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What would happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?

asked Sep 11 '10 at 02:00

seehafer's gravatar image

seehafer ♦

edited Nov 11 '10 at 18:50

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦


The premise is that "something should be done!" This needs to be questioned ... why must something be done? With that said, the same people who vote in the politicians who "take care" of those who can't take care of themselves ... would instead be free (along with the rest of us) to finance charity directly, voluntarily ... and the largess of people who're no longer being taxed, regulated, persecuted and penalized by a bureaucracy out of control would surely be magnificent ...

(Sep 18 '10 at 13:30) Robert Nasir ♦ Robert%20Nasir's gravatar image

One other unchallenged premise in this question... the terminology "the poor" is often used to represent a non-changing group of people, and evokes a sense of "class warfare" between "the poor" and "the rich". However, there is much literature showing that people move in and out of various income "classes" as they live their lives. One article by Walter Williams regarding this: http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/politics/poverty/4519-The-Poverty-Hype.html. This income mobility is seen even in today's semi-free society -- imagine how much better yet things would be in a truly free society.

(Sep 20 '10 at 00:08) Raman ♦ Raman's gravatar image

The way-best answer here is: In an Objectivist society, the culture is a helluva lot better than it is now. Learning/thought is promoted way more. People get really benevolent and encourage/reward virtuous, self-reliant behavior in others. People are educated in how to think independently. Ultimately the question becomes, not "What to do about the poor?" but rather, "How to avoid becoming poor?" (short answer: the best way to fight poverty is through productive work) When speaking of an "Objectivist society," you have to keep in mind what that question entails: a rational culture.

(Sep 22 '10 at 22:08) Chris Cathcart Chris%20Cathcart's gravatar image

It's a legit question but that doesn't mean its not tiresome. The "poor" would certainly fare no worse than they are now. See, e.g., Haiti or any other Third World You-Know-What-Hole.

(Sep 23 '10 at 15:37) Carl Caveman Carl%20Caveman's gravatar image

In real terms there are no poor in the USA. Some have less than others, but nobody is in danger of freezing or starving to death. Unless they have mental problems, they will survive. Many folks on welfare have cable tv, cell phones & AC. In an Objectivist society they would have to work and would be (all of us)the better for it.

(Sep 25 '10 at 17:44) adamsdad ♦ adamsdad's gravatar image
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In a free society, impoverished people would be free to better their lot by their own hard work and initiative. Today, in contrast, they are hampered by impossible regulations and degraded by government welfare.

answered Sep 15 '10 at 13:13

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Diana Hsieh ♦

There is a famous (and good) answer to this question, by Barbara Branden: "If you wish to help them, you will not be stopped."

Another, more succinct version of it is by Ted Gray: "Why is that my problem?"

Both of these answers question the premise that concern for the poor is an essential in social morality, and so they implicitly reject that the government should financially assist the poor.

But, assuming the questioner has an actual curiosity about what would happen to the poor, without the implicit premise that it is everyone's duty to help the poor, the answer is exactly what Diana Hsieh says, above: "In a free society, impoverished people would be free to better their lot by their own hard work and initiative. Today, in contrast, they are hampered by impossible regulations and degraded by government welfare."

Note that in all of the above answers, the premise that poor people cannot live without assistance from everyone else is flatly rejected: see the middle ages for human existence in poverty well below the standard of what we now consider poor.

As well, Objectivism totally rejects the premise that a disparity of wealth between individuals is some kind of social problem that requires a remedy. The secret truth is that the less you tax the wealthy qua wealthy, the more money they have to invest in industries that will make even the poorest people in a society better off. The wealth of the poorest people increases even as their wealth relative to the richest people decreases.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game. If people are fully allowed to create it, they will. The rich man's wealth makes it possible for the poor man's wealth to buy more. The converse is also true: when the rich man is hampered, the poor man's long-term prospects suffer.

answered Sep 19 '10 at 14:53

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

I would like to add that a look around the world shows us how very much easier it is to survive in an industrial society. Free thinking capitalist will always come up with less costly way of producing goods. And in an Objectivist society very little wealth would be lost by businessmen to buying the permission to be productive.

But most of today's poverty problems stem from governments rewarding people for hanging on to destructive habits. We forget how great a training tool money is. If only productive activities were rewarded, very few people would continue to do unproductive acts.

(Sep 19 '10 at 23:45) garret seinen garret%20seinen's gravatar image

What would happen to the poor in an Objectivist society? I don't know, maybe a charity will help them, maybe they won't. The question is, why is it my problem? It is my life, not theirs.

The biggest victims of statism are the ambitious poor,"Pay a man to stay at home and that is exactly what he will do."(Author unknown).

answered Sep 23 '10 at 09:04

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Radical_for_Capitalism ♦

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Asked: Sep 11 '10 at 02:00

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Last updated: Nov 11 '10 at 18:50