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Is = Ought: Aristotle, Aquinas and Ayn Rand

Paper by Shawn T. Miller, MLA, MBA, Ph.D. student

Congressman Paul Ryan has been criticized by Catholics who accuse him of being a disciple of Ayn Rand, because he follows her philosophy, which she called “Objectivism”. There is a foundation for this criticism, as Ryan admits, because he has been influenced by Rand’s writings, and he largely agrees with her philosophy, though he has said explicitly that he is not an Objectivist, but rather a Thomist, which is a follower of the medieval Roman Catholic Theologian and philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Catholics who criticize Ryan accuse him of dishonestly pretending to now be a Thomist though has always been and still is an Objectivist. I suspect that most of those who criticize Paul Ryan do not know much about or understand either Objectivism or Thomism; if they did, then they would see that the two are actually very similar, and it should be of no surprise that the same man honestly likes both. Aquinas and Rand founded their doctrines upon the philosophy of Aristotle, and so their common source caused them to think the same way and arrive at the many of the same conclusions. Aquinas and Rand differ in only two ways. First, and most importantly, Aquinas believed in God, whereas Rand did not. Because of this, a faithful Roman Catholic like Paul Ryan would have to choose Thomism over Objectivism in all matters pertaining to religion. Second, Aquinas lived seven hundred years before Rand; he was medieval, whereas she is modern. Because of this, Rand’s teachings are more relevant to the current political situation than are those of Aquinas, and so as a politician it might be to Rand, rather than to Aquinas, that Ryan looks for guidance.

This article will try to show the similarities between Thomist and Objectivist ethics, not in their details, but in their foundations. Both solved the ‘is-ought dichotomy’ is the same way. The is-ought dichotomy, stated explicitly by David Hume, and implicitly by other thinkers, highlights the logical distinction between saying what something is, and saying what it ought to do - “the inability to reach prescriptive premises from descriptive conclusions.” It is the difference between being and doing, or between present and future. Knowing what something is in the present does not logically tell us what it ought to do in the future. There are some philosophers, like Emmanual Kant, whose philosophies are full of imperatives. They tell us how we ought to act. There are others who merely describe what is, without drawing conclusions as to what we ought to do about it. They might be more accurately labeled historians or scientists than philosophers. Some philosophers, like Hume himself, emphasize the impossibility of an ‘is’ causing an ‘ought’, and therefore deny causality. Others, among whom are Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Ayn Rand, hold that what each thing is determines what it ought to do. According to them, everything, most importantly every human person, ought to act according to what it is. There are actions which are appropriate for each being, and actions which are inappropriate for each being. We should do what is appropriate, according to who we happen to be, and not do what is inappropriate, which-is-to-say contrary to our being.

There are difference understandings of ethics, or morality. The two words – ethics and morality – are not synonyms, rather they are two different ways of directing human behavior. Ethics, coming from the Greek word, is the branch of philosophy dealing with human behavior, whereas morality, coming from the Roman word, is the branch of Theology dealing with human behavior. Both deal with human behavior, but the first, ethics, is internal, whereas the second, morality, is externally imposed. It could be said that if morality is imposed by God, who creates us and dwells within each one of us, then it is internal, which would make ethics and morality one and the same, though understood from different perspectives. That is precisely the claim that this article makes, namely, that ethics and morality have the same injunctions, the same purposes, and the same ultimate authority. This article goes further, and shows how the ethical teachings of Aristotle the ancient Greek Pagan, the moral teachings of Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Roman Catholic Saint, and the ethical and political behaviors promoted by Ayn Rand in her writings, all promote the same truths, and shed light upon each other and upon reality, thus helping us to understand all.
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Aristotle held that there are four ‘causes’, of which the final cause is the most important. The other three are the material cause, the efficient cause, and the formal cause. The material cause is that out of which something is made. The efficient cause is that which makes something to be. The formal cause is what something is. The final cause is a thing’s purpose. In the example of a house, the material cause would be the bricks, the wood, the metal in the pipes, etc.. The efficient cause of a house would be the workers who build the house. The formal cause is the form of the house. Considered one way, the form comes into being after the materials and the workers. In this sense, the material and efficient causes must exist before the formal cause. In a different way, however, the formal cause exists before the material and efficient causes. The formal cause exists in the mind of the architect who designs the house. The architect designs the house first, creating the form in his mind, and then he gathers the materials and hires the workers to build the house. The final cause of a house is the family who wants to live in it. In one way, the final cause comes last, as is evident in the word ‘final’, for the family cannot live in the house until the form is complete, which does not happen until after all the work has been finished. In a different way, however, the final cause comes before all the others; it exists even before the idea of the form exists in the mind of the architect. If the family did not exist, or if no families existed, or if there were no families who wanted to live in houses, then the architect would not design a house. So, it is the formal cause, the reason why something is, its purpose, that is the alpha and the omega, existing before all the others, and continuing to exist until the end.

