The Myths of Objectivism

It can be said that the merits of any idea or philosophy cannot be judged by the quantity or quality of its followers.

Fueled no doubt by her upbringing in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, Ayn Rand was extremely critical of what she viewed as “collectivism” on the left, and for the duration of her life she set out to define her beliefs in ink.  Still, despite the good and selfish intentions of Rand, the fallout of her philosophy is becoming more and more comparable to the fallout of other doomed ideological systems, such as communism or fascism.

With one blood-drenched failed state after another in South America, Chile being a prime example, and at least one major financial meltdown (2008 financial crisis), it couldn’t be any clearer as to what price must be paid for deregulation and the application of free market ideology: greed, cronyism, and murder become the order of the day with human rights and free speech being criminalized, while the gap between the haves and the have nots widens.

But apart from Rand’s faith in the free market, there is her unwavering belief in the spirit of the “rugged individualist”, the individual who despite all odds, shapes his destiny (and the worlds’) through the force of his own iron will and intellect, free of government meddling (and assistance, presumably). The irony in this of course is that anyone would be hard pressed to provide an example of a “rugged individualist” who works for a successful company or business that isn’t on the receiving end of some form of government assistance, i.e. tax breaks, loans…

A major component of Objectivism is the belief that no man has the right to initiate physical force against another, except in the case of self defense. Put another way, no man has the right to cause ill will upon another.  But then this begs the question: what about the economic hardships of those who have been victimized and continue to suffer from the results of this severe recession, which in large part is the direct result of deregulation?  Are these people not victims of ill will of those on wall street and inside the banking industry, albeit indirectly?  It stands to reason then that the people who have suffered from the poor and miscalculated decisions of those in power have the right to self defense either through reforms, or possible insurrection.

On the 23rd of October, 2008, after the swelling of the 2008 financial crisis, former chairman of the federal reserve Alan Greenspan (close friend and protege of Rand and big proponent of the free market) admitted to the House Oversight Committee, that there was a fundamental flaw in his ideology. The ex-fed chair was forced to eat his own humble pie in front of America, although Greenspan, the man who was once dubbed “The Maestro” of economics and who was a key player in advocating for the free market, has never apologized nor taken responsibility for his role in the 2008 financial mess.

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The importance of recognizing the role of objectivism and its influence on Americas current state of affairs cannot be understated. With the economy still struggling to recover from the housing bubble burst amplified by the effects of the deregulation and calls for smaller government that those mostly on the right have called for have implemented, history must not be forgotten. But it isn’t how loud and how often the proponents of an idea shout that give it merit, it is its utility.

The application of objectivist philosophy to the market reveals the huge gap between its ethics and its politics.