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Ethical Egoism: The Problem With Ayn Rand

2516 words - 10 pages

Ayn Rand’s controversial views and opinions on ethical egoism have paved the way in liberating and absolving society’s conservative elite from feeling guilt or compassion towards those who are less fortunate in society - including those from the middle-class, the working poor and minorities. Though Rand penned her theory decades ago, her brand of ethical egoism is still touted as gospel by some politicians and those in the upper echelons of society, creating gridlock in the government and a deep division among the classes.
In order to understand Ayn Rand’s theory on ethical egoism, first we need to understand her background and the era she was raised in. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia on February 2, 1905, Rand witnessed the Kerensky Revolution which she supported and the Bolshevik Revolution which she denounced. She changed her name from Alissa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand in 1926 – around this time she also abandoned her Jewish religion and became an atheist. Her family fled Russia to escape the violence and her father’s business was confiscated. Faced with near starvation during those turbulent years, Rand’s fascination with American history began. She attended the University of Petrograd where she studied philosophy and history; however, her college experience ended badly when the school was taken over by the communist government. She moved to the United States never intending to return to her homeland ("Biography of Ayn Rand (1905-1982))".
Rand’s basic premise of ethical egoism is that everyone should look out for themselves and themselves only. What Rand is really saying is that human beings don’t really matter unless they can be used in some way to further our own self-interest. In other words, we have no obligation to help others; nor should we - unless there is some benefit to be gained for ourselves and we inadvertently help someone else. If people actually ran around telling everyone that they were selfish and they would step on or over us to get what they want, I firmly believe that they would be ostracized and friendless. Therefore, the ethical egoist doctrine is contradictory because it wouldn’t be in a person’s best interest to shout those views to the world – some people would be merely offended by that attitude, but others might take revenge or retaliate against them, thereby nullifying the argument that others don’t matter. The opposite is true – we are treated the way we treat others. If everyone behaves the way Rand advocates, the world would be an evil place without compassion.
According to Rand, altruism lessens the value of people. She calls altruism a “basic evil” and refers to those who perpetuate the system of taxation and redistribution as “looters” and “moochers (Benfer).” Rand claims that altruistic individuals must embrace low self-esteem, a disrespectful attitude toward others, and a nightmare view of existence (Rand)”. She wrote in her book “The Virtue of Selfishness” that accepting any government...

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