A One Drachma Course in Objectivism.
The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
— H. L. Mencken
In the opening of Plato’s Cratylus,
which deals with the question of whether there is a certain naturalness
or rightness in the names of persons and things (or whether such names
are purely arbitrary and conventional), Socrates is asked to join an
ongoing conversation, and further asked whether he knows the answer to
this question. Socrates, in his own inimitable style of humor and wit,
explains that the sophist Prodicus offers a fifty drachma course of
lectures which guarantees a complete education on the subject. But not
being wealthy, Socrates explains that he was only able to take
Prodicus’ one drachma course, and thus did not know the truth
about such matters. The exact same principle applies to this
one-drachma course in Objectivism. It will not measure up to what you
could get for a few hundred dollars (which I imagine to be roughly the
equivalent of 50 drachmas) at the Ayn Rand Institute; but then again,
you will not risk being condemned to Objectivist Hell, tormented for
all eternity with a barrage of condemnations by the ghost of Ayn Rand,
for asking the “wrong” kind of question at an ARI seminar.
I say this because according to reports, certain questions are quite
capable of proving you to be, for example, a part of the
“context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist
movement,” to have “stolen a concept” that
isn’t yours, or even to be a closet social metaphysician.
You’re beneath contempt if you’re any one of these, and no
self-respecting student of Objectivism would give you the time of day
(lest he or she be found guilty of the same kind of immorality by mere
association with you).
Some readers will already have some knowledge of
Rand and Objectivism, many having read one or more of her novels as
teenagers. Some old movie buffs will have seen the movie version of
Rand’s earlier novel The Fountainhead starring, Gary Cooper and
Patricia Neal. Still others will have had no prior direct exposure to
Rand or any of her ideas, other than perhaps an unpleasant personal
encounter or two with one or more of Ayn Rand’s truest believers
some time in the distant past. In any case, I believe that this brief
One Drachma Course in Objectivism, consisting in 25 of the major
tenets, will put everyone on a more or less even plane. To be quite
honest, there’s really not all that much to it, it’s not
very difficult, and a one drachma course is about all it warrants.
These tenets are mostly based on writings of Rand herself, but a few
are my paraphrases of published remarks of the heir to the Rand
Literary estate, and founder of the Ayn Rand Institute, Dr. Leonard
Peikoff. A former associate of Rand’s, Nathaniel Branden, who had
a major break with Rand in 1969, has since published a detailed account
of his years of association with Ayn Rand and other members of her
inner circle. Also, in more recent years, he has published his
own list of basic tenets of Objectivism which differs with the list
below in some significant and important respects. I would argue,
nonetheless, that the list below is representative of the true,
orthodox, Objectivism of Ayn Rand. Branden’s and other
“protestant reformations” of Objectivism are but desperate
attempts to fix the hopelessly flawed, with which I shall deal briefly
later in the book. Basically however, as far we are concerned here,
“Objectivism” refers to the work of Ayn Rand exclusively.
With the death of Rand, “Objectivism” became cast in stone.
Attempts by others to rescue it from its own internal contradictions,
such as Leonard Peikoff’s attempt to redefine the English word
“identity” in such a way as to make Rand’s use of the
word less problematic for Objectivism are not worthy of serious
consideration. Even Rand herself couldn’t have claimed the right
to rescue old arguments by redefining common English words, virtually
beyond recognition, years after the fact. It would be a great trick
many people would use if it worked, but it doesn’t.
1. The entire philosophy of Objectivism is based
upon Aristotle’s Law of Identity which says “A is A”
or equivalently that “existence exists.”
2. Objectivism, put into action, is a socio-economic
system in which each person in the world pursues his own
“rational self interest.” Such a system guarantees
unlimited prosperity and happiness for all of mankind, although such
universal happiness and prosperity are mere secondary effects, and
definitely not its ultimate justification. Said ultimate justification
is its consistency with nature and the facts of reality, and the axiom
that “existence exists.”
3. An ethics based on the principle of
“rational self interest,” by the very definition of the
term “rational,” guarantees that each person will treat all
other persons fairly. But again, this is a mere second order effect,
and not the primary justification of either Objectivism or the
principle of rational self interest. The ultimate justification is,
again, consistency with nature, the facts of reality, and the axiom
which says “existence exists.”
4. All “ought” statements are derivable
from factual “is” statements. What a living being is,
therefore, determines what it ought to do. For this reason, the entire
Objectivist Ethics is directly derivable from the facts of reality.
Therefore, to deny the Objectivist Ethics is to deny reality, and to
say “existence does not exist,” “A is non-A,”
and “man is not man.” To do such is the ultimate moral
failing. Persons who do such are, thus, by a simple logical inference,
5. The only political system which can possibly
allow all the world’s people to act on the principle of
“rational self interest,” and therefore, for all of the
world’s people to in turn be treated justly and fairly (i.e.,
rationally), is a system of pure capitalism.
6. A “pure” or “true”
capitalist system is one of Laissez Faire capitalism, whereby
government does nothing to regulate or interfere with standard business
practices, or with the principles of free trade. The sole purpose of
government, insofar as trade and commerce are concerned, is to prevent
the initiation of the use of physical force by any of the participants
in such commerce and trade (including workers). In order to perform
this function, government is required to maintain a monopoly on the
retaliatory of the use of physical force.
