Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Jamwhite

Depend on nothing but my own effort

2 posts in this topic

In the essay "The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests" in The Virtue of Selfishness, in the discussion of "Context" on page 59, Miss Rand says:

Living is a society instead of on a desert island, does not relieve a man of the responsibility of supporting his own life. The only difference is that he supports his life by trading his products or services for the products or services of others. And, in this process of trade, a rational man does not seek or desire any more or less than his own effort can earn. What determines his earnings? The free market, that is: the voluntary choice and judgment of the men who are willing to trade him their effort in return.

When a man trades with others, he is counting--explicitly or implicitly--on their rationality, that is: on their ability to recognize the objective value of his work. (A trade based on any other premise is a con game or a fraud.) Thus, when a rational man pursues a goal in a free society, he does not place himself at the mercy of whims, the favors or the prejudices of others; he depends on nothing but his own effort: directly, by doing objectively valuable work--indirectly, through the objective evaluation of his work by others.

As I understand this passage, it shows a similarity between the metaphysical, and the man-made in a social setting. Just as a man is responsible for himself when no one else is around to help him, so too is he responsible for himself when others are around; the difference in a society being trade. The remainder of the passage explains and limits what trading is. Trading is exchanging values and not attempting fraud.

What I am not so clear on is: First, why is a man implicitly relying on another's rationality? Second, how does my work depend indirectly on another's evaluation?

What if some irrational people like whatever I have to sell for irrational reasons? For example, say I make a new method of air dropping food, but because I am a bad businessman this new method is more expensive than other less expensive methods that are equally good. If people or the government buy my method, they are not doing so for a rational reason (at least none that I am aware of).

About the second question, the only way that I can understand Miss Rand's point is that it is indirectly my own effort because I give others something of objective value to evaluate. But this does not seem to fully explain the writing. Can you please help me to clarify what this passage means?

Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is Andrew Bernstein's reply to the question posed by Jamwhite.

Notice that Ayn Rand specifies a rational individual. She's talking about a man whose work is objectively life promoting. Such a man depends on others to understand the objective merit of his work and buy it. Regarding irrational men, it is true that in the short run they may find customers---but unless they upgrade their thinking methods and products, in the long run they will be put out of business by more rational competitors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0