Jan's Objectivism Problem, or, Ayn Rand's Turn for a SpankingSubmitted by Molusk on Wed, 04/30/2014 - 01:08
While it was all good fun watching Helfeld spank Kinsella and Larken Rose, it is now time for Objectivism to be spanked in its turn. No one escapes the inexorable logical steamroller.
From listening to these exchanges, I gathered what I think is a fair representation of Jan's position.
He seems to be saying that a limited government - defined as a government successfully limited to providing equal protection services to individual physical safety and property security through a coercive legal apparatus and minimally invasive police and military apparatus - is the best system for maximizing most individual's chances of following their own plan toward happiness.
Whether they correctly define, plan for or even correctly anticipate their happiness seems a little murky, so we'll leave that alone. It seems at least likely on its face that each individual should be the best judge of his own happiness.
We can define 'the good' on this view as the individual's fullest possible attainment of the ability to pursue their own defined happiness by acting on their plans.
There seems to be some real problems with the ability of this ultimate end or ethic to lead to a limited government philosophy, however.
The problem is that we only live one life span, and if our own happiness is paramount, it doesn't follow at all that advocating limited government or making the transition to limited government necessarily improves or advances most individuals' chances, in the here and now, to live a good, full free life.
The kind of pains and burdens in transitioning to a limited government like the original constitution would perhaps gravely limit the self defined and anticipated plans toward happiness of most people. Consider retirement as a representative example.
It may be arguable that in the very long run, the most people would have the best chance at happiness after the transition and in future generations, but on Jan's view, as he expressed it to Larken Rose, he is no "sacrificial soul" altruistically concerned with others, and doesn't expect others to sacrifice present day self-defined plans for happiness to the majority or to future generations, or "the best interests of the most people."
Perhaps most people feel the modern welfare state is the best path for their own happiness? Perhaps they think it is even the best situation for the happiness of most other people too, even in the long run. Whether right or wrong, this would be strictly irrelevant on the Objectivist view, centered as it is on the fullest flowering of one's own potencies and Self expression.
In fact, on Objectivism, the only good reason to even promote a view like limited government, or Objectivism for that matter, would be in advancing one's own happiness and life-plan and interests, regardless of its actual truth-value. What value could an Objectivist find in a self negating truth-monk pursuing a final value that lead to suffering, sacrifice and ruin?
To be a consistent Objectivist, Jan would need to admit that spreading the word of Objectivism was only good because it is what makes the individual bearer of the creed happy, not because it is true. Do you see the peril in these waters!? Truth is a subordinate value on this ultimate end, and sacrifice for others is not even an afterthought. The Objectivist missionary is a kind of comical inversion of the Christian missionary, who must advance the creed only because it serves himself!
The Objectivist would have to affirm the correctness of advancing non-Objectivism and welfare statism for those who found that it made them happy and advanced their life goals to promote welfare statism or pursue a career in government that necessitated advocating wealth redistribution.
The only metric on this view is the individual's self defined and anticipated happiness and a long, fulfilled life. Who cares about others. You only live once, don't dally!
As Jan maintained in his debates, if one's own life and happiness is threatened by adhering to some ethic, then on his view it would be right to protect one's own ultimate interest, even if it meant killing or stealing. All the more so then to get a student loan, unemployment check, or social security.
The only way out of the conundrum is to posit one's children, grand children and great grand children and so on into a "true" measure of a person's happiness, and so smuggle back in some kind of utilitarian and long run ethic.
But for this to work, one would have to believe that people are really sincerely motivated by their reproductive success out past a few generations. This is not so at all. As C S Lewis observed, we don't really think about what our descendants in the year 3014 will be doing or how they will live, or about our 'genetic success' as such.
While we do indeed love our children, grand children and care about their future, we don't take it very far beyond a few more generations, or much past our own direct influence.
While it is true that natural selection may retrospectively select or favor those behaviors which turned out to be genetically successful, that doesn't mean that the behavior at the time was directed toward genetic success, or that anyone really thinks or cares in those terms. That is a purely retrospective, selective process, and we have very limited cares about such things.
We don't live our lives and plan on the basis of our great great great great great great grandchildren having the most material wealth due to the optimal economic system.
We order our lives and beliefs and actions to pursue our own personal happiness, which includes at most the well being of our offspring and a generation or two out. It would be silly if we really organized our lives around the ad infinitum happiness of distantly related genetic offspring, for eternity.
So we are back to an ethic which in no way leads to a belief in limited government, except for those individuals, and only those individuals, who gain genuine happiness and advantage from promoting limited government. Mainly, a handful of public intellectuals, politicians and internet personalities.
On Objectivism, it is really a minority of people who would directly and genuinely benefit from a drastic reduction of government. More significantly, the only real reason to promote these views is for one's own happiness and advancement by doing so.
Yes, for some that may include a sense or feeling that one is helping some other people, but why should individuals care about what is best for humanity, on this view?
That's the very crime Jan accused Rosey of. He spanked Rose deliciously, but how does Objectivism lead to any of its supposed conclusions about the optimal government?
Jan might retort that it is only okay to depart from ethical principles in exigent circumstances, since one's own life and happiness is paramount, but I don't see why it should only be exigent circumstances on his view.
Unless you are arguing from an ultimate value that is utilitarian and very long run, you can't escape the conclusion that people should do what's in their own personal, short to mid term interests, and then only if doing so makes them happy and advances their life situation along the path.
The problem with Objectivism is that you have to assume that truth value is secondary to the Objectivist, if they're true to their own values, and that the main purpose for them is advancing their own Selfy-ness, swaggering out on the world stage and swelling themselves up to be the center of attention, much like Rand did with her little cult and ugly, humorless soul.
Rothbard, despite his own tendency toward becoming a guru and attracting a cult following, and developing absurd ideological commitments, at least did us the service of making Ayn Rand ridiculous.
For that, we can give three cheers for Rothbard. While we're at it, we can pat Larken Rose on the head for being so adorably naive and retarded, throw up in our mouths a little at Molynooks and oblivious insipid narcissism, and hold Jan's feet the the fire and see if he can escape his own Socratic wet paper bag.
And we can love them all because they are absurd, wonderful humans, just like us.