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Writings based on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's most popular novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which present her philosophy, Objectivism, in vivid characterizations.

  Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, esthetics, and  politics are the five main branches of philosophy that she identifies. Utilizing her methodology, one can be rational about all aspects of life. These essays present my understanding of Objectivism.

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Induction and Anarchism as an Ideal

By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

06/02/2012

 

I’ve come to a realization recently after having discussions with several anarchists, and the realization is that some of them are not being rationalistic (thinking of principles divorced from the facts), but rather they are making an inductive generalization based upon their own experience of dealing with various governments who insist on getting in their way of leading their lives in a rational, independent, and productive manner. What generally happens is that they seek to do something – like opening up a business in a convenient location – and the government steps in and tells them they cannot do that without specific permission from the government (local, regional, or national). For example, I once had a boss who decided to move his picture framing gallery across the street to a smaller venue. No problem getting the lease and the business name and signage and all that stuff, but the trouble was that the venue did not have a rear entrance to be used in case of emergencies, so the local government would not let him move in until they had an investigation. Said investigation took over eight months to come up with a legal solution, so he lost revenue for all of that time. Fortunately for him, he had a second location that was doing OK, but can you imagine not getting paid for eight months due to a government technicality? I’ve heard of similar stories, and while not all of the victims turn to anarchism, some definitely do, stating that it would be better if we had no government at all, which they think would solve the problem.

According to The Logical Leap by David Harriman, it does not take a lot of the same types of facts to be aware of to come to an inductive generalization. Turning on several light switches in a house can get even a young child to come up with the generalization, “Flipping the light switch will turn on the lights.” So, even a few times of dealing with a government can lead one to realize the generalization that, “The government is preventing me from living my life!” Is this a valid generalization? One based on the facts in terms of causation? And  what should one do about it? An Objectivist would say to advocate for better government based upon upholding individual rights in such a way that the individual is free to live his life as he sees fit so long as he does not initiate force against others. To many people who turn towards anarchism (no government), this seems like a very far-fetched way of getting rid of entrenched governments who violate individual rights. However, a contextual research into the early decades of the United States (the first 150 years) will show that just such a government did indeed exist (sans slavery and taxes). That is, a government geared towards an extension of self-defense in an institutionalized manner did exist, and was lost over the years.  But what made that loss possible;  and, indeed, what made the United States possible in the first place?

Basically, it was the ideas of The Enlightenment that made such a free country possible, as the individual became sovereign in all walks of life due to the rational influence of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, who advocated that each man’s individual mind was capable of knowing reality unaided by Divine Intervention or government edicts. Prior to that, with the possible exception of Ancient Athens, there was a top-down approach to government whereby the government would set the terms for the life of the individual in that society – of the individual being the servant of the State instead of the opposite idea that the government ought to be the servant / protector of the individual. It was the Founding Fathers of the United States and the political theories they understood and advocated that led to the individual protection type of government. Unfortunately, these ideas really required a more philosophical approach – basically a new rational philosophy and a rational morality – to ideally translate into a politics that would stand the test of time and not become eroded as reason and individualism wavered due to bad philosophies (primarily Kant and his collectivism). Without that fully rational basis, the Founders presented the case of rights as being self-evident – as it states in The Declaration of Independence – whereas the concept of individual rights does require a whole host of more fundamental ideas to be completely validated. Lacking such a base, the political ideals of the Founders became chipped away almost from the beginning, but especially after the ideas of Kant swamped the field of philosophy.

And I think it is because the ideas of individual rights and proper government are not self-evident that collectivism on the one hand or anarchism on the other hand begin to take precedent in people’s mind. They tend to think that we need either more government (total socialism) or get rid of government altogether (anarchism) to solve the current problems. I have written elsewhere why I do not think that anarchism or competing governments will work, but I do think the anarchists just cannot conceive of a proper government or say that it has been tried and has always failed. Due to this, I think their initial inductive generalization is a false one, that the alternative is not Socialism versus Anarchism, but rather upholding individual rights in a fully institutionalized manner (Constitutional Republic) or dispensing with them in fully institutionalized manner (Communism).  The idea of institutionalized protection for the individual is very difficult for the confirmed anarchist to accept, as individualist as some of them are, but anarchism is not the solution. A government dedicating to protecting the legitimate rights of the individual would leave one free to live one’s own life according to one’s own ideals while preventing others from interfering with said decisions with force (as this would be illegal and punishable by law). Anarchism, on the other hand, would not provide for such protection. Some anarchist claim to have thought it all through and have come up with solutions based on market principles, but I have yet to see a worked out solution that would not eventually lead to outright violence in the streets as one segment of individuals attempts to protect themselves from other individuals in an effort to protect their rights, which they claim were violated (real or imagined). With a Constitutional Republic and institutionalized systems of protecting the individual (police force, military, and courts for resolving disputes peacefully), I don’t see how one can protect oneself for large-scale enterprises, like a corporation that exists, say, in all states of the United States; nor for one’s own individual life as these competing agencies of force vie for protecting the individual without any sort of institutionalized system of resolving disputes (the court system). So, both myself and fellow Objectivists are for a clearly limited Constitutional Republic rather than anarchy.

 

 



 

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Proud to be an Objectivist -- one who follows Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism: I've earned it.