Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, embodied and promulgated through her books Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead, has been both famous and infamous from its inception. Whether her writings and philosophy are received favorably or not appears to be largely based upon the political leanings of the reader. Progressive readers often find her message and philosophical theories to be exclusive and elitist, while conservative readers appreciate her exaltation of meritocracy and simultaneous denunciation of socialist policies that they feel have caused suffering to millions of people.
In naming this blog (and the underlying philosophical bent) “The Post-Objectivist“, I’m identifying with some of Ayn Rand’s ideas from her philosophy of Objectivism while moving beyond some of her other ideas.
In this blog, I’ll be highlighting one of Ayn Rand’s key tenets of her philosophy which is often overlooked or misinterpreted, but which I feel is the most important, which is the moral obligation of a society to create a meritocracy.
In short, a society must allow great individuals to achieve great things in order for all individuals in that society to advance. We must allow the Steve Jobs, the Warren Buffets, the Elon Musks to achieve great things, create new inventions, and achieve great wealth because in the act of doing so they both provide examples of what other human beings can achieve and they simultaneously raise the standard of living for the rest of us.
This is the opposite position from a socialist philosophical view of society, in which the government has a moral obligation to create equality between individuals in that society. In socialist societies, the government does this through a variety of tools including wealth redistribution, regulation of businesses, high taxes, and limitation of property rights. In reality, this requires a very powerful government with a monopoly on violence to be able to enforce the ability to remove property and wealth from individuals to give to other individuals whom the government feels are more deserving. While promoted as a populist message, in every instance this results in a political class which has on a monopoly not only on violence but also on wealth and property rights. Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Un, Hugo Chavez, and many other socialist leaders (along with their families and inner circles) have remarkably high levels of wealth considering that they force an idea of equality upon everyone under their rule. As Margaret Thatcher famously stated “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”. Witness the violence and turmoil in Venezuela and the mind-numbing poverty in North Korea to see the end result of a socialist society. In these societies individuals who excel in business, sports, intellectual pursuits, or any aspect at which humans strive to achieve greatness do so with the blessing of the government (often for the government) or not at all. Greatness of individuals (except the leaders, who often exhibit no great talents except politics and cronyism) is discouraged as it makes others feel inadequate and realize their actual limitations on their freedoms.
Post-Objectivism takes an opposite view of the socialist approach. The philosophy presumes that human beings are wired to see other human beings achieving great accomplishments as proof that such deeds can be done by another human. Roger Bannister was the first person to run a 4 minute mile on 6 May 1954, something no human being had every been able to achieve. 46 days later one more human being, John Landy, beat Bannister’s time. The following several years many more humans broke this previously unbreakable barrier. According to Bannister, he believed Landy couldn’t break the 4 minute mile previously because the goal itself had become an impossible feat for any human. Once Bannister proved it could be done (on a day with imperfect conditions), Landy realized that humans could achieve this goal.
Human beings need to see other humans achieve great goals in order to realize that they can be achieved. We need the Michaelangelos, the DaVincis, the Jobs, the Gates, the Curies to realize that we can do far more than we thought we could in our ordinary lives. We may never run a 4 minute mile or become a billionaire, but the knowledge that it can be done by a human will encourage us to do greater things in our own lives.
Post-objectivism posits that a society has a moral obligation to allow great individuals to exist because as we observe them on top of their own mountains, it makes us want to climb another mile higher on our own mountain. A society that does not allow or encourage this, is morally suspect and is pushing human evolution backwards.