Can an Objectivist Truly Become a Politician?

Posted by dansail 7 years, 7 months ago to Philosophy
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I've read "Atlas Shrugged", "The Fountainhead", "Anthem" and "We The Living", but none of the treatises by Ms. Rand. While in her novels, Ms. Rand depicts several Objectivists in their various stations and roles, I don't recall her depicting an Objectivist politician. Does this preclude an Objectivist ever becoming a politician? Are there tenets in the philosophy of Objectivism that prevent/deny an Objectivist from serving in public office?


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  • Posted by Reasoner 7 years, 7 months ago
    This is a huge topic that can't be quickly answered, but in a nutshell...Objectivism's political stance is that of capitalism (and by extension objective law that protects the individual). To the extent that a politician stands for these ideals, they align with objectivist philosophy.

    Libertarians want limited (or no) government because they see it as a logical extension of their non-aggression principle, which they consider an axiom.

    Objectivists tend to want less government because so much of it is corrupt and subjective, and more specifically stands in opposition to true capitalism and individualism. Objectivists support government to the the aforementioned extents.

    In my opinion, the current state of politics is so far from either groups ideal that the near term path for both is less government in nearly every instance.

    Should the size of the federal government be significantly reduced (unlikely) I expect one would find libertarians and Objectivists would no longer be as close politically, as their differences would come to the forefront.

    An Objectivist can certainly be a politician (or try to be one!) but they would be a different type than what we are used to for sure. As soon as they traded power for favors or bribes, or advocated for any type of non objective, anti capitalist or anti individual law, they would, of course, cease to be Objectivists...and they would just be another politician ;)

    If you are interested in Objectivism, I would strive to understand the reasoning behind the conclusions and concepts that form the philosophy, rather than focus on high level conclusions such as the ones this question pertains to. Understand the reasoning from the ground up, testing it against your own independent evaluations of reality. Keep studying, it takes a long time to integrate the concepts that form Objectivism.

    There is no "supposed to's" in Objectivism. You are asked to form your own conclusions in all situations. The extent that they are correct will depend on how closely they align with reality.

    
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    • Posted by Blanco 7 years, 7 months ago
      Interesting comments. What is your take on the differences in being a libertarian and being an Objectivist? I certainly consider myself to be a libertarian, so I'm interested in how one defines the difference.
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      • Posted by TheRealBill 7 years, 7 months ago
        Libertarianism is a political strategy founded on the "non-aggression principle". Objectivism, as I understand it, is founded on the notion of individuals exercising their rational, objective, self-interest.

        Libertarianism is focused on preventing the initiation of force or fraud. This is a limited, though still useful, strategy. An Objectivist can certainly include that (and I think most would). But objectivism can, IMO, lead to supporting things strict libertarianism would not because of the distinction. The same can be true in the other direction. Let us take as an example the FDA.

        For Libertarians, the FDA is a target for abolishment because it initiates force to prevent people from selling products/services. Similarly, I can Objectivists being opposed to it for similar, if not identical, reasons. But what about changing the FDA from a regulatory agency to an advisory agency? What if instead it was a neutral collector/disseminator of information? What if it was a non-mandatory place to "store/publish" results of tests and studies done on drugs and devices, with no governmental benefits or detriments if you don't participate?

        Strictly speaking the Libertarian has lost their footing - no force is used. The government isn't mandating anything, nor are they enforcing any form of standards or preventing a work at home parent who wants to make cloth pads for other women, for example. But what of an Objectivist objection to the FDA? I have much less experience w/Objectivism to put forth an answer, but I do believe an objective argument against it be made.

        For me the difference is that the NAP is not a morality position. It is a "least common denominator", or minimalist position. Objectivism, however, is a moral framework. This difference is crucial, IMO.

        As a strategy that doesn't espouse morality, instead relying on the logic of "least infringement", Libertarianism can co-exist with many philosophies of morality such as various religions. it is predicated on the notion that if you are, for example, a Catholic you would rather live in a country that did not enforce any religion than one that enforce a non-catholic one, or even on opposed to Catholicism. Libertarianism thus tries to bridge the gulf between maximum restriction of others and minimum restriction of self - hence the "least common denominator". In some ways it works as a "Hail Mary" play.

