My Vigilant Ethical Egoism
When I was in my late teens I discovered Ayn Rand, in particular her novel The Fountainhead. Actually I ran across her when I appeared in a theater group's rendition of her play, The Night of January 16th, at Andrews Air Force Base but her significance hadn't dawned on me at that point.
What was most striking about Rand's novel and much of her subsequent writing for me, both personally and intellectually, is her rejection of the widespread misanthrope that surrounded my life. I was raised a Roman Catholic and the doctrine of original sin didn't sit well with me from the time I first encountered it. I took that doctrine to mean that human beings had in them a fundamental evil streak, from which Jesus rescued them if only they accepted him as their savior. Made no sense to me but who was I to take issue with such a powerfully propagated viewpoint? But I never quite bought it.
Rand's ideas in The Fountainhead went clearly against this Roman Catholic, indeed Christian, tradition and her reasoning for rejecting it struck a chord with me. It mattered somewhat, also, that my own parents were fiercely misanthropic and drove this home to me very violently at every chance they could get. Especially my father! He was an avid anti-Semite and even championed Hitler's ideas – on top of which I got a solid dosage of Soviet indoctrination in communist Hungary, where I was raised until my early teens – that pretty much took the misanthropic theme as far as it could go. Individuals had no value as such was the steady message thrust at me!
To this day when I encounter echoes of this point of view, my blood starts to boil. Now and then I find some support for what I mostly felt and thought only in primitive terms but each time I witness the propaganda against individualism, against egoism and self-interest, I recover my resolve to combat the ideas with which it is expressed, be that in a simple sitcom or a movie or a piece of classical literature or a vicious political speech. In other words, I have internalized the view that human beings are not evil but very capable of doing and being good in all their endeavors, even if they do often go astray and betray their better nature.
And on every front I find occasion to reaffirm this idea, namely, that human nature hasn't anything inherently evil about it and those who claim that it does are not just misguided but promoting what really is evil. Why would the self of a being like us deserve such treatment when everywhere evidence shows that human beings not just can be but actually are admirable? How can human beings as such be viewed so negatively by very prominent figures throughout history? Sure, some people are indeed vicious but that is not because of human nature but because of their own bad choices and conduct. By declaring us all inherently bad those who really are such are given an easy excuse, unjustly exculpated in fact!
I didn't need anyone to alert me to how misguided misanthropy is but it was very encouraging to find a few people, such as Rand, who didn't fall in line with that kind of perverse thinking. I will always be proud of having joined their ranks, in my various efforts, to point out that humanity is very much a plus in the total known scheme of things instead of complying with the hatefulness of those, like extreme environmentalists in our day and many on the political Left and Right, who demean it so recklessly and unjustly.
Tibor Machan is a member of the Advisory Board for The Foundation for the Advancement of Free-Market Thinking (FAFMT) and the R. C. Hoiles Professor of Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University in Orange, CA.
Posted by Donl on 02/08/13 10:32 AM
I have enjoyed Daily Bell's commentary on the economic and political situaltions world wide. Your analysis is usually right on.
Mr. Machan's philosophy of religion os way off base.
He confuses (as most do) Biblical truth with religion. The Bible is God's revelation of Himself to mankind, the condition of mankind and His salvation for mankind.
It seem Mr. Machan's interpreation and conclusions come not from a clear understanding of what the Bible says but from the coloring of Biblical revelation by his upbringing; personal experience with the Catholic religion.
To say that man has original sin is not to have hatred for mankind or to have misanthropy as he says, but to accept that God see man, having created him perfect without sin, in his present condition. Man chose to disobey God and brought the consequence of that disobedience on himself and his descendents. Adam and Eve sinned - disobeyed God. God had made them perfect and put them in a perfect invironment. He intended them to follow His rules for their life and relationship. When man disobeyed God they introduced destructivness into their life and relationships. We are offspring of Adam and Eve and therefore have the same (now sinful by their choice) nature as they did. We also, following that nature, are sinners by choice in what we do.
Adam and Eve deicided, having been mislead and lied to by Satan, to make themselves the authoiry rather than God. This brought destruction on them and eventually death. The first relationshhip to suffer was their relationship with God.
We follow the same way by putting our thoughts above God's thoughts. A fact that Mr. Machan illustrates in his comments.
Religion is man's attempt to get back what he lost by his own choice. By doing so he is continuting in his rebellion aginast God. Religion is illustrated by Adam and Eve putting on fig leaves - covering up themselves. God came on the scene and Adam saind he was still naked. Religion can cover up man to man but not man to God.