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7. Whether Laissez Faire capitalism provides
universal prosperity and justice for all or not, it is the only morally
justified system conceivable, because it is the only one derived from
the axioms “A is A,” “existence exists,” and
the facts of reality.
8. The businessman/financier is the true
“producer” in society. Persons frequently referred to as
workers are mere accessories to the productive work of the businessman,
who ultimately produces all of the world’s goods. A worker or
group of workers without a businessman and without financial backing is
essentially capable of producing nothing. Without the businessman to
provide him a job, a worker, however talented, and however skillful,
will remain jobless and ultimately become homeless— and justly
so. For this reason, workers have no right to “force” or
require their employers to do anything. The rational thing for them to
do is to quit their jobs if they are dissatisfied in any significant
9. The fundamental ethical principle of all human interrelationships is free trade.
10. Free trade is a fundamental and inalienable
human right; free trade and a free mind go hand in hand. Therefore,
unless the world’s businessmen/financiers are allowed to conduct
their business as they see fit, without government interference, and
without labor unions, none of the world’s people can be truly
10. It is impossible for any rational thinking
person to fail to see the truth of Miss Rand’s ideas about
capitalism, about ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology (once they have
read Miss Rand’s works). Anyone who disagrees with Miss Rand is
either irrational, a “mystic” witch doctor, an
“Attila,” or simply a person who does not think at all. All
such persons who would disagree with Miss Rand’s philosophy of
Objectivism must be condemned, dismissed and ignored by all moral and
rational people. They are not even worth the trouble of debating.
12. All science, properly so called, must conform to
the principles of Objectivist metaphysics. Any science which does not,
including much of modern theoretical physics, is misguided at best, an
irrational “cheap fraud” at worst.
13. Objectivism is the only philosophy which
consistently promotes life on this planet. Therefore, all persons who
oppose Objectivism are anti-rational, anti-Man, and anti-life.
14. Physical objects in the world exist exactly as
one perceives them because existence is identity, and consciousness is
15. Ethically speaking, all rational persons are
rational egoists. All such rational egoists are self-made, and entirely
independent of other members of the society in which they live. Each
individual must take his own good as prior to the good of the world and
society at large.
16. Reality is a collection of “facts”
which are eternal, irresistible, and unchanging. This collection of
facts is synonymous with what is called “the facts of
17. Objectivism is the only philosophy which is
entirely consistent with the facts of reality. All other philosophies
are unfaithful to said facts of reality, and should be scorned and
dismissed, with the exception of Aristotle who was the
18. The facts of reality, known to the rational
thinking mind, are independent of consciousness. However, the inquiring
mind (so long as it is guided by the principles of Objectivist
metaphysics) can come to know these through sense perception and
consistent use of the laws of logic.
19. Knowledge, properly so called, is completely independent of opinion or personal perspective.
20. Objectivism provides a “scientific code of
morality” which is implemented by the institution of Laissez
Faire Capitalism on a global scale.
21. Monopolies and oligopolies are a theoretical
impossibility under unregulated Laissez Faire capitalism. As soon as
such a monopoly or oligopoly might hypothetically come into existence,
and it or they tried to use their status to advantage, a new competitor
would immediately appear offering the marketplace a more attractive
22. Corporations have an inalienable right to engage
in “free trade” amongst each other, as well as with
individuals. It is immoral and irrational for nations to enact laws
limiting free trade and commerce for purposes of promoting higher wages
and better living conditions for its workers.
23. Corporations have an inalienable moral right
(the duty to themselves, no less) to pay the lowest possible wages to
its workers, and have no duties whatsoever to its workers with respect
to working conditions, so long as its workers are free to quite their
jobs at any time.
24. Duty (the assumed moral necessity of acting or
not acting in such as way as to fulfill the permanent dictates of
conscience, piety, right, or law) is not a valid concept; it is, on the
contrary, and anti-concept. In advocating duty, persons known as
mystics destroy reason, destroy values, and destroy love. Thus, there
is no duty to treat other persons (still less, animals) in any way
other what suits ones own ends.
25. A truly rational person will swear not to
live for the sake of another person, nor ask another person to live for
his. Although, this is exactly what every "good" capitalist does:
his employees live to work for him, and his customers live so they can
buy his products. But no worries. Since duty is an utterly irrational
notion, there is no
consequent duty to abide by this or anything else one might swear to.
This, in a nutshell, is it. This in essence is what
Rand’s most devoted followers have claimed is the greatest
philosophical advance since Aristotle— if not in the entire
history of thought. Objectivists claim that all of these tenets are
ultimately based upon the laws of logic and “the facts of
reality,” and can be apprehended as indubitably true by any
thinking mind. Conversely, any mind that fails to see them is a mind
that is irrational, or in one way or another, by defect or deliberate
choice, non-functioning. My own view, of course, is that in reality,
Objectivism is the very opposite of virtually everything that it
purports to be. As such, I will argue later that Objectivism is nothing
more than a contradiction riddled philosophy of nihilism, and that if
Miss Rand’s “ideal” of capitalism were ever realized,
it would be the heralding of a new Dark Ages, far bleaker and darker
than the Dark Ages of old because the new corporate rulers would have
far more power than any 10th century pope ever dreamed of. They would
have the technological means at their disposal to manipulate, control,
or if it suited them, eliminate billions of people quite literally with
the click of a mouse button.