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Instead of education, let’s spend our money on _____

I wrote the following at the beginning of this year, soon after the State of the Union address in which President Obama mentioned a proposal to make community college free across the country.

It looks like a lot of people are adamantly against the idea of free public community college funded by the federal and state governments (the average tuition is $3,347 per year). Why? Presumably because their taxes would be going toward something against their will. It would be involuntary, so that’s not okay. That translates into this: being against funding public education. According to what I’ve read, around $60 billion would be spent over 10 years to make community college free.

So, maybe we should take a look at what the average citizen of the United States prefers to spend their money on per year (voluntarily, of course).

  • $56 billion on pets in 2013 (x)
  • $7.4-11.3 billion on Halloween in 2014 (x)(x)
  • $165 billion annually by trashing unwanted food (x)
  • $66.5 billion on lottery tickets in 2011 (x)
  • $990 million on professional and consumer fireworks in 2013 (x)
  • $1.4 billion on teeth-whitening products in 2006 (x)
  • $15.39 billion on video games in 2013 (x)
  • $25.4 billion on professional sports in 2011 (x)
  • $7-8 billion annually on greeting cards (x)
  • $2.6 billion annually on wrapping paper (x)
  • $157 billion on fast food in 2012 (x)
  • and on and on and on

People can buy and spend as they please, but it’s somewhat telling when so many seem to think education is a terrible thing to invest in, all while we’re spending unnecessarily on a lot of junk. Ultimately, what we spend our money on and what we think is worthy of funding are indicative of what is important to us as a society or culture. If we think of education as something to be bought, sold, and earned — both community colleges and four-year universities —  then it becomes a commodity which is inaccessible to a large portion of the population.

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Objectivism’s Subjectivity

There seems to be two kinds of objectivism. One is often in the context of journalism: some people want journalists to strive for objectivism, that is, keeping true to the facts and leaving out any opinion or bias. The second is capital-O Objectivism, a philosophy. These two share the similarity of attempting to distance oneself from subjectivity, but there is enough of a sharp distinction to know when someone is simply advocating for objectivism in journalism and when someone is a self-proclaimed Objectivist.

If being completely objective is somehow a possibility, it doesn’t matter: people are not capable of reaching that level of detachment. Bias, morals, emotion, upbringing, background, environment, and so much more are prevalent in each person’s life; to turn a blind eye toward all of this is absurd. Attempting to be fair is a nice gesture, but being aware of our inclinations and limitations is much more important. Try being as bias-free and emotionally detached as you want, but do know that it is unreasonable to think one can completely wipe the mind of it all; there are too many uncontrollable variables to be one-hundred percent objective.

I think it’s fine to at least attempt fairness in journalism or writing if someone wishes to do so, but even then, it is arguably impossible to escape one’s loyalties or what one finds important and noteworthy. A writer who was raised by a blue-collar, working-class family is likely to sympathize and understand the struggle of poorer people, they are more likely to pursue a story exposing corruption which is endangering or harming the workforce. Everyone has a slant. That’s all I have to say within the context of writing.

I want to instead focus on the philosophy of Objectivism and its followers.

A month ago, I wrote about and criticized Tim Peck’s claim that fracking “poses no danger to health.” He is a self-described Objectivist, something I didn’t give too much thought at the time. The claim he made was an absolute one — which is funny considering the topic here. I assumed Objectivists are less likely to make absolute statements, that they may be more likely to consider all variables and factors and then carefully tailor their responses based on what they’ve learned. Something else I assumed is that they would be less likely to have a political leaning, that they would chastise all sides. But no, his slant — as well as that of other like-minded individuals — has only become more apparent: he seems to be of the libertarian conservative type.

From The Atlas Society, answering the question “What is Objectivism?”:

Fundamentally, it requires rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs.

It seems to me that those “facts of reality” and “facts about our human nature and needs” are conveniently ignored. Bias and emotion run rampant in human nature, and it’s impossible to be completely without either one unless, y’know, you’ve got some sort of mental disorder, like antisocial personality disorder.

Here’s an overview of Objectivism from the Ayn Rand Institute:

Ayn Rand wrote volumes urging people to be selfish.

What? Aren’t people already too selfish? Just do whatever you feel like, be a thoughtless jerk, and exploit people to get ahead. Easy, right? Except that acting thoughtlessly and victimizing others, Rand claims, is not in your self-interest.

What Rand advocates is an approach to life that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Selfishness, in her philosophy, means:

  • Follow reason, not whims or faith.
  • Work hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness.
  • Earn genuine self-esteem.
  • Pursue your own happiness as your highest moral aim.
  • Prosper by treating others as individuals, trading value for value.

At the dawn of our lives, writes Rand, we “seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.” Rand’s philosophy is that vision. Explore it for yourself.

Objectivism, a philosophy for living on earth.

[A]n approach to life that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.” No, I’ve definitely heard this stuff before in one form or another. Objectivism, in essence, is one gigantic, convoluted justification to be unapologetically selfish. It’s the American Dream: Extremist Version; it seems that Ayn Rand just took the basic idea of what the American Dream is and twisted it into her own.

Prosper by treating others as individuals, trading value for value.” More often than not, I see Objectivists writing off and trivializing the issue of poverty, usually viewing poor people as less than human. Below we can see William Thomas from The Atlas Society summing up the reason poor people are poor:

Remember: wealth is something that must be created. If you are poor in a free society, it is up to you to develop the skills to succeed in creating wealth. Without government regulations stifling you and punitive taxes crushing you—and without social-service programs subsidizing idleness—the limit of what you can do will come down to you and your choices.

It’s just their choices, that’s all!

In response to the question “What would happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?“, here is part of someone’s answer:

Ultimately the question becomes, not “What to do about the poor?” but rather, “How to avoid becoming poor?” (short answer: the best way to fight poverty is through productive work) When speaking of an “Objectivist society,” you have to keep in mind what that question entails: a rational culture.

Yeah, like those people working two or three jobs, still unable to pull themselves out of poverty and into a more comfortable life — productivity just works!

I don’t claim to know the intricate ins-and-outs of Objectivism, but I’m aware of the gist and I’ve noticed people using it to justify and perpetuate their beliefs and behavior. Here’s a video where Ayn Rand says, “I don’t hate the poor, I just don’t think they’re the best thing in life and that one should tailor everything for their convenience,” and then she quotes Reverend Ike, who employed the despicable prosperity theology: “The best way to help the poor is not to be one of them.” She quoted a man who swindled countless people out of their hard-earned money to make her point. Such a good, upstanding role model.

This is my conclusion: anyone claiming to be an Objectivist is living in a dreamworld, a fiction. They have embraced this ideology because it solidifies their already-selfish and already-greedy personalities. Objectivism is a philosophy in which its followers attempt to detach from their inherent, inescapable subjectivity, and they fail tremendously in that attempt.