On January 1, 1945, Ayn Rand opened her journal and began writing notes for her fourth novel. She called the new novel,The Strike, a working title that neatly reflected the theme she chose to depict: “What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike.”
Notice the punctuation. When she wrote down the theme, Rand wasn’t posing a question. She wasn’t brainstorming either. Clearly, she knew exactly what she wanted to say. The prime movers, Rand declared, created wealth that benefited the world, and everyone hated them for it:
Now to state the theme consecutively: the world lives by the prime movers, hates them for it, exploits them and always feels that it has not exploited them enough. They have to fight a terrible battle and suffer every possible torture that society can impose–in order to create the things from which society benefits immeasurably and by which alone society can exist. In effect, they must suffer and pay for the privilege of giving gifts to society. They must pay for being society’s benefactors.
Rand had in fact been thinking about The Strike for over a year. What started as a one-liner– a joke shared with her then-friend Isabel Paterson during a phone conversation–instantly captured Rand’s imagination. In a letter to Paterson dated October 10, 1943, Rand admitted that she couldn’t stop thinking about it:
I know that I will now have to write The Strike–you’ll push me into it. . . . I am really...
Read Article : First Notes for The Strike
Consequences of the Dualism: Target Inequalities, Part Three
In all most traditional ethical theories, self interest is the target of morality, but it is the self interest of the better off, stronger, more able, richer parties that is specially targeted. The stronger party is in a better position to take advantage of the weaker, so it is the stronger party’s self interest that is in special need of restraint. It is the stronger party that should be sacrificing to help the weaker party, so it is the stronger party’s self interest that must be overcome. In both cases, inequalities of power, ability and wealth come to have enormous moral significance, and great inequalities polarize the moral obligations and claims of the strong and the weak. Those who are stronger are in special need of restraint, and have greater obligations to redistribute
their resources to the weaker. By contrast, those who are weaker are seen as especially deserving of extra rights against harm by the strong, and the greater their degree of weakness the greater their claims against the strong.
Consequently, in most current business ethics, analysis of business dealings takes as its starting point the relative degrees of strength of the involved parties. For example, consider the following examples of alleged sins of omission:
Large corporations, seeking to increase their profits, will relocate their factories, leaving many individuals unemployed. Analysis: the corporation is ʺstrongerʺ and the many...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics, Part Three
In “Conservatism: An Obituary” (an article based on a lecture delivered at Princeton University in 1960), Ayn Rand said:
Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.
Similar statements recur throughout many of Rand’s writings, and we cannot fully appreciate their meaning unless we understand her notion of self-sacrifice. In a long and detailed letter to John Hospers (29 April 1961), Rand wrote:
I admired your action because it was generous. Generosity is not a sacrifice—it is a gift or favor greater than the friend involved could, in reason, expect. But if your action had been motivated by altruistic duty, I would not have admired it nor approved.
What was the act of generosity of which Ayn Rand approved? Unfortunately, the published volume of Letters of Ayn Rand (ed. Michael E. Berliner, Dutton, 1995) contains only Rand’s side of her correspondence with Hospers—a situation that displeased Hospers, who sometimes thought “that Ayn had not correctly apprehended a point I had made, and her summary of what I said sometimes did not really reproduce what I really did say.”
Despite the problem of...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Altruism, Part 4
Business Ethics in the Context of the History of Ethics, Part Two
In the context of the history of ethics, this is not surprising. Business ethics is an applied discipline, and one would expect it to apply the dominant ethical theories.
In Plato and to a lesser extent in Aristotle we read that practical concerns are low and vulgar. It follows that business, as an inherently practical enterprise, is hardly worthy of esteem. Given the place of Plato and Aristotle on the intellectual landscape, we have a partial explanation of the disdain that members of the cultural elite have always exhibited toward business.
In Immanuel Kant we read that there is an absolute duality of moral motivation (duty) and interest motivation (inclination): any hint of an interest destroys the moral worth of an action. But since business is driven by interests, it follows that business is inherently amoral.
In John Stuart Mill we read that altruistic self-sacrifice for the collective is the standard of morality and that there is nothing worse than someone interested primarily in his own “miserable individuality.” But obviously business is driven by self interest rather than altruism, individualism rather than collectivism, the profit motive rather than the motive of self-sacrifice; so business is immoral or amoral.
In Christianity and Marxism, we read the same moral themes: collectivism and human sacrifice. Christianity’s core parable is Jesus’ voluntarily undergoing crucifixion in order to cleanse humans...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics, Part Two
I, Charles from the Camps: A Novel is a 2018 dystopian novel by Joel D. Hirst portraying the life of the fictional Charles Agwok, a young man who grows up in the refugee camps of Uganda. Hirst examines how camp life–the result of war, dictatorship, and the fallacies of poverty perpetuated by relief organizations– have demoralized Charles. In this excerpt from the novel, a cynical Charles, who has left the camps to work as a hitman in Kampala, is in love with Ruth, a beautiful young woman from a middle-class Kampala family. Charles and Ruth have left the city to spend the weekend together in an upscale resort. There is love-making and luxury, and Charles struggles to understand that Ruth, an egoist, plans to leave him to study medicine far away from Uganda and the misery there.–MM
“What do you want to do with your life?” Ruth said.
“I want to live it,” I responded.
“But aren’t you living it? You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I know,” I said, without offering further insight.
“For me,” she said, to my relief. I’d learned that if silence abides for long enough, people will return to talk about themselves. “I want to be a doctor. But not here, dealing with the horrible diseases of poor people. Or of those filthy unfortunates who sometimes cross the river from the north.” I grimaced. “No, I am going to study in London or maybe Canada. Working in a neat clinic. I want to be a plastic surgeon. You know how much they earn? Making people beautiful–that is so much...
Read Article : A World to Believe In