So here we are, the second decade of the 21st Century and things are rapidly collapsing around us…socially and economically. We are governed by representatives in DC who have beguiled us for our vote and live and work disconnected from the needs of those who hired them. Our schools produce a profound number of idiots and all we can do as a nation is produce soldiers, weapons and debt. What is amazing is that one third of our youth are either too stupid or too fat to serve in the military.
Wall Street owns DC and not one single individual who devised, manipulated and executed CDSs and MBSs will spend one day in jail and the concepts of justice and accountability have vanished from the social, economic and political terrain.
In 2008 I stood in the streets and chanted for change. Today I stand on a street corner and ask for spare change.
And, I remember a better time on a rainy night and a man named Eddie Willers. And I stop and I ponder…What the hell has happened?
And I can tell you that I know the answer…People who claim that Objectivism allows for ruthless profiteering are misinformed. Objectivism strides on two conceptual legs. The first being vested self interest. The second is personal integrity. Without both Objectivism is nil. And I ask myself, how much is enough…
Do Bill Gates and Warren Buffet violate the precepts of Objectivism as proposed by Ayn Rand? Therein lies the question and the rub. For the rub begs the question…what is the true nature of personal integrity and what is the responsibility of the individual in a closed end society?
It is late, I am tired and I am going to bed. I will let those brighter than I fill in the blanks…for now.
Loved reading your post. I don’t believe that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are violating Objectivist philosophy. Warren Buffett has said quite plainly that he is giving away his wealth because he knows that spending the money on himself *in his best judgment* will not bring him a great deal of satisfaction or joy. He has all he needs. He has also said that donating the money will be of much greater benefit. That is not altruism. Altruism is self-immolation. Doing something that pains you/strips you and trying to convince yourself it’s the right thing to do — that’s altruism. That’s evil.
I have no doubt that he will be involved in EXACTLY where it goes and that he will be rational about his choice of where to spend it. He is clearly a man with both a well-defined ego and one of integrity. He wants to leave the world a better place. That will give him satisfaction. Leaving the world a better place is in our self-interest.
Living a life of self-interest doesn’t mean you destroy other people in the process. It means that you make rational choices that benefit you. I reject the notion that you can only benefit yourself at the expense of others. (Just like I reject the notion that you can only help others if you sacrifice yourself.)
It all depends on what you consider a sacrifice and how you view money in terms of goal.
Is a teacher making $35,000 a year and loving what she does living a life of self-sacrifice? No. Because she’s doing what she loves. She’s an amazing success. She’s PRODUCING. On the other hand, a teacher who hates their job IS living a life of self sacrifice.
Is an executive making $20 million a year but swindling the public and his workers a success? No. Because he’s not producing his best. Then think of the character of Hank Rearden — he did his best, paid his workers *more* than the standard wage (union wage) — because he expected the best from them. His product would have *certainly* benefited society — cheaper, longer lasting metal. And he intended to make a great profit from it.
I know that Rand focused on the $. She was from Communist Russia, where $ was evil, so I understand it. But it’s not the *only* form of payment. Think about parenthood and what an incredibly important (and unpaid) job that is. Success as a mother or father is not about the $.
Long winded answer, sorry. But your question about Gates and Buffet really got me thinking.
As Leonard Peikoff (Ayn Rand’s heir) once said in a lecture, “Objectivists are not indifferent to human suffering. But any bum can give a man a dollar. That is not how Objectivists gage a man’s worth. We gage a man based on his achievements.”
It does not bother me that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates give to causes they care about. That is natural for humans. It bothers me that many (perhaps most) of the general public think they are better people for doing so. It is their achievements that make them great, not how they give away their wealth.
Your “long winded answer” was simply excellent. Well stated and right on the money! The $ is just a symbol for the strikers. It’s represents value, which is not always measured by a bank account.
I reject the premise that self-interest and personal integrity are not one in the same. Integrity is ultimately in one’s self-interest. Those without integrity lose – and many end up in jail. That is certainly not in one’s self-interest.
By the same token, I submit that true charity is also a self-interest. When I say true charity, I mean thoughtful action that makes the world around you better. Who doesn’t want to live in a better world?
But people also misunderstand the idea of charity. You can’t make things better by throwing money at a problem without thought, as government is wont to do. Money has no direction. It can be used to buy bread or booze or even a gun. The next time, you may not be asked for money – it may be demanded at the price of your life. This kind of thoughtless waste of resources is not charity and is in nobody’s self-interest.
Everything positive in the world can be traced back to self-interest and everything negative in the world can be traced back to someone’s callous indifference towards – or utter ignorance of – the concept of self-interest.
First of all, brilliant post. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further onLine communication. Next, I’m going to play an old trick and rearrange the words of the subject at hand. Self interest and interested in one’s self. Is it possible that they are uniquely different and which adherence to would yield uniquely different outcomes?
So, currently, I am a student of the Financial Meltdown of 2008/9. Visually, I always refer to Alan Greenspan, who is a self proclaimed devotee of Ms Rand and the principals of Objectivism in particular and of free-market capitalism in general, in order to distinguish the two separate constructs of ‘Vested Self Interest’ and ‘Personal Integrity’.
I can recall Mr. Greenspan being hauled in front of Congress and having been asked by Rep. Henry Waxman, essentially “Were you wrong?”.
So, I ask, if there is no need for regulation and that markets would regulate themselves as Greenspan proposes, how did this collapse (I assert based on greed and perhaps unbridled self interest) happen? Is there a difference between regulation and policing? If the marketplace needed to be policed from a source other than itself, then where did the element of ‘Personal Integrity’ on a corporate scale and individual basis go?
Here we can see, that perhaps those corporate thugs and thieves were driven by excessive interest in their collective ‘self’ and not by the value of true ‘self interest’. This, perhaps needs to be culled out further and I only use this example of applied Objectivism in the Current Reality as a starting point in this conversation.
Again, I’ll let those more brilliant than I fill in the blanks…