What would Ayn Rand think?

Posted by preimert1 8 years, 7 months ago to Philosophy
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I have a notion that to some entrepreneurs think of starting and running a business as a great game to be played hard--even ruthlessly--using every strategy and resource at their command. Then having won and achieved success, they give it all away to better the lives of others. This seems contradictory to Objective philosophy. I'm thinking Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, et al--and Andrew Carnagy before them. I can't help but wonder what Ayn Rand would think about such squandering of wealth. Your thoughts?


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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 8 years, 7 months ago
    In opening of the "The Fountainhead" Peter Keating seeks Howard Roark's advice on graduate school. Roark's reply is that Keating made a mistake asking ANYONE what he should do.

    Granting fully that a person has a political right to spend their own money on any whim or even on their own destruction, Objectivism begins with a deeper consideration of what is the best way to live your life.

    If you read much of Ayn Rand, it is pretty clear that altruism of any kind is contrary to self-interest. Benevolent charity can be a virtue, but it is not a primary virtue.

    If a town is wiped out by a flood, and if you can give time or money to help rebuild it without taking away from your own well-being, then that can be fine. Such an action would raise several issues, however. Perhaps every place on Earth knows a 100-year disaster of some kind, but it is obvious that people build towns on the slopes of active volcanoes. Cities built near rivers predictably suffer flooding. Charity after a disaster just rewards people for refusing to plan.

    That deeper issue also remains. It may be impossible for Bill Gates or Warren Buffett to give away all their money. They would have to run away and hide. You and I are not so fortunate. What we do with our money matters in a very material way.

    Again, you have a political right to spend your money on whims. However, doing so is contrary to your best interests, opposed to your life as "man qua man."

    One thing to note about the best of the charitable foundations - Carnegie's libraries are perhaps the icon - is that they only let people improve themselves by their own efforts.

    The Ayn Rand Institute sponsors essay contests. First, the awards are in return for excellent work; they are not automatic or random. Also, they enable students to pay for their education, but they do not provide anything else. And the winner can do whatever they want with the money, buy drugs or flashy tennis shoes - though of course we can easily assume that none would do that. That speaks to the deeper issue.

    How to evaluate people who give away their money is the logical reflective case of considering what people do with unearned money such as lottery winnings. Most people who win big in the lottos are ruined by their good fortune. If you won a million dollars (not a large sum these days), how would you spend it? Indulging random whims would be contrary to your self-interest, even if you could afford it.
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  • Posted by LetsShrug 8 years, 7 months ago
    I think she would say everyone has a right to spend their earnings whatever way they want. It's theirs to "squander" and it's nobody's business. If it makes them happy and their life better for doing it then it's not a squander at all.
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    • Posted by DannyMReed 8 years, 7 months ago
      I have worked in Health Care for many years and feel "socialization" of Medicine; collecting a lot more taxes to provide "free" health care to all without regard for what it costs or whom it goes to, on demand, is a good idea implemented in England, France, Canada and other places in contrast to the United States. Still, to see Austerity Programs being implemented in these same countries since The Crash of 2008-2009 and on is heart rending. If the Post Office, Schools and Libraries can be "socialized" and run nominally, why not something far more important like Health Care? I think the difference, or devil, is in the details. We are assuming Central Planning works but we cannot possibly trust it completely. England was crushed after WW2 but one of the first priorities successfully implemented was Health Care for all. It seems we end up standing in line for one thing if not another, anyway. "Caring about" ANYTHING cannot be Legislated, including where the Money goes. It's the difference between "New Money" and "Old Money:" Beyond a very limited resource, "New Money" is clueless and goes ape over a large windfall, while "Old Money" is calmly accustomed to managing large amounts of Capital well beyond their immediate needs or wants. It doesn't make upper Classes "better," just better at handling and understanding Money itself.
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  • Posted by Lucky 8 years, 7 months ago
    preimert1 This is a good question. There is cause for unease on both sides, the getting of the wealth as well as the spending. On the first, Rand was clear, how you made the money was important, cronyism was bad.
    I put this idea which I think is consistent with Objectivism. Many makers of vast fortunes, in particular money from from cheating and cronyism, have feelings of guilt which they cover by giving away. The giving is directed by getting public approval for the fashion of the moment (big noting yourself). At this moment there is a fashion for the green movement, sustainability and such like. My proposition is that if they spent on luxury goods and homes, yachts and restaurants, servants and private jets, the public good (in the true sense of the word) would be better enhanced than giving to harmful political movements.
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  • Posted by iroseland 8 years, 7 months ago
    Its an interesting though experiment. But, if they are using the money to build the kind of world they want to live in then good for them. Just look at what the Gates Foundation is actually accomplishing. For the first time in a long time humans are again winning the war on Malaria. He is also while spending big piles of money on the problem managing to do it for way less than the UN or any particular government. Also, lets look at the problem getting rid of malaria will increase the productivity of a huge percentage of humanity. So this seems less like altruism and more like teaching them to fish. So, just remember its only a sacrifice if you get nothing in return for it.
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  • Posted by richrobinson 8 years, 7 months ago
    I think most of them make these donations to get their name and face in the news. They want attention and they have the money to get it. For them it is value for value.
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  • Posted by $ WillH 8 years, 7 months ago
    I think Gates has more money than he literally knows what to do with, and he seems to me to be more challenge oriented that money oriented. He gives away tons of money while making tons more money. I think he is a very goal driven person, who just happens to be the Supreme Commander of the Techno-Geeks of the World.

    Buffet I think honestly knows he is supporting the looters and enjoys it. I think he gets off on people “worshiping” him and his generosity.

    Like Shrug said, it’s their money and achievement to do with whatever makes them happy.
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