into your missive and all are incorrect. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Objectivism by any means, and I don’t think any expert would take the time to answer such fuzzy thinking. Rand could be very patient with serious students but quiet impatient with fuzzy thinking, floating abstractions, and false claims made by those who don’t know what they are talking about. Perhaps that is were you get the idea of “the cult-like attitude of absolute obedience and conformity that characterized her movement’s founding”. I wasn’t at her initial meetings where she began to explain her philosophical ideas to others, but I was around before she died and there was no cult-like aspect to any group associated with her. She did demand that you not accept any of her thoughts or conclusions without first understanding them yourself and being able to explain why you agreed. She abhorred those who would accept an idea on faith or just because she said it was so. The word cult does not apply to a group whose members are free to refute any idea and welcome to prove any accepted idea wrong. The word atheist might as well include agnostics or anyone who feels there is something or someone outside or above this universe but rejects all organized religion. In other words, if words have specific meanings, Objectivism is not a cult.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “her blatant hypocrisy in her adulterous relationship with Nathaniel Branden”, and I’m not so sure about a sexual nature of their relationship either. If Ayn had betrayed the love she openly professed for her husband Frank by having some sort of secret affair with Branden, I’d agree that would be hypocritical. Did she? It doesn’t look like it. Their meetings certainly weren’t secret and apparently Branden was the true hypocrite in that relationship. You ought to read “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics” by James Valliant before you make any assumption about hypocrisy or even an affair. Rand knew how to think, knew what she liked and why, and was not afraid to say it or to change her mind if evidence proved to her that she was wrong. She wrote and maintained meticulous records of her thoughts in journals that shed an entirely different light on her relationship with Branden.

    As far as what happened to the American Indians, Rand’s defense of the settler’s rights makes sense based on the meaning of property, rights, and human life even if our subsequent non-objective treatment of the natives leaves a lot to be desired. Rand is not here to defend herself so it is wrong to infer anything about Objectivism only on some out of context statement. Rand made mistakes like any of us, but she would be willing to listen to logical arguments to correct her thinking if presented in a civilized and rational manner. Her ideas were not formed whole in some divine inspiration, but were honed over years of study and writing and thinking. She deserves serious consideration, not ad hominem argument.

    But apparently these are your minor objections and I can’t address why you don’t like Ayn Rand as a person without more information. Is it her looks, her accent, her strongly held opinions, her devotion to her husband, her success in spite of overwhelming hardship, or just your emotions? As far as your “…three … primary objections to Rand’s Objectivist philosophy” lets take a look at those.

    1. “The Objectivist Firefighter: Sacrificing Your Life For Strangers”

    An Objectivist might actually want a job as a defender based on his value for human life and based on his interest for his own life. He might find the job challenging and interesting and so enjoyable he could think of nothing else but doing it in the best way possible. He would know that there are risks involved and he would use his reason to minimize those risks. He would do everything in his power to be the best he could at the job for which he is being paid as he would hold productivity and honesty as virtues. He would rush into burning buildings to save strangers; stand against a forest fire to protect the property of strangers; use his body as a bridge so children can scurry across from a burning and collapsing floor to a safer area even knowing that it is risky. No, he wouldn’t knowingly let himself be killed, but in an emergency he might be, and he is aware of that risk. He would naturally, without conscious thought, shield a stranger from a blast that caught them by surprise exiting a building for example. You make it sound as if an Objectivist ought to behave in some irrational manner just because he finds himself in a dangerous situation. His reason and love for life will help him perform the best in such a situation ― situations that are way out of the ordinary. Emergency situations involve a whole different analysis than what normal life requires. If there are no good choices offered, then ethics can not help you make a choice either. An Objectivist does not think it is in anyone’s interest to die senselessly. If I’m to be called a hero, I want it to be because I loved my life to the end and I died trying to do the best I could to save everyone’s life, not that I sacrificed mine specifically to save a stranger.

    To say that no Objectivists would risk his life in an emergency situation is as absurd as saying there are no atheists in fox-holes.

    2. “Ayn Pangloss: Conflicts of Interest Among Rational Men”

    Your conclusions are apparently driven by a need to further an altruistic world view in which you must have some guilt for the suffering of others and expect that the only correct and moral response is again to sacrifice for any needy person or group. Rand says nothing about an “infallible” market or an infallible person. Her whole philosophy is based on the fact that man is fallible and not omniscient hence must use reason and logic to gain knowledge of reality. There are no guarantees and even an Objectivist can fail. His very survival could depend on the mercy of others but he would not be using quilt to motivate others to assist him. He would not want to live his life for others, nor ask others to live their life for him. Just think how much better off society would be if that where everyone’s attitude. An Objectivist would care about those he valued. Those he chooses to care about. If they had him for their own enjoyment and raised him to be independent and to think for himself, his parents would hold a special place in his heart. He may even have a special fondness for his siblings if they deserved it, but he would not feel quilt if they did not.

    3. “You Will Not Be Stopped”: The Heartless Core of Objectivism

    Again you make up hypothetical situations with no solution and presume that an Objectivist would be worthlessly conflicted. An Objectivist is no more immune from chance and another person’s whim than an Atheist. If I lose out on a position to another who is exactly equal in all respects (an imaginary situation), there is no contradiction in saying that it was just the luck of the draw. If I lose out to a less qualified candidate, then the person making the decision made a mistake and will suffer the consequence. If free and absent from fraud (not always the case and one of the reasons we need government), the market will provide the most efficient method of achieving the best solution to innovation, productivity, allocation of limited resources, pollution, and environmental issues. As well as finding a way to care for “…whatever misery strikes the worthless…”, atheist again have nothing to offer as a solution to anything. You have chosen to espouse the philosophical principals that all religious groups pander to the masses. Rand once said something like, “You can not fight communism with socialism.” I’ll tell you, “You can not fight religion with altruism.” You ought to spend a lot more time appreciating the achievement of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism as it would actually provide you with something positive. Start with course at http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=index

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Roger, your comments do not address the specific reasons I gave as to why a consistent Objectivist would have to respond in the ways I suggested to the given situations. Next.

  • Jeff T.

    On the topic of charity and altruism: Each month, I donate extra money to the power company to aide those that may not be able to meet their bill. I don’t know these people or if anyone actually does receive assistance. I don’t think I am doing it because of selfish reasons, I do it because I have the ability to do so and maybe, just maybe, the contribution may help somebody somehow. I don’t believe in god so I am not buying brownie points, and I don’t believe someone will return the favor to me someday. It just seems like the right thing to do.

  • Christopher

    I’ve read “The Virtue of Selfishness” and other books she wrote before and find them to be an pretty “good” references for my own economic philosophy – although I do have my disagreements with Rand:

    1. Regarding property – Rand states that it is concepts of ownership that confer the “right” to claim land, I argue that it’s the strength to hold on to property (lan or otherwise) that propoerty is owned: if one lacks the strength to defend his property, he’s not going to hold on to it for long.

    2. “Pure” rationality – Rand argues that a free-market system will always make the most rational decisions, but forgets about human subjectivity: who gets to define what the “rational” outcome being sought after is? In the end, a “rational” outcome to one man may seem very “irrational” to another – all because they begin with different goals and values upon which to make this definition in the first place.

    3. Her belief in “free will” – as a determinist, I find the whole concept to be utter nonsense: if all the principles of the universe are based on causality (and to my knowledge there are no uncaused events), then “free will” is unachievable.

    Aside from disagreements like these, we do think in a very similar manner: as much as our philosophies differ in theory, they are much alike in practice.

  • Alex Weaver

    Roger, your comments do not address the specific reasons I gave as to why a consistent Objectivist would have to respond in the ways I suggested to the given situations. Next.

    Personally I’m still hung up on the ridiculous presumptions underlying the very first paragraph.

  • LordLeckie

    A good post.

    I myself am an Objectivist but it is by no means a perfect philosphy (what is) so i like this constant criticism, gives me something to think on and improve myself.

  • Brit-nontheist

    RnBram:

    Everyone who has here argued that the Indians had some sort of right to North American land has *collectivized* the Indians. Collectives do not own land just because the collective has beaten off their neighbors. Which Indian in a tribe owns what portion of the tribal land? None and all. They have no *property rights*. Did they recognize the right to life of other members of their tribe or of members of neighboring tribes? No? Did they enslave other tribes people? Yes. The idea that the Europeans somehow violated Indian Rights is unmitigated shinola.

    1) There does not need to be individual property rights for there to be property rights attaching to the collective – collective/communal property is recognised in almost all legal systems, including those of the European invaders at the time of their colonisation.
    2)The rights to life and to property are different, one does not require the other. Also, the right to life may be recognised but simply disregarded in certain situations, of which inter-tribal war is a clear example.
    3)If collectives “do not own land just because the collective has beaten off their neighbours” then the entirity of human history is one of non-ownership… while I’m not an anarchist by any means, their phrase “all property is theft” is a useful one to keep in mind here.
    4)That native Americans enslaved prisoners of their wars does not invalidate the claims that it was abhorrent for the Europeans to invade and colonise their lands.

    Were all Europeans paragons of virtue and respecters of individual rights? Of course not. That did not come into being until 1776. However, *northern* Europeans DID bring a more consistent and intelligible *trader principle* with them (however inconsistently implemented). It is that trader principle that opened up North America in a way that Central and South America could not experience. The Southern Europeans did not respect such trading.

    You have a strange sense of morality if you think bringing capitalistic trading to supplant the native system was worth slaughter, and a strange sense of history if you think that it was simply a difference in attitudes to trade that differentiated the colonisation of North and South America.

    Never did Ayn Rand approve of the “slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people”, in the willy nilly fashion Ebonmuse suggests. However, regardless of their race, she did approve of forcible resistance to those who initiated violence against others, and the Indians did initiate such violence.

    She said the native Americans had no legitimate complaint – and since they suffered slaughter and all the rest, this clearly indicates her approval. She did not approve of native American militancy, for as the original quote showed, she expressed contempt for their actions, believing the worst of them.

  • Brit-nontheist

    Kendall J:

    That is, you can’t claim one should respect the ‘rights’ of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.”

    This is being said all the time – as if the form of rights was the same as the substance. The native Americans believed that they did not own the land themselves, but were caretakers of it for future generations (of their own tribes). This is not a ‘right’ to property, but it does equate to what we could call a legal ‘trust’ – the current people being the trustees and their children as beneficiaries. Given that the European powers used their own concept of legal rights to justify invasion and slaughter, I see no reason why we can’t use other European concepts to show why their reasoning was farcical and abhorrent.

  • Jesse

    Ebonmuse,

    You provided this quote:

    Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.

    There is nothing there praising—implicitly or explicitly—slaughtering, despoiling, and enslaving the Indians. That statement praises the settling—the decision that it would be illogical to not take advantage of the resources provided by the continent when they can be used to further one’s own prosperity—rather than a statement that endorses the bloody aftermath. I shown, using the previous Ayn Rand quote discussed, that she thought the bloody aftermath was illogical and unnecessary.

  • Lyssad

    Rand would risk her life for her own child presumably, but not for “a stranger”; it is ok to help others, but only if “they are worthy”; there are no conflicts between people who are “rational”.
    And these Unworthy, Irrational, Strangers Who Have No Rights are simply those who don’t agree with her idea of what is productive or reasonable. She decides.
    The Confederation of the Iroquois for example, with a far better system of government than anything known to Europeans, she says “had no concept of rights”, merely “acted like savages” and “didn’t know what to do with” the country. In other words she was an ignorant bigot.
    To move in uninvited, destroy the natural resources that provide the inhabitants livelihood so they are reduced to prostitutes and beggars, and then kill them when they resist, is not manifestly different from “slaughter, despoil, and enslave”, and those trying to make a distinction are being disingenuous at best.
    Some of the attitudes expressed in these comments are horrifying.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Johanson,

    You didn’t read my comment, did you? As I wrote, every job implies a risk. If you are a firefighter or a police officer, you have in fact made a contract to help and protect strangers (that in fact pay your wages). If you refuse to honor this contract, the case has to be dealt with by the court system.

    A contract that doesn’t allow one to walk off the job if the risk is too high? Plus, what risk is there in an office job? Will an office employee be called upon to save the lives of complete strangers while risking one’s own life?