According to Aristotle, all things except the gods have these four causes. A man has a body made of the four material elements – water, ground, air and fire (a.k.a. heat). A man has a form, which he identifies as the soul, as in ‘the soul is the form of the body’. A man has efficient causes; the spiritual element of man is created by God, whereas the other elements of each man are cultivated by his parents and others within the society around him as he develops. The final cause, the purpose of life for man, is happiness. Each one of us wants to be happy, and that is natural and good, for that is why we exist.

We are most happy, or happy in the truest sense of the word, when we act virtuously. There are two ways to understand that. The first way would be to understand acting virtuously as doing good and avoiding evil. This definition then requires answers to the questions: What is good? What is evil? The second way to understand acting virtuously is that it is acting according to who we are. In other words, it is integrity. A man should act like a man. A woman should act like a woman. Each individual should fulfill his potential as much as he can to become more fully what he is. This second understanding would be obvious to Latin speakers, such as Thomas Aquinas, because the Latin word for man is ‘vir’, and the word virtus means “manliness, manly excellence.” Though Aristotle wrote in Greek, and used the word dunamys, he meant precisely what the Latin word states. Virtue, in this sense, is therefore not necessarily moral. Morality is imposed by an external authority, but ethics is founded upon virtue, which is internal. The essence of virtue, understood in the Aristotelian way, is behavior in conformity with being. A man should act like a man. Each type of man should act as perfectly as possible like the type of man that he is. A musician should act like a musician by making music. A mathematician should act like a mathematician by doing math. A philosopher should philosophize. Each person is happiest when achieving excellence according to his being. A skilled musician, therefore, would potentially be happier than an unskilled one, because he would be able to make more excellent music. A healthy man, therefore, would potentially be happier than a sick man, because he would be more able to act as a man should.

Who, then, is happier, a skilled musician who is ill, or a healthy one who lacks skill? Aristotle’s philosophy is very complex; complexity, in fact, is the hallmark of Aristotelianism. His philosophy is complex, because reality is complex, and philosophy is related to reality. Other philosophers, both before and after Aristotle, tried and still try to simplify reality; they make philosophies which reduce human life to one aspect. Plato reduced human life to the contemplation of Ideas, and wanted to reform society in such a way so that all lived for the sake of a philosopher king. Karl Marx reduced human life to work, and claimed that everything important was determined by the way in which goods and services are produced and distributed. Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized art, in a broad sense. According to him, a great man, an ubermensche, who lives a beautiful, glorious life, making of himself a work of art, is not only the best person who can exist, but is the reason for which everyone else exists. Unlike Plato, Marx and Nietzsche, Aristotle does not try to reduce human life to one aspect. He understands that human life is complex, because human beings are complex, and we are not all the same. When playing music, a skilled musician will be happier than an unskilled one, but nobody can play music all the time. Everybody needs to eat and sleep. When eating and sleeping, a healthy man would be happier than a sick one, even though the sick one was more skilled at making music.

If happiness depends upon an activity, then it would seem to be fleeting, lost or gained each moment depending upon what activity we happen to be doing. To a certain extent, this is true, and that makes life hopeless for those who are unfortunate enough to be prevented from doing what they do best. A musician who is captured in a war and forced to do manual labor as a slave, never being allowed to make music, would not be happy, even though he might be the most skilled musician in the world. His great skill, in fact, might make him more miserable, because he would realize the tragedy that was being inflicted upon him by preventing him from making music. Aristotle accepts the fact that some individuals are not able to be happy, because their circumstances are too terrible.

