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Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Five: Individual Rights and Capitalism Thursday, July 3,

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Presentation on theme: "Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Five: Individual Rights and Capitalism Thursday, July 3,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Objectivism th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Five: Individual Rights and Capitalism Thursday, July 3, 2003

2 2 Objectivism 101 Schedule 1.SundayAyn Rand and Philosophy 2.MondayReality and Reason 3.TuesdayLife and Happiness 4.WednesdayThe Virtues 5.ThursdayIndividual Rights and Capitalism 6.FridayArt as Spiritual Fuel

3 3 Politics  Politics defines the proper social system  The basic questions: What principles should govern people’s interactions in society? What are the purpose and legitimate functions of government? “Political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed gas you should be given and on which day of the week – it will tell you whether the government has the right to impose rationing on anything.” — Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It”

4 4 The Left: The Right:  Freedom of expression  Environmental laws  Lifestyle freedoms  Welfare for the poor  Public schools  Federal control  Rights of the accused  Personal freedoms  Regulations on obscenity  Economic prosperity  Family values  Private charity  School choice  Local governance  Rights of the victims  Economic freedoms

5 5 Objectivist Politics in Brief  Individuals have the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness  The government’s only legitimate function is to protect those individual rights from coercion  Capitalism is the only economic system consistent with individual rights

6 6 The Foundation of Rights “Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right for him to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.” — Ayn Rand, “Galt’s Speech,” Atlas Shrugged

7 7 Life and Freedom in Society  In order to live and flourish in society, we need to be free to… –Pursue our own lives and happiness –Form and act on our own judgments –Pursue both material and spiritual values –Trade with others to mutual benefit

8 8 Life and Freedom  In order to live in society, we need to be free to pursue our own lives and happiness  This freedom is grounded in the ethical principles of egoism and individualism  Opposing view: The lives of individuals are merely a means to the collective good of all

9 9 Reason and Freedom  In order to live in society, we need to be free to form and act on our own judgments  This freedom is grounded in the epistemological principle of reason as the only source of knowledge  Opposing view: People must be forced into holding the right opinions and taking the right actions

10 10 Values and Freedom  In order to live in society, we need to be free to pursue both material and spiritual values  This freedom is grounded in our human nature as beings of integrated mind and body  The opposing view: Material or spiritual values are too important to be left to individual choice

11 11 Trade and Freedom  In order to live in society, we need to be free to trade with others to mutual benefit  This freedom is grounded in social ethics principle of harmony of interests  The opposing view: Trade is necessarily exploitive because life is a zero-sum game

12 12 The Necessity of Freedom  In order to live in society, we need to be free to… –Pursue our own lives and happiness  Egoism (ethics) –Form and act on our own judgments  Reason (epistemology) –Pursue both material and spiritual values  Mind-body integration (human nature) –Trade with others to mutual benefit  Harmony of interests (social ethics)

13 13 Ayn Rand on Rights “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated actions—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, furtherance and the enjoyment of his own life.” — Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights”

14 14 Individual Rights  “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning man’s freedom of action in a social context” (Ayn Rand)  Rights concern action, not goods or outcomes “…for every individual, the right is a moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.” — Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights”

15 15 The Violation of Rights  Rights can only be violated through the initiation of physical force “To violate man’s rights means to compel him to act against his own judgment, or to expropriate his values. Basically, there is only one way to do it: by the use of physical force.” — Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights”  Two potential violators of rights: criminals and governments

16 16 The Role of Government “The only proper, moral purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence—to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property, and to the pursuit of his own happiness” — Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”  So the only legitimate functions of government are: –Police –Courts –Military

17 17 Economic Systems  Socialism: Government control of economic affairs –No private ownership or control of property –No freedom to privately contract  Fascism: Government regulation of economic affairs –Nominal private ownership of property, but with government control –Regulation of contracts  Capitalism: Separation of government and economic affairs –Private ownership and control over property –Full freedom to contract

18 18 Capitalism  Laissez-faire capitalism as moral ideal and practical necessity  Capitalism as system of trade and individual rights

19 19 Violations of Rights  Drug laws  Welfare programs  Business regulations  Anti-discrimination laws  Environmental regulations  Gun regulations  The draft  Anti-trust laws

20 20 Today’s Topics  The requirements of human life in society  Individual rights  The evil of coercion  The role of government  Socialism and fascism versus capitalism  Violations of rights


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