    Let me give you an even more extreme example than a normal lottery. Take the “Russian Roulette” — you have an 1 in 6 chance of certain death. Even many Objectivist would probably take part in a game of Russian Roulette, IF the prize of winning were big enough (the prize need not be monetary, but for example getting out of North Korea alive).

    And your example completely ignores the fact that we are talking about the Objectivist risking her own life for the sake of strangers, which Rand says is irrational and immoral.

  • OMGF

    Adrian,

    For instance, when a plant shuts down, all the people working there lose their job and if the plant is big enough, this can ripple through the entire community. It wasn’t their fault and there was probably nothing they could have done. Many of them might have been very successful had chance gone a different way.

    My impression from having read Atlas Shrugged is that she blamed the workers for their condition. They didn’t work hard enough, and when things went downhill, they didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and learn new skills and succeed. Of course, all the heroes in her book were superhuman characters who were the very best at everything they tried, so it would have been easy for one of them, but she ignored the fact that not everyone is born with the same intellectual capacity, skill set, or the same opportunities as everyone else, which is a common mistake made by people who think pure capitalism is best for everything.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Ayn Pangloss

    Fantastic, Ebon! Great description. (I just finished reading Candide, incidentally.)

    I think your criticisms of Objectivism are astute. Objectivism is merely apologizing for the status quo. In practice it would lead to the formation of deep class divides. If you’re born into a disadvantaged environment, or with less than perfect faculties, you still have no right to be helped to attain a good life. If you are incapable of attaining it on your own, too bad for you. That is the problem with a “merit-based” system – what happens to those with “less merit?” They are sentenced to remain in their squalor. There is no place in Objectivism for the mentally ill, or the mentally retarded, in the Objectivist view of morality.

    As a result, I find Objectivism repulsive and deeply immoral. See my Philosophically Fucking Humanity for a (slightly) fuller critique.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Here is a passage from Nietzsche’s Daybreak, which I happened to read this morning, that seemed apropos (the bold is my emphasis):

    547. The tyrants of the spirit. – The march of science is now no longer crossed by the accidental fact that men live for about seventy years, as was for all too long the case. Formerly, a man wanted to reach the far end of knowledge during this period of time and the methods of acquiring knowledge were evaluated in accordance with this universal longing. The small single questions and experiments were counted contemptible: one wanted the shortest route; one believed that, because everything in the world seemed to be accommodated to man, the knowability of things was also accommodated to a human time span. To solve everything at a stroke, with a single word – that was the secret desire: the task was thought of in the image of the Gordian knot or in that of the egg of Columbus; one did not doubt that in the domain of knowledge too it was possible to reach one’s goal in the manner of Alexander or Columbus and to settle all questions with a single answer. ‘There is a riddle to be solved’: thus did the goal of life appear to the eye of the philosopher; the first thing to do was to find the riddle and to compress the problem of the world into the simplest riddle-form. The boundless ambition and exultation of being the ‘unriddler of the world’ constituted the thinker’s dreams: nothing seemed worth-while if it was not the means of bringing everything to a conclusion for him! Philosophy was thus a kind of supreme struggle to possess the tyrannical rule of the spirit – that some such very fortunate, subtle, inventive, bold and mighty man was in reserve – one only! – was doubted by none, and several, most recently Schopenhauer, fancied themselves to be that one. [and Ayn "Pangloss" Rand?] – From this it follows that by and large the sciences have hitherto been kept back by the moral narrowness of their disciples and that henceforth they must be carried on with a higher and more magnanimous basic feeling. ‘What do I matter!’ – stands over the door of the thinker of the future.

  • Robert Reynolds

    But that just moves the problem back, because then the conclusion would seem to be that an Objectivist should always turn down any job – firefighter, policeman, infectious-disease specialist – that might potentially put his life in danger.

    There are rational reasons that Objectivists would choose to be firefighters or police officers, and those have been mentioned in other comments.

    As long as no one you personally know is in danger, your duty is to protect yourself and only yourself.

    This is an oversimplification at best. There are circumstances in which it would be immoral to try to save someone even if you do personally know them. There are still others in which trying to save someone, even knowing you will die in so doing, is perfectly moral. You can’t drop context completely. If you knowingly place yourself at comparatively great risk to save someone who is of no value to you, then yes, that would be immoral.

    Burning buildings progress from being (relatively) safe to enter to completely unsafe to enter. As such, decisions are made by the commanding officer on the scene as to whether or not firefighters will be allowed into the building. In some cases the building may be so unsafe as to be futile and a guaranteed death trap for any firefighters who enter it. Going into that building would be suicide (not heroism), and Objectivism would label any attempt to do so as immoral.

    In other fires the right combination of direction, technology and experience can bring people out alive, and a rational person, having chosen to be a professional firefighter, will assume that risk as part of his rational decision to be a firefighter.

    In the specific instance of the WTC and 9/11, I would note that the events were unfolding so fast and chaotically that it genuinely qualified as an “emergency situation” as Rand described. In such scenarios information is limited or nonexistent and decisions have to be made quickly. There really is no rational way to decide “do I go or do I stay?” so one cannot blame people for doing either.

    Unlike the firefighter quoted above, the Objectivist rescue worker has to refuse – because he’s being asked to risk his life for strangers, which can never be a moral duty according to Rand.

    Risking one’s life for strangers is not a moral duty. Firefighters risk their lives to save others by choice, not because of a moral obligation. Agreeing to take on a job does not create new moral obligations; this passage is conflating “duty” as a moral obligation and “duty” as a job description. Firefighters have “duties” (i.e. job activities) that call for exposure to risk, but those activities do not create a “moral duty” (i.e. moral obligation) to expose one’s self to risk needlessly and without regard for personal safety.

    But now, consider a case Rand never discusses: What if two equally qualified people apply for the same job?

    There is a good reason that Rand never discussed this: it is not a part of reality. It is a floating abstraction and an unrealistic hypothetical scenario. Which two people are “equally qualified?” Has there ever been an instance in reality where there were two people who were literally “equally intelligent, equally skilled, and would perform equally well if given the job?” One could make the argument that people have virtually the same qualifications, but other factors play into getting a job besides just a resume: personality, philosophy, appearance, etc.

    A “conflict of interest” is a scenario in which one person’s advancement is won at the cost of another’s. Rand’s point is that if the other guy gets the job and you don’t, he does not get it at your expense, since the job wasn’t yours by right. Just because you want it doesn’t mean it is automatically a value, and even when you do rationally want something, failure to obtain it isn’t the same as having it stolen.

    In Objectivist philosophy, if you succeed it’s because you deserve to succeed, and if you’re poor it’s because you deserve to be poor.

    This is incorrect. Objectivism recognizes that a person can be born into a family that is wealthy, and there is nothing that person did to “deserve” the wealth. The same holds for someone who is born into a poor family. Once someone becomes an adult however, they have the power to try to change their situation. The heir can lose his money either foolishly or in an attempt to build his fortune. The poor guy can become wealthy because he gets lucky or because he works hard and makes a fortune for himself. Either of them can maintain their status for similar reasons. So we have to be careful wielding the word “deserve.” In the sense that we all have a right to keep what we make, we “deserve” what we have. But we do not “deserve” our fortunes from an intrinsic standpoint; that is, we do not deserve anything simply because of who we are.

    Rand’s overarching point is that for whatever reason – bad luck, poor choices, or failure to try – there will always be poor people. This does not mean that the poor are entitled to anything from anyone, other than the freedom to act in their own best interests.

    …it seems hard to escape the conclusion that a consistent Objectivist would never give any money or other assistance to others. After all, if they were deserving of your help, they wouldn’t need it; they’d have already achieved success and security on their own through hard work and persistence.

    There’s that word “deserve” again. To say that someone “deserves” help is again leading us down the path toward intrinsicism.

    A person whom I value and who in general acts morally – and nevertheless finds himself in trouble financially – would most likely receive help from me IF doing so would not compromise a greater value for me, such as failing to provide for myself or my family.

    This is one of the most often misunderstood aspects of Objectivism. Critics of Objectivism assume that there is only one value – the self. In fact Objectivists – if they properly understand the philosophy – have an extensive hierarchy of values, the top of which is the self (and rightly so, as dead people can’t value). It makes no sense to betray a higher value for a lesser one. To do so implies that the lesser has been misplaced in the hierarchy.

    In an Objectivist society, people might still starve, but we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that they must have deserved it.

    No, in an Objectivist society we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that no one forced it upon them.

  • random guy

    I read Atlas Shrugged in high school and again in college. I loved mythology, and I loved her characters. It wasn’t until college that I realized I love her characters because they were mythical. Rand had no concept of giving human flaws to her main characters. Their only flaws really boiled down to working too hard.

    I liked her book in high school because it had a lot to say about individuality, the meaning of wealth, and mans place in society. It had a lot to say about tyranny and injustice. But when I reread it later I realized it also purposefully ignored other kinds of injustice. Her almost reflexive disdain of anything natural, or non-white for that matter. Her assumption that the person in charge is always the best and the brightest (except when he arbitrarily isn’t) kind of pissed me off. Her characters weren’t people, they were caractures of people with all the flaws pilled on one group and all the virtues pilled on others. She never addressed problems facing real people with human frailties and doubts.

    I always assumed that people treated her works with a grain of salt, that despite the powerfullness of her message on one subject, she had many irrational mistakes on another. I thought people talked about her like they would any other writer ‘I agree with this, but disagree with that’ kind of thing. Then I went to the internet, I never understood the cult like dedication some people have to her writings. They use twisted logic and long rhetoric to justify something she said, where in any normal person would just say ‘shes very wrong on this point’. I mean, shes human, its not a capital sin for her to be wrong.

    I still like the great heros of her works, but I realize its fiction not philosophy.

  • http://flibbertigibbet.mu.nu/ Flibbert

    In an Objectivist society, according to Rand, people who deserve to succeed will succeed, and people who deserve to fail will fail. That being the case, an Objectivist must hold that people who are poor necessarily deserve to be poor.

    That is ridiculous beyond belief.

    I’m going to assume that by “Objectivist Society” you mean a population of all Objectivists and not simply a society governed by laws that are proper to a state according to Objectivism.

    Even among such a group of people — each pursuing productive lives according to their rational self-interest — unfortunate events may still happen and impoverish someone. There may be accidents, disease, and disasters of all sorts. Individuals may also make mistakes and errors of judgment which may ruin their financial situation.

    And in any of those cases, charity may be appropriate because in none of those cases is moral condemnation necessarily appropriate.

    Rand doesn’t even really object to simply being kind or generous to people under certain conditions.

    Your assertion that Objectivism precludes charity is just false.

  • Pingback: Bay of Fundie » Blog Archive » Objections to Objectivism

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I never liked Atlas Shrugged. My first time reading it thoroughly pissed me off quite enough. What I saw in her writing was a sheltered, conceited, narrow view of the world that did not lend itself to solving any real problems. I never thought of her heroes as great in any way. They were more like disgruntled sociopaths who were incapable of dealing with the rest of the world. They did not accomplish a single great thing other than folding and refusing to take part in the rest of society. For someone who espouses a meritocracy, Rand was telling us that we don’t deserve the benefits bequeathed on us by her Capitalist superheroes because we, as a society, did not move all of life’s obstacles out of their way. How ironic.

  • http://flibbertigibbet.mu.nu/ Flibbert

    This is being said all the time – as if the form of rights was the same as the substance. The native Americans believed that they did not own the land themselves, but were caretakers of it for future generations (of their own tribes). This is not a ‘right’ to property, but it does equate to what we could call a legal ‘trust’ – the current people being the trustees and their children as beneficiaries. Given that the European powers used their own concept of legal rights to justify invasion and slaughter, I see no reason why we can’t use other European concepts to show why their reasoning was farcical and abhorrent.

    Brit-nontheist, it’s not that the natives failed to utter the words, “We own this property” they failed to demonstrate ownership as well — in ANY reasonable form. And property rights weren’t their only failing, either.

  • Brit-nontheist

    Flibbert:

    Brit-nontheist, it’s not that the natives failed to utter the words, “We own this property” they failed to demonstrate ownership as well — in ANY reasonable form.

