Robert Reich and Ayn Rand Liberalism

Robert Reich and Ayn Rand= Liberalism

As the world is in a continuous change in the last decades, scholars and analysts are constantly trying to define the current trends in politics, economics, social, and cultural affairs. There are permanent discussions especially in the academic world over the actual role the individual, the state, the national values and the universal values have in this global world.

Liberalism in this sense has tried to offer a proper solution by molding its centuries old conceptions to the evolving reality of the current times. In this sense, John Hallowell makes a synthesis of the core precepts of liberalism applicable to the world we live in. On the other had however, there are other numerous discussions and theories that go even further in assessing the role of the state, of the individual and of the connections established between them. In this sense, the concept promoted by George Soros in his open society philosophy is relevant for drawing the attention on other views as well.

Despite this array of theoretical approaches, in order to have a clearer image on the actual possibilities of applicability of one theory or another, it is important to take into consideration other points-of-view, and underline their common and divisive elements in comparison to the liberal values pointed out by Hallowell and the aspects presented by Soros in his open society theory. In this way, a wider variety of opinions emerging from such a comparison can prove useful for shedding light on possible future evolutions.

John Hallowell synthesizes the major ideas on the liberal doctrine by touching on the most important of its elements. (1950) in this sense, he emphasizes the importance of the human personality as the basis of liberalism. Moreover, he considers that the will of the individual manifests in autonomy with the rest of the social framework and therefore is an essential part of the liberal social order. In similar respect, he stresses the fact that man, in his conduct, is driven by reason which in the end leads him to establish a social contract with the state in order to protect his inalienable rights as a human being. However, he later goes on to point out, the authorities embodying the state are meant to only guide and supervise the respect of these rights, through the use of laws seen as both the symbol of the individual will, and that of reason. Most importantly though he underlines the importance of conscience as the foundation for all the individual interactions at the level of the society and, as Hallowell notes on the need for a limited state interference, he concludes that "the choice between order and anarchy revolves upon the individual." (Hallowell, 1950) From this point-of-view, one can notice the ability of liberalism as Hallowell presented it to escape anarchy and the dissolution of the state.

George Soros is considered one of the most influential voices in contemporary economic debates. This major theory revolves around the idea of open societies and the existence of a global government that would eventually take the place of the national state and all the values it entrenches. (Walsh, 2006) His argument is based on the assessment that in the current globalised world, the national identity and the entire set of elements that hold a nation together are no longer available. He promotes the idea of a limited influence of boundaries throughout the world. Therefore, he emphasizes the need for the development of broader values that would encompass the fallibility of our individual perceptions. In making reference to the rights enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he states that "The Declaration of Independence may be taken as a pretty good approximation of the principles of an open society, but instead of claiming those principles are self-evident, we ought to say that they are consistent with our fallibility," thus pointing out that man must, more or less, promote not necessarily his individual values, but rather contribute to the development of new, broader and universal ones. In this framework, the role of the state is minimized. He tried to support such convictions throughout his activities, by financing various international organizations that promote the sense of connection at a global level.

These two rather differing concepts of the notion of liberalism create a framework which may constitute a point of reference for the comparative analysis of the ideas of Robert Reich and Ayn Rand. While the former places a wider accent on the collective action needed to increase the quality of human life, the latter considers capitalism as a viable and moral answer to achieving happiness of the individual.

Both Reich and Rand share some of the core values expressed in Hallowell's presentation of liberalism. Reich is indeed a proponent of the social contract existing between the individual and the state as a safety measure for ensuring their rights. (Reich, 2002) However, in his equation, he also adds the need for an increased role of the companies who are actually the main providers for the income of the individual. In this sense, free enterprise is seen as prerequisite for the development of the society and for the ultimate improvement of the condition of the individual. Therefore, one can see the influence of the liberal perception of the economy.

Rand is even more attached to the liberal conception of the economic environment. Thus, she considers capitalism as the only solution which caters for the respect of the individual rights. It is based on the will of the individual, just as Hallowell described the theory. Moreover, her main point is related to the individual's constant quest for happiness as the supreme goal of life. In this sense, the accent is on the value of human personality above the idea of society as a whole and as a collectivity. From this perspective, the inalienable rights of the individual, life, liberty, and property are essential for the behavior of man in society. She considers that capitalism has been treated as an ill famed concept due to the fact that it was being defined in parallel to the notion of moral values which are, in her view, automatically entrenched in the definition.(Rand, 1967) Another common element with the traditional line of liberalism is the accent she puts on the rationality of the individual and the morality it develops.

In comparison to Soros's point-of-view, Rand does not see altruism as being effective in the individual quest for happiness; still, they both may be seen as having similar views on the role of the state. (1967) Soros proposes a close to dissolution role of the state, denying any viability of boundaries, while Rand, although not so drastic in opinions, does consider the state should be limited in its intervention and should rely on the ability of the individual to strive.

Both Reich and Rand stress their position on the place of the individual in comparison to the community they live in and to the individual as a single entity. However, their opinions differ to a certain extent.

Reich considers the individual must be fully aware of his dual capacity, as an individual and as a member of the collectivity. Taking into account the recent evolutions of the international scene and the economic environment in which Reich wrote his book, it is explainable the concern for the well-being of the community rather than that of the individual. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent Enron scandals which affected the moral basis in the first case, and the economic one in the second case, put in balance the actual protection the individual can benefit from, from the state and the private sector alike. In this sense, he considers that the needs of the individual must be served in the society by helping the respective society. Moreover, man as an individual should care for the well-being of his fellows because "our common wealth lies not in the fatness of our individual wallets but in the productivity of every one of us." (Reich, 2002) Therefore, the individual has a moral duty to care, in the same way as the state has the social duty to ensure the prosperity of the population in the light of the liberal social contract.

On the other hand, Rand's perspective on the relation between the individual and the community is oriented towards a more pragmatic approach. She considers that altruism is not an effective means to achieve happiness and that it is the ability of each individual to succeed. Indeed, taking into account the fact that she sees the individual as the main responsible for the course of his existence, rational choices as seen as the most important tools for deciding on the individual destiny. This idea is identifiable in her rejection of accepting before established traditions "merely because it is a 'tradition' means that we must accept the values other men have chosen, merely because other men have chosen them -- with the necessary implication of: who are we to change them? Theā€¦