Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ayn Rand Re-ryn: The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations

"""A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.

Any group that does not recognize this principle is not an association, but a gang or a mob.

Any doctrine of group activities that does not recognize individual rights is a doctrine of mob rule or legalized lynching.

The notion of “collective rights” (the notion that rights belong to groups, not to individuals) means that “rights” belong to some men, but not to others—that some men have the “right” to dispose of others in any manner they please—and that the criterion of such privileged position consists of numerical superiority.

Nothing can ever justify or validate such a doctrine—and no one ever has. Like the altruist morality from which it is derived, this doctrine rests on mysticism: either on the old-fashioned mysticism of faith in supernatural edicts, like “The Divine Right of Kings”—or on the social mystique of modern collectivists who see society as a super-organism, as some supernatural entity apart from and superior to the sum of its individual members.

The amorality of that collectivist mystique is particularly obvious today in the issue of national rights.

A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation—a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens—has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense).

The citizens of a free nation may disagree about the specific legal procedures or methods of implementing their rights (which is a complex problem, the province of political science and of the philosophy of law), but they agree on the basic principle to be implemented: the principle of individual rights. When a country’s constitution places individual rights outside the reach of public authorities, the sphere of political power is severely delimited—and thus the citizens may, safely and properly, agree to abide by the decisions of a majority vote in this delimited sphere. The lives and property of minorities or dissenters are not at stake, are not subject to vote and are not endangered by any majority decision; no man or group holds a blank check on power over others.


Miss Rand was not one for subtlety, but she at least understood the principles of the Founding Fathers. In terms of what we might call ontology, Rand was usually correct, though her arguments for her vaguely Aristotelian "axioms" could have been more fleshed out (Rand rejects any and all forms of skepticism, really). Miss Rand had no Kantian (or xtian) doubts of the reality of phenomena, and no truck with "altruists". Objectivism accepts scientific naturalism (though not exactly a Darwinian sort). Contrary to popular opinion, Objectivism rejects mysticism, whether in the form of organized religion, or the paranormal-quack sort (though a few quacks might be found among the Peikoff crew). Rand was a naturalist, par example (one problem for naturalists: what is Reason itself then, Fraulein Rand, given nada mas que .....Tio de Carne?). Her views are similar to Nietzsche, but she still has a faith in secular democracy, of some type (Rand also rejected the divine right of Kings, which Nietzsche himself would never have done).

Though many leftists view Rand as a symbol of conservative errors, Rand had no love for the biblethumping right--at one point Rand and the Objectivists broke with the hawks on 'Nam, and dissed Nixon and Reagan (unlike say the Buckley and Star-Kapitan Heinlein crew, and many LBJ/Humphrey type DINOs). She also well understood what sorts of disasters trade unionism and marxism resulted in. Really, I find Ayn Rand's character and writing fairly nauseating (and chock full of facile generalizations). In comparison to the usual leftist apparatchik or sunday-schooler GOP zombie, however, Rand seems about like a Condorcet or James Madison.

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