God sacrificed some animals and clothed Adam and Eve, thus illustrating that man's ocverup is not sufficient, but God's provision for man will solve the problem between God and man. This illustrates what the "seed of the woman" Gen 3:15 (God's promise of a savior) would do for mankind. The Savior would be the one to die for man and God would clothe man with HIS rightousness just like God had clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of the animals. Able followed this example in his worship of God; Cain did not.
According to Romans 1 those who reject God and His provision of salvation are those who "when they know God they did not put Him at His rightful place in their life but became vain in their imagination ... .." So we like Adam and Eve replace what God said how things are with what we imagine things to be.
God has revealed Himself through His word, the Bible, and through nature so that no one has any excuse.
Jesus said "If you do not believe that I am He (the one God promised to be the savior) you shall die in your sins. Without faith in Jesus Christ, God's provision for sinners, all people will die being separated from God adn that contition will be forever. This is what is known as Hell.
Posted by Tazio2013 on 02/08/13 09:59 AM
By Dan Mage
Rethinking Rand: "Going Galt" on The 1%
Ayn Rand is blindly worshiped by some, reviled and despised by others, and truly understood by very few. When one removes her obsession with crass materialism and veneration of industrial capitalism by, one is left with the essential elements of her philosophy. This philosophy is a double edged sword, and when taken on its own abstract merits, can be used by the underclass, as easily as by the bourgeoise and the "1%."
Ayn Rand, anathema to the left, despised by the religious right, quoted and revered by conservatives and "vulgar libertarians" (of which she, in her own words was neither), and generally hated and loved by people who really have no idea what she was actually talking about; the mere mention of her name sends some otherwise rational people into spasms of blind rage. Click to view link
Paul Ryan's admiration of her, followed by a quick reversal to appease the anti-abortion and pro-war voters threw a special monkey wrench into the already bizarre dialectic of the 2012 general election. Mitt Romney's son Taggart "Tagg" Ryan is named after a main character in Atlas Shrugged, the tough and driven railroad mogul Dagney Taggart of "Taggart Transcontinental".
Click to view link
Posted by Danny B on 02/08/13 12:28 AM
I've been to Vatican City with all the fat guys in red costumes. I've been to the Mexican shrine of our lady of Guadalupe where the poor campesinos come in with bloody knees from making the journey on their knees. I've considered how many angels could dance on the head of a pin,,,, but, not for 50 years. I'm aware that religious "authorities" have argued whether or not Christ had a navel... . for 2,000 years. This too, I dismissed as irrelevant.
While the message of Christ was a wonderful departure from the blood-and-guts of the Old Testament, I see religion as a control mechanism. The Jesuits were the naked edge.
Egoism may not be compatible with religion but, it is great for advancing mankind. Religion, on the other hand is a retarding force like socialism. Man needs to depend on man, not on a crutch like religion.
Posted by Joe on 02/07/13 05:27 PM
Humans have an animal as well as rational compassionate human nature. It depends on many factors how we actually turn out. Being too compassionate in a ruthless social environment can lead to pain and suffering. On the other hand being an egoist afffirming the animal nature is also destructive. Humans can control their appetites animals cannot. Get two hungry dogs to share some food and you will fail. Humans however might share their food. Not all humans will... but the possibility of sharing remains within the scope of human potential. I doubt if any animals will share... .I might be wrong though.
It is unfortunate that we live in times where the ruthless appear to be dominant.
Posted by David_Robertson on 02/07/13 05:27 PM
No. I just use that as my avatar because I believe the gold standard should be used as the basis of the monetary system. You are the first person who has noticed it.
Posted by Silas on 02/07/13 04:32 PM
Interesting thoughts. My own heritage is centuries of Protestantism and other world views. Having spent some time studying the history of the Church, I'd discovered the concept of "original sin" arose in the first few centuries from early Church theologians including Augustine of Hippo. There were though at the time those such as Pelagius with other "understandings" on the subject.
The concept was not a Jewish one, and still isn't a generally accepted one in Judaism - it and related concepts and beliefs are probably one of the greatest differences between Christianity and Judaism. The concept does maintain in those who "believe" it a level of one's sinfulness and self-condemnation that requires an enduring means of forgiveness and acceptance by God.
Thomas Jefferson ardently rejected the concept and "understood" human's ability to choose between right and wrong, good and evil and improve their own and other's lot - thus his instrumental, and I'll say Divine role in the creation of the new Republic the United States.
Enjoy your writings, keep up the good work.