    I’m sorry, but that just stinks of parochial closed-mindedness. They failed to meet the legal tests by which European legal systems would have defined property at the time, yes (no-one is denying that)… but that in no way suggests that they did not de facto own the land, nor in fact does it preclude de iure ownership according, as one might imagine, to a non-european conceptualisation of property rights. Your goal-post-shifting introduction of “reasonable” is just a way for you to define out of existence the rights native Americans had, and blatantly so.

    And property rights weren’t their only failing, either.

    Oh, great-master-of-history-and-philosophy, do tell us all the failing of this conquered race, that no support must be made of, lest Ayn have us labelled ‘racists’ [see original quote] for disagreeing with her own rather racist prejudice-called-philosophy!

  • Brit-nontheist

    Oh, and also, Flibbert, what kind of demonstration of ownership would you have accepted from the native Americans, I mean beyond living on the land, using its resources, and protecting it with force?

    I know some Randian will shout me down saying “squatters don’t gain ownership rights from mere possession”, so let me make a point so simple I’d hope the Randians would recognise it themselves: the reason squatters don’t have ownership rights (in the UK squatters do have some legal rights of possession, actually) is not because possession cannot create or give evidence of ownership it is because someone else already has legal ownership of that property. No-one but the native Americans had a pre-existing claim on the lands of America so the analogy is a false one.

    Also – now that I’ve got started – that the native American tribes didn’t respect each other’s property rights is of no consequence: if my neighbour and I argue over our boundary, bicker and occassionally fight violently over this, it does not give you the right to come in and settle in our gardens, killing us if we object!

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I guess that living on a piece of land for hundreds of years, then fighting and dying and being evicted by use of violence and racism, means that one does not have a realistic concept of property rights. I guess that also, the time after time that the Indians signed written contracts with the white settlers that the settlers absolutely did not honor also goes to show that it was the Indians who had no such concept of property rights. By Rand’s reasoning, had I walked up to her and blown her head off with my Marine Corps issued Beretta, I would be proving to have a more efficient use of that space which she was occupying.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Brit-nontheist, it’s not that the natives failed to utter the words, “We own this property” they failed to demonstrate ownership as well — in ANY reasonable form.

    The Inca Empire existed for over a hundred years. At its height, it had a population of over a million people and controlled most of the western coast of South America. Its government was a federalist system, dividing the empire’s land into four provinces, each with its own governor who reported to the central monarch. The Incas, like the Romans, built an elaborate paved road system which traversed the Andes Mountains and ran to every corner of the empire, covering an area of over 14,000 miles, crossing chasms with rope bridges. There were over 2,000 inns, called tambos, placed at intervals along the trails that provided food and shelter to travelers. Relay runners along the trails exchanged messages encoded on knotted cords called quipu.

    The Incans built many cities, including Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. Archaeologists excavating them have found ruins of temples, roadways, monumental stone structures, aqueducts, public fountains, and complex irrigation and terracing systems which were used to grow potatoes, tomatoes, maize, cotton, and coca, among other crops. They also brewed an alcoholic beverage called chicha. Inca stonework was so skillfully made that the stones fit together without mortar, and much of it is still standing to this day. The Incas also worked in gold, silver, bronze, textiles and ceramic. The Incas had a policy of compulsory public service, and they had their own flag under which their army marched to war. They had an educational and civil service system which trained qualifying candidates to become administrators; those who did not pass the test learned a trade instead. They also had an advanced calendar system based on astronomical observation, which used stone markers called sucanca as sundials to record significant seasonal events such as equinoxes and lunar months.

    This is what Flibbert judges to be “unreasonable” as a demonstration of ownership.

  • Sean M.

    He also ignores the exensive but less visible improvements which North American natives made: for hundreds of years they killed species they didn’t like and encouraged those they did, using techniques like controlled burning. European settlers got the benefits of these improvements while hardly knowing they existed, until they vanished because the Indians who had maintained them were all dead. Who was it that said that you make land yours by blending your labour with it? Not to mention that early modern Europe was hardly a beacon of human rights itself.

  • http://jrdonohue.com John Donohue

    Hello and salute to Objectivists posting here who have already excoriated the fatuous personal attack in the first paragraph and refuted the three spurious ‘objections’ to Objectivism (genocide, firefighter responsibility, conflict of interest.)

    For this post let’s grant the hypothetical that the Iroquois DID have property rights. You can’t claim property rights without marking the property. What was the boundary? All the land from Chautauqua Lake in Southwest NY to Lake Champlain (about 75% or current NYState). But this was a tiny population living a subsistence existence. I read three sources today that estimated the population at the height of the nation in 1750 at between 12,000 and 18,000 living in 20-50 very small villages. That height was AFTER the arrival of Europeans and may largely be attributed to wealth duly created by the Iroquois in the fur trade. Pre-Columbian, this was a few thousand souls.

    To dream that a few thousand people rightfully owned this vast space would surpass any examples of greed since.

    It would be wrong to impinge on actual settled property, even including a certain hunting ground surrounding, but the wilderness could be claimed by any newcomers who, yes, made a settlement and mixed their labor with the land. This criteria can be used to judge individual instances of indigenous/newcomer conflict. Did the newcomers stomp on the settled, marked property of people already living there? Did the indigenous use violence to impinge on the settled, marked property carved out by newcomers? Both of these would be wrong, by Objectivist standards.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Ebon, furthermore, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan is believed to have been larger than any city in Europe when Cortez arrived.

    And regarding the issue of property rights, if the Native American tribes had actually developed a sophisticated system of land grants and deeds of title recorded with the clerk’s office for each tribe and nation, would that have made the least bit of difference to the Europeans? I don’t think it would have.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Did the newcomers stomp on the settled, marked property of people already living there? Did the indigenous use violence to impinge on the settled, marked property carved out by newcomers? Both of these would be wrong, by Objectivist standards.

    Not according to Ayn Rand, as has been extensively discussed upthread. Rand stated plainly that people who didn’t hold to her conception of property ownership were subhumans (sorry, “savages”) who had no rights that anyone was bound to respect.

  • John Donohue

    [[Did the newcomers stomp on the settled, marked property of people already living there? Did the indigenous use violence to impinge on the settled, marked property carved out by newcomers? Both of these would be wrong, by Objectivist standards.]]

    Not according to Ayn Rand, as has been extensively discussed upthread. Rand stated plainly that people who didn’t hold to her conception of property ownership were subhumans (sorry, “savages”) who had no rights that anyone was bound to respect.

    The “her” is a smear. It demeans your argument and reveals desperation. She is speaking on principle and stipulating generously that the objective meaning of property rights is clear to all.

    Her position is that anyone not respecting property rights of others could be treated as criminals. This would include any indiginous attacking a new settlement for no reason, or warring to block newcomers from settling the wilderness at all. She would say that an attempt to foist the contradiction “well, us 12,000 setttled in 20 villages claim by right to the entire wilderness because we construct the reality that this is our land” would not cut it. And on the obverse, I can assure you she would have condemend any attempt to justify the initiation of violence against all duly established property of the indiginous.

    John Donohue

  • lpetrich

    Ayn Rand seems like a capitalist version of Friedrich Nietzsche, with business leaders being like his aristocratic heroes, and the rest of the population being like his “bungled and botched”, only useful for making life better for those heroes.

  • Alex Weaver

    The “her” is a smear. It demeans your argument and reveals desperation. She is speaking on principle and stipulating generously that the objective meaning of property rights is clear to all.

    …what the hell did you just say?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    John, it seems that you are dropping your Objectivist ethics very conveniently when it comes to espousing how the Native Americans should have shared their vast wealth with the newcomers. So by your ethics, if I deem that you have more than your fair share of a resource that I want, I am within my natural rights to slaughter you and take your esteemed property. Incidentally, the population of the natives was typically decimated by disease (smallpox) spreading even faster than the incursion of the Europeans into their lands. Your hypothesis that their numbers were strengthened by the fur trade blatantly contradicts the known facts that we have.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    And on the obverse, I can assure you she would have condemend any attempt to justify the initiation of violence against all duly established property of the indiginous.

    You speak as if this were a hypothetical situation. In reality, Rand did address this topic and stated that she did not believe Native Americans had any legitimate cause for objection:

    Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country.

    So, is your position that white settlers never initiated violence against native people, or are you disagreeing with Ayn Rand here?

    Her position is that anyone not respecting property rights of others could be treated as criminals.

    It seems Objectivists have some sort of blind spot to Rand’s actual words on the matter. She said explicitly, not that they could be treated as criminals, but that they had no rights whatsoever that anyone was bound to respect:

    That is, you can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

  • Lyssad

    Atlas Shrugged also struck me about as described above. The kicker for me though was that her heroic protagonist is both a rapist and an arsonist. Some philosophy that!

  • John Donohue

    bbk: ” … Native Americans should have shared their vast wealth with the newcomers ”

    In the current example, the Iroquois were less than 12,000 at First Contact. What constituted their “vast wealth?” They were above survival level, but not by much. Perhaps you mean the gigantic wilderness all around them. Did the Iroquois own that?

    “Your hypothesis that their numbers were strengthened by the fur trade blatantly contradicts the known facts that we have.”
    Are you claiming the growth in population is non-factual? Or that the growth was due to wealth caused by fur trade is non-factual?

  • Christopher

    Lyssad,

    “Atlas Shrugged also struck me about as described above. The kicker for me though was that her heroic protagonist is both a rapist and an arsonist. Some philosophy that!”

    So what? Just because a character does things that don’t fit the views of “morality” espoused by the existing social order doesn’t mean he can’t be considered “heroic” – remember that one man’s “villan” is another man’s “hero.”

  • Christopher

    And as for the Native Americans – they weren’t strong enough to stop another party from taking their property (i.e. land) and got ran over because of it. If the Europeans didn’t do it, some one else would have later.

    They were weak and paid for that weakness – “morality” doesn’t even enter the equation here as a “moral” value requires strength if it is to survive: strength that they didn’t have.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    John, according Objectivist ethics, why should it matter in the slightest how much land they inhabited? What is the litmus test that answers the question of how land should be used and by how many people. And what ritual must they go through to claim the land as their own? Planting a flag on the beach to claim it for the Iroquois, hanging up “no trespassing” signs all over New England? I’m really keen to find out because I plan to come over your house and claim it as my own as soon as I figure all of this out. I’ll remind you that I’m a well trained Marine with combat experience. If nothing else were there to stop me and I can overpower you, what argument to your property can you put forth that I should respect?

  • John Donohue

    “John, according Objectivist ethics, why should it matter in the slightest how much land they inhabited? What is the litmus test that answers the question of how land should be used and by how many people. And what ritual must they go through to claim the land as their own? ”

    Evasion. 12,000 people did not “inhabit” the land, let alone own it. The math works out to be 3 square miles for every single last person in the Iroquois Nation. A village of 200 would be claiming the equivalent of the surrounding 600 square miles! Please grasp the picture: This was a wilderness, almost entirely owned by no one, with 20-50 small villages of people scattered through, who legitimately owned their long house, farm or communally owned their village. It’s not a “ritual” that gives you the land. Please read the acorn explanation in John Locke. And as i have now stated more than once, Objectivists do NOT sanction the ‘claiming’ or overpowering of another’s property, whether it be in 1750 or tomorrow when you attack me.

    Despite the above being quite sufficient to answer, I just would like to wonder how YOU think The Iroquois came to own 36,000 square miles? Were they in place since the ice retreated, 12,000 years prior? Or did they purchase it from prior owners?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Christopher, don’t underestimate the role that disease played in aiding the Europeans in taking over North America. Technologically, neither civilization was much more advanced than the other at the time of first contact. It’s arguable that the Europeans benefited much more from the crops that the Indians cultivated, both in Europe and in the Americas, than the Indians benefited from whatever trinkets the Europeans could offer for it in trade. The crops that they cultivated remain some of the most crucial staples to modern society. Meanwhile, the Europeans at the time lived in deplorable, unsanitary conditions. The natives enjoyed cultures that were clean, healthy, and disease free. In fact, for many decades it was a continuing embarrassment to the racist settlers that more whites crossed over into the native culture than the other way around.

