Number Fifty-One

Tealiberasophoterianistic Perspectives

Ayn Rand and the Conservative Christian Response: Politics Vs. Ethics

with 40 comments

A Critique of Ayn Rand’s Politics

By Joey Phillips

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. – Ayn Rand

It is not confusing why conservatives are attracted to the writings of Ayn Rand. If you compare and contrast conservative ideology and liberal ideology today, Rand would fall on the side of conservatives most every time. Conservatives, like Rand, worship individual freedom; liberals tend to elevate equality. Rand was also extreme in her view of a limited government.  She basically argued that its job was to protect its citizens from the forceful loss of life or property. It is easy to see why conservatives, who are generally advocates of smaller government, would find that view appealing, if extreme. Rand was an advocate of free market capitalism. Overall, it is easy to see why libertarians and conservatives would be attracted to the writings of Rand.

The interesting thing to me is that her politics went hand in hand with her ethics, which brings up an interesting problem for conservative Christians who are Rand fans. Rand’s Objectivism isn’t exactly compatible with Christian ethics. So either her ethics need to be divorced from her politics (which is unnatural since her politics are based in her ethics, which are based in her epistemology) or we need to acknowledge that her politics are badly flawed. The only other option is arguing that she was not logically consistent, and thus got to the right answers the wrong way. That, to her, would be the greatest insult.

Now I am sure some of you (that’s right, our readers, I am talking to the two of you) might argue that Objectivism isn’t really incompatible with Christianity, that just because she wasn’t a Christian doesn’t mean her philosophy can’t be. That would be silly of you. Objectivism says that selfishness can be rational, and argues that humanity’s mutual interests dictate that rational people need not gain at another’s expense.  This is a utopian view, to put it nicely. It completely ignores what Chesterton called the one undisputed fact of Christianity; the sinful nature of man. Christianity recognizes that men are naturally inclined to not be rational in our selfishness, and to pursue our own interests regardless of its interference with another’s good.   Christianity is about self-sacrifice, selflessness, and charity. Each of these go against Rand’s Objectivism because they are irrational.

Ok, so her philosophy and ethics aren’t exactly Christian, but why should we then dismiss her politics? Her politics, after all, aren’t unchristian. Aren’t they though?  Like I said a second ago, her politics are based in her philosophy, which is antithetical to Christianity. So unless she was inconsistent, or Christianity is, than her politics shouldn’t really line up with a Christian’s politics. (Let’s forget for a second that Christians are all over the map politically because we are incredibly inconsistent.) It shouldn’t be surprisingn, then, that that her idea of a completely free market capitalism would never work for the same reason her ethics of rational selfishness doesn’t work. It ignores the depravity of man. Markets will always need some measure of regulation and oversight for the same reason government needs checks and balances. It’s being run by people, and people can be stupid, selfish, lying, greedy, cheating individuals. Her view of an extremely limited government is nice, if you don’t mind a society where any drug  is legal, and any vice, unless it forcefully physically harms another, is tolerated. Unless you take the view that “restraining the evildoer” just means punishing murders and thieves, it would be hard to argue a government this limited would be biblical.

For those of you who would argue that a Christians politics don’t have to line up with, or flow out of, their ethics because the government has a separate and divinely appointed role that falls outside the scope of Christianity and so government isn’t supposed to be ‘Christian’ per se, I would agree. But I would argue that when we find ourselves in a country that allows us to have a say in how it operates, we should do everything we can to try and influence it to operate according to Christian principles. I can unpack what I think that would look like in today’s political world in a later post , but suffice to say, we shouldn’t want it to operate like Rand would have it operate; completely blind to sin and naively thinking that selfishness and freedom are bosom buddies. Politics cannot be separated from ethics, nor should it be.  As conservative Christians, we can agree that Rand’s ethics are flawed.  We should agree that her politics are as well.

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Written by Jake Phillips

May 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

40 Responses

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  1. I will take issue with much of what Joey said about the markets and limited government, but I think it needs to be pointed out that the founders shared the Christian concern of depravity. It is no coincidence that the great awakening coincided with America’s independence, and the founders wrote of the moral revolution which increased their confidence that Americans could self-govern. In their minds only a virtuous and moral people could do this, and the more wicked they became, the more they needed masters. Ultimately, they decided that human depravity is most dangerous when power is located in the hands of a privileged few, and depravity is minimized when power is shared by all people, who despite their depravity still have an innate desire to protect life, liberty and happiness. So j think Rand gets it right that limiting government and divesting power in all people protects against the most severe consequences and expressions of human depravity.

    Jesse P.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:44 am

    • The problem with that argument Jesse is that limiting government power to this extreme degree doesn’t leave power in the hands of “the people.” It allows power to be concentrated with by even smaller, less transparent, and unelected group of people.

      jamestschannen

      May 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      • James, the limits of power I was speaking of is referring to the constitutional limits on government, which established a rule of law and it’s prescribed expression of self-government, in which we don’t have unelected rulers, but a reasonably small group of public servants to whom we choose to delegate the responsibility to enforce our laws for our protection.

        Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with everything Rand says, I’m just attempting to agree with Joey and show how the Founders shared his concern about human depravity in the way they set up our great form of government.

        Jesse Phillips

        May 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

  2. ‎”…we shouldn’t want it to operate like Rand would have it operate; completely blind to sin and naively thinking that selfishness and freedom are bosom buddies.”

