This is to continue the discussion of Objectivism from the front page. Some basic info:

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) (wikipedia) was a Russian immigrant, author, screenwriter and creator of the philosophy called "Objectivism", which advocates selfishness as a virtue and denounces altruism. 

Among her writings are The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both of which have been turned into feature films.

Despite her atheism, Rand is popular among Tea Party conservatives because of her anti-tax stance.  

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan was a personal friend of Rand.

Tags: ayn rand, capitalism, objectivism, selfishness

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One of Rand's premises I truly agree with is how incompetence seems to be rewarded in socialist-type systems.  For years I worked for mental health agencies dependent on the government tit (as we all are to some extent).  Most of these types of organizations are full of people whose only true talent is that of milking the federal government of funds. 

While I recognize I am generalizing here, it sure seemed true that incompetence reigned supreme.  Thus, the idea of a single payor scares the hell out of me . . .if the way medicaid dollars are administered now is an example of how a single payor would work here in the US both providers and patients would probably be screwed while unscrupulous administrators would become wealthy. 

You might want to look up the Peter Principle.  It has nothing to do with socialism. 

The Peter principle is an interesting concept.  I'm certain it is at work in most environments.  However, publicly funded entities are socialist by definition . . . . they receive public money to fulfill public duties. 

While management was oftentimes incapable of managing, it was all too often capable of gouging its fund sources.  This is oftentimes what results in managerial talent being trumped by those with political pull.

This can, and often does, result in the misuse of public funds. 

I read her "science fiction" book "Atlas Shrugged"... more of a polemic against a straw man collectivist society modeled on a caricature of Soviet Russia or on the dystopia of "1984".  The writing was pretty poor and the ideological points were hammered at in every third sentence.  

The aftermath of Greenspan's extreme adherence to deregulated financial markets now pretty clearly shows that there are serious problem with the "me first, second, and always" philosophy.  While there is a definite benefit to having a free market both in ideas and in the market of services and products, there is also a need to ensure that incentives are aligned with the needs of society as a whole.  Once the 1% own everything, the next step is either outright slavery and the commoditization of the lives of the 99% or a bloody rebellion after the example of the French Revolution.   Prosperity Theology will only keep the starving Tea Party idiots in line for so long. 

The big unsolved problem with Capitalism is that while it may start with a free market, the dynamics of mergers and acquisitions within the context of an unregulated free market ensure that monsters like AT&T emerge in every sector and the bigger they get, the more lobbyists and legislators they can buy to ensure that their ability to keep growing is not hampered.  If this trend is not curbed, competition ends completely and we are basically back in a feudal situation where the "Captains of Industry" or Robber Barons control everything.   One possible solution might be to replace corporations as they currently are constituted with Co-ops where the all the employees and customers of the Co-ops have a vote in all major decisions including who is to be the CEO.   This might be a way to expand democracy to areas which currently are run on a feudal basis.  The current one dollar one vote paradigm of corporate governance is clearly leading to a world wide economic disaster.  We need to get back to the idea of one person one vote in all things that affect our lives.

Rand's basic idea of individual freedom is great, but the problem is that sooner or later individual freedoms bump up against each other.  We desperately need a more just way of mediating those conflicts.  Maybe the answer ultimately is a better, more powerful legal system backstopped by a popularly elected supreme court with very long (maybe lifetime) terms of office and strict educational and life experience requirements for candidates.   Another idea would be an intelligence test (instead of the current defacto anti-constitutional religious test) for public office so abject idiots like Santorum and Rick Perry are disqualified from running.

These are all great points.  I strongly agree with the sentiment that lobbyists are a major problem in our way of government.  Perhaps business should get out of government . . .