    Militarily, the natives also had better command of warfare than the settlers. They were a much more adaptable force. They understood camouflage, terrain features, surprise, ambush, and other such tactics that the Europeans did not match them on. For the first couple hundred years, it was by no means certain that the Europeans would be able to militarily defeat the natives. And by the American Revolution, many of the tactics used by the Americans to defeat the British were adapted from the Indians, learned by the Europeans during the French and Indian War.

    So without the devastating effects of disease, the odds would have been significantly better for the natives.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    The math works out to be 3 square miles for every single last person in the Iroquois Nation. A village of 200 would be claiming the equivalent of the surrounding 600 square miles!

    Today, Ted Turner, of CNN fame, singlehandedly owns 1,700,000 acres of North America. More land than the entire state of Delaware. Incidentally, most of it is pristine wilderness. Why should I not go take it to do as I please? Again what is the litmus test for ownership?

    And he is only the 80th richest American! If the other 79 put their resources into land ownership, they might own most of the continent. Actually, they do. Pretty much blows the Iriquois 3 square miles per individual out of the water. Can I apply your reasoning about the Iroquois to go ahead and usurp this land? If not, why not?

    PS, I hope it was understood that me attacking your property was just for the sake of argument.

  • Lyssad

    Before Columbus this continent had a population between 57 to 112 million people and was home to dozens of entirely different cultures, only a few of which were nomadic. Most were farmers who lived in cities, and were very familiar with property rights. In 1600 Cahokia Illinois had a population of 20,000 people, surrounded by hundreds of miles of cornfields. Remains of royal palace there cover nine acres are 100 feet high. When DeSoto entered Florida he reported riding through cultivated field for THREE DAYS before reaching the town, and that was typical of the East Coast above Florida, which had mound cities and extensive networks of canals cut through the coral rock similar to those of the Mayans. West of there were the Haida, a Viking-like people who raided the coast from the Bering sea to California. Had they gone inland they’d have encountered the Pueblos in their five story apartments housing thousands of people. North were the Iroquois, the first people on earth to smelt copper, and who INVENTED DEMOCRACY. All these disparate cultures, religions and political systems had diplomatic relations, alliances and wars, and were linked by trade networks that extended from sea to sea, in all four directions. They lived on and owned the land in every sense of the word, and signed treaties as INDEPENDENT NATIONS, with the British, French, Spanish and later US, Governments. So knock off the ignorant, racist Hollywood Injuns stereotype that Rand held. Their attitude about real estate is irrelevant: these are people, and she says they have no rights because they are not in her in-group. Osama Bin Laden says as much.

  • http://www.ken-lowery.com Ken Lowery

    So what? Just because a character does things that don’t fit the views of “morality” espoused by the existing social order doesn’t mean he can’t be considered “heroic” – remember that one man’s “villan” is another man’s “hero.”

    Are you defending rape, here?

    Don’t quibble. Don’t spend ten lines coming up with bullshit contortions.

    Yes or no:

    Are you defending rape here?

  • Chet

    Wow. I had really thought we were past the days when we laughed at the “stupid injuns” who traded away Manhattan Island for some glass beads.

    But I see the Randroids are bravely carrying on that proud tradition of racism.

  • dmiff

    Firefighter: choice vs duty. You can choose to risk your life for whatever you want, no one can put a gun to your head and say risk your life as a firefighter.

    Conflicts of Interest: Good point.

    Heartless Core of Objectivism: I’m sorry the idea makes you sad. Goes back to choice vs duty. I’m all for charity, just don’t put a gun to my head and tell me to contribute.

  • Lyssad

    ‘So what? Just because a character does things that don’t fit the views of “morality” espoused by the existing social order doesn’t mean he can’t be considered “heroic” – remember that one man’s “villan” is another man’s “hero.” ‘

    OOPS. I got the books mixed up. I was thinking of The Fountainhead. My bad. Anyway, you’re right, but the existing social order doesn’t matter. The protagonist, Roarke, is presented as the exemplar of her proposed new social order. I reject any system of morality that holds up an unrepentant rapist as an example of how men should act.

  • Dawn Rhapsody

    John Donohue:

    To dream that a few thousand people rightfully owned this vast space would surpass any examples of greed since.

    So the Europeans politely and diplomatically asked if they could share this vast expanse of land, in exchange for their wonderful range of trading products, and proceeded to live harmoniously side-by-side with the natives for centuries to come?

    No. When the Europeans came to America, they brought their own capitalist conceptions of “land use” and “land ownership” and “land rights” and, seeing that the indigenous natives had no (European-defined) “property boundaries”, proceeded to take it from them under their own (now eliminated) legal diction of terra nullius so that they might expand their mighty and fruitful civilisation. This is the equivalent of advanced aliens landing on Earth and, seeing that we don’t have Green-and-Purple Quarkoids watching over our land, claiming it for themselves (quietly sniggering, of course, about how inferior we are and how easily they conquered the planet).

    It’s social Darwinism, it’s supremacism, and it’s what Ayn Rand said was “great”.

    Christopher:

    And as for the Native Americans – they weren’t strong enough to stop another party from taking their property (i.e. land) and got ran over because of it. If the Europeans didn’t do it, some one else would have later.

    They were weak and paid for that weakness – “morality” doesn’t even enter the equation here as a “moral” value requires strength if it is to survive: strength that they didn’t have.

    Don’t tell anyone, but before I lived in this house, a reclusive old lady lived here. I keep her in a cage in the basement now, since I wanted another house, and she was too weak to defend her land from me.

    And you claim that morality doesn’t enter the equation. I think more than a few people would agree with me that the actions of Cortés in South America were very relevant to questions of morality – or rather, immorality. You sound as though you’d do the exact same thing if you had your eye on a particularly nice island of natives in the Pacific.

  • Alex Weaver

    And you claim that morality doesn’t enter the equation. I think more than a few people would agree with me that the actions of Cortés in South America were very relevant to questions of morality – or rather, immorality. You sound as though you’d do the exact same thing if you had your eye on a particularly nice island of natives in the Pacific.

    Dawn, I suggest you read up a bit before you try to make sense of Christopher’s commentary.

  • Alex Weaver

    …and I suggest I check my links more carefully; this actually fits his stated positions better.

  • Brit-nontheist

    John Donohue:

    For this post let’s grant the hypothetical that the Iroquois DID have property rights. You can’t claim property rights without marking the property. What was the boundary?

    Israel is one of the few countries today which has still not declared its borders – are you going to tell the Israelis that they don’t own their land? All you’re doing is imposing European property-law concepts and defintions onto a non-European people.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Agreeing to take on a job does not create new moral obligations; this passage is conflating “duty” as a moral obligation and “duty” as a job description.

    The question is whether you have a moral duty to fulfill your job. If your job places you in danger, it seems that according to Objectivism, you should not do your job, since to do so puts “fulfilling your job” higher on the moral hierarchy than “self” – which is immoral.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Ayn Rand seems like a capitalist version of Friedrich Nietzsche, with business leaders being like his aristocratic heroes, and the rest of the population being like his “bungled and botched”, only useful for making life better for those heroes.

    Except that Nietzsche recognized the value of sacrificing oneself for a higher ideal. It doesn’t appear to me that Objectivists can have ideals, or if they do that they can sacrifice themselves for them – the self being of supreme moral value.

  • Christopher

    Ken Lowery,

    “Are you defending rape, here?”

    I don’t defend the actions that our society considers “rape” – nor do I endorse them. To me, all actions are just that – actions – until some one else apllies a greater significance to them.

  • Christopher

    bbk,

    “Christopher, don’t underestimate the role that disease played in aiding the Europeans in taking over North America. Technologically, neither civilization was much more advanced than the other at the time of first contact.”

    Let me get this straight: a civilization with metalurgy, gunpoweder arms and advanced sea-faring capabilities wasn’t significantly advanced over a society of hunter-gatherers with stone tools? What are you smoking?

    Besides, the strength I refered to wasn’t simply an advanced technology level (although that helps) but other factors as well: including material wealth, expendable population and political organization – advantages that the Europeans possessed and took full advantage of. Tha natives couldn’t match them (although they did put up a valiant effort – but there’s no prize for second place in the contest of nations, is there…) and they lost – end of story.

  • Christopher

    Spekking error: “applies”

  • Christopher

    Dawn Rhapsody,

    “Don’t tell anyone, but before I lived in this house, a reclusive old lady lived here. I keep her in a cage in the basement now, since I wanted another house, and she was too weak to defend her land from me.”

    I doubt you’re serious, but if she couldn’t stop you from taking over she must yield to you. I know that the “law” says otherwise, but think about it: where does “law” come from if not the will of an even stronger power?

    If I had more strength than the “law,” I’d be the “law.”

    “And you claim that morality doesn’t enter the equation. I think more than a few people would agree with me that the actions of Cortés in South America were very relevant to questions of morality – or rather, immorality.”

    “Moral” or “immoral” according to whom, exactly? Just because one man finds an action “immoral” doesn’t mean that another will do the same – as “morality” isn’t something set for all time in stone somewhere…

  • OMGF

    For Christopher, might makes right. Somehow I doubt he would hold to that idea if someone came and evicted him from his home through force of arms.

  • http://myspace.com/metalmaestrosean Sean C

    I believe that it is impossible to judge an author’s philosophy based upon reading one of his/her books. To fully grasp Rand’s perspective on objectivism one needs to read The Fountainhead. It presents an “ideal” man in the form of protagonist Howard Roark, as well as the foil to this character, Peter Keating. I have not yet finished the book, and i know that i do not yet completely understand objectivism, so i make no claim of such. How this author can come to his conclusions of objectivism after reading one book by Ayn Rand is beyond me. Not only is he under-informed, he is taking potentially out-of-context quotes by Rand, expanding on them, and jumping to conclusions as if he were an expert. Maybe next time this person will do his research, come up with a few valid arguments, and consider what he is saying before he posts it online.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Let me get this straight: a civilization with metalurgy, gunpoweder arms and advanced sea-faring capabilities wasn’t significantly advanced over a society of hunter-gatherers with stone tools? What are you smoking?

    That’s right. At the time of first contact and for years afterwards, the weaponry of the settlers didn’t give them a great advantage over that of the Indians. Muskets hadn’t even been rifled until the 1800′s. By the time the settlers achieved a decisive advantage, European diseases had wiped out far more Indians than the settlers ever killed in warfare.

    Militarily, an estimate I saw on Wikipedia put the death toll from warfare to be 45,000 Indians versus 21,000 whites from 1850-1890. That is barely a 2:1 advantage even after the Civil War. To put that into perspective, a common rule of thumb is that you need a 10:1 advantage just to be able to take a fortification man for man. This won’t do you much good if the Indians simply outnumber you. By comparison, conservative estimates are that the Columbian Exchange had killed 80% of the native inhabitants of North and South America by 1650. That’s 80% of an initial 50 million, when some estimates go up to an initial 112 million.

    Had it not been for disease, there is no way, no how, that the Europeans could have maintained hostile relations with the natives for over 200 years of settlement. They would have been wiped out by wars. By the time Europeans would be getting around to being able to conquer the Americas militarily, they were too busy killing each other in World War 1. Instead, they would have been forced to actually abide by treaties and recognize the natives as sovereign nations. The outcome would be a lot more similar to what happened to colonies in the middle east and India, where disease did not play such a pivotal role. They would have created a huge lasting mess to be sure, but Native Americans would still be ruling these continents. And perhaps trying to shake their status as developing nations. Or maybe, they would have signed lasting peace treaties, bought the land they needed from the Indians at a fair price, and engaged in lasting and mutually beneficial trade. Who knows.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    How this author can come to his conclusions of objectivism after reading one book by Ayn Rand is beyond me.

    Forgive me for assuming that a book which Ayn Rand took the time to write and publish actually represents the views that she holds. I guess I should have realized that she only intended this book as a joke.

  • John Gathercole

    Christopher, why are you telling us all about your crazy beliefs and making us hate and despise you? If you really believed in strength, as you claim, you wouldn’t be putting yourself in a position of weakness by destroying your credibility and persuasiveness. If you were smart, and consistent, you would keep your opinions to yourself and pretend to be more moderate so that people would take you seriously. Throwing your ability to persuade away is neither rational nor strong, it’s the action of a weak person being dominated by an obsession with expressing himself, rather than thinking rationally of his own advantage.

