Ayn Rand and Objectivism:
An Introduction

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The theory of social organization and government

   The basis of the Objectivist political theory is the idea of individual rights. According to Objectivism, since individuals must deal with one another by voluntary cooperation and voluntary trade, any action which violates the consent of any party (typically by force or fraud) is immoral, and ought to be punishable by law. The use of (or threat to use) physical force is only legitimate in cases where one is protecting or defending one's life, liberty or property against thief, attacker, or tyrant. Objectivists agree with the American founding fathers that men are by nature entitled to the rights of life, liberty (including the liberty to justly acquire, own and trade property), and the pursuit of happiness.

   Objectivism maintains that the only just government is a limited government--limited to doing only those things that can be justified as necessary and indispensable for protecting individual rights: the police, the law courts, and the national defense forces. Every other function of government currently in place is unjust and morally invalid insofar as (i) it is financially supported by involuntary means--people do not have the legal right to opt out; (ii) it forbids the peaceful and honest conduct of business by people who want to set up companies that operate according their goals, standards and principles, and that pursue markets of their own choosing.

   Objectivists regard the coercive paternalism of the modern socialist welfare-state as pernicious and unjust. It treats adults like children who are helpless to care for themselves. Every adult who has a modicum of dignity, of self-respect, and a vision of what they want to become as human beings should raise their voices and pens in protest against the vulgar excesses of today's governments.

   Objectivism views the only just social system as a system of free, voluntary exchange of goods, services and ideas, i.e, laissez-faire capitalism. (The term "libertarianism" is a rough synonym here, and many libertarians today consider themselves Objectivists, or at least sympathetic to Objectivism.)

   In a capitalist or libertarian society, there would be no "victimless" crimes, no centrally planned redistribution of income, no centrally planned delivery of education, health-care, transportation, food, retirement income, or housing.

   Objectivism is opposed both to conservatives' attempts at social engineering through the "war on drugs," and other such attempts to legislate behavior according to their own tastes and preferences. People have the natural political right to act in a self-destructive manner if it results in no physical interference or harm to others. Similarly, Objectivism issues a philosophical call to arms against statists' attempts at social engineering through "affirmative action" and other "progressive" economic policy. Ayn Rand insisted that any governmental action or policy designed to realize any social objective, through law or regulation, will necessarily compromise the liberty to which citizens are entitled by moral right.

   For every new law that makes some peaceful action between consenting adults a crime, the state loses its moral legitimacy and its ability to encourage law-abiding behavior. From prohibition to "the war on drugs," every new law that infringes on people's right to trade freely (whether it is in guns, pornography, or narcotics), generates a lack of respect for the police (and encourages police corruption), the court system, and the political process.

   Every person has a right to declare his pride in his intelligence, his accomplishments, his profits, and to damn injustice and envy, in whatever terms he should choose--and never mind whose feelings get hurt, or whose "self-esteem" is threatened. Above all, Rand counsels that we have a right to live by our own minds, in our own ways, for our own sake. Whether we choose to benefit others indirectly (e.g., by making profits and expanding businesses), or directly (e.g., by becoming doctors, or by being good parents) we must refuse to grant the moral right of anyone to demand one unearned penny or one unearned second of our lives.

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