    Advocating a free market does no equate with advocating force and fraud. A free market can only operate through voluntary action between consenting individuals. This is a truly moral system. Government has a monopoly on force. People tend to trust government vs the free market, I would point to history and ask which is responsible for more immoralty and injustice?

    Cory Chenard

    May 20, 2011 at 3:41 am

  3. Here’s a helpful video from the Blaze called “The Morality of Profit” which is relevant, from the Atlas Network

    http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2011/05/19/video-the-morality-of-profit/

    jesseph

    May 20, 2011 at 4:16 am

  4. The question to me seems to be what motivates one’s objectivism. If one achieves this through selfish, self-centered actions and lifestyle, then you are correct, the Christian should have a problem with Rand’s views. If, however, one is motivated by unselfish desires, then the two can be happily married and we can accept Rand’s views. Take Rand’s own definition of her philosophy:

    “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

    Can one’s happiness and moral purpose in life be be motivated by selflessness? The answer for the Christian would be that it can, by power of Christ in one’s heart.

    Josh Phillips

    May 20, 2011 at 11:57 am

    • It is telling that, in order to reconcile Rand’s beliefs with Christian ethics you have to change the fundamental element of her philosophy, selfishness, to its antonym.

      jamestschannen

      May 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      • Not saying that I completely agree with Rand’s views. Just saying that I think the element that is being left out (and a very important element) is the internal motives prompting one’s actions. The center of Rand’s philosophy is one’s own self-interest. My point is that, by the power of Christ, it is possible to combine one’s self-interest with God’s interest. This doesn’t change Rand’s philosophy, it changes the regenerated heart’s philosophy.

        Josh Phillips

        May 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  5. Here are some quotes I was referencing above. First by John Adams, and the second by Ben Franklin.

    “We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” – John Adams, 1798, Address to the militia of Massachusetts

    “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Ben Franklin, April 17, 1787

    jesseph

    May 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    • In that case, why don’t you argue that we need more government oversight and regulation now since we are no longer as much of a righteous Christian nation.

      jamestschannen

      May 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

  6. Josh,

    Rand’s definition as you have stated is a good way of proving that a Christian cannot accept her philosophy. Sure, Christ can redeem that line of thinking, just like He can redeem any wrong, self-centered and selfish way of thinking. I don’t think that should then turn into a defense of Rand.

    Jake Phillips

    May 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  7. Cory said:

    “A free market can only operate through voluntary action between consenting individuals. This is a truly moral system.”

    Like I said, this would be nice…except that it is incredibly unrealistic. Do I really need to demonstrate how immoral people act when it comes to the markets? Fraud, exploitation, theft…etc? A free market where no one takes advantage of another is what everyone in the whole world would want…of course it would be better if the markets didn’t need any regulation at all…but like I said, you cannot take that perspective if you understand human nature. Is the solution a huge inefficient government taking over more and more? Of course not, but nor is it completely removing oversight and accountability.

    Joey

    May 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    • Joey,

      I agree that there are clearly some regulations needed on the market. In general, I think there are two types of activities the government has historically tried to regulate:

      1. People hurting others (fraud, stealing, extortion, etc)
      2. People hurting themselves (buying bad/inefficient products, debt, bankruptcy)

      I agree that laws should be in place to protect against the first category, but not the second. So many of the regulations these days are a misguided attempt to keep people/things from failing, which neglects the fact that the freedom to fail is essential to a free market, and keeps the market vibrant and growing.

      Jesse Phillips

      May 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      • How is someone buying bad (harmful) products hurting themselves? That is an example of someone profiting by harming others. Should the government do nothing when manufacturers use lead paint in children’s toys?

        jamestschannen

        May 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      • The problem, Jesse, is that anytime someone is “hurting others”, it could also be argued that someone is “hurting themselves.” How do we decide who to blame? The person selling the “bad” product (hurting others) or the person buying it (hurting themselves)? And thus, how do we decide which to regulate and which not to?

        Jake Phillips

        May 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    • Cory, do you think that people in government do NOT engage in fraud, exploitation and theft? That happens all the time (waivers from helath care law, Medicaid fraud, UNIONS getting better benefits, cronies getting contracts).

      The market removes the ability of people to use their special station to gain an advantage over another.

      in other words, there is less fraud in the market…but buyer does need to beware.

      David McKalip

      May 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  8. Josh,

    There are a lot of good things about Rand’s objectivism, especially its dismissal of metaphysical relativism. Reality is reality independent of our idea of it. However, there isn’t really a way to rescue it for Christianity (even through your clever employing of a Piperesque argument). As soon as you introduce selflessness into the picture you lose Rand. The quote of hers you cite says that man’s moral purpose in life is his own happiness. That is selfish. Even when a regenerate heart finds its happiness in selflessness, his happiness is NEVER his moral purpose in life. It’s a totally unchristian way to think. Happiness is a by product of our moral purpose in life, which is to be like Christ, which is selfless.

    Joey

    May 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm

  9. James, I defined bad as inefficient, not harmful. I have the right to buy a window that is not as inefficient as another window. It might make my house less energy efficient, but that’s my choice and markets will ultimately end up at the same place, just without the increased cost that comes through gov’t regulation.

    Now, as to your question about putting lead in children’s toys, yes, this should be prevented under category #1.

