By: Ayn Rand
Commentary by: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—–Original Message—–From: John
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2011 9:05 PM
To: Thomas Lee Abshier
Subject: Ayn Rand on YouTube
Tom, I came across these 3 videos as posts on Facebook.
After watching them, I would say that they encapsulate the best of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. If you are interested, I can recommend watching these:
Ayn Rand: Capitalism is in the process of committing suicide. And if we want to stop that process we must understand it clearly. No political-economic system in history has proved its value so eloquently, or benefited mankind so greatly, as capitalism and none has been attacked so savagely and blindly. Why did the majority of intellectuals turn against capitalism from the start? Why did their victims, the American businessman bear their attacks in silence? The cause of it is a primordial evil, which to this day, men are afraid to challenge the morality of altruism. (See essay below, a Christian perspective, resolving the conflict between capitalism and altruism.)
Altruism has been man’s ruling code through most of mankind’s history. It has had many forms and variations. But its essence has always remained the same. Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake. That service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.
(Thomas: Note: this definition of altruism is used to set up a straw man. Some may define altruism in such stark/extreme terms, that man has no intrinsic value other than sacrifice to others. But, this is certainly not the Christian view/teaching of Christ, who declared that men should love neighbor as self. There appears to be a paradoxical conflict with the command to love neighbor as self when compared with His statement that “the greatest in the Kingdom are those who are servant to all.” But, this is resolved by first understanding that self and other are equal before God, and both must be taken care of by self and other. Secondly, the man who is struggling with sin, poverty, safety, torment, and/or illness is in need of some kind of assistance, but each person is in need of a specific type of assistance. One type of assistance may be to give help, the other may be to withhold it. This is illustrated by the fact that 1) Jesus applauded the good Samaritan for giving aid to the wounded traveler, and also 2) applauded the wise virgins who did not give their oil to the foolish virgins. Wisdom is necessary in discriminating who to serve, when to serve, and how to serve. Service/altruism does not imply giving your possessions away to bring the poor who have not worked or worked at low levels of skill or effort, up to a relative equality with all who have worked. In other words, service by giving of self is not a monolithic, carte blanche, or reflexive command of God to behave to create a forced egalitarianism where “all are equally shabby”.)
A conflict since the Renaissance has been tearing Western civilization, and has reached its ultimate climax in our age, is the conflict between capitalism and the altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are philosophical opposites. They cannot coexist in the same man, or in the same society. The moral code which is implicit in capitalism has never been formulated explicitly. The basic premise of the code is that man, every man, is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. That man must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor sacrificing others to himself, and that man must deal with one another as traders, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit.
This, in essence, is the moral premise on which the United States of America was based, the principle of man’s right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness. This is what the intellectual did not, and could not, choose to identify, so long as they remained committed to the mystic’s morality of altruism. If the good, the virtuous, the ideal, is suffering and self-sacrifice, then by that standard, then capitalism has to be damned as evil.
Capitalism does not tell man to suffer, but to pursue enjoyment and achievement here on earth. Capitalism does not tell man to serve and sacrifice, but to produce and profit. Capitalism does not preach passivity, humility, resignation, but independence, self-confidence, self-reliance. And, above all capitalism does not permit anyone to expect or demand, to give or to take, the unearned in all human relationships: private, or public, or spiritual, or material, or social, or political, or economic, or moral. Capitalism requires that men be guided by principle, which is the antithesis of altruism, the principle of justice.
So long as the intellectual held altruism as their moral code, they had to evade the actual nature and meaning of capitalism. They had to evade the fact that the source of industrial wealth is man’s mind, that the fortunes made in a free economy are the product of intelligence, of creative ability. This led them to the modern version of the ancient soul-body dichotomy, to the contradiction of upholding the freedom of the mind, while denying it to the most active exponents of creative intelligence, the businessman. The contradiction of promising to live by each man’s mind by enslaving his body led them to regard the businessman as a vulgar materialist and to regard themselves as some sort of elite, born to rule him, to control his life, and to dispose of his product. The monument to this premise was the idea of assuming the right to distribute that which one has not produced. The only way to implement an idea of that kind was the intellectual’s alliance with the thug, with the advocate of the rule by brute force, the totalitarian collectivist.
So long as the moral cannibalism of the altruist code permits people to believe that it is virtuous and right to sacrifice some men for the sake of others, they will reject capitalism as a system of selfish greed, and they will cling to the proletarian statism of one kind or another, either communist, or fascist, or Nazi, or socialist, or welfare.
Obama: We are here because you believed that after an era of selfishness and greed, we could reclaim a sense of responsibility.
