Letter: Have we reached the point where productive citizens need to shrug?

I write in support of the letter from Barry Hay (“We need Ayn Rand heroes”, June 24), which he wrote in response to Tom Eaton's column (“Coming soon — good, old-fashioned property porn”, June 21).

I trust that Hay will indulge my perspective. He writes that "[Rand's] philosophy [objectivism] was to contribute to society, not take from it." The central pillar of objectivism is the importance of your life, 
to you — using your reason to figure out what is important to you, and to pursue that to the best of your ability, attaining long-term happiness.

It is not that you should — or should not — contribute to society. Depending on the context in which you find yourself, and if you determine that your society treats you in such a way that contributing to it would be consistent with your values, then it follows that you will do so. But it is not a predetermined duty, one way or the other.

On Rand, Eaton writes, "...
The Hobbit as written by Ayn Rand; a strange and nasty little fantasy in which misanthropic billionaires moved into humanity-resistant burrows under New Zealand, polishing the magic lawyers that make them invisible to tax collectors." Rand's ongoing focus was not "millionaires" or "the rich", but rather productive (of various examples and levels) people.

Of great moral concern for Rand was the "sanction of the victim". Leonard Peikoff explains: "The 'sanction of the victim' is the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the 'sin' of creating values." When productive people find themselves punished for their virtues, for working hard, building businesses and creating jobs and wealth, is it not a matter of justice that they begin to question whether they shouldn't decamp to a better place?

Looking at the SA context, have we perhaps reached the point where productive citizens need to shrug? Whatever form that may take. Factories are moving from less business friendly areas to those that they perceive to be better. The ever-persistent corruption scandals, and decline of service delivery in cities such as Johannesburg, serve as more than justifiable reasons for people to question whether the taxes they still try to pay (despite an economy battered by government policy) are worth anything.

This letter was first published on BusinessDay on 28 June 2021.

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