Though happiness is impossible for some, it is normally possible to live a life that is truly happy, with a joy that does not vanish as soon as when change activity. The positive consequences of virtuous acts endure entire life-times. A musician is not just a musician; he is also a man, and probably a husband, maybe a father, perhaps a citizen of Athens. If he acts virtuously as a husband, then he will, probably, enjoy a good relationship with his wife. If he acts virtuously as a father, then he will, probably, have the joy of seeing his children mature to become good adults. If he is virtuous as a citizen, then he will enjoy the honors that society bestows upon good citizens. A good marriage does not exist one moment and cease existing the next. A man can derive happiness from the love of his wife, even when she does not happen to be with him. He can be proud of his children, or of his city-state, even when he is not actually doing something for them, and this pride makes him happy. A human being is complex, and for each aspect of a person’s being, there is a certain excellence, and therefore a person can act virtuously in that way. The man who acts virtuously in his personal relations - by making love to his wife and not to his neighbor’s wife, by educating his children well and neither ignoring them nor beating them sadistically, by fulfilling his duties to his city – will have a more stable happiness than someone who acts virtuously only in some minor aspect of his life, like making music. Virtues are complimentary, however, so it should not be thought that a man must choose between virtue in one area verses another. Normally, a person should strive to be virtuous in all things, for practicing virtue in one area will make practicing virtue in other areas easier. A man with a good family will be embarrassed less often, so he will be more honored by his countrymen. A man who is much honored by his country will be admired by his children. If he is admired by his children, then they will obey him and so raising them will be easier. If a man can raise his children easily, then he will have more time and energy available to make music. If the music he makes is excellent, then he might earn a good living for himself and his family, and be especially loved and honored by his fellow citizens. Thus, achieving excellence in one virtue helps a person to achieve excellence in others. Magnanimity is the quality of being excellent in all things. The magnanimous man is the perfect man. He is not other than a man; he does not have some special superhuman grace from the gods. He is simply the person who realizes all his potential and acts most perfectly in every way according to what he is. Aristotle mentions that there might be some god-like heroes who perform superhuman deeds and so are even greater than magnanimous men. The possible existence of such individuals, however, may be studied in Theology, not ethics, and it bears little practical importance for us here.

Even when happiness is founded upon relatively stable things like family and country, it is still vulnerable. Spouses die; children do too, sometimes; and loss in war can mean the destruction of a nation. There are some lucky few who found their happiness on sterner stuff. These are the philosophers. Philosophers seek to find truth, that-is-to-say they try to learn as much as they can, and after having learned, after having found the truth, they contemplate it. When a man’s happiness depends only upon contemplation of the truth, he is very nearly invulnerable. Such are the happiest people. They are not completely invulnerable, because extreme health problems, those that cause severe pain and/or damage the brain, can make contemplation difficult or even impossible, but such extreme health problems usually occur only for brief periods of time when death is near

There are, therefore, different types of happiness, based upon the different aspects of our being. Our bodies are part of what we are, therefore the health and pleasure of our bodies makes us happy. A man is happy, in a certain way, when he is eating good food. A man is even happier when he is having sex. These types of happiness, based upon physical pleasure, are necessarily brief, and attempts to prolong them overmuch actually reduce them. For each human body there is a quantity of food that is appropriate. Until that quantity is reached, eating is pleasurable. After that quantity is exceeded, eating can become painful.