John, thanks for the Ayn Rand YouTube videos. I found her commentary stimulating. I’ve been working fairly strongly on my political/economic theory lately. It is an effort to balance altruism and Capitalism (something I realized after hearing her speak). I had put it in different terms before hearing her illuminate the concept of altruism.
I enjoyed hearing Ayn Rand’s commentary about altruism, but I consider her definition narrow and serves mainly to buttress her own philosophical conclusions, rather than one that engages a broad view of the paradoxes and subtleties of life. Hearing her speak gives me the feeling that the philosophical and dispositional bias that infuses her worldview was influenced by the harsh Soviet rearing she endured as a youth.
But, I do not wish to discount Ayn Rand’s philosophy as without value. I believe she confronts the issues of force, control, Statism, class envy, and freedom from a perspective that gives a valuable condemnation of the welfare state we now see. Her philosophy explains liberalism as a perversion of true care for others.
In the Bible, Jesus gave the great commandment. In it, He struck a perfect balance between the care and service of self, others, and God. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, following God’s way should be superior to serving the needs of both neighbor and self. This loving of God and His way manifests by loving, learning, and practicing truth, which is knowing and obeying the Right way of life.
(Note: the Right way is the way of living life that produces prosperity, holiness, patience, peace, temperance, brotherly love, etc. And of course, this single point is the crux and sticking point for all who attempt to incorporate Christianity into their personal life, since “who is it that decides what is Right?” And when in consideration of public life, what standard should be imposed upon one person by another through the State?” And the answer in short is, the people choose their own laws and representatives. Thus, ultimately, the rules of society are self-imposed by the majority common denominator of society. Thus, it behooves us as a society to educate every man in the Way of the Lord, since when he is old, he will legislate and conduct business according to his animal drives without regulation, or be fighting to control those beastly impulses by the renewing power of the Word.)
The second way of being, as important as the first, is to place my own interests at the same level of importance as other people’s interests. There is no superior person, not more important than me, who deserves to have their needs always met at my expense, or to have their feelings or material desires satisfied. When we walk the earth as equals in relationship to each other before God, the notion of a superior-inferior relationship and the slavery of an inferior class dissipates.
Men love power, which is a very human passion – which was what the Hamilton quote referred to. Men are tempted to engage in forceful control of others by the subtle suite of soul-powers such as speech, reason, charisma, deception, illusion, guilt, empathy… or by the hard power of guns, fines, and jail. Force/power (whether subtle or harsh) is not evil, it is force compelling the service of evil that is evil.
Regardless of the vehicle, power must be harnessed to influence men to act Right. Likewise, men must choose to resist the temptation to simply control to satisfy the passion/lust to experience power.
Instead, men must choose to instead love neighbor as self and to love another/self as God loves them/me. When a man has stepped into that realm of the renewed mind, where he is using power to influence for Righteousness, he is actually a servant of God. He is an agent of the most High. He is no longer in the realm of lusting for power, and the actions he takes are truly altruistic in the proper sense of the word.
If a man helps another from a position of service, he is doing so with the perspective of eternity. When a man acts as a force for Righteousness, he is serving God in His purpose to bring into being, “On Earth as it is in Heaven”. And paradoxically, such service of others is, in the end, the most self-serving action one can perform. This posture resolves the conundrum of the superiority of serving self or others.
The welfare-poverty problem is resolved by requiring effort and intention of those receiving charity. From this perspective, we see easily that the welfare system is just another example of Godliness perverted. The error of charity without commensurate work is either based on a misunderstanding of the proper relationship between work and monetary reward or, it has been purposely created for the benefit of those who administer or use the welfare class to create a loyal voting class invested in the liberals and their incumbents.
This illusion of “helping” and “equality” may be nothing more than men who have become adept at manipulating the weakly defended philosophy underlying the Constitutional Republic.
Without a strong Biblical moral/transcendent view of life, the resolution of Capitalism and Altruism would not be easily seen. Men with power-lust could use the money and leisure-lust of the poor for their own benefit. And, the media and power elite could manipulate the modestly moneyed to surrender their wealth out of an improperly understood duty to sacrifice to support the poor.
All this manipulation may be simply a ruse, a show of feigning care for the state of poor – when the poor are simply a vehicle for satisfying the need to retain and experience power. All such motivations are simply satanic perversions of righteous principles. Current philosophical examinations popularly disparage power, capitalism, and altruism, but these principles are neither good nor bad, they are simply ways of being. Just as the State and government are not inherently evil, they are simply organizational tools that can be used for good or bad.
Thus, the best and proper solution to most questions is not one side over the other (although good is always preferable to evil, as there is no good center between good and evil). In this examination, the center is a transcendent understanding of life that allows one to frame the tension between two seemingly mutually exclusive poles of capitalism and altruism.