Ayn Rand had once stated something along the lines that these individuals often purported to be acting selflessly by joining this organization but that it was often a facade for the purposes increasing occupational or educational goals later.(Having peace corp listed on your resume is pretty much akin to having an Angel stamped on there). This however, I feel does not address this issue sufficiently. What is the overall perspective on the matter of the Peace Corps and the individuals who join it given that the motivation for improving one's own career prospective is not always the case. Should this be seen as purely an altruistic system and therefore denounced in favor of other forms of achieving the same goal (helping those in developing countries)?
Ayn Rand's view of the Peace Corps was strongly negative. More than once, she referred to Peace Corps members as "those selfless little altruists," an expression meant to be pejorative. There are three main references that I know of in the literature of Objectivism where Ayn Rand expresses her evaluation:
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Chapter 12, "Theory and Practice," p. 137.
Considering copyrights, the relevant excerpts are too lengthy to quote verbatim here. Interested readers should look them up. The essential issues are:
It is sometimes claimed that altruism can be egoistic, as, for example, in "bolstering one's resume" by citing one's Peace Corps accomplishments. The above-noted reference in Ayn Rand Answers mentions this. I maintain that such an approach is a perfect example of a principle that Ayn Rand concretizes in detail in Atlas Shrugged: the sanction of the victim. By sanctioning altruism, one sanctions one's own destroyers. A typical, conventional employer who nominally apologizes to altruists might well say to a young job applicant: "Your involvement in the Peace Corps is all well and good, and our company definitely endorses social responsibility and giving back to the community, but please explain how your Peace Corps experience is relevant to enabling you to perform productively in the position you are seeking in this company." Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged surely would not care one wit about Peace Corps work as a job skill in his company. See, for example, what he says about his brother Philip's job qualifications.
Most employers tend to look for the "three C's" in job applicants: competence, cooperation, and commitment. Peace Corps work may demonstrate at least two of the C's in "humanitarian" work, but would likely have limited or no relevance to competence in performing productively in business and industry. Peace Corps work, for most young students, is more likely to be a hindrance than a help -- a major distraction from developing relevant job skills, depending on exactly what kind of role one is seeking in business and industry, and depending on how clearly one understands just how deeply destructive of man's life altruism really is, both for oneself and for any altruistic employers one may seek to aid and abet.
answered Dec 06 '10 at 01:44
Ideas for Life ♦
I can think of several nonselfless reasons for joining the Peace Corps
As you point out, some do it for the resume factor. This is not unlike those who enlist in the military for purposes of job experience, resume factors, and other benefits. This sounds to me like an objective benefit for all parties.
Some do it for the pleasure of helping others to improve their lives. A friend of mine spent two years in the Peace Corps after his retirement. He worked in a position very similar to that he had filled in his career. As a result of his work, a number of communities now have reliable electrical supply. He is quite proud of this achievement and does not consider it to have been selfless nor altruistic.
Some do it for job training and experience. Depending upon the assignment, there can be real life training for future careers. Somewhat analagous is my volunteering in Habitat for Humanity where I have learned a great deal about home construction and used this knowledge in renovations on my homes. I did not receive any carpentry training in medical school and residency so this training has been quite valuable to me.
Some do it in order to have a couple years maturation and experience before embarking on careers. For many, this experience is more valuable than the traditional one year or so bumming around Europe or elsewhere.
Finally, some consider their work completely selfless and altruistic. I suspect that many of them tire of the experience very early and do not find much reward from the Peace Corps experience.
As far as national altruism, I believe that the benefits to the US from Peace Corps volunteers are invaluable for our national reputation. It is one hell of a lot less costly than sending an army and more likely to be received with gratitude.
answered Dec 01 '10 at 22:00
Look at what the Peace Corps really is: an agency of government that takes tax dollars from productive Americans and uses that money to pay wages and buy equipment that's used to "improve" life in some generally far away place.
I view this as immoral primarily because it's government supported. If someone wanted to volunteer their own money, time, and effort to do something similar, because they valued some remote community, then that would fine and moral. But using money extracted through taxation to do the same thing is just pure altruism (the sacrifice of a higher value for a lesser one).
The fact that some Peace Corps workers get useful experience or "credit" on their resume is secondary; it's still immoral, because they are using someone else's resources to achieve those things. Remember, government is a gun. If I pointed a gun at you and said "give me some money; I'm going to go install an electric power plant in some poverty-stricken country," would your "good" intentions make your theft moral? Objectivism says no, definitely not. If I can't control my own property (money), how can I control my own life?
As a secondary issue, I would be surprised if Peace Corps programs work anywhere near as well in the long term as their sponsors like to claim. Providing benefits to people who didn't earn them, and often didn't even ask for them, is a recipe for disaster on many fronts.
answered Aug 01 '11 at 03:07