  • Alex Weaver

    …or of a person whose sense of empathy and compassion have been disabled by some combination of genetic predisposition and/or environmental factors, and who is so deeply in denial about what’s wrong with him that he’s convinced that everyone else really thinks the way he does and merely pretends not to because… (well, he’s never been entirely clear on the reason why he thinks they pretend not to, and I don’t want to presume too much).

  • Lyssad

    Sean C:
    Presumably you’ve read the preceding comments which make clear that The Fountainhead presents Howard Roarke The Rapist as an ideal man. Anyone who needs more than that to challenge the author’s philosophy needs to in therapy, not a blog.
    Here are some other things Rand said: “Rape is an integral and necessary expression of human nature.”, it is a perverse anti-human dream to stifle sexual assault; that if man were only free to rape “we would walk as the masters of the Earth”. But maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, and you can explain to me why all this is just peachy keen.

  • Ric

    Atlas Shrugged was laughably stupid.

  • becky

    Roarke The Rapist as an ideal man.

    To read the sex scene between Howard Roark and Dominque Fracon as rape is to THROUGHLY PROVE YOUR LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHARACTERS’ REALTIONSHIP. Furthermore, to quote Ayn Rand without a formal citation also suggests your total lack of scholastic integrity. “Rape is an integral and necessary expression of human nature” Exactly where did she say this? I think Sean is totally correct. To read one book (or a portion of one) and believe that you totally understand a complex philosophy is ignorant. I don’t think anyone would suggest they understand Aristotle after reading The Politics or Hobbes after the Leviathan. Would you say that United States policy is thoroughly covered in Democracy in American by De Tocqueville?
    Of course, Ayn’s novel the Fountainhead expounds upon her philosophical theories, but it is not a total package. I’ve spent the last eight years of my life researching and learning about her philosophy (especially in context to other philosophers) and to say I know it all is naive.

  • Christopher

    John Gathercole

    “Christopher, why are you telling us all about your crazy beliefs and making us hate and despise you? If you really believed in strength, as you claim, you wouldn’t be putting yourself in a position of weakness by destroying your credibility and persuasiveness. If you were smart, and consistent, you would keep your opinions to yourself and pretend to be more moderate so that people would take you seriously. Throwing your ability to persuade away is neither rational nor strong, it’s the action of a weak person being dominated by an obsession with expressing himself, rather than thinking rationally of his own advantage.”

    If my goal was to persuade you to join my cause, then you would be correct about me leaving a weakness open to exploitation – as my philosophy isn’t exactly the most populist-friendly one out there it isn’t likely to win many converts. But that’s not my goal in these posts: these conversations are intended to test the strength of my pattern of thought against those of others – to see how well my logic fares in a debate conducted in an environment where there can be no retribution against me(as I remain anonymous in revealing my unconventional worlview).

    Outside of environments like this one, I’m very much the chameleon – you wouldn’t be able to tell me apart from the average person in a public place.

  • Christopher

    Alex Weaver,

    “…or of a person whose sense of empathy and compassion have been disabled by some combination of genetic predisposition and/or environmental factors, and who is so deeply in denial about what’s wrong with him that he’s convinced that everyone else really thinks the way he does and merely pretends not to because… (well, he’s never been entirely clear on the reason why he thinks they pretend not to, and I don’t want to presume too much).”

    Am I the one in denial here, or is the one in denial here a culture that has tried to convince itself of its “goodness” so hard that it’s turned its back on the thing that made it strong to begin with? It’s the ability to create values and reduce them to nihilism when they no longer serve our purposes that gives us the edge over other forms of life, so why does our society persist in its insistance that its not true?

    I was in denial for a long time though: trying to convince myself that I was “good” and all that laid outside my perameters of “goodness” was “evil.” I was in denial as long as I held on to such concepts as “morality” and reinforced them with my faith in “god” to make it all “right” in the end. My period of self-denial has been over for some time now, perhaps this culture of ours would do well to end its denial as well?

  • Sean C

    Lyssad:
    I never said that i agree with Rand’s philosophy. In fact, i strongly oppose it for quite a few reasons, including the one you have brought up. If it seemed as if i sympathize with Ayn Rand, i am sorry for the confusion.

  • John Gathercole

    Christopher,

    I respect your willingness to put your beliefs out there and have them challenged. I’m afraid though that some other commenters might be right; if you just don’t have empathy there isn’t much we can do about that just by arguing.

    I guess you know what most people feel like, because you talked it about in your last comment; most people like to help others, they like to feel liked and appreciated, and they like to do good and believe that they’re doing good and making the world better. For a normal person to adopt an attitude like you suggest would be depressing and toxic. A normal person can’t just give up those feelings any more than they can decide to like eating dirt. I suppose being empathically “deaf” means a person is free from emotional noise, but it also means they can’t appreciate music either.

  • John Donohue

    Comment by: Lyssad | March 23, 2008, 11:38 pm
    Here are some other things Rand said: “Rape is an integral and necessary expression of human nature.”, it is a perverse anti-human dream to stifle sexual assault; that if man were only free to rape “we would walk as the masters of the Earth”.

    This is libel.

    Just because it is posted ‘on the Internet’ does not void libel law. It is deliberate defamation in written speech.

    It was posted nearly 24 hours ago. I am surprised that even those reading this blog who do not like Ayn Rand — or at least the owner of this blog — did not speak out. I DO see that you did not jump on the bandwagon, as you should have if this were true; I’d have expected massive outrage from you. Cleearly you sensed the statement is criminal. To not police your own and demand a retraction and apology is craven. Shame on you.

    I demand an apology and retraction from the person posting this direct quote and attribution.

    I have directed authorities to this blog.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  • Alex Weaver

    I hope for your sake that you’re bluffing, John, because not only is this an absolutely despicable attempt to exert tyrannical control over the speech of others by threats of frivolous legal action, but you don’t have a case. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s page on Online Defamation,

    “The elements that must be proved to establish defamation are:
    1. a publication to one other than the person defamed;
    2. a false statement of fact;
    3. that is understood as
    a. being of and concerning the plaintiff; and
    b. tending to harm the reputation of plaintiff.
    4.If the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must also prove actual malice.”

    “The plaintiff” has been deceased since 1984, and I doubt very much that you have standing to sue on her behalf. Additionally, the quoted statements are consistent with views on gender roles and sexuality I have seen attributed to Rand from a variety of sources. A source for the quotes can be found here; while it does not place the comment in terms of source, it should suffice to establish probable cause that Lyssad reasonably believed those to be Ayn Rand’s words. More criticism of Ayn Rand’s views on rape can be found here, so clearly Lyssad is not alone in this interpretation. And if Lyssad can in fact provide book title or interview citations (preferably with page), and you have in fact “directed authorities” to this blog, then you might be looking at a worse situation than simply making an ass of yourself: Knowingly submitting a false crime report, in the state of California, “is a misdemeanor under the State Penal Code 148.5 PC, punishable by 6 months jail, $1,000 fine, or both.” (Source).

  • Alex Weaver

    (EFF link. Mea culpa.)

  • John Donohue

    Responding to Alex Weaver:

    1) even given the points you cite, I see libel. I can call it ‘libel’ just as he can call Rand an advocate of Rape. Let the evidence come forth. I was aware of that other page. It is also a lie, written apparently in 2002. Lyssad should have checked that because there is absolutely no substantiation that Rand wrote that, no support for it anywhere else on the internet and thousands of places where Rand’s views on rape to the contrary might be discovered and cited. There is no probable cause that Lyssad should innocently repeat lies just because someone posted it. Why did he not cite numerous ACTUAL quotes from Rand on the subject to the exact opposite.

    2) I did not say I was going to sue.

    3) The “views on gender roles and sexuality” are extremely well known to the as are the complete refutations of them. They are a daydream of the haters of Ayn Rand since “The Fountainhead” was published in 1943. I don’t stoop to counter them, they are so old and tired and wrong it is a waste of time to skewer them. The existence of the old and tired and wrong accusations does not justify the posting of a false attribution on so serious a matter.

    4) you jumped on my post right away. I have no idea if you saw that of Lyssad 24 hours ago. If you did, why did you not confront him?

    5) free speech does not include libel

    6) Ayn Rand died in 1982, not 1984. Her estate is not dead.

    7) “…if Lyssad can in fact provide book title or interview citations…” Bring it on. Until such time the charge of ‘making an ass of ones self’ is redirected back to you and him.

    John Donohue

  • John Donohue

    One lesson some people here could learn from Ayn Rand is that context-switching is a logical fallacy. There is one particular point that has been getting switched constantly and requires confrontation:

    The jab at Rand about her position that the indigenous had no claim to the wilderness is not even one of the three objections; it is just thrown in as a ‘preamble,’ including the odious interpretation that she claimed “…that the European settlers of the Americas were fully within their rights to slaughter, despoil and enslave the native people… ”

    Yet this point — which continues to be misconstrued and which I have already successfully countered — keeps returning here as a hot topic. Since Ayn Rand is a citizen of the United States, wrote about the US and makes her claim that the US is the highest moral country ever, the context is clearly: The United States. The territory in question is the continental USA, North of the Rio Grande [called "The Territory" below] and most particularly the East.

    The application of the principle in question to any or all areas of earth is highly interesting and valuable. However, this was NOT the locus of Ms. Rand’s remarks at West Point. In particular, her West Point remarks cannot be assumed to refer to the events in Mezzo-America.

    The picture evidently (by statements posted above) sustained in the minds of commenters is of a NorthOfRioGrande1492 [The Territory] filled with millions and millions of Natives, with substantial population centers, massive agriculture, civilized rule of law, objectively established property rights and general complete natural ownership of the Territory. Were this true, and had Miss Rand advocated the theft of it by the Newcomers, including slaughter and pillage, I would be at the head of the list to shout her down.

    The truth, however, is different. The Territory was a primordial wilderness with no substantial ownership. Some above have cited The Iroquois (~10,000), the Mississippians (~40,000-100,000) and a probably developed Florida (unknown population. Throw in 100,000 generously). I would add the Anasazi (~10,000-50,000 by the 1200s, dispersed and reduced thereafter). I know of no other densely populated areas. Extrapolate many populations in far-flung locations, and it is extremely difficult to build up to a Territory population of 1 Million, let alone more. The first-comers were not dumb, they mostly migrated south where it was warm!

    Ayn Rand makes a statement that the Natives had no right to the Continent. Her context was the wilderness. There is no one who knew her, nor any written statement and no possibility of circumstantial evidence that she would have condoned the outright unprovoked confiscation of the lawful settlements of the Natives, let alone genocide. She did however vigorously condemned two things: 1) claims that this small population ‘owned’ the balance of the Territory and had the right to deny settlement to newcomers; and 2) any and all unprovoked initiation of force by Natives to murder newcomers.

    The context-switch is this: my efforts to demonstrate that the Territory was basically a wilderness were consistent with the population count. Opposition opinion in this blog consistently switched to the context of the entire native population of the Hemisphere purportedly 50-115 million. This is a logical fallacy.

    All but a few hunderd thousand to a million lived south of the Rio Grande.

    Between first contact and King Phillips war, the newcomers did fit in between the existing native settlements. There were many successful co-habitations, cooperations and trade experiences. Yes, there were also some annihilations by deliberate force. These specific crimes can and should be judged on their own circumstances.

    However, a general position that the Newcomers found a hugely populated morally-constituted and lawfully settled Territory and then proceeded to steal and slaughter is rejected.

    John Donohue

  • Utilitarian

    A surprisingly good source for philosophical rebuttals to Objectivism.
    http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/critics/index.html#ethics

  • bassmanpete

    In the current example, the Iroquois were less than 12,000 at First Contact. What constituted their “vast wealth?” They were above survival level, but not by much. Perhaps you mean the gigantic wilderness all around them. Did the Iroquois own that?

    That last sentence shows the writer’s assumption that the European idea of property ownership is the correct, and possibly only, way to view land. It also shows a lack of appreciation for how much land it takes to sustain an individual. Back then the Iroquois would have needed that wilderness to sustain the animals they hunted for food and to grow their crops.

    In today’s world you can’t just say that you only occupy a suburban block, you have to take into consideration all the land used to grow crops & raise cattle; occupied by office blocks to administer the country & run the businesses; laid waste by mining to produce the coal, metals & minerals; covered in tarmac or railway lines; etc. etc.

