My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for the ‘Ayn Rand’ Category

The Value of People

with 4 comments

     I heard Ayn Rand, the forumlator of Objectivism, talk about the concept of sacrifice soon after her husband died.  Someone mentioned that she had “sacrificed” for him during his illness.  “Not at all,” she replied.  “If you love somebody, then it is not a sacrifice to support and assist them.”

     Many people misunderstand Rand’s views on sacrifice.  She made it clear many times that she was against both altruism and the sacrfices that stem from it, but it is important that people understand how she used those terms.  Rand was, after all, a human being.  She had the capacity to love others, and felt the need to be loved.  When she eschewed altruism and praised selfishness, it was not in the context of loving family and friends, it was in the context of totalitarian governments taking people’s property and freedom and even their lives for “the good of the state.”

     A necessary component for Rand in her disdain for and rejection of sacrifice was the component of compulsion.  Rand thought of altruism as the requirement that one give to other people or to one’s country against one’s will.  She thought of sacrifice as giving up something of greater value for something of lesser value, especially because you are told that it is your duty.   On the other hand, Rand explained, when she took care of her husband, she traded something of lesser value (her own comfort and convenience) for something of greater value (the husband whom she loved).  To Rand, such a trade was not a sacrifice.

     Suppose for instance that you had a colleague at work who was in need, and you decided to give him your entire paycheck to help him out.  Then suppose you had nothing left to buy groceries for your own children or to pay the rent on your family’s apartment or to put gas in the car to continue going to work.  In that case you sacrificed something of lesser value (your loyalty to your colleague) for something of greater value (the welfare of your family for whom you are immediately responsible).  You did it out of altruism, as Rand defined it; that is, you did it because somebody had convinced you that to be a good person you had to help your colleague, even if it cost your own family food to eat and a home to live in and future financial security.

     People have told me that Christianity is incompatible with Objectivism, because Christianity extols love for other people and self-sacrifice.  I disagree.  For one thing, Chrisitianity encourages people to love and help others as a voluntary choice.  Nobody is forced to give up anything, unless they themselves see it as the right thing to do–and something that they sincerely want to do.

     Jesus taught that we should value other people.  We should value them at least as much as we value ourselves.  Once we place a high value on people, then it is not a sacrifice to give something up for them.  Once we see greater value in giving than in withholding, it is easy to give.  However, the New Testament strongly enjoins people to provide for their families; therefore, a Christian should never feel compelled to give to others to the detriment of his own children, spouse, parents, or other family members. 

     If my colleague at work has a financial need, and I have money in savings that I was going use on a fishing boat, then it is no sacrifice for me to give him some of that money.  It will not cause my children to go hungry or to get evicted from their home.  If I sincerely value my colleague as a fellow human being in need, then I am exchanging something of lesser value (getting my fishing boat soon) for something of greater value (my colleague for whom I feel compassion).  Rand would not have called it a sacrifice, as long as I were truly happy doing it and felt no compulsion to do it.

     Jesus gave us reasons to give to others.  He promised that if we give, God will give to us.  He also talked about the joy we experience when we give to others.  Even the knowledge that we are pleasing God is a benefit that we gain from giving to those in need.  You might even say that from a Christian perspective it is selfish to be generous, since we gain by giving.  (A higher virtue is to give without expectation of getting anything back, but the promise of a return is still there, and the joy of giving is still inevitable.)

     Jesus gained by giving.  When He died on the cross, it was because he loved us and wanted to redeem us.  The Bible says that Jesus endured the agony of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him in providing salvation for us.  He gave up a lesser value (his own ease and comfort) for what was to Him a greater value (restoring fallen humanity).  In the Randian sense, it was no sacrifice.  But as the Bible defines sacrifice, giving something we would usually want for something that we have grown to want even more, it was.


Written by ambrosianideas

January 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

New Books About Ayn Rand

leave a comment »

Two new books bout Ayn Rand look very interesting. They are

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns


Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller.


I am glad to see such an interest in Rand.  I hope the books sell well.  I hope they lead people to explore Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophical works.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

Posted in Ayn Rand