[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]. . . I think that particular criticism of Rand addresses a straw man. Suppose everyone is looking out for number one, but recognizes the benefits of voluntary cooperation and the good feelings that may come from altruism. Rand’s point seems to be that mandatory altruism, where one person (or democratic mob) forces a second person to provide for the material needs of a third, is not ethical in her system and that it is not in fact altruism but submission to authority. Her point, as I take it, is that we do not have to accept any moral code that says our primary ethical duty is to society or that we exist for the purposes of the State. It’s much more efficient to put each person in charge of what he knows best and cares about most, namely the well-being of himself and his family and, to a lesser degree, his community.
Ted, not only in Atlas Shrugged, but also in The Fountainhead, Ayn forcefully expresses her disdain for social work and recipients of social worker services. In fact the central plot of Fountainhead relies on seeing the purposeful destruction of something the government subsidizes as being heroic. I don’t want to get more specific than that in case you want to read the book.
I thought I’d be able to find quotes online, but the work of Ayn Rand doesn’t seem to be available for free. Surprise, surprise. (How could I have been so naive?) So rather than take on numerous avenues of her philosophy, I will discuss one aspect of her social-work attitude only, at least for now.
Please, if anyone reading this has any knowledge about A.R.‘s attitudes and approaches that contradict what I attribute to her, speak up. I want to hear about them.
Let’s consider a fictional recipient of social services. We’ll call him Raymond. Raymond has autism and needs a lot of support from others in order to live a comfortable life. Raymond’s support costs taxpayers about $150,000 per year.
A few questions to consider: 1) What will happen if Raymond’s support comes to an end? For instance, how will he fare if his social supports are stripped down to say, $60,000 per year? 2) Raymond’s family pays nothing in support of Raymond, but he has siblings who make decent livings. Should these siblings be required by law to pay for Raymond’s support needs? 3) Are churches in Raymond’s vicinity able and willing to finance all of his needs? Would they do so if Raymond’s government supports came to an end? Will church volunteers typically have the training and skills necessary to support him? 4) How valuable a person is Raymond? That is, how important is his peace of mind and physical comfort? Is it more or less important than yours or mine?
Raymond, as it turns out in this hypothetical case, has a neurological disorder (properly diagnosed autism) that causes him agonizing discomfort unless he receives the full $150,000 per year of social services. He needs a minimum of that much support in order to live in moderate comfort. Anything less than $150,000 per year is insufficient to keep Raymond comfortable enough to be able to thrive and not get frustrated and anxious to the point of frequently injuring himself by banging his head against floors and biting the backs of his hands till they bleed.
I’m sorry for spelling things out graphically, and I hope those who are sensitive to the needs of folks like Raymond can understand why I’m doing it.
Until abruptly recent history, people like Raymond have had to fend for themselves. They tended to live very short lives, whether by being euthenized or by being mistreated/ignored. Recently, a few societies (not all of them globally, by any means) have stepped up to the plate of taking care of guys like Raymond. I happen to feel that this trend is a positive one; I support it. Others no doubt feel differently. They’re free to feel as they do, and I am not arguing with those feelings here. I am only attempting to make a logical statement.
Societies make a choice in these kinds of cases. Do you 1) provide full and adequate government support for people such as Raymond, 2) do you let them fend for themselves, or 3) do you euthenize such people? If I’m leaving out another choice please let me know.
Ayn Rand, as far as I am aware of, never specifically stated what she would do about a guy like Raymond. Again, objectivists, please inform me if I’m mistaken here. She did specifically state that social work did not deserve to get government funding. History shows that churches are not able to or simply do not give adequate support to people like Raymond. History also shows that families are not typically able or willing to provide anything close to adequate social support for people such as Raymond. How valuable Raymond’s comfort is remains an individual judgment.
Comments of all kind are invited and will be considered with courtesy, at least by me. Is the example of Raymond extreme? Does it falsely represent a slippery slope portrayal? Did I unfairly rely on emotion? On the movie?
Champ, if you’re watching, I’m counting on you.
Apollo, I hope you don’t mind if I ask you some questions tomorrow. What you say rings true with what I’ve read, and you have some firsthand experience so I look forward to more discussion with you. What a brilliant light she was—no doubt about it.