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What is wrong with egalitarianism and why do Objectivists oppose it?

asked Jan 18 '11 at 03:13

Fareed's gravatar image


edited Jan 18 '11 at 07:39

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

A question such as this really needs a little more context, to indicate the nature and extent of one's unfamiliarity with Ayn Rand's works. In case this question really is being asked in genuine innocence, or in reasonable doubt about what egalitarianism actually means in practice, one can find a vividly detailed concretization of it in Atlas Shrugged, in the story of what happened to the Twentieth Century Motor Company when it tried to implement the slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." The story is reprinted in Ayn Rand's first non-fiction book, For the New Intellectual.

The slogan is a nearly perfect expression of the meaning of egalitarianism -- using physical force to reduce everyone's level of prosperity, happiness and health to an undifferentiated commonality in which everyone is the same (except, perhaps, in ability and therefore duty to serve, like a beast of burden). Clearly such initiation of physical force is evil, by Objectivist standards.

The slogan technically doesn't say that everyone is equal in "need," but in practice that is exactly what it means.

Since differences in ability actually exist in reality, what is the justification and justice in trying to rewrite reality so blatantly? And what are the practical consequences of doing so? See Atlas Shrugged for the consequences. Contradictions cannot exist, and any attempt to make a contradiction exist leads only to destruction. If that is what egalitarianism means, it's not only evil, unjust, and anti-life, but metaphysically impossible and epistemologically contradictory. Does one need a more complete list of everything that's wrong with egalitarianism than that?

For still more elaboration on egalitarianism, equality and malicious envy, refer to "The Age of Envy," reprinted in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, especially the paragraphs beginning with the following (p. 140): "Egalitarianism means the belief in the equality of all men.... [with equality taken to mean] metaphysical equality -- the equality of personal attributes and virtues, regardless of natural endowment or individual choice, performance and character." Ayn Rand explains how and why egalitarianism is at war with reality and is a brazen form of hatred of the good for being good, "hatred" being the wish to destroy.

answered Jan 19 '11 at 02:27

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

The question is clear and fair.

(Jan 19 '11 at 17:23) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Equality is not itself a value. Equal injustices are equally as unjust as solo ones are.

Equality doesn't add to a good state, nor does it, per se, ameliorate a bad one. This is true, moreover, regarding what nature delivers to the individual, what he creates and produces, and what he obtains in whatever fashion from others, as Rand succinctly illustrates.

Inequality, in certain contexts, is a symptom of injustice, and it is solely through that role that equality has earned its huge reputation and rhetorical power to suggest something good and valuable. Equality under the law is one sign that injustices, regarding those laws, are not taking place. (It is only one sign, and it misses systematic injustices.) It is only in those same contexts, for the same reason, that inequality can be termed undesirable.

Egalitarianism drops the proper context of the term and ignores its being a negative characteristic (it means that certain injustices are not occurring) and makes it into an icon for justice and individual rights.

Objectivists oppose it as being a false and pernicious ideal, for the above reasons and because its implementation constitutes unending injustices, and is a major premise behind policies that offend and reduce individual rights.

Both in logic and in practice, the term is worthless for any genuinely philanthropic goal.

answered Jan 19 '11 at 18:25

Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Mindy Newton ♦

edited Jan 20 '11 at 19:15

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Asked: Jan 18 '11 at 03:13

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Last updated: Jan 20 '11 at 19:15