Objectivism is a moral theory, often maligned by the mainstream, which states the moral action that can be taken by an individual is to pursue that individual’s self-interest. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states the moral action is the one that will create the most overall benefit.
These are both very popular modes of thinking and have been criticized and praised in their own right. However, there is an undercurrent of economics to both of these theories. Often a defense of authoritarianism is to say that the government must be a check on the morality of the private citizen. It is said that objectivism can only lead to collapse, due to a lack of traditional morals. Providing some immoral actions with vindication under objectivism is said to be dangerous. That being said, there is an inherent value to objectivism. If all humans have dignity, would it not be moral to advance oneself? Under a capitalist system and a culture that promotes self-betterment, objectivism can lead to a fulfillment of utilitarianism.
Let us begin with the assumption that the goal of any societal structure is the general good. Since most singular citizens are not thinking that, then the effective goal is to utilize self-interest to serve the collective interest. So, the goal of the society is utilitarian. First, one must look at how different systems can affect and utilize an individual’s ambition.
In a centralized society, the pursuit of self-interest can be dangerous. Government, by its nature, holds a monopoly on coercion. This means that any sufficiently motivated person gains the ultimate power of force. There needs to be an understanding of people’s ambitions.
Most people are self-interested. There are few people that are entirely motivated by the collective good, and often none in government. Elizabeth Warren lied about having significant Native American heritage to have some sort of victim advantage, and thus more power. Anthony Weiner continually lied and denied his first sexting scandal because it would be dangerous to his career. The list goes on, and it is not specific to any one party.
Given that those who pursue political power do not always have the best interests of the public in mind, such a person would undoubtedly gain said power in a centralized society. Now, the important distinction between the actions of those in economic power and those in political power is cooperation. It is not needed in a political position. The person in power can coerce, so any voluntary action is superfluous. The person will only act in the collective interest if that interest happens to coincide with their own self-interest.
In a capitalist society, there is a necessity for cooperation. Every economic decision is done with the consent of the other party. Every cooperative economic decision is taken with the expectation that it will serve their own financial interests. This applies to consumer-producer relationship as well. The customer exchanges money for goods because, in his mind, that good is more valuable than the exchanged money. The producer accepts the money because he finds it more valuable than the exchanged good. Each party is acting in his respective self-interest, yet they come to an agreement that mutually benefits the both of them. It is a beautiful cooperative dance. These decisions being made a million times over will produce a growth in the collective interest through the small-scale advancement of self-interest.
These individuals in a free society are all practicing objectivism; yet it is ultimately beneficial since they do not possess any ability to force the other’s hand. Objectivism, in the right circumstances leads to a brighter overall future. Objectivism, when put in the correct environment, leads to the fulfillment of utilitarianism. Understanding how people work and how they interact leads to the conclusion.
Giving people the moral authority to pursue their own ambitions is perfect for a society that utilizes those ambitions to the general welfare. For the sake of utility, objectivism is the best option. For the sake of general happiness, allowing people to promote their own happiness is the best option. When accounting for benefits and consequences, objectivism is the moral choice. In the end, the world is nothing but a collection of people. Those people have an inherent dignity about them that cannot be found anywhere else. To promote that, allow them to promote themselves.
* Noah Ellison is a business student at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. He is part of Young Americans for Liberty at his campus, and holds the title of Chief Economic Philosopher.
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