    Jesse Phillips

    May 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    • Sorry, should have read “not as efficient” not, “not as inefficient”. Just another example of my brilliance 🙂

      Jesse Phillips

      May 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  10. The primary conflict that I see between Rand and Christianity is their view of the rich and poor. To Rand, rich capitalists were heroes and the poor and weak were immoral wretches. It’s hard to think of a more different perspective from that taught by Jesus. Her philosophy of ethics and government is not only non-Christian, it’s anti-Christian.

    jamestschannen

    May 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    • Yeah she was definitely anti-christian. Apparently Chuck Colson is alarmed enough about her resurgence among the right that he is publishing material reminding folks that she was extremely critical of the Christian worldview.

      Joey

      May 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    • This is pure bunk. Rand would NEVER state that the poor and week are immoral wretches. To argue along that assumption is inapproprioate.

      She stated that people are MORE likely to be poor and less able to reach their potential if they are held down by dependance on government. A big difference.

      She extolled the virtues of people who became rich by their own HONEST work ethic and nature…not through “pull” – the connection you have with the power structure.

      David McKalip

      May 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

  11. Ayn Rand , Advocate of the Most Moral Ethic of Mankind: Individual Liberty.
    David McKalip, M.D.

    “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities”. Ayn Rand

    Ayn Rand is a great 20th century philosopher who laid out the proposition of Objectivism that seeks to have men work on the basis of the real results of their actions (reality exists) and fundamentally to respect the natural individual freedom of men and women. She is in the company of other great philosophers and economists advocating freedom: a Philosophy of Liberty. She presents such a powerful argument of her philosophy that it creates a great deal of fear among those who defend far different philosophies: those of collectivism. The collectivists know that if man realizes that their rights to property, freedom and life are natural to him at his birth, they will never allow a small group of elitists to run their lives. They thus constantly attack Ayn Rand using as many faulty assumptions, factually incorrect assertions and alternative utopian visions they claim they can control. The collectivists assert that man gains his rights from the State – a state they control – and he may only have his share of such rights granted when he properly submits to their authority. Ayn Rand is their most dangerous enemy because she states that the most moral basis of a free society is an assertion of individual rights and a rejection of the collectivist. Thus she offered her powerful assertion in the Novel Atlas Shrugged by free men and women that recognized their proper relationship with others: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

    Ayn Rand properly recognized, along with the founding fathers of America and (the philosophers who inspired them) that the proper role of government IS to protect the natural rights of man from an overgrown government and others who would seek power through their relationship with government. She basically echoes the sentiment of America’s constitutional father James Madison that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” (Federalist 51). Friedrich Hayek, in the Road to Serfdom recognized that far from being angels, the worst rise to the top in collectivist societies. Thus collectivist societies have no “rule of law”, but a “rule of man” where, as Locke put it individuals would be “…subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man…”. Ayn Rand’s ethics are those of a society of individual freedom where men need not worry about being denied benefits by “their betters” and can feel certain that based on their own abilities and hard work they can excel and provide services and goods they would exchange with others in a free market. This is the crux of individualism – the greatest number of men reaching their highest potential.

    There is a constant faulty assertion among liberals that their policies and philosophy favors “equality”. Nothing could be further from the truth unless we are searching for a least common denominator for man where we are all “equally miserable” as Winston Churchill put it. Collectivists of all varieties (communists, fascists, European Socialists, liberal democrats, corporatists and power politicians) seek to be in charge. They seek to decide what benefits and rights people have. They seek to pick winners and losers in their society and justify this act as part of building a “great society” that will serve “the common good”. The latest examples are all policies that claim to protect us from ourselves or create what is “best” for us: health care laws that mandate everyone buy health insurance that the government approves; cap and trade laws that ban low cost incandescent light bulbs and taxes the air we exhale (hurting the poor); fuel mileage requirements that increase costs of transportation; monopolistic government run schools that refuses freedom to escape a bad school; a Medicare system trapping the elderly with government approved doctors coerced to ration their care. These are but a few. Of course, the cruelest policy that promotes inequality is the massive overprinting of currency by central banks causing devaluation and the cruelest tax weighing most heavily on the poor: “inflation”.
    These are but a few examples of ways that the elite claim to act toward “equality” but actually hurt the poor. They seek to solve this problem by “redistribution” of income in ways that harm productive citizens, business, employers , the economy and therefore also hurt the poor. They seek to create centrally planned and controlled economies run by the elitists, the crony capitalists, unions and other special interests – thereby specifically creating inequality in their hierarchy. Thus Nobel prize winning economist Freidrich Hayek further asserted: “Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality – an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order.”
    Some attack Rand by claiming that her philosophy is antithetical to Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. These assertions are often based on faulty claims that Christianity is about self-sacrifice, selflessness and charity. While these qualities are an essential party of Christianity, they don’t represent the most important fundamental concept of Christianity: love. There is no greater power in the universe than the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment was to “Love thy God with all they heart, all thy mind and all they soul” but he gave us a new commandment that he stated was equally important (like unto it) “Love thy neighbor as thy would love thyself”. His corollary was to “Do to others as you would have done to you”. This is the basis of Christianity and the sacrifices that Jesus refers to are VOLUNTARY. There is no forced sacrifice expected by Jesus, there is a voluntary giving of yourself to others and yourself to God. No government can force people to good behavior or to salvation. No government program can properly rob from Peter to pay Paul without hurting Peter. Even in Acts of the Apostles, those who did not donate to the community were struck down not for their failure to donate, but for their lie on claiming they would donate more than they did (Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:1-12). Ayn Rand’s philosophy is of the highest and best morality as it recognize that when men act out of love for one another, with respect for another person as an individual, they create the greatest good for all. No coercion of charitable acts is required. It is wholly false to assert that her philosophy is unethical as it contradicts fundamental teachings of Christianity.