        By distinction, Objectivism, as I understand it, establishes a morality as part of its core. As such, it will necessarily conflict with other systems of morality. As noted by AR and others, in a battle of morality systems the one that compromises the least ultimately wins. In that regard, you could view Objectivism as the touchdown at the end of a drive , and Libertarianism as the field goal. You want the full party, but if you had to settle for less, you would rather it be libertarianism than another.

        Yet, there is evidence to suggest that in certain stages of society, Libertarianism can produce positive movement by its nature of being LCD and non-exclusive. For comparison consider food and diets. In particular consider the rise of the gluten-free diet.

        A restaurant which only offers gluten containing products excludes those who can or do not partake of gluten. However, a restaurant which offers gluten-free food can serve both those who avoid gluten and those who do not. As a result there are a growing number of restaurants which have gluten-free items, and indeed even gluten-free menus, in addition to the gluten bombs.

        If over time the gluten free population exceeds the gluten eating population, the context reverses, and the former "gluten regime" can face being out of favor and "expulsion" as it becomes more profitable to have GF main menus. At which point a legislative attempt would probably be made to outlaw the "evil gluten".

        In this possibly strained analogy, libertarianism is the GF option making way for the Objectivist morality base to become dominant. Essentially what I'm discussion is the cultural dominance cycle - how a culture of non-inclusion "beats" a culture of inclusion. This process is how christianity overcame the roman pantheon of gods. The early christian religion was very exclusive, in the sense that it had strict rules about mingling with other religions. on the other end, the roman multi-theistic "religion" was rather inclusive. In short, worshippers of the roman gods and goddesses didn't care if you also worshipped the christian one. But the inverse was not true. This is back to the same principle underlying AR's analysis of who ultimately wins in a contest of morality/principles.

        I see this as why there is significant overlap between Objectivism and Libertarianism, yet that they are more effective in various times and contexts. In non-fall situations Libertarianism is the "gateway drug" by virtue of its LCD status. However, in the case of complete collapse, such as at the end of AS, it is insufficient because it lacks the more complete morality underpinnings. Just like when the fecal matter connects with the oscillating air moving device on a battlefield, you want a leader rather than a pollster.

        As I see them, in Rand's writings the state of government and society is beyond the point where libertarianism can perform its function, which is also a state where an objectivist politician can't exist. Can you imagine Galt et al. coming in at the collapse and saying "ok everyone, just don't attack or defraud anyone else and it is all good" - that is the libertarian position. The objectivist one is the one that proceeds to build a planned system to do what needs done because it is the right thing to do.

        At least, that is how I see the comparison between the two.

        Now as to whether or not the United States of America is in that state, is still an open question. I think a real-life Galt certainly could tip it over. It would be a conspiracy of massive proportions, of course, but I think we know enough about the looters that it can be done. The truly hard part is identifying the key producers that would have to shrug to make it work.
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 7 years, 7 months ago
    Great question! I've mulled this over, myself. Recently a good friend strongly suggested that I run for our State Assembly. My reaction was actually physical repulsion. "I don't want anything to do with those people!" But, it made me ponder this same question. I think an Objectivist could be a politician. What would I do, for example? First of all, I'd likely not get elected because I'd run on the platform of, "The government isn't your parent." But, let's say that I still get elected (by some miracle) I'd immediately start by dismantling a majority of government offices and functions. Some are good, some need to go. That kind of leadership wouldn't be tolerated. And, you can't make such sweeping changes as a junior elected official. You'd have to survive a couple terms to have any power within the system. So...can one of us become a politician? Possibly. Would we last long enough to make an impact? Highly unlikely.

