Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Moral Foundations of Capitalism

This was the first meet at the Mumbai University Campus thanks to Prof Mugdha Karnik, the director of the Centre of Extra Mural Studies of the University of Mumbai. She is also currently in the process of translating Atlas Shrugged in Marathi. Due to her interest in Rand's philosophy and in promoting her ideology, she has agreed to give us the university space on every last Sunday of the month. Hence, from now onwards, we shall have meetings in every last Sunday of the month at the university. This shall also give a good enough notice for the interested people to plan and work around their schedules and keep this time free.

The topic for this meet was "The Moral Foundations of Capitalism". Though I am completely bowled by Rands philosophy, capitalism was something I have kept away from. On a basic level of reason and individuality, I seemed to agree, but I would think, trading for self interest was against human nature. A mind cultivated in this "sacrificing, community-based society, where other's happiness comes before your own", I was enslaved to my understanding that trade for selfish gains is morally wrong. However, ignorance hardly lasts longer than the moment it is identified. And so, today, I can defend capitalism with moral values.

The meeting started with Jerry's opening marks on the meaning, origin and importance of capitalism.
He elaborated on the basic principles of capitalism and the reason for it's success in the USA and in India since the onset of privatisation from 1991. He also sighted examples of the way indian economy has grown since then. "The only aspects which are still under-developed in India are the ones which are government owned: the infrastructure, water, electricity to cite a few." We cannot agree more. Everyday, the lot of us struggling with the poor infrastructure of the Mumbai city, curse the innumerable potholes that multiply like bacterias with the slightest of rains.

So, we couldn't agree more that capitalism works. Of all the economic structures, capitalism works. Because, to quote an article I read: human mind is built to trade.

Does that mean that, if we have open markets and people are free to trade, there will come a time when the biggest fish in the pond will eat all the small fish. So, in essence, "living ethically and morally and yet with capitalist philosophy, one either has to be an Ambani or a Tata. The small fish which yet function wont do so anymore. Will this not create a dog-eat-dog society?

However, to conclude, I quote the report by Will Wilkinson: "The balance is delicate. Once we appreciate the improbability and fragility of our wealth and freedom, it becomes clear just how much respect and gratitude we owe to the belief systems, social institutions, and personal virtues that allowed for the emergence of our "wider civilization" and that allow us to move between our two worlds without destroying or crushing either."

Until the next meet.

ps: above is my account of the evening. These thoughts may be influenced by my understanding and acceptance of the discussion. Please feel free to correct/ contradict or agree with the same.

9th August: Since this post has created much of an uproar, I have deleted the section where I say what the meeting concluded with. That is aptly mentioned in Jerry's comment below. I would again like to say that these are not the minutes of the meeting, these are my own impressions based on my own understanding.

Date of the next meet at the same venue: 29th August 2010.
Time: 6pm


  1. Will this not create a dog-eat-dog society?

    As a matter of fact, Free market rushes the individuals to be honest. Dishonesty proves to be a deal of harm and loss. Being self-interested, self-centered and in fact selfish, any competitor in the market (dealers, producers, manufacturers and the consumers too) prefers to be honest, ethical or in simple words, he prefers to respect the individual rights of others.

    Ayn Rand and her literature may help people to argue against the contentions of collectivists/socialists/Stiatist that in absence of government there may be chances of much more corruption. Yet, no person in a free market will really need any lecture from Rand. He/she will learn the rationality of life in a free and natural way. It would be as simple as it was for Roark to be a Roark even in absence of any Ayn Rand in his life.

    I wrote about a similar issue some years ago in this post at my portal Reason For Liberty "Exam Cheats, The Indian Students Under Scrutiny

    we concluded that perhaps a mixed economic model is a better option.

    Shame on you and your whole organization. Ayn Rand was never in support of mixed economy. She always opposed Governmental interference in Economy. About issue of middle path you need to read this "The Middle Vice

    Quoting Ayn Rand “There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.

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  2. In her post above, Kirti said: "above is my account of the evening. These thoughts may be influenced by my understanding and acceptance of the discussion. Please feel free to correct/ contradict or agree with the same."

    Thanks for making that statement! :)

    I disagree that the meeting concluded with the view that "perhaps a mixed economic model is a better option."

    Indeed nothing could be more wrong! The point of the meet was to explicate the moral foundations of capitalism--not to examine it or question it. The fact that capitalism is fully moral--and therefore fully practical--is not a matter that can be challenged; its truth is established irrevocably. What we attempted at the meeting was to explore these moral foundations for a better, greater, and holistic understanding of the matter.

