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Ayn Rand: Self Interest

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Ayn Rand: Self Interest

Ayn Rand was a Russian-born American novelist and philosopher of the 20th century. She is widely known for being a passionate advocate of her philosophy: objectivism, which is the right to act in furtherance of one’s own life. Her philosophy is that man’s own happiness is the purpose of his life. It is not the right to have one’s life protected, or to have one’s survival guaranteed by any other human being or the government. In politics she was a proponent of laissez-faire capitalism and a loyal defender of individual rights, believing that the sole function of a proper government is protection of individual rights. She believed that individuals must choose their values and actions solely by reason. According to Rand, the individual must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

Rand's view is that self-interest is the standard of morality and selflessness is the deepest immorality. That states that one's own life and happiness are one's highest values, and that one does not exist as a servant or slave to the interests of others. Nor do others exist as servants or slaves to one's own interests. Each person's own life and happiness is his ultimate end. Self interest involves self-responsibility. One’s life is one's own, and so is the responsibility for sustaining and making it better. It is up to each of us to determine what values our lives require, how best to achieve and attain those values.

Rand's ethic of self interest is connected to her support of classical liberalism. Classic liberalism is the view that individuals should be free to pursue their own interests. Politically, governments should be limited to protecting each individual's freedom to do so. The moral authenticity of self interest implies that individuals have rights to their lives, their liberties, their property, and the pursuit of their own happiness, and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights. In order to allow individuals to freely pursue their own interests, they must live in a free market economic system or a laissez-faire capitalism. In these systems, individuals will use their time, money, and property as they like for their own personal advantages. Also, there are completely no welfare rights such as health, food, and education. Individuals are to motivate themselves to become and stay happy by any means necessary.

Rand supports rational self interest which is that one's interests are not whatever one happens to feel like. Rather it is by reason that one identifies what is to one's interest. By the use of reason one takes into account all of the factors that one can identify, projects the consequences of possible courses of action, and adopts ethical policies of action. The moral policies a person should adopt are called virtues. A virtue is an acquired character trait. It results from identifying a policy as good and then acting consistently based on that policy.

One such virtue is rationality. After one succeeds in finding the use of reason as good, being committed to acting in accordance with it is the virtue of rationality. Another virtue is productiveness. When one figures out what needs to be produced in order to survive, he will be committed to find a way to produce it. Independence and integrity are also core virtues of self interest. One must think for himself and act upon his own thoughts makes him committed to being independent. Having integrity also shows that one is honest and is committed to telling truths/facts instead of lying which can lead to hypocrisy. In Rand’s view, hypocrisy leads to self-destruction. Justice is another central self interested virtue. Justice is a policy of judging people, including oneself, according to their value and acting accordingly. The opposite policy of giving to people more or less than they deserve is injustice. The final virtue on Rand's list of fundamental virtues is pride or the policy of moral ambitiousness. This is the policy of being committed to constructing oneself to be the best one can be. A moral person is someone who acts and is committed to acting in his best self interest. It is by living the morality of self interest that one survives, flourishes, and achieves happiness.

The contrasting view typically puts self interest

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