Our minds are more important than our bodies, therefore doing what we ought, according to what the mind is, will make us even happier than eating and having sex. The mind has two capacities: the intellect, which is for knowing truth, and the will, which is for loving good. A person is happy when using his intellect, when thinking, when learning information or solving a problem. A person is happy when joined to some good that he loves. If a man loves a woman, then he is happy when joined to her. Of course, the joining is physical, so it is good for the body, but if the love is spiritual, then it is good for the will also, and so the happiness is greater. The will cannot act without the intellect, because it is impossible to love something if you do not know that it exists, but the intellect can act without the will, because it is possible to know that something exists yet not love it.
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Thomas Aquinas was a Roman Catholic Saint, but he was also a philosopher, that-is-to-say a seeker after and lover of the truth. The word ‘but’ is in the previous sentence because to many people, including Ayn Rand, there seems to be a contradiction between believing in God and loving the truth. To many people, truth is scientific, whereas believers in God have faith in things that do not exist, instead of believing in the truths of the world that does. For Saint Thomas, nothing could be more wrong. God is the source of all truth, and we glorify Him not by closing our minds to the world around us, but by opening our minds to the world that He creates, and living as the beings that He created. One indication that Aquinas, though a Catholic Theologian, was yet open to truth from all sources, is the fact that he called Aristotle “the philosopher”, as if he was so much greater than all other philosophers that no others were even worthy of being in the same category. Throughout his philosophical books, Aquinas quotes Aristotle numerous times and makes it obvious that he is his disciple, at a certain level, though as a Christian he is always a follower of Jesus Christ. For him, there is no contradiction between human truth and Christian faith, so the ‘but’ in the first sentence of this paragraph, and the ‘though’ in the sentence prior to this one, should not be there. Unfortunately, the ‘but’ and ‘though’ are there, because many believe that they should be. Aristotle was a Pagan, not a Christian, and Aquinas was much criticized for using Aristotle so extensively instead of limiting himself to Christian thinkers. Shortly after his death in 1274, Aquinas’s writings were condemned by the Archbishop of Paris, who had authority over the University of Paris, which was then the greatest school in Western Europe. Thousands of young European intellectuals were forbidden to read books written by Thomas Aquinas. The Archbishop of Paris was a powerful man, but he did not speak for the whole Church. Pope John XXII canonized Thomas in 1323, and in 1879 Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical letter Aeterni Patris, in which he promoted the works of Thomas Aquinas as the best that the Catholic intellectual tradition had to offer, and encouraged all Catholic intellectuals to study them.

One strong indication that Thomas was a genuine philosopher, seeking truth from whatever source, and not limited by his Christian faith, is the fact that one of the best summaries of his teachings was given by a Hindu, S. Radhakrishnan:"
Thomas Aquinas . . . attempted to reconcile philosophy with religion, Aristotelian wisdom with Catholic orthodoxy. . . . St. Thomas conceives reality as an ordered hierarchy. . . . "The world is not an undifferentiated chaos or an insuperable dualism. The lower orders of being are not mere shadows or emanations of the reality from which they derive their existence but are distinct and discontinuous. Each order of being has its own characteristic functions and modes. . . . It follows that we must know the truth about the sensible universe which our minds are capable of fully apprehending, if we would rise to the intelligible. For this reason the entire Aristotelian system is taken over as a complete account of all that reason had hitherto been able to attain by the study of nature. . . . Man is altogether different from God. His place in the scheme is intermediate between non-intelligent matter, on the one hand, and pure intelligences, on the other. On the principle of analogy, it is asserted that his perfection is wholly distinct from that of the brutes or the angels. As a being composed of soul and body, man should not aim at either an animal or an angelic life. God is the end to which all things move, but each order of existence has its own mode of reaching that perfection. The life of man is incomplete if the faculty of intelligence which he shares with other beings does not attain its natural development. Contemplation of truth is the highest end of man and that requires bodily health, freedom from the disturbance of passions achieved by moral virtues. St. Thomas is definite that a human life is not the divine, and therefore sense-pleasures, though not the whole of human good, are genuinely a part of it. The body is relevant to human perfection. It is by no means a fetter of the soul. . . . It is assumed that the commands of God are not arbitrary and capricious."

On the ethical level, Thomas advocated ‘natural law’, which is the ‘law’ inherent in nature. Every being has a certain nature, and that nature dictates what is right and wrong for that being. First of all, each being has an end towards which it naturally strives. Second, there are certain means which normally lead the being to attain the end, there are other means which lead the being to attain the end, but not as efficiently, and there are false means which lead the being away from his end. The important points are that there is an end, a final cause, which is the purpose of every life, we attain that end, or achieve that purpose, by choosing to act virtuously, which is not other than choosing to act in accordance with our being, and most relevant for this article, Thomas held that both the end and the means to the end were inherent in our nature, and not imposed by an external or violent force. There is no tyrannical authority arbitrarily commanding us to act one way and not another. The way we should act is inscribed in our very being, by God the Creator. Though Thomas Aquinas believed in miracles, he refutes the dangerous notion that God always acts directly to cause all events, which would make every happening a miracle. God does not need to intervene directly in the world He created, because just as an skilled architect makes buildings that stand without the need for constant repairs, God is the greatest architect, and He created a universe with innate laws, and He created each man and each woman, with the ability to live a good life at the natural level without the need for miracles. Aquinas, as a Theologian, makes it clear that there is a level of beatitude above the natural level; this level is attained by union with God in Heaven, which requires supernatural grace, which is a miracle. So, ultimately, miracles are necessary, but they are not necessary at the human level; people can and should attain happiness by living according to their own being, which is the same as living virtuously and realizing as much of our potential as we can to the fullest extent possible.