  • Lyssad

    John Donahue.
    You have your apology. I was led to believe that was an actual quote, did not check carefully as I should have, and it was wrong to cite it. Apparently you are familiar with that paragraph, so if you can tell me where it actually came from, I would appreciate that.
    Nevertheless, I stand by my position. The only fact that needs to be cited is this: Ayn Rand presented a character who commits a violent rape as her embodiment of the ideal man, and never repudiated this. If that isn’t an advocate of rape, nothing is. Her supporters who claim otherwise are pathetic. The woman had serious issues, only one of which was her inability to keep her rape fantasies in the bedroom, and she didn’t always live up to the ideals she preached. (Which doesn’t invalidate the ideals.)

    The position that the Americans had no right to their land illustrates one of the three objections:
    Central to the Objectivist morality is the idea that “there are no conflicts of interests among rational men”.
    What if reason led two equally qualified ethnic groups to want the same continent? Let’s assume two peoples, the settlers and the native Americans, who are equally intelligent, equally skilled, and would perform equally well if given the continent. In that case, it was in both their interests to have that continent. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Rand’s answer to this question is that, just because two people want the same thing, it does not follow that they both rationally want it.
    An Objectivist believes he is only entitled to what he has earned by his own effort. He has no rational interest in the continent unless he earns and deserves it by his own effort. And in a rational, merit-based system, whoever gets the continent, has earned it. The market can never select wrongly, because success in obtaining property is proof of being the most qualified to have it.
    Instead of fighting, the Americans should have simply admitted that they were less qualified, not acting rationally (like her) and just, like, go die. (although her rapist hero responded with arson!) Since as RR says, no one forced it on them, it was only the workings of impersonal market forces exposing their inferiority, Objectivists can shirk any responsibility.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Let me be absolutely clear about something:

    I do not put up with commenters making threats, legal or otherwise.

    John Donohue is gone and will not be returning.

  • Ric

    And who was it that said the followers of Rand were like a cult? The “authorities” have been directed to this blog? Shades of Scientology anyone?

    I had better be quiet now, lest the authorities be directed to my post.

  • Christopher

    John Gathercole,

    “I respect your willingness to put your beliefs out there and have them challenged. I’m afraid though that some other commenters might be right; if you just don’t have empathy there isn’t much we can do about that just by arguing.”

    I’m frequently accuse of not possessing empathy here, but don’t respond to these claims as concepts like empathy are difficult to demonstrate en absentia. I’m pretty sure that those who make such accusations would be very surprised how much empathy some one like myself can have if they got to know me personally though.

    But let them think what they will about me – I’ve come here for intellectual sparring, not to win popularity contests…

    “I guess you know what most people feel like, because you talked it about in your last comment; most people like to help others, they like to feel liked and appreciated, and they like to do good and believe that they’re doing good and making the world better.”

    1. I wish to say that this is mentallity dominant in our present social order: I know that most people in this society have such inclinations (although I suspect its for reasons different than whaty they claim), but by no means do I perceive this worldview as universal.

    2. Even if this was a universal mentallity, woul that make it *the* correct mentallity? Should one conform his thinking to that which is widely accepted just because it is widely accepted?

    “For a normal person to adopt an attitude like you suggest would be depressing and toxic.”

    I believe it was Lecrecious who once said “what is nourishing food to one man is poison to others.” And I suppose that – to one like yourself – a Nihilistic worldview would be toxic (probably because people like you are predisposed towards belief in absolutes). But to me, adopting this worldview saved my mind from the never-ending convolutions and justifications I had to forge to reconcile my feelings, actions and “morals” – by ending this need for constant justification, I am free to act on my own will with only my predispositions as limiting factors.

    Contrary to popular belief, there is a sunny side to Nihilism.

    “I suppose being empathically “deaf” means a person is free from emotional noise, but it also means they can’t appreciate music either.”

    I’m not empathetically “deaf” so much as I hear an entirely different tune: while you might be listening to Chopin, Bach or Mozart, I’m listening to Iron Maiden, Slipknot or Slayer. You and I both hear the “music” but have a radically different interpretation of it.

  • Christopher

    Spelling error: Lecretius

  • Lyssad

    A main reason the settlers wanted to come here was because the land was already settled. In 1605 the French gave up on a project to establish a base on Cape Cod because too many people already lived there. Sometime after that viral hepatitis killed some 90% of the population, with later settlers finding so many skeletal remains that one compared the Massachusetts woods to Golgotha. The Mayflower arrived in 1620, without provisions, just before the onset of a New England winter.! The pilgrims only survived by robbing Indian graves, houses and food supplies, mainly stores of corn. Note that corn does not grow in an unsettled wilderness. Some gold-hungry whites spent so much time digging up graves that they neglected to even plant crops; they survived due to the natives. Thanksgiving, anyone? In 1792, George Vancouver sailed into Puget Sound and found the beaches everywhere littered with human bones, in this case from a smallpox epidemic which is thought to have originated in the Boston area.

    I guess the smallpox germs, having decimated the east coast and found itself with no hosts to live on, packed up all their possessions in little bitty wagons, hitched them to larger bacteria, and bravely set out Westward across an unpopulated wilderness. After enduring years of hardships including weather, wildlife, depredations by hostile viruses, and a complete lack of any humans hosts, they finally reached the Frontier, where they staked claims on the natives of the Pacific Northwest. Intrepid little buggers!

  • Alex Weaver

    John Donahue.
    You have your apology. I was led to believe that was an actual quote, did not check carefully as I should have, and it was wrong to cite it. Apparently you are familiar with that paragraph, so if you can tell me where it actually came from, I would appreciate that.

    Lyssad, I applaud your sense of fairness, but that was a mistake. In contrast to what reasonable, decent people understand about acknowledging misdeeds, taking responsibility for them, and making restitution by apologizing (when it’s proportionate to the misdeed), an overgrown playground bully like Donohue sees an apology as A) an admission of global, rather than local, wrongness (if that makes sense) and B) a sign of weakness. Even when an apology would ordinarily be in order (since Donohue was not the party wronged, it really wasn’t), what they tend to do with them generally renders the apology unwarranted. This is not to say that one should not frankly acknowledge and correct mistakes (though I would have waited for Donohue to back up his claim that the passage was fabricated, the fact that I could find it on a total of three websites with no source listed does lend his claim credence), but it’s best to avoid giving the bullies ammunition (and, I agree, that one even has to think about this kind of thing).

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Did someone just try to dismiss us pointing out Rand’s hypocrisy by calling it a “context switching” fallacy?

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Spelling error: Lucretius.

    Alex Weaver, your comments are consistently the best on these threads. It makes me happy to read them.

  • Christopher

    Yes, I caught that error and posted a correction already.

  • Chet

    One lesson some people here could learn from Ayn Rand is that context-switching is a logical fallacy.

    Having just consulted a reference on logical fallacies, I was unable to find any entry for “context-switching”, so I was wondering if you could explain the discrepancy between your statement and the fact that nobody else seems to consider it fallacious in the least.

    The simple fact is that switching an opponent’s argument into another context, a context where its flaws become more obvious, is a time-honored and well-tested technique in rhetoric and analysis. Valid arguments are valid in all contexts; switching contexts cannot therefore be a logical fallacy. It is only invalid arguments that appear to become invalid in another context, and that’s one way that their invalidity is often detected.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I could easily have discussed North American native cultures which suffered just as terribly at the hands of European colonists, but since John Donohue is already gone, I’m not going to bother.

  • http://mindstalk.net Damien R. S.

    > Yet, just as clearly, society needs people to do these jobs if it is to survive.

    Is that the case? What would society be like without various emergency responders, or with responders who had tighter limits on how they’d risk themselves? “Society fails to survive” doesn’t seem an obvious consequence, except in the case of police. Society limped along without any decent medicine, let alone modern ER teams; fire could be dealt with via more fireproof and escapable buildings, at higher building expense but perhaps lower human expense later.

  • Samuel Skinner

    At this point Damien the Glorious People’s Republic of (nation x) invades and subjects the country. Because, we don’t have any solidiers. And soldiers are important. Oh, and society doesn’t survive if the invaders decide on “scorched earth”. At that point everyone starves to death.

    Remember- if no one is willing to die for the greater good, the greater good falls apart.

  • Christopher

    Samuel Skinner,

    You do realize that a soldier’s motivations can be selfish as well, and thus in line with pure objectivist philosophy? A soldier might be motivated not by a sense of duty to the nation, but by a desire to protect what’s his from the invader, avenge the deaths of loved ones or perhaps even the desire to loot the enemy of his wealth after the battle (this practice was common before the introduction of professional armies, and even some proffesional armies continued to used it).

    One’s motivation to fight don’t necissarily have to come from some idea of a “greater good,” you know…

  • Grant Soyka

    Quote by Samuel Skinner: At this point Damien the Glorious People’s Republic of (nation x) invades and subjects the country. Because, we don’t have any solidiers. And soldiers are important. Oh, and society doesn’t survive if the invaders decide on “scorched earth”. At that point everyone starves to death.

    Remember- if no one is willing to die for the greater good, the greater good falls apart.

    In this hypothetical example of objectivist society you seem to neglect the role of reason completely. For instance, from the perspective of the invaders, pursuing a scorched earth policy would be an irrational action, as it robs the invaders of any benefits from the land and renders it useless. You also neglect to mention that if a nation is invading other countries at random, by necessity, it is not being rational, which Rand would say makes it inherently immoral. Following that thought, the country being invaded would not fail to muster soldiers merely because of the threat of death. Assuming the country is rational, citizens would be willing to risk thier lives to preserve thier lives in the future. As ambigous as that sounds, it is actually quite simple if one is thinking rationally, face certain death or possible death? Finally, your concept of people sacrificing for the greater good is contrary to Rand’s entire philosophy, which is concerned with the individual. And yet society with a focus would not inherently fall apart, certainly keeping society functioning is in the individuals interests. Last, look at the world today, there are certainly those who do live with thier own interests first and fore most in thier minds, and yet society does not collapse because they didn’t give all thier possesions to charity.

  • Samuel Skinner

    By scortched earth I meant killing everyone. And the nation isn’t acting at random- it needs land and you have land. It has soldiers and you don’t.

    The important point isn’t a case between ccertain death and possible death, it is between possible death and no death! You know, fleeing. Because you can always run away. Or the invaders might not kill everyone, just enslave the survivors…

    It is a case of the prisoners dilemma- if everyone flees or surrenders (which is the best option independent of other peoples action) than you get the worst result.

    A political ideology needs to work no matter what ideology your opponents are using.

  • Christopher

    Samuel Skinner,

    “By scortched earth I meant killing everyone. And the nation isn’t acting at random- it needs land and you have land. It has soldiers and you don’t.”

    And if the land is totally depopulated, who will serve as the labor force to make that land productive? True scortched earth policies like this one are rare in war for that reason: scortched earth is of little value to the victor…

    “The important point isn’t a case between ccertain death and possible death, it is between possible death and no death! You know, fleeing. Because you can always run away. Or the invaders might not kill everyone, just enslave the survivors…”

    Of course, this arguement assumes only two possible outcomes: certain death v. a possibility of merely escaping death. But what of other possiblities: surviving to collect plunder from the vanquished foe, living to destory those that destroyed some one/something you cared deeply about, driving a foe off your property, etc…?

    There are rational reason to risk death if one sees a benefit to one’s self that outweighs said risk…

  • Grant Soyka

    Not to mention that Rand also justified having a military. Rationally, a military is necessary to protect the paramount value of life for each individual in society.

  • Alex Weaver

    Not to mention that Rand also justified having a military. Rationally, a military is necessary to protect the paramount value of life for each individual in society.

    From an objectivist standpoint, however, rationally it is not justified to personally risk one’s life by serving in the military. Therefore, to an objectivist, the ideal situation will be having a military in which other people serve, because that protects one’s life the best. A nation of objectivists, consequentially, will have no military.

