We continue our analysis of John Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged, where Ayn Rand defines her chief virtues of the rationally self-interested man. These virtues are: Honesty, Integrity, Productiveness, Pride, Rationality, Independence, and Justice.
“Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature,
that you must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, by as pure and as rational a process of identification—
that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly,
that just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a totter above a hero—
that your moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to financial transactions—
that to withhold your contempt from men’s vices is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement—
that to place any other concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral currency and defraud the good in favor of the evil, since only the good can lose by a default of justice and only the evil can profit—
and that the bottom of the pit at the end of that road, the act of moral bankruptcy, is to punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices, that that is the collapse to full depravity, the Black Mass of the worship of death, the dedication of your consciousness to the destruction of existence.“
Note that the word “law” doesn’t show up. That’s because justice as a concept exists independently of man’s attempt at establishing justice through law.
Law is specifically used to thwart justice in the overwhelming majority of cases.
So irrelevant is the law to the concept of justice itself, Rand doesn’t honor it.
Philosophers, theologians, sociologists throughout time have defined justice as “the proper ordering of people and things”. What is proper must be evaluated by some standard of values. The chief values, according to Rand, are life, self-esteem, reason, and purpose.
Therefore, the proper ordering of things is that which promotes those values.
This is why Rand characterizes justice as applied reasoning and evaluation of people / circumstances. We must judge our lives and the people in them to assess whether or not we are in alignment with our values. If we act against those values, we act unjustly – out of harmony with that which manifests our values into reality.
To value someone for their vices is unjust.
It cheapens one’s capacity to value, to value that which is worth less.
I do not mean “worthless”. That’s obvious. I mean “worth less” – than one could otherwise value. If I choose low-value sexual partners to engage in meaningless short-lived and dangerous flings with, I am not valuing my longevity or purpose. I would be self-erasing like any drunkard on the streets. I’d be acting against my values, unjustly harming myself and the damaged women who sleep with me.
If, however, I choose to seek a quality woman who shares my values and virtues, because I have molded myself into the kind of man who has virtues, then I am acting out my values. To act out those values requires short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. To attract quality women requires virtue. To keep quality women requires more virtue.
By valuing virtue itself, I can have a just relationship, which is mutually constructive.
We can judge someone by the company they keep. Are they lifting themselves up with the people they surround themselves with? Good, they are living in harmony with life, enhancing self-esteem. Are they scraping the gutters to find ‘friends’, merely co-existing with people who pursue hedonism and vice? Bad, they are treating themselves unjustly. They are out of harmony with the value of self-esteem.
Punishing Virtue – a Primary Purpose of Government.
Thomas Jefferson said “That which you tax, you destroy”.
Productiveness is a virtue,
The more productive you are, the more money you earn.
The more money you earn, the more you are taxed,
Therefore, the more virtuous you are, the more you are destroyed under taxation.
Rationality is a virtue.
Children are born with the capacity to think creatively and reason.
Children are mandated to attend government-run public schools for 12 years.
Public School indoctrinates children into a rote-memorization style of learning, actively thwarts independence and critical thinking, and punishes children who attempt to learn differently outside of school assignments.
Public school also disincentives and punishes children for lack of obedience to commands from authority.
Public school also fails to make children more economically valuable than $7.25 per hour after stewarding them for 12 years, empirically proving that which is taught is not sufficient for living a rational self-directed audulthood.
Therefore, Public School punishes children for being rational and self-directed; it also ruins children’s capacity to reason.
We live in a sick society that acts to punish those who are virtuous, and reward those who are not.
Fortunately, in America this can somewhat be transcended by individualism.
If we simply focus on improving ourselves, not the circumstances that seek to thwart our rise to self-actualization. We can make steady progress towards becoming the best versions of ourselves. If we value life, purpose, reason, and self-esteem, and we act justly in accordance with our values, putting things in order in our lives to support those values, we can live happily in spite of the world.