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If you live in a society which, although nominally a capitalistic one, is largely built upon collectivist principles, is it moral to be a beneficiary of the system if you disagree with its very premises?

In practice, you (or your parents if you are not working yet) are taxed for all sorts of services that you may or may not use - your tax money goes to universal healthcare, higher education, subsidies for public transport etc. Is it moral to use all those services that come in handy to you (such as a free university education if you qualify for it or healthcare to the extent you need it), or is the very fact of your using those services a sign of making peace with the "system"? Do the Objectivists always opt for the private sector when available or do they use the public sector to get their money's worth? And if they do the latter, do they actually do the math in terms of how much they put in the system and how much they are getting out of it through various services and subsidies?

If you are beginning to adopt a more capitalistic worldview, is it moral to continue your free university studies - free on other people's money? And if you do continue, is it moral to cunningly plan to emigrate upon receiving your degree to a country with a greater degree of freedom - and attempt to make a living there with the degree and, possibly, some marketable skills, that you were able to acquire in the first place on other people's money in a different society? What if you are incapable of doing the math and calculating to what extent the money taxed off your family (and from you, if you work) covers the financial investment that the government did for you? Or are you to assume a certain "debt to the society" due to the fact that you were born into such a system and were a beneficiary of it on some accounts unless you come from a very rich family (whose tax money meets or exceeds their family's worth of services and subsidies), and do you thus take upon yourself the attitude that it is immoral for you to leave?

asked Mar 17 '13 at 11:41

Lumen's gravatar image


edited Mar 17 '13 at 13:56

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Benefitting from a welfare program you personally believe to be immoral in nature would be hypocritical. To be a hypocrite means that there is a contradiction in your actions to your principles. To say or believe in one thing and to do the opposite is a breach in moral contract and would, therefore, be immoral.

(Mar 17 '13 at 23:41) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

We're all incapable of doing the math, because it's not a math problem - it's not purely quantitative.

Whatever benefits you can get from a system you should get from it, keeping in mind, of course, the costs involved in getting those benefits. If you can benefit from welfare payments, then you should get your welfare payments. Be careful that you don't become dependent on them, though.

There is nothing hypocritical about receiving welfare payments while not agreeing with the welfare system. What would be hypocritical would be helping the system, not taking from it.

(Mar 18 '13 at 15:06) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If it makes you feel better, accept your government benefits and then donate the monetary value of them to Americans for Tax Reform or some other anti-tax organization.

But that isn't necessary.

(Mar 18 '13 at 15:19) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Ayn Rand answered this question in her article, "The Question of Scholarships," published in The Objectivist, June 1966, and in The Voice of Reason, Chapter 7. Refer also to The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Government Grants and Scholarships." Here is a brief sampling:

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships have no right to them; those who oppose them have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

The article and the Lexicon excerpts explain that the government seizes people's wealth and property continually, and that the victims are entirely entitled morally to take advantage of opportunities to recover some small portion of their own property, provided they oppose the system that makes the original seizures possible. In other articles, such as "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society" (VOS Chap. 8), Ayn Rand emphasizes the importance of speaking out in intellectual opposition to a system that violates individual rights, and in support of reforming the system -- speaking out to make it clear whenever there may be doubt that one would gladly give up the benefits one receives from the government in return for an end to the government's continual violations of everyone's individual rights. In Objectivism (and in life), ideas matter.

answered Mar 18 '13 at 02:25

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Thank you for answering my question. I was incidentally in the middle of reading VOS when I asked this question, so meanwhile I have read chap. 8, and about government grants and scholarships in the Lexicon.

(Mar 21 '13 at 06:48) Lumen Lumen's gravatar image

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Asked: Mar 17 '13 at 11:41

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Last updated: Mar 21 '13 at 06:48