“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
What does that mean really, to not live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for yours? Are you one of those people who easily empathize with the downtrodden, the “have-nots”, the poor, the unsuccessful, the homeless or whatever you want to call the less fortunate? Are you the type that feels a desire to help out however you can working at soup kitchens on the Holidays, or at the food bank because you feel some moral sense of obligation to complete and utter strangers and that everyone else should do the same? Do you think that if everyone sacrificed of themselves for the sake of others less fortunate that the world would be a much better place? Have you ever said to yourself that “if I was king of the world I would do “this” and “that” and I would make everything be perfect” ? Do you believe that as long as everything is peachy in the end, how you got there doesn’t matter? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you don’t believe freedom.
You see the statement made by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged is the essence of Freedom. When you never ask another to live for your sake, you are taking responsibility for your own life. You are existing by your own means. You do not take what you have not earned, created or been gifted. When you refuse to live for the sake of another man, you are proclaiming that your life is yours and yours alone, to do with as you choose. That no other man has a mortgage on your life. You are stating unequivocally that your existence is not a means to others end. You are rejecting the platitudes of Altruism which says that virtue comes from the sacrifice of the self to the needs of others whom hold no personal value to you.
Isn’t this an evil and mean spirited way to be though? I mean, the homeless need help right? They are all mentally ill and can’t take care of themselves right? Well, despite the problems that the homeless may or may not have and before you even begin to address the solution to their problems, you need to determine whether or not their problems superseded your right to choose for yourself how your finite life is spent. Let’s pretend that their problems do superseded your own desires, moreover lets postulate that the needs of an undefined class of people we will call “others” can be found to be more important than your right to self determination. In our pretend scenario, how are we to determine which “needs” take priority over others? What are the criteria that will be used to determine the priority of needs? Who sets the criteria? What makes one set of criteria more valid than another set? Do we do it by decree? Who gets to be the dictator and how was he/she chosen? Do we do it democratically by a vote? If we can vote to determine which “needs” can supersede our own, how long till a majority votes their own hedonistic interest? How many men would it take to properly and democratically vote the panties off an unwilling woman? Is that an absurd question or just the logical consequence of suggesting that which a society deems as good is that which is worthy of sacrificing an individuals life for? And if the standard of good is that which society votes for then we have what philosophy calls moral relativism, which is the lack of any objectively defined code of morality and thus the ownership of your life becomes the property of the ruling majority.
It is often said that we are to help the “needy”. The “needy” are never really defined any more than to say they are those who “don’t have” as much as you. Sometimes people will specify that they are those who can’t afford food, or they have no home, or they can’t afford clothing, and while those might be accurate categories of basic necessities that the “needy” don’t have, there is no explanation as to the “why” those basics are not being met. Does the why matter? Should one who refuses to work (such as this guy) be classified the same as a they guy that stands on a street corner panhandling? But classifications aside, at what point and according to who and according to what criteria is the line set that demands you or I take what we have and give it to another person, whom we don’t know and whom holds no personal value to us? And by personal value I mean, one whom you know nothing about save the fact that they occupy a space on this planet (you cannot denote a personal value on anything of which you know no discerning information or attributes to set it apart from another. An example would be two kittens or two dogs. You may have affinity for cats or dogs in general, i.e. “I’m a cat person” but without personal first hand knowledge of the two distinct animals, you cannot ascribe personal value to one or the other. One might be sweet and cuddly, and the other rabbid. Obviously the value placed on the two animals will differ once you have personal knowledge of the two. Get my point?)
Its a truly fucked up world when we have “patriots” clamoring for freedom on one hand, but then legislating that I sacrifice my life for those I haven’t specifically chosen to assist in the form of charity, welfare, or social programs. Its a fucked up world when the left wing clamors for the right to “choose”, yet tells me that I have no choice about whether or not I choose to buy health insurance. Its a fucked up world when the right wing says we should have the right to keep more of our hard earned money, yet not the right to choose to live in a union with someone of the same sex.
You can’t be for “some” rights, but not all of them, it doesn’t really work like that. And just because you live in a society doesn’t mean you have to give up your rights either, provided the society is based on the free association of men for a common purpose. You either have the most fundamental right to your own life or you don’t. You either have the right to choose how to spend your life or you don’t, there are no degrees of this right. But keep this in mind, you DO NOT have the right to escape the consequences of your actions, no matter how fucked up they might be. Oh you may get away with things, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to do so, you just got lucky. Having a right to your life means you and you alone are responsible for it. The charity of others is not a right, charity is a gift, and you aren’t mandated to give gifts, it has to be voluntary.
I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.