    I have met with politicians a few times. Frankly, they don't know squat. Almost all seem like failed lawyers to me, and need to be educated on the topics.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years, 7 months ago
      I did run for State Assembly as a Libertarian in 1982. I knew I wasn't going to win (got 3.6% of the vote) but it was fun. I got to talk to (and perhaps educate) a few groups during the campaign. If I had won, I think I would have enjoyed "shaking up the system" with my speeches and votes, even if my influence would have been minimal.
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      It may be numbers of governmentalists want to be like parents and may believe it. Also what of discontinuing directing people to juries? Greater it's more a choice and volunteering?
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    • Posted by Riftsrunner 7 years, 7 months ago
      Good point. And unfortunately, I don't see even a John Galt being a politician, as to succeed you would need to sell out your principles long before you could get into a position to actually practice objectivism in government. And as the axiom goes, power corrupts, so a John Galt will be gone, replaced by a Dr. Robert Stadler.
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    • Posted by $ Snezzy 7 years, 7 months ago
      You are right that "they don't know squat." We had the occasion to meet personally with the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Safety, following a hearing on "The Carriage Bill" that would have eliminated (by oppressive and self-contradictory regulation) horse-drawn vehicles in Massachusetts. We pointed out that the bill required that he had to approve any whips that were to be used. We asked him what criteria he might use. He said, "Probably short enough that it would not hurt the horse." The man had never worked with horses, and had no idea of the purpose of a driving whip. To "improve safety" he would have created anti-safety regulations.

      Effective politicians know how to use power. They know how to pressure people into doing things that they don't want to do, and understand Tip O'Neil's observation: "All politics is local." When you have a taxi business and an undertaker, both of whom want their competition eliminated, you get the taxi man's support for regulating funeral parlors, and vice-versa. (In Chicago you get the added benefit that the dead will vote for you.)

      My vote for "closest approximation to an Objectivist politician" goes to Calvin Coolidge.

      As for proper carriage-horse whips--the whip must be long enough to reach the ground and smack in the face any dog that is trying to grab the horse's leg, thus preventing a run-away disaster Normally it is used to touch the horse on his side, getting his attention, or to brush away flies. Yes, you could beat your horse with it, but that action is rarely required. You could kick your dog with your heavy boots, but should we outlaw shoes? The good Commissioner honestly admitted that he didn't know squat.

      One more thing about that carriage bill... It provided that carriages must have ball bearings, and also defined sleighs (no wheels!) as carriages. So one either would need to carry a bag full of ball bearings affixed to the sleigh's dashboard, or else drive a (ball-bearing) stallion.
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  • Posted by freedomforall 7 years, 7 months ago
    Any objectivist serving ethically in public office would likely not be doing so in his highest primary self interest. He might have a secondary self interest in doing such a job for a limited time. For a few their highest and most productive role (and self interest) could be as an elected official. However, in a government as in Atlas Shrugged (and in today's reality in America) they would be unable to continue in that role improving the operation of looters.
    Just my opinion, without any claim as an expert on Objectivism.
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  • Posted by ewv 7 years, 7 months ago
    There is nothing in Objectivism that prevents political activity or even a political career, but what you could do in that depends on what is possible, if anything, in whatever the current culture and political system.

    In Atlas Shrugged there were no heroes in politics because the political system was so corrupt -- the premise of the plot included a political system based on the wrong philosophical ideas. Galt refused to participate when offered the position of economic dictator. Likewise, Anthem and We the Living had totalitarian governments. The Fountainhead was not a political novel.

    In a better system, like the one the country started with, you could do quite a lot. But today you could not only not accomplish anything significant in public office because of the laws and the pressure groups directing your duties, you would not be able to tolerate the environment of sleaze and dishonesty, except perhaps for some very limited, low level positions.

    When I have gone to Washington or the state capitol to talk to a representative or official, or to testify at a committee hearing, my overwhelming reaction was to want to go home and take a shower from just being around those people in that general atmosphere -- though that doesn't mean there aren't some better people there worth working with on a limited basis.

    So you have to ask yourself, what would it do to you to be in politics? Ayn Rand was asked about this on Johny Carson's The Tonight Show in October 1967:

    Carson: "Would you ever run for office?"

    AR: "Certainly not!"

    Carson: "Why not?"

    AR: "Because I think that would be the most sacrificial action anyone could undertake, particularly today."