    Finally, many reject the philosophy of Ayn Rand on free markets and in turn unwittingly reject the assertions of our founding fathers and so many others. Again, faulty assertions and false assumptions paint the market inaccurately as a cowboy wasteland where greed predominates and evil prevails. Some assert that a market is anti-Christian and state regulation is needed to protect consumers and the poor. The truth has been revealed by the great economist Milton Friedman, a key advisor to Ronald Reagan who blew this assertion apart by stating: “So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”
    Some people assert that the Free market is fundamentally flawed and not an ethical means of economic activity and assert “it’s being run by people, and people can be stupid, selfish, lying, greedy, cheating individuals”. The problem is that the same exact people run the governments that create the planned economies that hurt far more people than they have ever helped. And this is were the full circle of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is closed. She tells us “Reality exists” and we must recognize that we ignore reality at our own peril. Reality , experience and history tells us that planned economies and those managed by large government based on collectivism controlled by elites fail people. The examples are many and include the Soviet Union, modern Europe, American Medicare and Medicaid, and date back to the failure of a socialist sharing of property in the Plymouth Colony that the pilgrims abandoned to ensure their very survival. Thank you Ayn Rand for standing for the most moral proposition in history and the only country that that overthrew collectivism in favor of it: Individual Freedom and America.

    Recommended Reading/Viewing:
    THE PHILOSOPHY OF LIBERTY ON YOU TUBE.
    Philsophy. Who needs it?, Ayn Rand. (Recorded Lecture; Essay)
    Egalatarianism and Inflation, Ayn Rand (Record lecture; Essay)
    Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (Book; Movie Website)
    The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek (Book; Commentary and interview with Hayek; Illustrated)
    The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard (Book)
    The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Thomas Sowell (Book, Speech)

    David McKalip

    May 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    • Very interesting article, Dr. McKalip. Would you like to actually address any of Joey’s points? I don’t mean that in a snarky way, but since that article doesn’t actually address any of Joey’s concerns directly, and doesn’t actually seem to have been written in response to his, I just wondered if you had any thoughts on what he did say.

      Jake Phillips

      May 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      • I think Dr. McKalip’s response addressed Joey’s article quite nicely.

        Matt Nye

        May 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      • I think that he disagreed with Joey. But it seems like it was probably written before Joey’s post. I guess I could be wrong. It just doesn’t directly address any of Joey’s points; it’s just a short summation of Rand from a positive standpoint. It tries to make some sort of convuluted connection to the teachings of Christ without ever referencing Joey (or James) arguments that Rand is actually anti-Christian. Again, I could be wrong, but it seems like Dr. McKalip probably wrote this before Joey wrote his post.

        Jake Phillips

        May 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      • Well, I wrote it after the article at the direct invitation of a person very close to Joey to do so.

        I went right at his key arguments and what I think are faulty assumptions, but with time, can elaborate and clarify further.

        Here are faulty assumptions:
        1. False: Rayn’s ethics are antithetical to chirsitianity.
        2.False: Free markets are cesspools of greed that can’t provide benefit without government intervention.
        3. False: Modern liberals elevate equality above all else and they do so in a benevolent way.
        4. False: christianity is cheifly about sacrifice. In fact, it is about LOVE (John 3:16). It is the hate of man that was on display when THEY CHOSE to sacrifice Jesus- the font of supreme goodness and love.

        I can write more as I have time.

        If you tell me exactly what you want a more direct response to, I will try to work on it.

        David McKalip

        May 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      • Dr. McKalip,

        Ok, that makes more sense. I re-read what Joey wrote, and since he what he wrote was fairly narrow in scope, your assumption about what his assumptions are make what you wrote make more sense. Joey is certainly no liberal, and I would love to see his response to assumptions 2 and 3.

        As far as assumption 4, I think you’re setting up somewhat of a false dichotomy between the two. You reference John 3:16. What does that verse actually say? “For God so loved the world…” that He sacrificed his son. The book of James is very clear that “if we love God” we will follow His commands, which neccessarily involves sacrifice. This idea is also found in John 14:15, where Jesus says, “if you love me, do what I have commanded.” Love and sacrifice cannot be divorced from one another.

        And in any case, even if you are correct that Christianity is chiefly about love divorced from sacrifice, I’m not convinced that magically makes Rand’s ethics Christian. James pointed out that Rand’s ethics (the rich capitalists are heroes and the poor and weak were immoral) are anti-Christian, and close to the opposite of what Jesus taught. Joey pointed out that to Rand, selfishness is a virtue. Whatever the end of “selfishness” is, even if it’s good and awesome things for everyone everywhere because of a magical free market, doesn’t change the fact that what Jesus called sin, Rand calls virtue.

        Jake Phillips

        May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      • CLEANED UP VERSION
        Jake, I want to – respsectfully – point out that you are making a rhetorical mistake used by many to turn over power to elitists in collectives: Changing the meaning of words. This is a hallmkark of “the Road to Serfdom” (Friedrich Hayek) and I don’t think you are doing it consciously of for nefarious reasons.

