Editor’s Note: As the health and economic effects of Covid-19 intensify, we asked philosopher and The Atlas Society Founder David Kelley, Ph.D. to outline some of the ways Ayn Rand’s philosophy – particularly the virtues of reason, productivity, and benevolence – can help us rise to current challenges and prepare for challenges to come in the days and weeks ahead.
In the current situation of a pandemic, the lockdown of offices and businesses, and economic losses, it is easy to lose one’s way in confusion, fear, resentment, or depression. It is all the more important to have a philosophical compass to steer by—principles that hold true of life as such, even in abnormal times.
Reason and reality
Be productive and proactive
For political activists: Be cautious in taking positions on the political response to the pandemic.
The government is now flooding the economy with credit and subsidies, which will ultimately be paid for by all taxpayers. That is at odds with a libertarian view. Yet the government ordered the lockdown in the first place, which has caused the economic problems the credit/subsidy bill aims to help with.
So was the lockdown an unwarranted intrusion into individual rights? Maybe. But we have to take two principles into account:
Assessing the implications of these principles is a complex judgment call. The nature of the novel coronavirus, especially its long incubation period and ease of transmission, make it virtually impossible to contain without society-wide measures.
Contagious diseases are a difficult issue for a libertarian view. The lockdown may not be the best solution, but some measures to halt contagion could be.
Of course, there is plenty to criticize in government responses, starting with China and including the regulatory control that the CDC and FDA maintained over tests.
Even so, we can appreciate the blessings of the liberty we have. We all benefit from
David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.