  • Grant Soyka

    I would disagree that, in an objectivist society, no military would be established. First, in addressing individual rights, Rand writes in Atlas Shrugged individual rights are “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival”. Thus an objectivist would be obligated to pursue service in the military not out of any altruistic or coerced terms, but by coming to the conclusion that service is necessary for his survival after using reason and rationality. Second, Rand believed that life must be the paramount value, and that man ought to pursue his own interests regarding his own life through reason. Again, considering the issue rationally, a person would serve in the military because it is in their OWN self interest, which Rand would say is justified.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Hmm… why would you invade a country and kill everyone? Won’t that depopulate it?

    Excellent question- abysmally ignorant, but still good. You see in poor countries or nations in the past, population growth was high, poor people were disgruntaled and land was valueable. Kill the natives, take their land and give it to the poor (who also were used for the troops) and you have a great conquest and power machine. It worked for the US! It would work extremely well for China or India now. And of course Germany tried it and failed.

    A benefit that outweigns death? I’m pretty sure than when the odds are bad enough, nothing offered is worth it. And remember, someone always has to take point. Any volunteers?

  • Alex Weaver

    Grant, are you actually denying that from an objectivist perspective it is more in an individual’s interest to live in a country protected by a strong military in which others serve, than to serve himself?

  • Samuel Skinner

    Wait- they could use mercs… but that wouldn’t work very well if the mercs were objectivists- or the invaders offered to give them part of the territory they were invading.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Basically to survive in war you need people who are willing to die. There are only a few reasons for people to do this.
    1) For pay (Mercs of all colors)
    2) For glory (Crusades)
    3) For a cause (Lincoln Brigade, Reinforcements to Ionia by Athens,
    4) For home (almost every war)
    5) For surivial (cornered like rats- Stalingrad)

    None of these work for an entirely selfish person. War is a cooperative enterprise with men and women expected to lay down their lives for complete stranger- to show both complete and utter trust and a large level of selflessness.

    When faced with people willing to do this a society of objectivists will wither and die.

  • Christopher

    Samuel Skinner,

    “Excellent question- abysmally ignorant, but still good. You see in poor countries or nations in the past, population growth was high, poor people were disgruntaled and land was valueable. Kill the natives, take their land and give it to the poor (who also were used for the troops) and you have a great conquest and power machine. It worked for the US! It would work extremely well for China or India now. And of course Germany tried it and failed.”

    The problem: the poor couldn’t really afford to purchase the equipment needed for a prolonged war of aggression, so they often just wound up returning home to the fields at the end of the season. It wasn’t until more proffesional armies were formed that nations had the ability to wage wars like this – and the professional soldiers tended to come from those who had the resources to acquire the needed supplies for this kind of war.

    More often than not, in wars of conquest the natives would be used as slave labor rather than killed off entirely. The only exceptions I can think of are cases which involve for at stake than simply land (like minerals that run beneath it or a threat of instibility to neighboring regions if the natives remained like the Roman-Jewish conflict).

  • Christopher

    Samuel Skinner

    “Basically to survive in war you need people who are willing to die. There are only a few reasons for people to do this.
    1) For pay (Mercs of all colors)
    2) For glory (Crusades)
    3) For a cause (Lincoln Brigade, Reinforcements to Ionia by Athens,
    4) For home (almost every war)
    5) For surivial (cornered like rats- Stalingrad)

    None of these work for an entirely selfish person.”

    Uh… All the reasons you mention are – at there core – selfish: there’s nothing selfless about fighting for your home, survival or glory. Yes, everyone does their part in it – but they all expect something out of their efforts when the dust finally settles…

  • Grant Soyka

    “Grant, are you actually denying that from an objectivist perspective it is more in an individual’s interest to live in a country protected by a strong military in which others serve, than to serve himself?”

    How do I say that an objectivist would rather sit back and do nothing rather than ensuring his own life?

  • Alex Weaver

    How do I say that an objectivist would rather sit back and do nothing rather than ensuring his own life?

    Because being in the military ENDANGERS his life, when compared to having the protection of a military but having the risks taken by others. THEREFORE, if, as Objectivism explicitly affirms, the individual’s life is of supreme moral value, Objectivism dictates that he should NOT serve in the military.

    What about this concept is so bloody difficult to grasp?!

  • Samuel Skinner

    Yes Christopher, you are right- in the past the didn’t always slaughter all the inhabitants- sometimes they enslaved them and sometimes they only occupied. However their are multiple occurances where people where butchered wholesale. Troy, Tyre, Alesia, Teochitican, Berlin, Nanking, Carthage, Jerusalem… there are many instances where the attackers literally ended up knee deep in blood, butchering all in their path.

    And Chris, all the reasons I listed aren’t selfish AND rational. Forgot to add that disclamer.

  • http://mindstalk.net Damien R. S.

    Ways to get rational individuals into the field:
    draft, and a second line of MPs who prod would-be deserters into line.
    Strong social stigma on not serving when called upon.
    High pay, including good compensation to surviving loved ones.
    Emphasis on low-risk tactics. Rational anyway, but this army will have little tolerance for glory sacrifices. Clearly fair random drawing of people needed for high risk missions.

    Objectivists can’t be absolute about protecting their life if they do something as risky as driving, or being anywhere near other people driving; lots of things in life are potentially risky, but with reward worth the risk. You just have to balance the risk/reward ratio of serving to be attractive.

  • Grant Soyka

    “Because being in the military ENDANGERS his life, when compared to having the protection of a military but having the risks taken by others. THEREFORE, if, as Objectivism explicitly affirms, the individual’s life is of supreme moral value, Objectivism dictates that he should NOT serve in the military.”

    First, Rand disapproved of “second handers”, or those who bear the fruits of other people’s labors. Thus, a person who refuses to ensure his own life through voluntary service in the military would be immoral. Second, as has been mentioned before, REASON must be involved in making decisions, namely weighing harms against the benefits. In the case of the military example, there is a risk to life, but the benefit is a greater chance of/quality of life, thus justifying an objectivist’s service in the military.

  • OMGF

    Isn’t this a contradiction then? The objectivist is serving in the military because he doesn’t want to be a “second hander” but he’s also putting his life on the line for what, and when other people would do it, thus preserving his life without risking it? Are you saying that all objectivists should enlist in the military? It sounds to me like objectivists are immoral, because they are risking their lives unnecessarily (which is immoral) but they have to because otherwise they’d be living off of someone else’s efforts.

  • Grant Soyka

    I don’t see the contradiction, primarily because a threat will not always be present. An objectivist would not run off to enlist in every situation because there is not a threat to their life. Secondly, risking one’s life unnecessarily is immoral, but risking one’s life when their own life is endangered is moral. Have I answered the question, or is my point still uncelar?

  • OMGF

    Nope, still contradictory. What about when a threat is present? Then, it is contradictory. Also, since one does not know when a threat will be present, the objectivist – by enlisting – is quite potentially putting himself in a position of harm for strangers, and for what reward, especially knowing that he can not get out of the situation or simply walk away? Or, should objectivists only enlist if there is a threat? If so, then the condition holds. It’s not necessary for an objectivist to enlist if someone else will do it and keep them safe. In fact, it’s more rational and moral for the objectivist to let someone else do the fighting…except for the part about not being a “second hander” which is where the contradiction comes in. Do you understand now?

  • Mark

    There’s also a contradiction between a meaningful version of egoism and individual rights.

  • Christopher

    Samuel Skinner,

    “Yes Christopher, you are right- in the past the didn’t always slaughter all the inhabitants- sometimes they enslaved them and sometimes they only occupied. However their are multiple occurances where people where butchered wholesale. Troy, Tyre, Alesia, Teochitican, Berlin, Nanking, Carthage, Jerusalem… there are many instances where the attackers literally ended up knee deep in blood, butchering all in their path.”

    These are the exceptions that prove the rule: in all the cases mentioned there was more at stake than just land, thus the brutality of the coquerors to ensure that they they achieved their objective. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t…

    “And Chris, all the reasons I listed aren’t selfish AND rational. Forgot to add that disclamer.”

    “Rational” is but a point of view defined by what the objective in question is – not an absolute ideal (a la Plato’s concept of the form) forever set in stone…

  • Anon

    It used to be common knowledge that in North America, the American Indians were migratory, following game, and when the Europeans came into the area, the settlers would clear unoccupied land to make a settlement and farm it. When they did this, it drove the game away from the area, and the American Indians would have to follow them. This was a problem for the American Indians, and they frequently attacked the settlers in response. The settlers retaliated.

    The Europeans were well within their rights to settle land, claim ownership, and farm it. They were not somehow responsible for what the game did or providing the natives in the area with an endless supply of food. The American Indians could have settled and farmed themselves if they got tired of chasing the game out of the area. What were Europeans supposed to do, stay off the entire continent because some American Indian might want to wander through every bit of it some day? That is not right and you know it. When American Indians attacked, the settlers were well within moral law to fight back and remove them when they demonstrated they were a continuing violent threat.

    That is Rand’s position. Somehow, history has been rewritten to say that whites showed up, saw Indians, killed them, and then moved into their territory. That is not what happened. And don’t misinterpret Rand’s statements to mean that she thinks that it is alright to kill people simply on the basis that they are more primitive than you. She opposed the actions of the Spanish conquistadors in South America. She regarded them as looters. Spanish and Anglo-Saxon ideas were completely different.

  • Jim Baerg

    Actually it’s somewhat more complex.

    As of 1491 many Amerindian cultures were agricultural & lived settled lives. Most if not all of those in what is now the eastern half of the US did.

    When Europeans came they brought diseases which were endemic to Eurasia but unknown in the Americas, & this depopulated many areas. At least in the 1st few centuries the Europeans didn’t know enough about the causes of disease to prevent this if they had wanted to, so they can’t be blamed for this.

    So what white settlers did was a mix of moving into land emptied by disease & warfare pushing out the survivors of the epidemics. I can’t regard the former as worthy of blame & the latter might in some cases be totally wrong 7 in others have elements of self defense.

  • Samuel Skinner

    For the love of all that is holy… exceptions that prove the rule refer to DISPROOF! That means they disprove the assertions people make.

  • Ellsworth Toohey

    ”Jim Baerg”

    I read about cases were settlers intentionally gave rugs or other infected items to the natives and I do think some did know, but I don’t know how wide spread this practise and knowledge actually was.

    And as for Roarks ”rape” in the Fountainhead Dominique herself acknowledges that ”she never said the one word which could have saved her” which would have been ”No!”.
    Also the whole proceeding chapter describes her pracicaly begging for it ^o^.

    The arson in the book (of which Howard was found innocent >_<) should not be portrayed as a whim which endangered people, it was clearly a premeditated crime.

    As for the military, Objectivism advocates self defence be it because someone is attacking you or stealing from you or invading your country surrendering to death in any way equals death to them.
    And as for losses I don’t think an objectivist army would be so keen on conventional tactics.
    Terry Goodkind (a proclaimed objectivist) in his novels (also fiction those insidious buggers) actively said that they would not shy away from fighting dirty, or as they say ”Dead is dead”.

  • Jim Baerg

    I read about cases were settlers intentionally gave rugs or other infected items to the natives and I do think some did know, but I don’t know how wide spread this practise and knowledge actually was.

    Unfortunately I don’t remember the website I saw this, but apparently someone tried to find the origin of that story & the only thing they found was some letters between British Army officers near the end of what is known in the US as the French & Indian Wars.

    After the French surrendered at Quebec & Montreal some of the Amerindians of the Ohio Valley continued to fight without their French allies & in the letters the officers discussed the possibility of starting a smallpox epidemic among those tribes. There was a smallpox epidemic a bit later, but these were common enough that it could have occurred ‘naturally’ rather than being due to deliberate action.

  • http://vds.guildlaunch.com Cudmaster

    Firstly, I am an Objectivist, I was before I ever heard of Ayn Rand or her philosophy.

    One day when I was in college my girlfriend at the time suggested I go to a meeting of the Objectivist club with her.

    I discovered that the two other people on campus that I genuinely liked were also members.

    I pretty much led the meetings after that first day.

    Well for a few sessions anyway until such point it became apparent that most of the membership were of the mindless “I want to be a member of something so I can feel good about myself, but I’m not fucked up enough to be a neo-nazi” sort…

    I explained to them that I had no need of them, though they clearly needed me, but oddly (for people claiming Objectivism) they offered nothing I desired in trade for my continued attendance.

    The others (hell even my “friends”) seemed to view it as a sort of club/cult used to gain power through association.

