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Objectivism is Not Anti-Family

Objectivism is Not Anti-Family

3 Mins
August 13, 2014

Writer Sean McElwee

Salon.com hates Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The latest evidence is a gratuitous jab, tarring Ayn Rand a conservative and then declaring that Objectivism is anti-family. Why can’t the advocates of statism, self-sacrifice, and irrationality get Objectivism right? Oh, I did charge them with advocating irrationality, didn’t I?

In an article posted August 3, 2014, Sean McElwee charges that conservatives’ so-called “’family-friendly’ values are tough to reconcile with the market — one of the most anti-family institutions (there is a reason the Atlas Society, which exists to forward Randian ideas, harbors an open disdain for the family ).”

The main point of McElwee’s article is that there is a “Raging Contradiction” in the the conservative movement. That’s true, as my colleague Ed Hudgins has already explained ..But McElwee’s attack on Objectivism doesn’t make sense.

To begin with, Objectivism isn’t a conservative philosophy . And Ayn Rand wasn’t a conservative. So it shouldn’t be hard to find contradictions between Objectivism and conservative thinking. And it may be that their perspectives on the family are a point of tension between Objectivists and conservatives. Does McElwee know that Objectivists, like most leftists but not like many conservatives, believe individuals have a right to buy contraceptives and believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry?

McElwee’s attack on Objectivism doesn’t make sense.

But McElwee is wrong to call the Objectivist position on family “open disdain.” (Since he singles out the Atlas Society, I guess he doesn’t know that several of us, including myself, have children. Maybe he’d say we’re just hypocrites.) In a nutshell, the Objectivist view of family is that it is a wonderful social institution that brings immense value to many people and is a natural part of our propagation as a species. Is it disdainful to say that this doesn’t imply a blanket, open-ended, out-of-context obligation?

Objectivism holds that we should deal with others by trade, interacting voluntarily for the sake of mutual benefit. Inasmuch as this can be the leitmotif of family relations so much the better. Inasmuch as some family relations don’t measure up as being beneficial for their participants, so much the worse for those relations.

Family is a vital human institution.

Is it anti-family to say that a child isn’t obliged to honor an abusive parent? Is it anti-family to say that once one’s children are grown, the parents’ obligation to them ends and further relations should be based on mutual respect and voluntary association? Is it anti-family to say that one should love one’s loveable, ethical, siblings and cousins, and one may ignore and avoid unlikeable or unethical family members? None of those views are anti-family: they prize what is good in family relations and seek to make all family relations healthy and positive .

McElwee seems to think that a pro-family viewpoint amounts to a blanket obligation to serve one’s family no matter what.

The best theme in the liberal tradition (with which McElwee identifies) is the supreme worth of our own lives to ourselves. If one recognizes that basic moral truth, it has implications for all one’s relations . Family is a vital human institution. Let’s make it serve our lives, not harm them.

Myths About Ayn Rand , a #2 Amazon best-seller
A easy and quick way to explore common myths about Ayn Rand's ideas

Up from Conservatism , the award-winning classic essay by Robert James Bidinotto
A devastating indictment of conservatism and many of its top leaders.

A Challenge to Journalists by Laurie Rice
"If you value your argument, you do it a disservice by misrepresenting its opponent."

"Objectivist Ethics for Parents and Childtren" a presentation by William R Thomas, given at the Atlas Summit, June 20, 2014. Why having children makes sense for egoists, and how Objectivist ethics applies to the case of children.

About the author:
Ayn Rand's Ideas and Influence