    The only way to have a meaningful impact today is educationally, spreading and defending the right ideas that make a rational government possible -- and without which it is not possible -- and in limited grass roots action on specific issues where it is still possible to affect public policy in self defense without being forced to support ideas and politicians who destroy your goals. Otherwise, it is "the most sacrificial action anyone could undertake".
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    • Posted by ProfChuck 7 years, 7 months ago
      AI worked in Washington for 8 years and for two different administrations as part of the NASA contingent to the White house science advisory council. I watched the sausage making process first hand and understand why anyone would feel unclean afterwards. There are some jobs that should never be given to the person tat wants it.
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      • Posted by ewv 7 years, 7 months ago
        And in NASA you were on the relatively "clean" end of the politics there. The lying, two-faced manipulations selling out anyone for anything with 'deals', 'compromises' and alliances of convenience and entrenched power bases, together with phony public personas designed to hide it all from their constituents, all honed to a "professional" art-form, are beyond what most people can imagine. Public opinion of Washington is consistently negative even without knowing how bad it is at the even lower rungs of hell.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 7 years, 7 months ago
    Objectivism does not prevent anyone from doing anything that is not evil. However, in today's politics it may be difficult to avoid evil intent if one subscribes to a certain party and must "go along to get along." But, if an Objectivist can get into politics and still maintain his or her integrity, then I see no problem with it except for the problems the Objectivist will encounter.
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  • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
    One answer is a rational and/or objectivist will not want to be a "high rank" politician.
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      THen, an Objectivist may be more okay adopting of a "low rank" politician.WHat;s with Francisco and John Galt are exmples of selfishness and choices, not altruism, nor ways one may ascribe of possibly most politicians. Too much of a number of politicians may hide under cover of altruism a good thing but desire and activate ways to get money, looking not altruistic by various people beliefs of egoism and altruism.
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      • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
        One belief may be it's capitalism, or not.It may also be adopting certain features of capitalism and ones which are not capitalistic. They may be the ways of a mix economy.A belief may be too much of The United States Of America continues more than forty-five years an economy of mixtures.It may depend upon the amount of each mix to be distinct from of Red China.
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  • Posted by chad 7 years, 7 months ago
    There is a difference between a politician that wants to rule and a statesman who prefers to protect the liberties and properties of those of his country. Gandhi made the mistake of thinking that if Indians replaced the British in their socialist ruling system they would treat their own kind better because they were Indians. They treated the people the same as the rulers before had treated them. The Indians simply replaced the ruling class with a different ruling class. Anyone trying to work within the communist democracy we currently have will either be frustrated to learn they have no effect or will be just like those they replaced in order to 'feel effective'. Politics is the art of lying and politicians are the practitioners of the art. Electing an objectivist to a position would be an exercise in futility.
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  • Posted by Enyway 7 years, 7 months ago
    There are four presidents that stand out. All of them serving their terms before "Atlas Shrugged." They are, Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. I believe, had they known about Objectivism, they would have approved of it. These four are probably the best presidents ever to hold office. Reference the book, "Nine Presidents Who Screwed Up America and the Four Who Tried to Save Her." The answer would be "Yes" you can be objective and a politician.
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison also? A number believe, a number agreeing rightfully, George Washington is the greatest president.
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      • Posted by Enyway 7 years, 7 months ago
        That would depend on the yardstick you are using to rate them. Believe it or not, Andrew Jackson is one of the nine who screwed up America. Abraham Lincoln was one of our worst presidents along with Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon and the big O. read the book, then get back to me. If you like, I can send you an Audible version.
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        • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 6 months ago
          The yardstick are people, especially oneself. The effect upon innocent people, including oneself.A belief is Richard Nixon the worst president, Ronald Reagan the number two worst and worst governor of California.Doctor Michael Savage, number one radio talk show host, talks George W.Bush the worst president. A number agree.Doctor Michael Savage also talks of Abraham Lincoln bad.He likes Ayn Rand, notes her one of the greatest, and ntes of Atlas Shrugged very good.
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          • Posted by Enyway 7 years, 6 months ago
            The people agreed, through their representatives, to abide by the Constitution of the United States. To judge these presidents we must adhere to our Constitution. These presidents I mention are judged on their adherence to that constitution. Andrew Jackson drove a hole right threw it. the duties and privileges of the president are clearly defined in the constitution. Jackson, Lincoln, both Teddy and Frank Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama all got their Cuisinart, shoved in the constitution and hit the puree button. Thomas Jefferson changed the course of this country. A change that continued for nearly thirty years. That is the kind of president we need today.
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        • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 6 months ago
          Thomas Jefferson notes twenty-dollar-bill Andrew Jackson is dangerous.What reason is Thomas Jefferson only getitng the two dollar bill, ten percent of the twenty dollar one, when he's more than ten percent greater than Jackson, if Jackson is great or has greatness? Maybe he may next to what's after.Then it depends on what's after.What's after may talk he's great, but their various deeds may make them less, causing him to look great, because he's greater than them, or less bad.
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          • Posted by Enyway 7 years, 6 months ago
            Let's see, Thomas Jefferson died in 1826. Andrew Jackson became president in1829. The first printing was in 1861. I don't understand Jefferson's relevance. Andrew Jackson is one of America's greatest heroes and deserves his place on American currency. However, his presidency did not conform to the Constitution as ratified by the states. Read the book, then get back to me.
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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 7 years, 7 months ago
    No. Politicians have no conviction.
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      Always? Or more at present? Is it possible a "politician" can be objective and moral?
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      • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 7 years, 7 months ago
        I believe an Objectivist will almost always be true to him/herself which doesn't necessarily bode well for political public service.