    One thing to clarify in these Atlas Sunday Club meets is that we are not re-examining the basic premises and principles of Objectivism. We are exploring ways of understanding them, applying them, and contrasting them with other points of view.

    Next, it was not my view at the meeting that people who use roads will need to pay for it.

    In fact, my view on the privatization of roads is argued on the line that privatizing roads will most likely lead to the FREE use of roads--or at worst, the use of roads for a very low, affordable, and nominal fee.

    Read my post on this topic for more details on my blog:


  3. There is no shame in being wrong, if one is willing to learn.

  4. :) Apologies Jerry. I am still a toddler in this topic. So, apologies for mis-representation and thanks for clarification. :)

  5. I did apologise for mis-representing what Jerry said. But still, what I said above are my convictions. And I am yet not convinced otherwise.

    I read in some article I read recently that Ayn Rand assumes that everyone will "naturally" choose a life of morality and ethics.
    But the human nature throught history has shown that man is not "naturally" an ethical being. I agree that Roark didnt need any Ayn Rand in his life. That's because he had his convictions and there was only one Roark and only a handful Roark-likes who stood apart with their moral and ethical convictions.

    So, I still believe that leaving it entirely on free market will create a dog-eat-dog society. Contrararily, I dont mean that I expect the stronger fish in the pond to "live" for the smaller fish and effectively starve.

    Please elaborate :)

  6. Hi Kirti,

    No problem. An honest mistake graciously accepted is also a constituent of learning and discovering truth.

    Amit Sudha,

    Let's avoid histrionics and critique without criticizing. Not everyone has the same level of understanding of a philosophy. Our goal is not to scare them away, but to get them to discover the right direction.

  7. Kriti,

    However, I would require that you change your sentence in the post with a clear edit somewhat like the following, because right now the post still reads as if all other members of the meeting shares your view:

    "AUTHOR EDIT: The meeting did not conclude with the view that a mixed economy is better. That was my own personal view of the matter at this stage of my understanding. In fact, the meeting was an exploration of the morality of capitalism, not a discussion on its merits or justifications."

  8. "If you want proper Internet based promotion for your institution, your website or organization , you may contact me at my blog" post
    "Shame on you and your whole organization."

    Do you think this really works?

  9. Kirti,

    Ayn Rand didn't assume that people will naturally choose the ethical course of action, just like they breathe. If that was the case, there will be no need for a code of morality. Apparently, that doesn't seem to be the case. A capitalist society is not a dog-eat-dog world. I don't think any sane libertarian wants the weak to perish. If someone thinks that the weak would perish, he can help them out. Capitalism is the exact opposite of a dog-eat-dog world. There is a harmony of interests under Capitalism. The weak has the most to gain from Capitalism. On the contrary, statism creates a dog-eat-dog world, ridden with pressure group warfare.

    Amit Sudha,

    This is not the proper way to debate. Seriously, do you think that this works? Has it worked anywhere, with anyone?

  10. Jerry,

    Thank you for posting your essay on the issue of private roads in a capitalist society. You're right on the money when you say this issue is a good test of whether one holds one's philosophy as a body of abstract, rationalistic principles or as a properly integrated system that one uses in daily living, and which one can readily apply to concrete situations.


    Thank you for posting your report on the recent Atlas Sunday Club Meet in Bombay.

    After reading Amit Sudha's negative comment about a statement in it which you later deleted, I checked out her ReasonForLiberty blog and I came across a post titled 'Extreme Atomic Guilt Theory of a free society.'

    Its author asserts that if a man hires a contract killer to murder his wife, and the killer carries out the contract, the man is innocent since he was merely offering $100K to the killer to commit the murder and the killer was free not to accept the man's offer!

    I think this is exactly the kind of view that discourages Objectivists from associating with Libertarians.

    If a man hires a contract killer to murder his wife, and the killer carries out the contract, the man has not only conspired with the killer to murder his wife by hatching the plot but he is also an accessory to the crime since he has aided and abetted the killer by paying him to commit the murder.

    So, in a free society, a proper government, which protects individual rights, can and will legally prosecute him for being a conspirator in, and an accessory to, the murder of his wife.

    If the man is allowed to get away with murder in such a case, the legal system of such a society can hardly be called objective, regardless of whether he committed the murder himself or through a proxy.



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