In economics, Thomas was a product of his time. During the Middle Ages in which he lived, the amount of wealth was fixed at the amount of land, the foundation of wealth, and the amount of gold and silver, which were the money used for business. As the amounts of wealth were fixed, the thought of how best to divide its ownership was important, while the idea that the wealth of society as a whole might be increased was simply ignored. In this way, Thomas disagrees with Ayn Rand, though I suspect that if Thomas lived in the dynamic modern age, in which wealth does not depend upon fixed amounts of land and precious metals, but rather on the ability to produce goods and services efficiently, inventing and innovating new technologies which make some richer and make none poorer, then he would have supported Capitalism as the best way to provide opportunities for the poor to live with dignity, and make it possible for those who desire to devote themselves to contemplation to do so without the need to labor for mere survival.
In politics, Aquinas supported monarchy, but not the absolute monarchies that developed after his death. Rather, he supported a type of monarchy which was very limited; if one man rules by himself, then the government must be small, because the capacities of one man are very limited. By limiting government to what one man can manage, the people are allowed the freedom to live their own lives as they think best. "In the Treatise on the Law in his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas explains (citing Augustine) that not all vices should be punished by the law. Human laws should chiefly forbid those things that cause direct physical harm to others; Aquinas offers murder and theft as examples. With regard to practices that do not physically harm or defraud others (whatever other intangible grief they may cause), it can be necessary to tolerate them if prohibiting them would lead to still further evils. What is more, the law cannot make a wicked person virtuous. According to Aquinas, God's grace alone can accomplish such a thing." The number of laws should be limited, and certain vices, like prostitution, should be allowed, because though they are evil, yet the loss of freedom which would occur if the government were granted the power to combat them, would be worse than the evils caused by such vices. Freedom is necessary to live a fully human life; God has created us free, and no human government should take away that freedom, not even to impose religious discipline. Aquinas advocated tolerance for Jews (which other Christians of his day did not), debate with the Muslims (rather than war), and government which maintains the conditions under which individuals can make choices, and then learn from the consequences of their choices, so as to make better choices as time goes by. In so much as a person chooses to act in accordance with his or her own nature, he or she will usually be rewarded with happiness, not as a gift from an external deity who pays creatures for obeying him, but as the natural result of having chosen the means which lead to the end that is true happiness.
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Ayn Rand’s style differs as much from that of Aristotle and Aquinas as English does from Greek and Latin. She repeatedly lauds Aristotle and claims to follow after him, though making it clear that she was not his disciple because she did not agree with him about everything and because she had formed her philosophy, Objectivism, on her own, without much guidance or influence by others. She expresses her views in the form of novels, and by way of essays, which were not calm philosophical treatises meant for students and monks, but polemics meant for the general public, most of which she knew to hold beliefs diametrically opposed to hers. Rand’s writings are passionate, sometimes at the expense of precision. As to Thomas Aquinas, she praises him and states that she agrees with him on some matters, but rejects his doctrines because of his belief in God, which she considers to be irrational.