        As for politicians, few, very few, have any conviction whatever except to keeping their power and amassing wealth.
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        • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 6 months ago
          Thanks because you reply. It may be too much of a number "in" politics look away from government a servant to the people.Then it may be too much of a number of politicians, look toward people who are not governmentalists, to serve them, almost an addition to the definition of a politician..
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  • Posted by $ jdg 7 years, 7 months ago
    I believe Rand was asserting that no one can be ethically pure and still get elected to a major national office. This is probably true.

    Therefore, the question of what an objectivist in office could rightfully do doesn't arise. He'll have "sold his soul" before he gets there, or he'll never get there.
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  • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years, 7 months ago
    Several U.S. Senate and House members claim to be Ayn Rand fans, and probably are to a certain extent. As we gain more influence through our educational efforts, more elected officials might join that group and we might gain officeholders who are more consistent in their support of Objectivist principles. It's a gradual process.
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  • Posted by ProfChuck 7 years, 7 months ago
    The founders viewed public service as an obligation not as a career. Citizens were encouraged to take time off from their productive activities to provide support for the republic. Government, no matter how unobtrusive, requires some degree of administration or chaos and anarchy follow. The problem with our present system is that politics provides a path to power and a the old saying goes "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." So the question becomes should an objectivist accept a temporary position as a public "servant" because the system views it as an obligation? Under what circumstances, if any, should an objectivist yield to an obligation imposed by others?
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  • Posted by $ blarman 7 years, 7 months ago
    Yes, but only in an Objectivist society. That's the rub. Our current government has solidified around socialism and the perpetuation and growth of the State. An Objectivist is opposed to those goals.

    It reminds me of a story about a gentleman who was asked to take the job as head of Immigration - under Reagan. He declined because the political atmosphere even in those times would have prevented him from actually doing his job enforcing immigration law!
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      A mix may be with more than one component with one or more of them with the look of more than the separate or separates.
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      • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
        Agreeing more than one type of non-capitalism, one type of government or regime may be with more of a non-capitalistic component one, than two, or more two than one.A number may believe laissez faire capitalism is the only legitimate capitalism, or there is no illegitimate capitalism, or it can only be legal and/or moral.
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years, 7 months ago
      Are they? Can they not use the methodology to find the most practical ways to an end goal admittedly subverting the purpose but then so did their Founder Plato when he invented the ruling class of philosophers as the first socialis escape hatch.

      Add that the benefit of the political version of the Christian religion which is be as evil, wicked, mean, and nasty as you want even to being mistaken for a Clinton and then with your last breath. Repent.