        Here is where you err immediately in your counterpoint on John 3:16. Why do you not put in the full quote and why do you change the meaning of the verse? The meaning of the verses says NOTHING about sacrifice, It is about the LOVE of God – so Great – that he sent his Son among us to teach us about love and to talk about salvation for ALL men, not just for those who are considered “chosen” by high priests.

        Yet, to quote you you offer this ‘“For God so loved the world…” that He sacrificed his son. ‘

        That is NOT the verse. The verse is: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

        Where does it say anything there about sacrifice? It doesn’t. I am basically challenging you to think about the basis and fundamental teaching Christianity. It is about Love. It is about free will. It is about salvation through a moral life – based on God’s love. It is about no man claiming superiority over another.

        That freedom. That equality of JUSTICE, equality of OPPORTUNITY, Equality of men and justice that comes from Rule of LAW – not Rule based on the whims of man – that is the message of Ayn Rand and all the other philosophers I mention in my piece. It is also the message of JEsus Christ. While Ayn Rand was an atheist, her philosophy and her studies and advocacy reach the same conclusions of Jesus. They were

        Love Eachohter
        You are free
        All men are created equal – no man is better than another.
        Men should be ruled by NATURAL law as they have natural rights (granted by Nature and Nature’s God – Jefferson) – Not Rights granted by the “STATE”.

        So, I ask you to reconsider the assumptions that Rand’s philosophy (which is that of Locke, Jefferson, ADam, Washington, Rothbard, Hayek, Friedman, Sowell and others) is unethical. It is, in fact the MOST ethical as it allows individuals to achieve their highest potetial without another man stealing from them the fruits of their labor and allowing them to donate it charitably.

        You then assert that JEsus stated that Selfishness is a sin. I am not sure I follow how you claim that. I think he would say harming your fellow man through selfishness is a sin. Or greed at the expense of others is, but did he not tell us in a parapble of the talents (A talent is 5000 silver pieces) that a man’s master is appropriately dissapointed if a man buries his 1 talents and does not produce something from it like the men who produced from their 5 or 10 talents? If they make money from their capitalist endeavors, they are not “Selfish” or “Greedy” they are PRODUCTIVE! They are motivated by profit which is a very fine motive and acceptable.

        So, Selfishness, as defined by Rand, is different than “acts that harm another man”. It refers to “enlightened slef-interest”. It refers to making sure you can produce and your property is protected…THEN you can do with it as you choose. The side benefit of your productivity is an over all benefit to society. That productivity creates jobs, creates mroe products and services in a competittive way that drives down costs and increases access.

        That is why Adam Smith said this:

        “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest”

        THAT is enlightened self-interest and does NOT conflict with Christianity. In fact, it flows from Chirstianity. Rand was not Anti-Christian. She was against irrational action and against a mistated concept (she didn’t realize it) that Christianity is about sacrifice. It is only some people who claim such…I don’t think God or Jesus would.

        David McKalip

        May 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

  12. Jake, I want to – respsectfully – point out that you are making a rhetorical mistake used by many to turn over power to elitists in collectives: Chanding the meaning of words. This is a hallmkar of “the Road to Serfdom” (Friedrich Hayek) and I don’t think you are doing it consciously of for nefarious reasons.

    Here is where you err immediately in your counterpoint on John 3:16. Why do you not put in the full quote and why do you change the meaning of the verse? The meaning of the verses says NOTHING about sacrifice, It is about the LOVE of God – so Great – that he sent his Son among us to teach us about love and to talk about salvation for ALL men, not just for those who are considered “chosen” by high priests.

    Yet, to quote you you offer this ‘“For God so loved the world…” that He sacrificed his son.

    That is NOT the verse. The verse is: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    Where does it say anything there about sacrifice? It doesn’t. I am basically challenging you to think about the basis and fundamental teaching Christianity. It is about Love. It is about free will. It is about salvation through a moral life – based on God’s love. It is about no man claiming superiority over another.

    That freedom. That equality of JUSTICE, equality of OPPORTUNITY, Equality of men and justice that comes from Rule of LAW – not Rule based on the whims of man – that is the message of Ayn Rand and all the other philosophers I mention in my piece. It is also the message of JEsus Christ. While Ayn Rand was an atheist, her philosophy and her studies and advocacy reach the same conclusions of Jesus. They were

    Love Eachohter
    You are free
    All men are created equal – no man is better than another.
    Men should be ruled by NATURAL law as they have natural rights (granted by Nature and Nature’s God – Jefferson) – Not Rights granted by the “STATE”.

    So, I ask you to reconsider the assumptions that Rand’s philosophy (which is that of Locke, Jefferson, ADam, Washington, Rothbard, Hayek, Friedman, Sowell and others) is unethical. It is, in fact the MOST ethical as it allows individuals to achieve their highest potetial without another man stealing from them the fruits of their labor and allowing them to donate it charitably.

    The book of James is very clear that “if we love God” we will follow His commands, which neccessarily involves sacrifice. This idea is also found in John 14:15, where Jesus says, “if you love me, do what I have commanded.” Love and sacrifice cannot be divorced from one another.

    You then assert that JEsus stated that Selfishness is a sin. I am not sure I follow how you claim that. I think he would say harming your fellow man through selfishness is a sin. Or greed at the expense of others is, but did he not tell us in a parapble of the talents (A talent is 5000 silver pieces) that a man’s master is appropriately dissapointed if a man buries his 1 talents and does not produce something from it like the men who produced from their 5 or 10 talents? If they make money from their capitalist endeavors, they are not “Selfish” or “Greedy” they are PRODUCTIVE! They are motivated by profit which is a very fine motive and acceptable.