Posted by Peter VC on 02/07/13 03:40 PM
Your avatar is the logo of the Gold Standard Institute. Are you speaking for TGSI ?
Posted by jesstownsley on 02/07/13 03:23 PM
While I agree with Tibor generally, one of his parting shots is curious. He refers to something called "extreme environmentalists". I don't know what that means. From my study of global warming (I am a graduate engineer and interested in such things intellectually), I am quite certain that our use of carbon is excessive enough to have caused a major change in the amount of energy we absorb from the sun, and it is enough to wreak a huge havoc on our world in the next 50 to 100 years, possibly even to the extent of rendering our planet uninhabitable at some point. Now, I would call that result quite extreme indeed, so maybe it would be wise to ponder the concept of global warming a great deal more seriously than we have done (especially in the U. S.)
Posted by David_Robertson on 02/07/13 02:21 PM
"In other words, I have internalized the view that human beings are not evil but very capable of doing and being good in all their endeavors, even if they do often go astray and betray their better nature."
Is this the summation of Dr. Machan's belief about human nature? If so there is no contradiction with the teachings of the scriptures. The apostle Paul's letter to the saints in Rome chapter 7 is a good summation of the condition of Man. Inter alia he says:
Romans 7:14 "For we know that the law is spiritual - but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. 7:15 For I don't understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want - instead, I do what I hate. 7:16 But if I do what I don't want, I agree that the law is good. 7:17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 7:18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 7:19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 7:20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.
7:21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 7:22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 7:23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."
There has undoubtedly been a distortion and blurring of the original message of reconciliation and the Kingdom of God over the centuries since the time of the apostles. This has been I believe due to the corruption of the Christian Church in all its denominations by its involvement with the State and the world to one degree or another. The temptation to rule in this world system and according to its principles has proved to be too great for the Christian Church and its leaders.
This condition of Man that the apostle is speaking to in his letter to the Romans is the condition of the Old Man, the descendants of the First Adam. We are all members of that generation or race. As Dr. Machan notes in so many words, we all keep missing the mark and we cannot help doing it.
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus of Nazareth came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God of which He is the King. This Kingdom is also referred to in scripture as the New Creation and Jesus Christ is the Last Adam of the Old Creation and the Second Adam of the New Creation which was fully revealed and validated when He arose bodily from the dead and publicly ascended into Heaven forty days later after appearing several times to His apostles and up to five hundred of His other disciples at one time. He returned in Spirit ten days after that to anoint 120 of His waiting disciples and impregnate them with the Seed of His Word and Spirit to initiate the Christian Church. Later still He appeared to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus to call him into His service as the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul at that time was acting zealously on the orders of the Sanhedrin to arrest Christians and bring them to trial for blasphemy carrying a death sentence.
In order to enter the Kingdom of God one must have this revelation of who Jesus Christ is. This Word acts in one's spirit to impregnate one with the Seed of God by His Spirit and so effect one's birth into the Kingdom of God in union with Jesus Christ. The effect on one's mind is to reveal one's condition of radical imperfection that is called sin or lawlessness. This is accompanied by a conviction that the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross has completely and finally dealt with one's sin cleansing one from all impurity and unrighteousness. This causes an eruption of love in one's heart for God in Jesus Christ. This entire event is experienced as something I have come to recognise as a circumcision of the heart which establishes in the very centre of one's being an absolute conviction of what is good and conversely what is evil. This then compels one to choose good and Life rather than to choose evil and Death as has been one's won't, albeit in ignorance, theretofore.
This is only the beginning of the New Life that has been given by God. The growth that then takes place is done by God Himself just as all the processes of the natural life sustain us autonomously without any willing action on our part. A short excerpt from a Christian teacher will make this plain:
"What man by taking thought can add a cubit to his stature? What part by self-effort does a man take in secretion, in digestion of food, in the reflex actions of the body? Men need only reflect on the automatic processes of their natural body to discover that this is the universal law of Life. What does any man consciously do, for instance, in the matter of breathing? What part does he take in the circulating of the blood, in keeping up the rhythm of his heart? What control has he over growth or the biological changes producing maturity? How could any of us heal a wound, or mend a broken bone? Could we consciously direct conception, cell growth and division and instruct the developing fetus how to construct an eye or a hand or a brain cell? What man even came into the world by his own will? In point of fact man is born by the will of another, every organ of his body given him, every function arranged for him, brain and nerve, thought and sensation, will and conscience, all provided for him ready made. And yet he turns to his spiritual life AND WISHES TO ORGANIZE THAT HIMSELF! Oh preposterous and vain man, thou who couldest not make a fingernail of thy body, thinkest thou to fashion this wonderful, mysterious, subtle soul of thine after the ineffable Image? Wilt thou ever permit thyself TO BE conformed to the Image of the Son? Wilt thou, who canst not add a cubit to thy stature, submit TO BE raised by the Divine Life within thee to the perfect stature of Christ?
