Ayn Rand’s Objectivism

Is it wrong to be self-interested?

Many of us have had to take a philosophy class at Ferris for one reason or another. If you have, you might remember your professor mentioning Ayn Rand. Although I doubt your professor talked in great detail about Rand or her philosophy, it is one of the most important and influential schools of thought in business, government and day-to-day life, now more than ever.

Ayn Rand’s father found success as the owner of a drug store in Soviet Russia. Before she immigrated to America, her father’s store was nationalized by the communist government. She witnessed first-hand the destruction of her father’s entrepreneurial spirit for the sake of the Soviet Union’s “common good.” Her experience with the extremes of collectivist thought led to the development of her philosophy.

Rand’s philosophy is called Objectivism. While a somewhat complex way of thinking, I am just touching on one aspect of Objectivism in this article. This aspect can be explained (reductively) in just one quote from Rand’s most revered book, Atlas Shrugged. The quote is, “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

We are living in an increasingly collectivist society. The way many of us think is that to be self-concerned is wrong. We see examples of this in the growing support for universal health care, entitlements and movements to make attending college free for students. These are movements where earned money must be taken from people to pay for other people’s goods and services. Some people might even call it theft. If you even mention birth control not being a “right” in a classroom discussion you might be mauled.

Ayn Rand’s ideas that to be self-interested is actually a virtue are extremely foreign in today’s political climate. But let’s break down the aforementioned quote and apply it to entitlements.

“I will never live for the sake of another man,” means, in this example, that I will not participate in a system where my money is taken against my will and used for the sake of another person.

The flip side of that is, “nor ask another man to live for mine.” This means I will not use other people’s money against their will for myself.

Simply put, we should all be responsible for our own happiness. Does that really sound so evil? I encourage everyone to read the books, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. These books can explain objectivist values far more in depth than I can in this piece. Many people have said that these books have changed their lives and I am one of them.