Objectivism's politics derives immediately from its ethics, which provides the principles for "how man should treat other men." These principles of ethics provide the foundation for "the principles of a proper social system." Objectivists hold that laissez-faire capitalism is "the only moral social system."
Rand's defense of individual liberty integrates elements from her entire philosophy. Since reason is the means of human knowledge, it is therefore each person's most fundamental means of survival and is necessary to the achievement of values. The use or threat of force neutralizes the practical effect of an individual's reason, whether the force originates from the state or from a criminal. According to Rand, "man's mind will not function at the point of a gun." Therefore, the only type of organized human behavior consistent with the operation of reason is that of voluntary cooperation. Persuasion is the method of reason. By its nature, the overtly irrational cannot rely on the use of persuasion and must ultimately resort to force to prevail. Thus, Rand saw reason and freedom as correlates, just as she saw mysticism and force as corollaries. Based on this understanding of the role of reason, Objectivists hold that the initiation of physical force against the will of another is immoral, as are indirect initiations of force through threats, fraud, or breach of contract. The use of defensive or retaliatory force, on the other hand, is appropriate.
Objectivism holds that because the opportunity to use reason without the initiation of force is necessary to achieve moral values, each individual has an inalienable moral right to act as his own judgment directs and to keep the product of his effort. The fundamental right is the right to life, with other rights following from it, including rights to "liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness." "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." These rights are specifically understood to be rights to action, not to specific results or objects, and the obligations created by rights are negative in nature: each individual must refrain from violating the rights of others. Objectivists reject alternative notions of rights, such as positive rights or rights belonging to anything other than an individual human being, such as collective rights or animal rights.
Objectivism views government as both legitimate and critically important, but only "a government of a definite kind." Rand understood government as the institution with a monopoly on the use of physical force in a given geographical area, so the issue is whether that force is used to protect or to violate individual rights. The government should use force only to protect individual rights. Therefore, the "proper functions of a government" are "the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objectively defined laws." In protecting individual rights, the government is acting as an agent of its citizens and "has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens." It is also important that the government act in an impartial manner according to specific, objectively defined laws.
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