    So, Selfishness, as defined by Rand, is different than “acts that harm another man”. It refers to “enlightened slef-interest”. It refers to making sure you can produce and your property is protected…THEN you can do with it as you choose. The side benefit of your productivity is an over all benefit to society. That productivity creates jobs, creates mroe products and services in a competittive way that drives down costs and increases access.

    That is why Adam Smith said this:

    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest”

    THAT is enlightened self-interest and does NOT conflict with Christianity. In fact, it flows from Chirstianity.

    David McKalip

    May 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    • Dr. McKalip,

      I did not quote the rest of John 3:16, because I paraphrased it. You are correct that the rest of the verse actually says “that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s Son, Jesus, was given to secure eternal life for those that believe. How did He do that? By willingly surrendering himself to be sacrificed for our sins on the cross. It was love that led Jesus to secure our salvation, our eternal life, by being sacrificed on the cross. That is why love and sacrifice cannot be divorced.

      That is what I meant by paraphrasing John 3:16. I simply did not have time to say all that last night :).

      That is why your statement “it is about salvation through a moral life”, I think, is where you miss the mark. But, I am not sure if you want to have that discussion here. Because, like I said, even if I were to agree with your salvific argument, I still do not see how Rand’s particular brand of secularism is the “same message” as Jesus.

      Jake Phillips

      May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      • God did not Send Jesus to Sacrifice himself. He sent him so that we may learn from him and live through him and thus gain salvation.

        It was the evil acts of men who were amoral that ascrificed him.

        You might say it was the amoral act of a big government run amok!

        David McKalip

        May 25, 2011 at 2:39 am

  13. I apologize for all the bad grammar in my previous post, by the way.

    Jake Phillips

    May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm

  14. Dr. McKalip,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. The scope of my post was limited, and didn’t allow for a treatment of all the nuances of Rand’s philosophy. I love reading her, and appreciate objectivism as a philosophical response to much of postmodernism. However, I will have to disagree that her ethics are ultimately defensible from a biblical perspective.

    I say “ultimately” because her views on various ethical issues are spot on, as our pals overseas would say. Her analysis of honesty and integrity for instance, is excellent. Her individualism avoids the typical fall into hedonism quite nicely (through the rational hierarchy of values). There is a lot to appreciate in her writings. But to take your points one by one:

    1: Rand certainly thought her ethics were antithetical to Christianity. Maybe she and I are wrong, but I don’t think so. She didn’t include God in her concept of reality at all. She dismissed him completely (through assertion, not argumentation as Piper says). Since she did so, she was completely unable to view sacrifice, mercy and the like as anything but irrational. To her, mercy was not only ill advised… it was immoral, because it rewards something lesser, or evil. There is no room in her philosophy or ethics for a God who transforms people, and so there is no room in her ethics for people, having been shown undeserved mercy themselves, then turning around and showing that same mercy to others. And this is not immoral, because it is not a promotion of the evil which is being shown mercy, but an attempt to redeem an individual through love, regardless of their lack of worthiness. WE love, because we were first loved. Hence, love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give out of your abundance all the sacrifices (which flow voluntarily like you said) that Christians are called to. To try and say this goes fine with Rand’s ethics is quite a stretch.

    2. If you don’t think free markets are cesspools of greed than you haven’t been watching the markets much recently, or anytime. The markets, free or otherwise, are filled with greedy people. This shouldn’t be mistaken for me arguing that they are cesspools of greed BECAUSE they are free markets. I think a market as free as possible is clearly the best option available. I just don’t think as free as possible means without any regulation or control, because I don’t assume that people are rational in their selfishness, nor will they ever be. That is why I call Rand’s perspective utopian.

    3. Liberals elevate equality. Why they do so probably varies from liberal to liberal, at least at a motivational level. But there is no doubt they emphasize it (maybe not above all else, but it seems like it). I don’t think I indicated if I thought this was positive or negative in my artice, but I agree with much of your critique of liberals on that issue.

    4. I would say Christianity is chiefly about the glory of God, chiefly expressed though sacrificial love. We are called to love, which will entail sacrifice.

    Joey Phillips

    May 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    • Thanks much for this interesting and worthwhile discussion. I hope we both learn alot. Anything that drives me to a deeper consideration of God and Jesus is of great value to me.

      I hope I can redeem even more for you what Ayn Rand teaches and appreciate that you recognize many of her virtues.

      1. Ayn Rand did not included God because she didn’t feel it needed for her philosophy. That doesn’t mean that here philosophy is incorrect or has not value, just that it is arrived at emperically based on natural law. This is consistent with how Murray Rothbard argues in “The Ethics of Liberty” and why Thomas Jefferson refers to rights coming from “Nature or Nature’s God”. I do not beleive it is a “stretch” to say that Rand’s Philosophy does not leave run for love of your brother. It REQUIRES love of your neighbor so that you can enter into an honest exchange of goods or services and a deep respect for them as an individual. She was not unable to picture sacrifice and mercy and stated they are part of her philosophy – as long as they are voluntary and people are not coerced to sacrifice by some collective authority or another man claiming superiority over him/her. See my quote from here introductory comments from “the Virtues of Selfishness” below. The reasons that we love and the source of the original inspiration of that love may be devine, but it is Love still that remains as the highest virtue of man: of God and eachother. Rand would agree.

