Reason as the Leading Motive

Poverty and Objectivist Benevolence

Posted by Jerry on July 21, 2006

I had written a post earlier, while in America, about the beggars I used to see on the streets of Chicago. My post expressed my utter disdain for them; in particular, those beggars who were fully able-bodied, and had no business being beggars.

I still stand fully by my opinion in that post–in fact, more firmly now.

Being in India, I am confronted with the sight of the most abject kinds of poverty, mal-nutrition, sickness, and decay. These human beings living in such unspeakably terrible conditions are everywhere, all around me. They crawl on the platforms at stations; they drag their broken and twisted limbs through crowded street traffic; their little naked infants lie still and motionless on the streets despite all the flies gathering around their eyes and lips. All such images are incredibly sickening, and haunting. And yet, after a point, after a daily dose of exposure to such sights, one tends to become desensitized.

For me, however, it’s not the feeling of becoming desensitized to their plight that concerns me. What bothers me is the reasons behind why I am subjected to such horrible sights on a daily basis. It is a perennial question that philosophers, theologians, sociologists, politicians, and practically everyone else has asked: What can one do to eliminate such abject, pathetic living conditions for the poor.

I find it hard to believe that so many people still haven’t figured out the answer. Countries and organizations and charities and churches are pouring billions and trillions of dollars toward the cause of helping poorer countries. Typically, one would think that people learn from mistakes and erroroneous methods. However, in this case, no one seems to be bothered by the fact that this non-sensical, altruistic approach is NOT working! It is in fact generating more problems than it is solving. It is supporting corrupt middle-men and politicians, rogue tribes that loot and plunder the money and supplies, creates a sense of psychological helplessness, apathy, and low self-esteem among the recepients, and so much more.

When I look at the crippled who crawls along the platform of the station I use to get to work everyday, I feel sympathy for him; I do not feel the disdain I feel for the beggars I saw in the United States. For this man here, I feel sympathy because this society and this country’s socialist laws over the past century that has brought him–and many like him–to this state. I watch people throw coins of money at him, and I only wonder how much of a help that is, and how long that will last him.

The benevolence of Objectivism is in that it recognizes man’s proper purpose in life is to live a rational and flourishing life in pursuit of his own happiness, i.e. the achievement of one’s rational values. Suffering, according to Objectivism is an aberration, not the norm; it should not be an all-encompassing perspective of life on earth, nor should it be one’s life-long preoccupation. Suffering is a diversion from the norm and it can therefore be rectified.

Objectivism prescribes Capitalism as the only moral and benevolent system of interaction among men that recognizes their proper nature as free and volitional beings, and their right to live and flourish. It is moral because it is a just system based on the principle that each man deserves only what he has earned and engages in an equal exchange of value for value with other men. It is benevolent because it is based on the principle of egoism and not self-sacrifice: man is an end in himself; no man may sacrifice himself for the sake of others nor demand such a sacrifice from others for his own sake. It enslaves no one and benefits everyone.

If the politicians, philosophers, sociologists, etc., of this world truly wish to improve the living conditions of the poor, they would stop being such altruists, demanding the sacrifice of some for the benefit of others. They would not give another penny to the poor, giving away that which is unearned. It is altruism that consistently sustains the poverty of these people, it chains them into being beggars and recipients of our pity for life.

I know for a fact that this suffering is NOT an unchangeable fact of life; nor is it an unavoidable fact. I am so saliently aware of the fact that throwing coins at the beggar does absolutely nothing to change the situation: not for him, not for the country, not for anybody.

It has taken only about a decade of pro-Capitalist policies in India to dramatically reverse its more than 60 years of socialist/communist decay. I am trying hard to remain optimistic that India will remain on its path and progress toward more free markets and deregulations. I maintain this optimism in virtue of my benevolence for the crippled man crawling on that station platform. For my part, I will do as much as is in my power to help create a benevolent society based on rational and egoistic principles. I hope that someday this beggar–and others like him–will actually experience the freedom and superior standard of living in a capitalist, rational, and benevolent society that I am working to establish for myself to enjoy.


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