Can an Objectivist Truly Become a Politician?
Posted by dansail 6 years, 6 months ago to Philosophy
69 comments | Share | Best of... | Flag
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just my opinion, without any claim as an expert on Objectivism.
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".
As for politicians, few, very few, have any conviction whatever except to keeping their power and amassing wealth.
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.
No mistake. I can't put it there twice.
Are you reading this, stupid it for a jerk?
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!
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
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?
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
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.
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.