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3 Fatal Flaws in Ayn Rand's Perverse 'Moral Philosophy'
May 17, 2011 |
It is astonishing that a 54-year-old book, based upon three patently false premises, has suddenly been resurrected. The Chair of the House Budget Committee requires his staff to read Atlas Shrugged. On April 19, 2011 it ranked 17th on Amazon’s list of best sellers. It is said to be a favorite among Tea Party activists. It’s even been made into an independent movie, albeit omitting some of the steamier sex – one woman and three men?
The first error is the assertion that we humans, at least the best of us, are autonomous individuals who have no need for other human beings other than as useful tools. The second error is to perpetuate the libertarian idea that no social goal justifies “forcing” an individual to be a resource for others. In other words, taxation is theft from “producers” to benefit “parasites.” The third error is that markets are “free” in the sense of operating best without any rules or regulation.
Humans Are Social Creatures
It is easy to counter the argument that humans are autonomous, isolated entities with no need for relationships with other humans. To the contrary, we are, and always have been, social creatures, reliant on others for our lives, our development and our survival. When our species started to evolve in Africa, about 300,000 years ago, the world was filled with predators that had sharper teeth, stronger claws, could run faster and overall physically outmatch our tiny, hairy ancestors. The question is, how did our predecessors survive and procreate allowing me to write this essay and you to read it?
If we observe herds of, say, antelope today, we observe that predators go after the slowest and weakest member of the herd, who quickly becomes a meal. Antelopes survive because they procreate rapidly, and the loss of a single animal does not threaten the herd.
Humans, however, take considerably longer to bear a child, and that child requires considerable care over several years in order to survive. It is obvious that a pregnant female would, in the later stages of gestation, be the slowest member of the herd. Later her infant or toddler would also be slow and neither mother nor child would long survive without the support of a family or clan. Thus humans would not have survived as a species had they not been able to cooperate with each other and to form and maintain social groups. Humans had to evolve as social animals.
As social animals we needed (and still need) a way that allows us to function as productive members of a social group. Without such a method, the species will fail. This is true of all social species. For example, the social insects have specific complex chemicals that allow individual insects to function as productive members of a very coherent social group (beehive or ant colony). These chemicals are their operating methodology.
To function as a productive member of a human social group, we rely on six core values that bind human beings one to another. Based on our evolutionary development, all people, societies and organizations actually share the same set of core values. You can argue if these are the “real” core values, but these six appear to encompass what is necessary for the continuing existence of human social groups. Each of these can be thought of as being on a scale from positive to negative. Behavior at the positive end of the scale strengthens the social group; behavior at the negative end weakens, and eventually will destroy it.
Most of a member’s behavior must be at the positive end of the scale in order for him or her to be accepted and relied upon by others. Without such positive reliable behavior social groups must fail. The following table shows the core values on which all societies are based according to research conducted with Ian Macdonald and Karl Stewart in the U.S., England, Australia, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Denmark.
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