In the area of entrepreneurship and business, it is pretty easy to determine what productivity and achievement are. If your idea is good, people buy it and you become wealthy. That, in essence, is "good". Similarly in other professions such as medicine or law, you can be a skilled surgeon or a great lawyer with pretty objective measures of success. A great chef cooks great food and probably owns their own restaurant. You get the idea.
The question I want to ask is: what about the professions/careers where caring for people is the core skill? I am talking about nursing, teaching young kids, day care, elderly care etc. What is the criterion of productivity and achievement there ? An 80 year old person who is socially isolated or has poor vision could value someone just sitting down for a chat. Similarly, a young kid having trouble with a skill would greatly appreciate someone giving them a hug and caring enough to guide them. Showing love and affection to others matters in these jobs. How do objectivists see these kinds of professions? In my reading, it seems these areas were of very little interest to Ayn Rand (even the very important social function of parenting is not something she delves into very deeply). Her focus on the prime movers of humanity is certainly clear. The question I have is for the people who are passionate about helping and caring for others. Are they all defined as Eddie Willers or Catherine Halsey types? Is it possible to be a highly productive and achieving person if you passionately want to care for others? How will your success be measured?
[[ CLARIFICATION ]] Ideas for Life asked some good questions about the above. Here are some clarifications:
Hope that clarifies.
The question asks:
Is it possible to be a highly productive and achieving person if you passionately want to care for others? How will your success be measured?
From the full statement of the question, "caring for others" evidently refers mainly to providing non-material companionship and comfort of some kind, not merely providing values to someone else and receiving values from them in return. That view of "caring for others" raises some issues that greatly affect the moral status of it:
Objectivism (in my understanding) says, in essence: if you want to help others, go ahead; but do it for your own satisfaction and happiness first and foremost, not for any accolades from others (and especiallly not because anyone says self-sacrifice is a moral ideal).
Update: Fairness to Ayn Rand
In a "clarification" section added to the question, several points are well clarified. However, clarification item #3 states:
... [a] one cannot live without science and one, perhaps, would not want to live without art and beauty. [b] It is also worth pondering that even Hank Rearden or John Galt were once snotty little tykes and probably needed a hug and encouragement when they initially failed to stack their blocks up correctly and started to bawl in frustration (like all kids). In reading Rand, there is very little said about early development and one may even start to believe that productive heroes hatch out of eggs fully formed :-). Not so. Some cared for them just like someone cared for all the productive people when they were young and needed a lot of care.
I'm afraid I still see a substantial philosophical bias against Objectivist ideas in these two comments, especially [b]. It is possible and highly valuable to be objective even if one opposes some or many of Ayn Rand's ideas. It's true that Atlas Shrugged doesn't say much about the childhood development of Rearden and Galt, but the story provides a rich portrait of the childhood experiences of other key characters in the story, particularly Francisco, Dagny, Eddie and even James. I would heartily encourage anyone who is interested to read (or re-read) at least those chapters of Atlas Shrugged, if not the whole book. And none of the children in Atlas needed the services of professional "care givers" of the kind that the questioner seems to be focusing on. The main psychological and emotional support that they needed from others came from their parents and families, not from outside professional specialists, and that's where caring of that kind should come from in normal cases. A further concretization appears near the end of the story in the description of the bakery shop owner in Galt's Gulch and her two young children.
Regarding point [a] in the above excerpt, Objectivism's view is that philosophy is essential for all human living, and that art is vital for providing a concretization of philosophical abstractions, i.e., to show concretely (not merely describe in principles) what is possible to man and what it depends on. Art certainly can give man fuel for living, as Ayn Rand explains in The Romantic Manifesto and other works on esthetics.