According to Rand, the ultimate and fundamental good of all living beings – both animals and human beings – is life. Without life, a living being is not a living being. Every living being seeks to preserve its life, and in so doing it acts as it should; it ‘ought’ to remain alive, which-is-to-say, it ought to remain something that is, and not die and become something that was. To live, for a human being, means to live as a human being. Rand does not advocate maintaining bodies on artificial life-support to keep the heart beating for as long as possible even after the brain has been destroyed. To her, whatever preserves and extends human life is good, whereas whatever endangers or ends human life is evil. What of happiness? "Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy - a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction." Happiness comes from pleasure, or from pride. The three – happiness, pleasure and pride – are intertwined. A person is proud to experience certain pleasures, like the love of a good woman, as opposed to other pleasures, like ‘making love’ with a prostitute. The pride coming from pleasure raises a person’s self-esteem, which is the cause of happiness. A person who loves himself, or herself, is happy. Logically, living a fully-human life, and being happy, are not the same, but in reality they are. Rand held strongly to the notion that pleasure is an indication that something is healthy and therefore good at the physical level, whereas pride is an indication that something is good on a different level. Men feel pride when they achieve something valuable, like building a building, or inventing a machine that can perform some task well. In both cases, the product of the achievement will help men and women to live longer, more fully-human lives. Living in a building is safer than living outside exposed to harsh weather and wild animals. Inventing a machine that performs some valuable task can free other men from the need to perform that task, thus allowing them time to use their minds, and live more fully human lives. True happiness, as Rand said in the quotation, is non-contradictory, which makes it without guilt. Though pleasure can cause pride, which increases a person’s self-esteem and makes him or her happy, pleasure can cause guilt, not pride, if the pleasure is gained in some way contrary to the person’s values, which-is-to-say by performing a self-destructive act instead of a virtuous act. A virtuous act will help a person either to live longer, or to live better, or both. A self-destructive act will tend to damage a person’s health, or make his or her life less fully human. For example, a person who drinks too much alcohol will feel pleasure for a moment, but the next day he will feel guilty because when drunk he behaved in a way that was less-than-fully-human, and if the act of drinking too much is repeated many times, it will destroy his body and shorten his life. Such pleasure, therefore, does not lead to happiness. So pleasure and happiness go together, but only when the pleasure is gained in a way of which one can be proud.

Patrick O’Neil has rightly points out that though Rand claims to be perfectly objective, with an ethical system which can be proven scientifically, there is actually something subjective in her ethics. She holds that acts which make our lives more fully human, or which prolong our lives, are virtuous and good, whereas acts which make us live in ways that are less than fully human, or that shorten our lives, are vicious and evil. Logically, the choice to destroy one’s self is not necessarily contradictory. A person who hates his life can choose to end it, and if he has made that choice, then acting in self-destructive ways would be prudent, whereas healthy behavior would be foolish. Here, we must introduce Rand’s ‘sense of life’. It is subjective, but it is the subjectivity of individuals who are objectively superior to, or better than, others. O’Neil claims that Rand “upbraids Aristotle for denying that ethics is an exact science and for his doctrine of the wise and noble man (spoudaious") whom one is to observe and to imitate in order to be moral.” I disagree with O’Neil on this point. Rand’s novels, most especially Atlas Shrugged, present heroes, the greatest of which is John Galt. She said that the purpose of her writing was to create the perfect man, and she identified herself as a novelist first and a philosopher second. In her fiction, she creates heroes which millions of readers admire, and some might try to emulate. Her heroes, and she herself, have a ‘sense of life’, or a love of life, upon which ethics are built. It is true, as O’Neil points out, that a person who acts in a self-destructive way because he wants to destroy himself is not acting illogically. O’Neil neglects, however, to see the importance of Rand’s ‘sense of life’, which is an inherent good that she does not need to justify, just as Aristotle does not need to justify being, and Thomas Aquinas does not need to justify God. Logic rests on premises, which are the starting-points and so cannot be proven logically. Why does anything exist instead of nothing at all? It cannot be proven that reality exists, but we know that it does, and once this is accepted, we can logically prove that certain acts conform to reality, and others do not.

Rand is perhaps best known for her hatred of ‘collectivism’, as manifested by big government, and for her love of laissez-faire capitalism. Though the fundamental premise of her ethics is founded on her ‘sense of life’ and cannot be proven logically, everything that flows from her premise can be proven logically. History has shown that capitalism produces great wealth, and because of this wealth people can live longer and better. Communism, on the other hand, impoverishes nations, has caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, and has forced hundreds of millions of people to live enslaved to their own governments and in fear of displeasing bureaucrats who have the power to destroy or at least harm them. For someone who wants to live as long as possible a life that is fully human, Capitalism is therefore better than Communism.

