February 2nd, 2005

Have I Mentioned I Hate Dogma?

It's Ayn Rand's birthday. Libertarianism, free-market capitalism, and atheism -- what's not to like about Objectivism? Well, I think I've got that figured out now: dogmatic egoism. Ayn Rand's Objectivism demands that it be swallowed whole and defines its principles as moral and everything else as immoral. I'm amazed to see such unapologetic dogmatism within an atheist philosophy.

At the core of Objectivism is the idea that everyone should strive to better themselves while rejecting altruism. This makes Objectivism very appealing to selfish people looking to rationalize away their guilt, or to even feel morally superior because of their egoism. I'll admit I've found similar comfort in capitalism and libertarianism, so I can definitely relate to the appeal. However, to reject altruism is to ignore or deny the benefits to society that altruism has provided in the past.

Take the Civil Rights movement as an example. While a society made up exclusively of Objectivists would have never created the mess of inequality, segregation and oppression in our country's past, egoism would not have solved the problem either. Booker T. Washington (and some other black leaders) recommended that black citizens should strive first to better themselves and not risk their own well being and social status by protesting segregation. This thinking is right in line with Objectivist egoism. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others believed it was better to risk or outright sacrifice their own quality of life for the benefit of future generations. This is altruism, and Objectivism dogmatically rejects it.

I guess I'm far too much of a utilitarian to accept a worldview that could consider altruism immoral.

As a side note, I would suspect that a disproportionately high number of Objectivists have no children. To look into the eyes of a child and not immediately reject pure egoism is a callousness that I can't comprehend.

Today's State of the Union address was depressing. I spent half of it being annoyed by promises to "protect the sanctity of marriage" and other things that Christian dogma demands. I've been putting up with that for four years, so I expected it. What's really bumming me out is that the partisan split over Social Security is drowning out any and all rational discussions about the merits of privatization. Rational discourse once again loses to party dogma. Democrats must oppose what Republicans support and the political process is nothing but a sporting event.

It's also Dee Dee's birthday, my Dad's birthday, and Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, I can't relate dogma to any of these events.