From ethics to politics
Objectivist politics are directly derived and based on ethics. But on what is this derivation based ? This is often said to not be explicited enough. How could one justify this transition ? First let’s define the terms.
Ethics is the study of how we should act, how we ought to act.
Politics is the study of the principles of a proper social system.
How can we transfer content from individual ethics to social ethics ? For that, we must use units common to those disciplines, that can be transferred. Those units, which are the guiding principles of both disciplines, are values and rights.
A value is what guides our actions.
A right is “a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context”.
So we see more clearly the problem. From the concepts that guides our actions, we must deduce principles, sanctions of man’s freedom in the social context. This means, from individual motivations, to societal sanction.
How can we go from one to the other ? First of all, we must understand what is society, and what is the government. After this, we can see why they act in terms of rights.
Society is nothing more then “a large number of men who live together in the same country and who deal with one another” (“Textbook of Americanism”). To regulate their dealings with each other, and to protect their life in society (because other people also brings the possibility of the use of unearned force), the people create a new entity which is called “government”. The government is “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area” (Virtue Of Selfishness, p125).
Thus an ethical government is one who does not infringe on the ethics of individuals and, on the contrary, enforces them. Why ? Because there is only individual ethics. The term “individual ethics” is a tautology because a group of people cannot have more rights then one person. There is no “collective right”. This is because the basis of ethics is the individual life, not collective existence.
An objection that could be raised would be that we cannot let everyone be ethical, because ethics may clash. But individual ethics do not collide in a rational society.
For all these reasons, individual ethics must be supported by the government, because it is in our self-interest to do so.
The prime value is life. This is therefore the most important thing to enforce. Enforcing it towards everyone is basically the right to life. Like all other values are derived from life, all other rights are derived from the right to life.
Some people ask, why not anarchy ? If you want self-interest to be the only ethical construct, you should be anarchist. But that is false, because anarchy is against everyone’s interest and values. It is the rule by force. Since there is no government to enforce rights, the accomplishment of those rights is not assured but accidental.