The superiority of laissez-faire capitalism over a mixed system, with elements of socialism, is not as obvious. Life in countries that mix capitalism with socialism seems to last rather long, and the people in those countries seem to live fully human lives. Western Europe and Japan have more elements of socialism than the United States; their average life-spans are slightly higher than the average life-span of the United States, and their people are better educated. Despite that, socialism makes life less human, even if it helps people to live longer and learn more, because socialism destroys the human will. Living humanly does not entail only body and intellect; it includes the will also. In order for the will to be fully active, there must be choices, and those choices must have consequences. Yogi Berra said, “If there is a fork in the road, take it.” In Yogi’s hometown, there was a road that split in two, then came together again, so that it did not matter if a driver took the left fork or the right fork, because in the end they both led to the same destination; the split was only temporary. In such a situation, the choice does not matter, because there are no consequences involved with choosing one instead of the other. Socialism eliminates the consequences of our choices, and thus renders our choices unimportant, which destroys the human will. Under laissez-faire capitalism, each person is free to choose to work hard, using not only muscles but also mind, and thus become wealthy. On the other hand, none are obliged to work at all; each person is free to descend into poverty. Each person is free to choose any career, but then must accept the consequences; some careers are more difficult, but their rewards are greater, whereas other careers are easier, but their rewards are smaller. Each individual is free to engage in unhealthy behaviors, but then he or she has to pay for the medical expenses resulting from that unhealthy behavior. Everyone is free from compulsion, but not free from reality. Real choices have real consequences, and that is good, because the human will is only fully in act when the human person is making a real choice. Socialism tries to eliminate the consequences of our choices. Under socialism, those who choose to work hard, and use their minds to produce goods and services efficiently, must bear the heavy burden of confiscatory taxation which prevents them from enjoying the fruits of their work. Those who choose not to work, or who choose an easy career, are rewarded by the government with monies taken away from others. Thus, no matter the choice made at the beginning, everyone ends with the same wealth. Public health systems, meanwhile, give the same services to all, regardless of persons. Thus, someone who destroyed his own health is not harmed, and someone who chose to live a healthy life has no advantage over the other. What is worse, the costs of providing health care to all is such that there must be limits on the amount of services given to each individual, which means that if someone lived a healthy life-style but then has a child with a chronic disease, the amount of care she needs for her child might not be available. Under a capitalist medical system, a parent who loves his or her child can work hard, and save, and do whatever is necessary to pay for the medical care the child needs. Under a public health system, if the child needs medical care that is not normally provided, then the parents have no choice but to watch their child suffer and die. Socialism tries to ensure that everyone ends the same, regardless of the choices they make, which would seem to be good for those who make bad choices, and bad only for those who make good choices, but it is actually bad for all, because by eliminating the consequences of the choices people make, it renders the making of choices irrelevant, which destroys the will and prevents people from living fully human lives. This goes against what should be, because “the fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do.” The living entity that is a human person should live a life in which the body, intellect and will are all active, because that is what being human means.
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Now we finish as we began, with Aristotle, who said that people are happy when they are with those whom they love. We are, according to Aristotle, political animals meant to live in community with others. That is part of our being. Choosing to live with others is not an altruistic sacrifice, nor is it a greedy attempt to profit by taking material possessions away from others. The choice to live with others is a choice that conforms to our being as social animals. Men and women are happiest when living with other men and women whom they love. Aristotle, Aquinas and Ayn Rand would all agree on this point. Aquinas chose to live in community with other Dominicans, and Ayn Rand chose to live in New York City, surrounded by numerous friends and followers. The need for other people, however, makes us vulnerable, and many are miserable because circumstances prevent them from living with those whom they love. Aristotle solves this problem by stating that if a man loves himself, then he is always happy, because he is always with himself. Thomas Aquinas solves this problem by teaching that the greatest happiness is the contemplation of God, which requires supernatural grace, but does not require other people. Ayn Rand solves this problem, in an imaginative way, by creating characters like Howard Roark and John Galt, who live with other people but have no need for them. A person who chooses to live with others is not necessarily in danger of losing his happiness, as long as he does not get attached to those with whom he lives. Realistically, though, it does not seem possible to live amongst people, and develop close personal relations with them, yet remain aloof and unaffected by them. Rand’s failure to find a realistic solution to the problem of loosing loved-ones is a flaw in her philosophy that had sad consequences in her own life, but one mistake does not an entire philosophy worthless make.

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