If any yet think that they can by thought add a cubit to their spiritual stature, let them observe the passive voice in these revelations of the Word of God: 'Begotten of God;' 'The new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him;' or this, 'We are changed into the same image;' or this, 'Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son;' or again, 'Until Christ be formed in you;' or 'Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;' 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' There is one outstanding verse which seems at first sight to contradict all this: 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;' but as one reads on he finds, as if the writer dreaded the very thought that any might misapply his statement, in the very next verse he adds: 'FOR IT IS GOD which worketh IN YOU both to WILL and to DO of HIS GOOD PLEASURE!' (Phil. 2:12-13).
Posted by Jeanna on 02/07/13 11:32 AM
Gen 1:26, "Let us make man in Our image,in Our likeness... "
The plural pronouns establish that Jesus was with God, and part of God, from the beginning. The words image and likeness denote the spiritual image, not a physical image. Spiritually, we are created by God for good works, for goodness. He does not create evil beings.
He does not create us guilty with the sins of our fathers. That is a false, twisted, doctrine. To say that He creates us guilty from birth attributes evil design to God. That is darn close, if not actual blasphemy.
We are the ones who choose to be evil. Being created in the spiritual image of God, but also of the dust of the earth (the carbon based unit), we have a duality of nature that is constantly at war. Paul tells of this when he said in Romans 7:16, "For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do."
It is our free will to choose to do what we do. We are pulled in two directions by the good of Godly, spiritual nature endowed in the image of God, and the pull of the lusts of the flesh. Strong willed, self-controlled people do not give in the fleshly lusts easily, and work for the good of others. Evil acts are done by selfish, weak, and lustful individuals. It is wrong to lay their evil acts at God's feet.
Joshua 24:15, "... choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... " It is and always has been our choice. That makes us individually responsible. I do not answer for my father's sins. Only mine.
Posted by IndyLyn on 02/07/13 11:02 AM
Isn't that the most marvelous confirmation of the God given individuality of humankind!!!
Mr. Machan was raised in traditional Catholicism and realized his idividuality AFTER reading Ayn Rand. I was raised nothing and converted to traditional Catholicism AFTER reading Ayn Rand!!! For me... my traditional Catholic (not post Vatican II modernist catholicism) speaks volumes for Libertarian individuality... as witness so many 'individual' Saints and many many men and women of various faith backgrounds in humankind's history.
Posted by Eamon on 02/07/13 09:12 AM
Despite an otherwise-eloquent piece, it is clear that the author did not and does not grasp the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on original sin. Perhaps it was wrongly presented to him by someone who did not quite grasp it, either. Sadly, this was a very common occurrence in the increasingly-faithless decades preceding Vatican II, whereat the wheels simply came off the cart. As far as Individualism goes, I cannot spend much time clearing things up, but it is simply the philosophical error which lies at the opposite end of the spectrum from Collectivism. In other words, the fight we see raging is mostly between two philosophical errors and those who adhere to them.
Posted by Pebbles on 02/07/13 09:03 AM
I can't vouch for the quality/substance of the following event as I have nothing to do with it, but given your comments I that you/others may be interested. One can listen to a livestream for $5.
Debate: Dinesh D'Souza vs. Andrew Bernstein
Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind?
Dinesh D'Souza vs. Andrew Bernstein
February 8, 2013, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM CST
Click to view link
Posted by jdwheeler42 on 02/07/13 07:14 AM
Quite frankly, I think your view is more Biblical. If man is made in the image of God, then doesn't that imply that he is fundamentally good? Now of course people aren't perfectly good, so they came up with a good myth to explain why people are evil sometimes.
Posted by amanfromMars on 02/07/13 02:57 AM
And ... ., Doc Tibor????
Excuse me, but as much as I enjoyed and would wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments in that short article, it does have one wondering if there are a number of paragraphs missing which point out to Daily Bell ringers and the world and his dogs of war where the present system of interconnected and internetworking systems is consistently wrong and even evil in that which it is currently daily doing to keep itself in a position of charge and power which is geared to try and deny control to others?
Am I alone in that thought?
Nevertheless, thanks for the info with an other worldly view considerably more reasonable and constructive than so many others.