    I’d bet that I would even find needy victim types running the Ayn Rand Institute, if I cared to look. (I don’t)

    So… anyway with no additional exposition, here comes some more exposition!

    *******************************************
    In Response to your fireman Scenario:

    Assuming I was in good health and able to help (as opposed to being a hindrance to others who were helping, ie: getting hurt and needing to be rescued myself, etc) I would run into a burning building (or similar scenario) without hesitation.

    The explanation is simply to quote the fireman in the story himself…

    “you would do the same for me.”

    While perhaps you wouldn’t, there are those of us who would, and it is a sort of contract between all rational people, that I will risk my life to save you, because you will risk your life to save me.

    You might ask, how I know that the people I’m risking myself for are rational?

    Fact is I do not… but I don’t know that they are not rational and if I DID know they were nasty collectivist types then I wouldn’t save them.

    (feel free to call me heartless or something now)

    For example if the Communist Party offices were on fire, I’d go buy some marshmallows make smores and laugh.

    Actually I wouldn’t do that, because there could be kids in there, but I should very much like to.

    Children get the priority on being rescued because they at least have the chance to grow up to be rational Objectivist money making types.

    Where as an Adult on average is likely to be a moocher, or should the adult be a rational, they will have either rationalized why I’m saving the children first, or be capable of rescuing themselves instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for them.

    I would put forward that it is the moocher socialist types who see no reason to risk their skin rescuing someone.

    I have never seen a reporter drop their microphones and cameras and run in to save people, I’ve never seen a bum or beggar getting up off the sidewalk to run in to risk their worthless flesh to save people who most assuredly were their betters.

    why? because it is they that are the victim in any scenario. If a bum is sitting in front of a building and it is on fire, he will complain that he has to move. If a reporter has to cover it, they will complain that they have to work. If a politician/lawyer/bureaucrat type had a room booked in a hotel that had a fire he will complain that he has to find a new hotel. etc…

    *******************************************
    In response to the worker scenario….

    While it may serve your purpose to propose the hypothetical that there could be two people exactly equal applying for the same position, in reality, this NEVER happens. There is always something that sets one candidate above the others, even if it is something as “silly” as one person being better dressed, having a better smile, or whatever, I defy you to find two people (even identical twins) that are truly equal.

    While you might not like that a hiring decision should be made based on non essential criteria, a decision must be made all the same, and in general people do not consider applicants at all that are not qualified, so pretty much every hiring decision comes down to a character judgement, who do I trust to do the work more.

    This judgement may even be made subconsciously, hell it may even be entirely subjective! but it is made all the same!

    It may even be unfair! but we Objectivists don’t really waste time considering what is “fair” because we know that the guy that didn’t get the job, will be able to find another one if he is worthy of it.

    In the other scenario where the less qualified person is selected I should think the more qualified person should be glad to not be working for someone with such poor judgement, and while he may have deserved the job, the job clearly did not deserve him.

    Given that the assumption at the start is that the more employable more competent individual was the one not hired, it stands to reason that he or she will be able to find another job rather quickly, so we need not pity this individual.

    *******************************************
    As to the assertion that Objectivism is Heartless…

    Objectivism isn’t heartless, it is objective.

    A heartless man doesn’t care that others are suffering and makes no distinction as to whether they deserve it or not.

    An Objectivist on the other hand stands against socialism, communism, collectivism and any other -ism that serves to enslave men to the state, where men are forced work and starve as others (who produce nothing) dictate.

    Also as an Objectivist I see nothing improper with aiding the poor, but you MUST be careful as to how you go about it.

    You DO NOT just hand them the product of your work, you must make them trade for it, or else you in giving them money for nothing steal value from the pocket of every other man.

    Many are the times I have approached someone with a sign claiming to need help with an offer to trade them a shower a place to sleep and/or some money in return for some small labor, such as cleaning or yard work, NEVER have they accepted, ergo they deserve to be poor, and there is nothing I can reasonably do to to help them.

    Example: Imagine if I gave a homeless beggar a house, a car, plenty of clothing, food, etc for a year. At the end of that year they will have produced nothing, and remain beggars. Even worse given these valuable things they will NOT have cared for them as someone who had earned them, the house I would no longer want, the car probably would no longer even run. The moocher, as opposed to the Objectivist whom “makes” money, actually “destroys” money, that is they consume without producing, when they receive something they use it and give nothing in return, they remove value from the system.

    So handing a beggar a dollar, makes every dollar less valuable, and you can see it on a macro scale as the policies of “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke, cause inflation, making each and every person who holds US currency poorer by a factor of the rising rate of inflation.

    *******************************************

    In closing, I’d like to shock the hell out of you by stating that Jesus was an Objectivist.

    Do onto others as you would have done unto you.

    ~The master of Cud

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If anyone doubted the pathologies that Objectivism induces, Cudmaster’s comment provides some great examples. I’d especially highlight this comment about how he’d prefer to save children from burning buildings, rather than adults, because the children are more likely to grow up to be good capitalists, while adults are more likely to be evil socialists who deserve to die:

    Children get the priority on being rescued because they at least have the chance to grow up to be rational Objectivist money making types.

    Where as an Adult on average is likely to be a moocher, or should the adult be a rational, they will have either rationalized why I’m saving the children first, or be capable of rescuing themselves instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for them.

    The most incredible thing is that someone can say this and then blithely proclaim that “Objectivism isn’t heartless”.

  • Alex Weaver

    I explained to them that I had no need of them, though they clearly needed me, but oddly (for people claiming Objectivism) they offered nothing I desired in trade for my continued attendance.

    The others (hell even my “friends”) seemed to view it as a sort of club/cult used to gain power through association.

    …gee, I can’t imagine where they would have gotten THAT impression…

  • Christopher

    I never understood the whole “save the women and children first” mentallity – I’d prefer that, in the event of a calamity, the most capable save themselves and their own and let natural selection take care or the rest.

    Had the British merchant fleet followed this rule there would have been a lot less casualties overall – as most of the women and childrem put in the lifeboats alone would eventually die anyway due to lack of seafaring skills. Had they saved the capable sea men there would have been a lot more folks coming home…

  • Wedge

    Sorry to bring up a really old post, but I have to say that I’m amazed that there are people on this thread who are seriously arguing the Eddie Izzard theory of conquest:

    “You can’t claim us, we live here!”

    “Do you have a flag? No flag, no country!”

    Eddie Izzard

  • http://vds.guildlaunch.com Cudmaster

    If anyone doubted the pathologies that Objectivism induces, Cudmaster’s comment provides some great examples. I’d especially highlight this comment about how he’d prefer to save children from burning buildings, rather than adults, because the children are more likely to grow up to be good capitalists, while adults are more likely to be evil socialists who deserve to die

    So then how would you rationalize saving an adult parasite loser who through the rest of his life will only make the lives of everyone else worse, before someone that either is a benefit to society or may become one or to throw women in, that may birth one.

    Realistically in an emergency situation you don’t have time to analyze the various philosophies of the people you are trying to save… in general you save whomever you find in need of saving, and you don’t question them.

    But yeah, if I had the time and need to choose I’d choose the child, and if I knew the predilections of the adults and could pick one of those to save I’d save the one who I thought was the most worthy.

    I really can’t fathom how that is immoral, and I doubt very much you would do any different, though perhaps your criterion for determining who was the most worthy might be different than mine?

    Perhaps you can tell me about it so I can call it pathological… It would only be fair. :)

    Oh, and for the record I didn’t state that anyone deserved to die, simply that not everyone in the world is worthy of me risking myself to save, but if the only way you can argue against me is to build straw man arguments out of words attributed to me that are not my own… well that’s probably “Fair” too. I mean you do deserve to be right just as much as I do. :)

    …gee, I can’t imagine where they would have gotten THAT impression…

    :) I am also amused that the only organization built by “Objectivists” has failed totally to follow the very Philosophy they promote.

    It isn’t terribly shocking though, every institution mankind has ever made has to my knowledge been rife with individuals who were their for their own reasons, there are plenty of asses in church pews who are agnostic if not atheists, just going along with it for the fringe benefits.

    I kind of look at it like this, in Objectivism there is me and there is her, and she is dead.

    The funny thing is I don’t understand why she even wrote books or allowed a organization to spring up, anyone who was capable of getting it demonstrably doesn’t need these things, and anyone who isn’t will at best join some group that in it’s failure to understand will make her look bad, or at worst will flat out demonize her and any intellectual heirs.

    Oh wait, I bet it was to make money. :) I think it worked.

    I never understood the whole “save the women and children first” mentallity – I’d prefer that, in the event of a calamity, the most capable save themselves and their own and let natural selection take care or the rest.

    While I might agree with this partially… most “calamities” we experience in the modern era are not tests of “fitness”.

    If, for example, someone pulls out a gun and starts firing randomly into a crowd, how exactly does it benefit natural selection to let him kill whomever he can until he runs out of bullets…

    Granted after the first few shots people will have had a chance to react, but the first shot or three have a pretty good chance of killing someone who is “fit”.

    Personally the only people I’d want to come out of that situation alive would be the ones who selfishly made an effort to take the shooter out.

    Other examples would be when an “unfit” person crashes his vehicle into that of a “fit” person, or when an arsonist lights a fire in a house where a “fit” person and his offspring are sleeping. etc…

    Had the British merchant fleet followed this rule there would have been a lot less casualties overall – as most of the women and children put in the lifeboats alone would eventually die anyway due to lack of seafaring skills. Had they saved the capable sea men there would have been a lot more folks coming home…

    I agree with this almost completely.

    However, there is a very rational theory of survival (of the group) that goes along the lines of “one man can make kids with lots of women, so save the women” and another one that goes something like “more kids can fit on a boat”.

    It is my opinion that the wisest choice in this situation would have been to send women and children along with just enough skilled men to keep them alive and safe.

    Given that we are (for a few more generations anyway) mortal fleshy things, one may only attain immortality by one’s investment in future generations, that is I would much rather have someone save my wife and child than save themselves, and this basically creates the same contract expressed above in the quotation of the fireman.

    It is possible that I am breaking off from the Objectivism as expressed by others, but I really don’t give a damn what they might think, they are not my priests and I am not their follower.

    I believe that being selfish is a virtue, but most people misunderstand (Claimed Objectivists incluced) that which is truly self serving with that which seems self serving. The problem has it’s root in the definition of terms…

    For example, people might say it is the self serving greedy person who goes into a bank with a gun and demands money.

    I say that is a stupid man.

    Objectivists don’t steal, they trade, and they produce.

    The truly self serving is the person that invests in the bank (assuming the bank in question is likely to “make” money), not only does he stand to profit directly, he also stands to benefit from the things others will do with the loans his bank offers (assuming the bank in question loans money to those likely to “make” money).

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I know I’ll regret this later, but how does it fit into Objectivism for one to make money from simply investing it and sitting back while others do the work to multiply the investor’s dollars?

  • Christopher

    Cudmaster,

    “While I might agree with this partially… most “calamities” we experience in the modern era are not tests of “fitness”.

    If, for example, someone pulls out a gun and starts firing randomly into a crowd, how exactly does it benefit natural selection to let him kill whomever he can until he runs out of bullets…”

    The test of fitness – in this particular scenario – wouldn’t be in allowing the gunman to keep firing off rounds, but rather in the abilities of the individuals in the crowd to defend themselves from the initial strike (bulletproof vests, agility enough to find cover, dumb luck even…) as well as destroy the threat (i.e. kill the gunman).

    Whoever can best survive the attack – and even better, kill the attacker – shall be the ones nature judges as being “fit” and those that die aren’t.

    Also Cudmaster,

    “However, there is a very rational theory of survival (of the group) that goes along the lines of “one man can make kids with lots of women, so save the women” and another one that goes something like “more kids can fit on a boat”.”

    Of course, there’s no guarantee that the women in the first scenario will actually breed with the male in question, and why should I surrender resources to save other people’s kids instead of those I judge as being my friends and family. As far as I’m concerned, the life of even one of my own is easily worth the lives of any ten strangers – I’m the type of person who will sacrifice the masses to save those who matter to me if I had to do that.

    No matter how you cut it, it all comes down to a value judgement: who’s life is worth more and why does the decision maker come to that conclusion. Contrary to popular belief, you can put a price on human life…