On Galbraith and Rand.

John Kenneth Galbraith devoted an entire book to what he saw as the paradox that was America. He recognized that America is the most wealthy nation in the world, and found it both perplexing and disgusting that Americans tolerated poverty in the midst of all of her affluence. He attributed the presence of poverty to the fact that Americans are self-centered. Galbraith was correct, and is arguably more correct now than he was in the mid-1950s, when he wrote The Affluent Society. That he is correct in this observation is what makes America great. Galbraith, however, believed that this selfishness was a great sin, practiced by most, if not all, of the citizens of this great nation. It is in this opinion that he is incorrect.

Let us examine the fact that America is the most affluent nation in the world. Because America is wealthy, and success, at least in the business world, usually generates wealth, we may assume that America is one of the most successful nations, if not the most successful nation in the world. The wealth of a nation is only the sum of the wealth of the men of which it is comprised. Neither countries nor men, ultimately, become successes as a result of inaction or unproductive efforts. Therefore, the efforts that men undertake that cause them to be successful and wealthy must be correct in some degree. Men undertake these efforts in an attempt to better themselves and to be successful, or to gain wealth, which Galbraith would attribute to self-centeredness.

Essentially, what Galbraith condemns to immorality is what makes our affluence possible. Without this affluence, Americans could not both live comfortably and contribute whatever amount they choose to those living in poverty. Because the wealth a man receives is payment for his labors, one could not rightfully expect him to place the welfare of others over the desires which he wishes to achieve with his wages. In some cases, the desires of the wage-holders coincide with the welfare of the poor, and it is in these situations which it is commendable for the wage-holder to contribute a portion of his property to those who have very little, if any, of their own property.

There is nothing wrong with a man wanting to keep all of his wages to himself, in fact, it is laudable. This is what Galbraith failed to recognize. One is not born in to this world with an obligation to anyone but himself, and his happiness. If it brings him happiness to give to the poor, then it is a good thing, but he should not do it at the expense of himself or his happiness.

Obviously, this is where Ayn Rand’s philosophy is involved. By applying Galbraith’s observations with Rand’s Objectivism, one may accurately gauge the state of the nation. Yes, we are affluent, and yes, there is poverty in this nation. But there is no monopoly on talent, hard work or any other means to success in this nation. There are no barriers to entry in the ranks of the rich but those that are self-imposed.

Americans have propelled this country to its lofty position by recognizing these facts and taking advantage of them. We are the most affluent not because someone handed us freedom and capital, but because the founders–all of them, not just the men in Philadelphia–fought for the freedom needed to produce and create and achieve.

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