The Complementation of Objectivism and the Austrians, by Manfred F. Schieder
“In order for a thing to become a good, three conditions must be fulfilled.
Not only must it satisfy a human need, but also one must know that it satisfies one’s need,
and one must have disposal over it.”
(George Reisman - “The Revolt Against Affluence: Galbraith’s Neo-Fuedalism,”)
There is a continued confrontation between Objectivists, who hold and promote Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and those who side with the Austrian School of Economics, which promotes Subjectivism. It concerns Praxeology, the science that studies the logic of human action. While Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics, agrees with Ayn Rand in the understanding that, at the very start, we must accept the fact that human life itself is its own ultimate value and determines the values humans need to accomplish the main end, which is sustaining their own existence.
However Ludwig von Mises, one of the Austrian School’s main defenders and promoters of economic liberalism, views the science of praxeology, the study of how humans act, as value-free. While Objectivism agrees with the further premises and conclusions of liberal economy, it fundamentally opposes Mises understanding of praxeology as a value-free science, since the human world is by no means value-free. Human action is inextricably connected with values and ethics, and, since economics is the science of human action itself, this brings up a direct opposition between both positions.
Mises most probably stated that praxeology is value-free, to make it more pleasant for its opponents to accept the premises on a purely scientific basis, but by doing so he committed a major mistake, for economics continues to be a scientific discipline even when you add, as is necessary, human factors to it, for, in opposition to physical and chemical laws that can, with good will, be considered to be neutral, there are no economics below mankind’s level. What animals do can only be viewed economically from the human standpoint, since they act as they do without having the slightest possibility of taking in consideration economic concerns. How should they? Only humans have a developed consciousness. Animals below the human level haven’t.
Besides, in the final analysis, all laws of physics and chemistry are human related, for neither the lower than humans animals nor the universe itself need to know these laws. Only we need them, to better our own chance of survival, though many times it looks as if we seem to be biased to use them against ourselves. The universe as such operates, and will continue to operate as it does forever, whether it knew the laws that govern it or not.
Has there ever been a value-free place? By all means, yes. On our planetary system all planets, satellites and the Sun itself, including the Earth up to the time when already higher developed human beings began to populate it, lacked any value and will be back to be the same old story if mankind ceases to exist. Should animals below the level of humans be considered to have values, then this is to them totally unknown and, besides, fully senseless, for a value has only significance to a highly developed conscience.
When did a sense for value begin to develop? Approximately at the time when anthropoids carrying a club, ceased dragging females by their hair into the cave for easily imaginable purposes, as comic strips like to depict (Though it continues to be used worldwide, as violations prove, which means that civilization is a very thin sheen separating us from primeval tribalism). By then a primitive feeling for trade began to come up, and probably some Ardipithecus male met a very young Lucy and presented her with a handful of berries as exchange for her sexual service. It was the start of a conscious exchange, an exchange of values, each participant valuing what he was ready to obtain from his participant higher than what he had, either to lengthen his own life or to get some amusement to overcome the general misery. This exchange of values developed and spread among the early prehistoric communities. It remains to this day and will never end, as long as high level consciousness species with mankind’s faculties exist. Values exchange generalized.
Ayn Rand fully recognized that humans act on the basis of constantly and automatically ascertaining the amount of values they want to exchange to sustain their life. Thus, praxeology, the science of human action, cannot be value-free under any condition whatsoever. It intrinsically incorporates this fact as its constituting premise itself. Thus, there is a perfect conjunction between both systems. Both complement each other, being the two sides of the perspective of the whole. While Objectivists consider the fact from the side of the object itself, as what it means to the seller and the buyer, the Austrian views it from the side of the subject, who must take the decision of whether he requires the object in consideration to further and enhance his life or not. To the seller of apples, one apple has a reduced value; to the possible buyer, a hungry person, the apple means sheer survival.
Thus, there is no contradiction at all between Rand’s Objectivism and Mises Austrian School of Economics. Mises wanted to raise Economics to a merely scientific level, but this was an impossible deed, for while physical and chemical laws can be understood in full detachment from any living being, Economics can’t follow this line of reasoning, as it exists and can only exist in relation with what humans do. Eternally attached to it are the procedures of interchange between human beings.
Can Economy develop even to a higher level? Yes, because values don’t end at the point of grabbing the first thing available for what one needs. Values, since our own intellectual capacities develop and increase, will allow us to become continuously more choosy and attentive to future developments, as M. Northrup Buechner proved in his book “Objective Economics,” for while “general welfare” is the present collective standard, its opposite, Capitalism, is the idea that every man is an end in himself and has a right to whatever he can earn in free exchange with his fellow men. For this is the human mode of survival; this is what man’s nature requires of him, if he is to live on earth.
As Ayn Rand clearly stated: “The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires your total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence of that which is man: for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the Morality of Life and that yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth.“
(Edited by Manfred Schieder on 8/13, 12:50am)
(Edited by Manfred Schieder on 8/13, 10:41pm)