      2. The “markets” you are referring to are not free markets at all. They are government created entities that are cartels. Things like state run banks (Bank fo America), Central banks (Federal Reserve), State run companies (General motors), Government created mortgage crises (from Fannie/Freddie and the community reinvestment act) and the coming rationing of health care through the government/corporate take over of medicine (Obamacare) are NOT FREE MARKETS. They are cesspools of greed because the greedy – those who do act ONLY at the expense of others – are given a government approved power to steal money from others and destroy their wealth through inflation and usery. the True free market is a voluntary exchange between mutually consenting parties in which the rule of law prevails and people respect eachother’s property rights…often enforced by contracts. regulation and control are needed…but only to ensure people respect property rights and moral/just contracts.

      3. Thanks for agreeing with my critique on the liberal elevation of equality. I continue to maintain they do not elevate equality..they elevate inequality. They cloak themsleve in righteousness while creating a caste sytem ruled by an arrogant elite class.

      4. I would agree that giving Glory to God is the first most basic principle of Christianity (matthew 22:37 – Love they God) but the second is given equal importance by Jesus (“like unto it – Love thy Neighbor as you Love thyself; MT22:39).

      So I leave the discussion with this. Do not judge Ayn Rand based on the fact she was an Atheist…she is still a child of God and still has offered valid views on Morality and reality. Do not judge her because she sought a narrow definition os Selfishness.

      Remember, she was referring to HER definition of selfishness and claims to have gotten it from a dictionary of her time: “Concern with one’s own interest”.

      I challenge you to read the introduction of her book, a collection of essays, “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

      I put and excerpt here:

      “The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. But his right to do so is derived from his nature as man and from the function of moral values in human life—and, therefore, is applicable only in the context of a rational, objectively demonstrated and validated code of moral principles which define and determine his actual self-interest. It is not a license “to do as he pleases” and it is not applicable to the altruists’ image of a “selfish” brute nor to any man motivated by irrational emotions, feelings, urges, wishes or whims.

      “This is said as a warning against the kind of “Nietzschean egoists” who, in fact, are a product of the altruist morality and represent the other side of the altruist coin: the men who believe that any action, regardless of its nature, is good if it is intended for one’s own benefit. Just as the satisfaction of the irrational desires of others is not a criterion of moral value, neither is the satisfaction of one’s own irrational desires. Morality is not a contest of whims . . . .

      “A similar type of error is committed by the man who declares that since man must be guided by his own independent judgment, any action he chooses to take is moral if he chooses it. One’s own independent judgment is the means by which one must choose one’s actions, but it is not a moral criterion nor a moral validation: only reference to a demonstrable principle can validate one’s choices.

      “Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest—or of rational selfishness.

      “Since selfishness is “concern with one’s own interests,” the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense. It is not a concept that one can surrender to man’s enemies, nor to the unthinking misconceptions, distortions, prejudices and fears of the ignorant and the irrational. The attack on “selfishness” is an attack on man’s self-esteem; to surrender one, is to surrender the other.”

      David McKalip

      May 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

  15. For anyone still wondering if Jesus taught or demonstrated the virtue of mercy, selflessness, sacrifice and considering others interests before your own (all of which Rand dismisses as immoral, or taught against selfishness (which Rand says is virtuous:

    Matthew 5:7,38-48, 6:19, 10:8b, 10:37-39,15:21-28,16:24-26, 18:1-5, 18:10-12, 18:21-35, 19:16-28,20:1-16, 20:20-24,

    I could go on..that is just from perusing through the first 20 chapters of Matthew. It doesn’t include the story of the old widow who gave her last coin,etc. Jesus teaching on ethics is incompatible with Rand. Rand knew it. I am sure Jesus knows it.

    Joey

    May 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    • I am perusing these chapters and read Matthew Recently. I would say that all the instances of sacrifice are VOLUNTARY.

      WE have free will and can choose to sacrifice.

      Our free will is a gift of God and it is required that we have free will so we can make the right choices….sometimes to sacrifice earthly goods and joys for a moral purpose.

      For instance, I choose to sacrifice the easy path of cheating and dishonest business dealing to make a buck. Other choose to pursue this act of true greed.

      I will not debate each chapter and verse you cite since some are about voluntary sacrifice and some are messages about not confusing earthly gain for true gain that can come in heaven (e.g. 6:19 – Do not wrap yourselves in treasures of earth.

      I would direct you to 1 john – all five chapters and the 46 instances referring to LOVE.

      Ofcourse mercy, selflessness and sacrifice are virtues. But that doesn’t mean that acting in rational self-interest has no virtue…in fact, I suggest that failing to act in rational self interest is amoral and refer you to my response to Joey immediately above.

      David McKalip

      May 25, 2011 at 1:47 am

  16. Thanks much for this interesting and worthwhile discussion. I hope we both learn alot. Anything that drives me to a deeper consideration of God and Jesus is of great value to me.

    I hope I can redeem even more for you what Ayn Rand teaches and appreciate that you recognize many of her virtues.