Ulrich - You pretty much have it right. The market can never be free because the market capitalist system itself makes its freedom impossible. It sounds like French philosophy, but it really is true. One of the supposed drivers of the free market is competition. However, once a corporation gets to a large enough size, it can use its economic power to prevent competition. Without competition, there is no choice, and without choice the demand for a product becomes artificially controlled. The "invisible hand" of the market withers. One need only look at health insurance to see how this works. Originally created to solve the problem of maintaining a standard of living while one is recovering, health insurance has now become the number one useless product that everyone is forced to buy (artificial control of the market). Once insurers found big money in it, and once insurers were allowed to become corporations rather than mutuals, and once insurers were allowed to act as banks, the whole system went nuclear. Insurance companies named themselves as "necessary" middle men, stepping between doctor and patient, and charging exorbitant amounts for the "service" of handling the transaction. Insurers have been the principal force for the skyrocketing health care costs, and they take most the profit. What do they do for it? Absolutely nothing. Try getting an alternative service, though. Try letting the free market decide. The demand in the US is for some kind of single-payer government managed system that would rival the insurers and drive costs down mainly by competition. The insurers, of course, used their huge economic power to see that the rival was crushed. Where is the "free" market in all this? Nowhere, since the suppliers, not the consumers, are calling the shots.


well i don't agree with rand.

selfishness= looking after one's own self and forget about others

altruism= looking after others.

now these 2 concepts are contradictory.lets examine which one of them is a virtue?

consider this thought experiment:

there are 3 men a,b,c in a town. each of them is given a slice of bread.

now suppose all of them are selfish: what they will do? they only think of their individual selves and each thinks that if he get more bread then he will be in a better position. to get more bread they will fight against each other. thus there will be no peace and only chaos.

nb. this is the picture of this current era.

now consider all of them are altruistic. what they will do? they will think of others and think that it will be good when all of us have bread. then they will be happy with their respective share of bread. there will be no war or chaos.


now , dear reader, this thought experiment mentioned above shows that selfishness is not a virtue but a vice. and altruism is a virtue.


so ayan rand was totally wrong.

Well, here's how I think about it:

Mothers need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their babies.  I need to take care of my business so that I can pay my employee.  Of course, this does not generalize to the "big picture" of society, but I think that this was Rand's brand of "Selishness."

mothers are not selfish since she cares for her child. selfish is a person who only cares for himself and not others. businessman are selfish person since they care for only themselves.

whatever be the issue, selfishness always brings greed. and greed brings warfare.businessmen are good example of that.

Well . . .you miss the point entirely.  If the mother does not take care of herself then she will not be able to take care of her baby . . .A business man who does not take care of his business will have to lay off his people.  A soldier who does not keep in shape will be of no use to his comrades . . . . a doctor who doesn't keep his credentials up will not be practicing medicine long.

This principle is called "enlightened self-interest." 

Frankly, Arnab, as an entrepreneur I find your comment of businessmen being good examples of greed insulting.   

arnab / kevin - I'm knew to Ann Rand and so may be completely missing her point - but anyway - 

I'm getting a bit sick of people changing the meaning of words in the english language to mean something else in a sick and twisted sort of way - 

selfish is a word that is used to describe someone who is primarily concerned with their own well being - someone who will finish the last of the milk or the last of the chocolates without consideration of others......

this definition of a mother being selfish because she has to look after herself first - or because she is only looking after her kids because they have her genes and therefore caring for them is a selfish act - is rediculous and only a justification for a person to do anything selfishly because they can say that everyone is selfish - what a load of crap....

there is such a thing as consideration, kindness, love, devotion, care, and putting others first - because you feel a responsibility to do so - giving someone else the last slice of chocolate cake because you want them to feel some happiness, care or well being.....  and there are people who will fight to get their own needs, wants and desires met over anyone else, because they are selfish - lets keep our definitions clear and traditional - and not play with language so we can twist it to our own greedy warped desires.....

well from your definations too, it is clear  that selfishness is not a virtue but a vice.

and altruism is a virtue.

what do you think is good: a selfish activity: looking for oneself and not caring for others. or altruistic activity, caring for others?

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