You wouldn’t be wrong if you called Alan Greenspan, the renowned former chairman of the Federal Reserve System, an egoist – moral egoist might be a better term, though. And another thing: he probably likes Ayn Rand more than you do.
The author – whose works “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” have enthralled some national leaders, including Greenspan, and terrorized high school students for decades – is the progenitor of objectivism, a school of philosophy described by Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s friend and heir, as “the antidote to the present state of the world.”
In terms of ethics, I’ll leave Rand to explain: “All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.”
Politically, this translates into a completely open and free market as well as infallible individual rights. If the individual is “forced upon” in any way, that force is immoral, be it a tariff or a wiretap.
LSA senior Andrew Sardone and LSA sophomore Roderick Fitts, who run the University group Students of Objectivism, certainly think so. They also disdain the common misconception that objectivism is neatly packaged with libertarianism. Objectivism, they feel, differs from the political affiliation in that the philosophy is in and of itself a moral base that can be applied to politics. Libertarianism, conversely, is predicated by politics.
Their enthusiasm, though, doesn’t seem to be too widely held on campus. While Ron Paul seems to have a devoted Ann Arbor following as a Republican candidate with libertarian leanings, Sardone and Fitts were the only people who came to last week’s Students of Objectivism meeting.
Still, there are ripe forums for discussion. Sardone and Fitts talked at length about public smoking bans. On one hand, smoking is an individual right. On the other, second-hand smoke is a negative force on other individuals. Objectivism would side with the smokers. It wouldn’t, though, necessarily be described as environmentalist. Since companies and individuals should not be subjugated to specific taxes and regulations, global warming is an even trickier issue. Sardone and Pitts see Al Gore as part of an “elite class choosing for everyone else.” They see class-action law suits – individuals suing on behalf of their rights – as the rational avenue to compromise.
But Students of Objectivism meetings don’t usually center on specific political debate. Usually, Sardone, Fitts and their fellow members – they say about 10 people typically show up – discuss objectivism’s ideologies.
Even though last week’s conversation was littered with terms that could perplex even the most esoteric philosophy student, objectivism has its practical uses. Just tell your boss you’re exercising your individual right to rational egoism next time he tells you to stop smoking in the workplace.