    1. Ayn Rand did not included God because she didn’t feel it needed for her philosophy. That doesn’t mean that here philosophy is incorrect or has not value, just that it is arrived at emperically based on natural law. This is consistent with how Murray Rothbard argues in “The Ethics of Liberty” and why Thomas Jefferson refers to rights coming from “Nature or Nature’s God”. I do not beleive it is a “stretch” to say that Rand’s Philosophy does not leave run for love of your brother. It REQUIRES love of your neighbor so that you can enter into an honest exchange of goods or services and a deep respect for them as an individual. She was not unable to picture sacrifice and mercy and stated they are part of her philosophy – as long as they are voluntary and people are not coerced to sacrifice by some collective authority or another man claiming superiority over him/her. See my quote from here introductory comments from “the Virtues of Selfishness” below. The reasons that we love and the source of the original inspiration of that love may be devine, but it is Love still that remains as the highest virtue of man: of God and eachother. Rand would agree.

    2. The “markets” you are referring to are not free markets at all. They are government created entities that are cartels. Things like state run banks (Bank fo America), Central banks (Federal Reserve), State run companies (General motors), Government created mortgage crises (from Fannie/Freddie and the community reinvestment act) and the coming rationing of health care through the government/corporate take over of medicine (Obamacare) are NOT FREE MARKETS. They are cesspools of greed because the greedy – those who do act ONLY at the expense of others – are given a government approved power to steal money from others and destroy their wealth through inflation and usery. the True free market is a voluntary exchange between mutually consenting parties in which the rule of law prevails and people respect eachother’s property rights…often enforced by contracts. regulation and control are needed…but only to ensure people respect property rights and moral/just contracts.

    3. Thanks for agreeing with my critique on the liberal elevation of equality. I continue to maintain they do not elevate equality..they elevate inequality. They cloak themsleve in righteousness while creating a caste sytem ruled by an arrogant elite class.

    4. I would agree that giving Glory to God is the first most basic principle of Christianity (matthew 22:37 – Love they God) but the second is given equal importance by Jesus (“like unto it – Love thy Neighbor as you Love thyself; MT22:39).

    So I leave the discussion with this. Do not judge Ayn Rand based on the fact she was an Atheist…she is still a child of God and still has offered valid views on Morality and reality. Do not judge her because she sought a narrow definition os Selfishness.

    Remember, she was referring to HER definition of selfishness and claims to have gotten it from a dictionary of her time: “Concern with one’s own interest”.

    I challenge you to read the introduction of her book, a collection of essays, “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

    I put and excerpt here:

    “The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. But his right to do so is derived from his nature as man and from the function of moral values in human life—and, therefore, is applicable only in the context of a rational, objectively demonstrated and validated code of moral principles which define and determine his actual self-interest. It is not a license “to do as he pleases” and it is not applicable to the altruists’ image of a “selfish” brute nor to any man motivated by irrational emotions, feelings, urges, wishes or whims.

    “This is said as a warning against the kind of “Nietzschean egoists” who, in fact, are a product of the altruist morality and represent the other side of the altruist coin: the men who believe that any action, regardless of its nature, is good if it is intended for one’s own benefit. Just as the satisfaction of the irrational desires of others is not a criterion of moral value, neither is the satisfaction of one’s own irrational desires. Morality is not a contest of whims . . . .

    “A similar type of error is committed by the man who declares that since man must be guided by his own independent judgment, any action he chooses to take is moral if he chooses it. One’s own independent judgment is the means by which one must choose one’s actions, but it is not a moral criterion nor a moral validation: only reference to a demonstrable principle can validate one’s choices.

    “Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest—or of rational selfishness.

    “Since selfishness is “concern with one’s own interests,” the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense. It is not a concept that one can surrender to man’s enemies, nor to the unthinking misconceptions, distortions, prejudices and fears of the ignorant and the irrational. The attack on “selfishness” is an attack on man’s self-esteem; to surrender one, is to surrender the other.”

    David McKalip

    May 25, 2011 at 2:13 am

  17. Dr. McKalip,

    I absolutely agree that there is much to redeem in Rand. I won’t respond point by point (you gave me a lot to think about).

    What do you think Rand would say about such verses where Jesus indicates we should turn the other cheek, repay evil with good, or love our enemy? (Understanding that Jesus is referring to us individually and not communicating that evil go unpunished, or that we can’t defend ourselves in war etc.)

    Joey

    May 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    • Thanks Joey for a great discussion.
      What would Rand say about turning the other cheek, repalying evil with good and loving our enemy? Well, if Ayn Rand were alive she would smack me for attempting to put words in her mouth! 🙂

      So, I will offer that it is her moral philosophy that would help us make decisions about how WE would respond to evil?

      I suggest that there is much in her philosophy that guides us to respect all and know that even when they commit evil acts they can be redeemed by rethinking their assumptions( Turn the other cheek).

      There is much about continuing to live your own moral life despite the Evil that others attempt to do and put obstacles in your way (repaying Evil with Good).

      There is much about always loving each person as a person who is capable of greatness even if they have at one time committed evil acts based on faulty assumptions (love our enemy).

      So the Question for all of us is not “What would Rand Do?” or “What would Jesus Do?”. The real question is “WHAT DO I DO?” How do I act toward my neighbor.

      I suggest that Rand’s philosophy, as the love of Jesus Christ and the Grace of God has much to offer us in guiding our decisions to live a moral life to our fullest and to be sure that we are fully repaying on the investment God made in us when he gave us life and free will.

      Yours in Liberty and Yours in God.

      David McKalip, M.D.

      David McKalip

      May 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm


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