      Good call on the immigration guy. Would the FBI Director and the Attorney General has been as honest - in the view of decent people
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  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years, 7 months ago
    Why Not? One good reason.

    Objectivism is a way to validate or invalidate any belief system of any type or kind. It demands one who can think and reason on their own and who recognizes that. It demands observing the nature of things animate or inanimate or actions and observe their nature. Test the observations for usefulness and decide to set aside for continued testing if not useful and if useful ask one question. Is It Moral. Example today would be voting for Clinton No and voting for Trump Yes. Which does not coincide with others but it's always a personal decision. As is killing off Scotch Broom or initiating a landslide. Even so the testing and measuring against a personal set of morals, values, ethics etc. never stops.

    Does it work?
    Is it Useful?
    Is it Moral.?

    Now why wouldn't that apply to politicians.

    Come on! I said you had to be able to think and reason,

    It depends on your moral values - or lack thereof - but that's your problem not mine.

    How do you feel about freedom of speech? Say...in this discussion or the idea it should be a commodity to be bought and sold?
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  • Posted by gpecaut 7 years, 7 months ago
    I do not believe a true Objectivist could be a politition. First, because Objectivism is based on "selfishness", that is self interest with rational thought. To be a good Objectivist, and a politition, one would have to be altruistic. Objectivism is quite the opposite of altruism. A good Objectivist politition would bee much more self serving running his own business. However, Franco did sacrifice his own wealth for the support of Galt, and Galt risked his life for Dagney. Fallowed by the entire population of the Gulch coming to Galt's rescue. So perhaps a good Objectivist could be a self serving politition for his self interest of bringing society to an Objectivist rational model.
    But most polititions are self serving, They just are not moral, or as we know are not Capitalists, but rather Croney Capitalists. While others buy their way to power with Socialists ideas.
    I think before we worry about getting an Objectivist elected, we need to be happy when we can get a true Constitutionaln Capitalist elected
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 6 months ago
      Ragnar talks to Henry Rearden. He may sound altruistic, but he's selfish. Howard Roark replies to one of the people talking he's selfless Howard Roark's choice is one of his most selfish choices or indications of selfishness.Who is selfish and what is selfishness may be more specific and with certain details- than one may guess or with which to agree.What appears selfless may be selfish. It's separate to identify people or terms words, and phrases which describe them and their traits correctly without confusion, vagueness, and approximation.
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years, 7 months ago
      Example....I think therefore I am. I reason therefore I can make decisions. I observe the nature of things and make decisions on their usefulness. I have determined a set of values, morals and ethics. They tell me to be self serving politician wit no regard for others is correct. Furthermore I believe it's ok to use subjectivism and money to sway the opinions of others.

      Take notice no quotes.

      That explains how someone like Hillary Clinton or V.I. Lenin or A. Hitler can use the principles of objectivism to be successful in politics.

      Someone didn't notice they made a wrong premise turn but then that would be according to that someone's beliefs.

      What that example means to me is the third Law is the most important.

      Your turn.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 7 years, 7 months ago
    It is complicated. First of all, government is just one kind of social organization. Every group is comprised of "politicians" one way or another. We volunteer to get together, schedule meetings, post minutes and announcements, handle finances, partner with other groups, and so on.

    As for government, Ayn Rand pointed out that as government absorbs ever more activities, it is not immoral to work for the government doing something that would exist in a free market. I think that she offered teaching the piano as an arbitrary example. But it would be wrong to do work that no one should do, like working in a regulation department.

    Also, as Reasoner pointed out, legitimate government functions do exist. I was appointed by my county commission to serve on a criminal justice committee, for example.
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    • Posted by 1musictime 7 years, 7 months ago
      Certain people may distinguish between "government" and "society"."Government" a social organization or a type of it may not interfere with the belief or notion it is or is not "society" and is separate from "society".The two may be separate people with separate descriptions, and maybe tasks."Government", ot serve and protect, whether definite or not. "Society" may be one group after the next with involvements with various non-governmental things, also like a club, and with various professions, also informal, maybe with teaand carnivorous or omnivorous food at their parties.
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