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What Is The Objectivist View Of Law And Government (Politics)?
Objectivism: An Overview
- What is Objectivism?
- What is Philosophy?
- Why Does Anyone Need a Philosophy?
- Why is Objectivism a System of Ideas?
- What is the Objectivist View of Reality (Metaphysics)?
- What is the Objectivist Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology)?
- What is the Objectivist Position in Morality (Ethics)?
- What is the Objectivist View of Law and Government (Politics)?
- What Does Objectivism Consider to be Art (Aesthetics)?
More on Politics:
"Individual Rights: an Objectivist View"Learn how to distinguish a pseudo-right from a "real" right.
Question: What is the Objectivist view of law and government?
Answer: "Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man's rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control." (Ayn Rand, "What is Capitalism?" Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, poage 19)
The Objectivist political theory has three main elements, all of which draw upon the classical liberal political tradition. First, the foundation of the political system should be the fundamental right to live free from physical force. Second, government has the strictly limited function of protecting rights. Third, government power should be exercised in accordance with objective laws. Capitalism is the politico-economic system implied by these principles.
The Objectivist ethics holds that each person can live and flourish through the independent exercise of his rational mind. Economically, humans flourish through production and trade, as is evident from the fact that the freest countries are either the richest countries or are getting rich most quickly. Socially, trade is the model for how people can best deal with one another.
Civil law (primarily contracts, property, and torts) is government's main positive service. Civil law provides objective, just, and peaceful means of resolving disputes among producers and traders. In so doing, it provides the context needed for reliable long-term planning and contracting, which in turn are necessary conditions for the prodigies of global capitalist production and the wonders and conveniences of modern life. Police and the armed services, by contrast, serve in a negative role: They protect citizens from threats by criminals and foreign aggressors. In both civil and criminal realms, law functions by providing clear standards for determining which actions and interactions among people are consistent with individual rights. Without these legal institutions, society collapses into warring camps; each interaction invites violent dispute; and life becomes more inconvenient, less productive, and more brutal—at best.
Thus capitalism is not merely a system of economic freedom, much less an economic system favoring big businesses. In its pure form, capitalism is a social system characterized by individual freedom, diversity, and dynamism. It is a system that treats people as individuals, with no ethnic, religious, or other collective principle enshrined in the law. It is the system under which each of us makes his own choices and must take responsibility for his own life and happiness. It is the system in which long-term peace and unbounded prosperity are possible, if people will work for them. As Ayn Rand said, it is the system of separation of economy and state, just as there is separation of church and state, and for the same essential reason: because each person has a right to think and to live as his own conscience dictates, and because we all benefit from everyone having that freedom.
William R Thomas has written on topics in politics, ethics, and epistemology, and has spoken internationally on the theory of individual rights and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. His works include Radical for Capitalism, and, as editor, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand. He is the director of programs for The Atlas Society. Thomas is currently a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University at Albany.