Academic Study Channels Rand

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Three decades after her death, Ayn Rand is enjoying a bit of a renaissance right now. Not only are moviegoers buying tickets to Atlas Shrugged II, based on what was arguably her most famous novel, but a pair of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania just published a study which features a conclusion that objectivists everywhere might think sounds familiar.

“Despite common sense appeal, the link between self-interest and happiness remains elusive,” Jonathan Z. Berman and Deborah Small wrote in the abstract of their study, which was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). “One reason why individuals may not feel satisfied with self-interest is that they feel uneasy about sacrificing the needs of others for their own gain.”

“We propose that externally imposing self-interest allows individuals to enjoy self-benefiting outcomes that are untainted by self-reproach for failing to help others.”

“We are, at our core, social creatures and we spend considerable time and effort on building and maintaining our relationships with others,” the APS notes in its press release announcing the publication of the study. “As young children, we’re taught that “sharing means caring” and, as we mature, we learn to take others’ point of view.”

“If we make a decision that favors self-interest, we often feel guilt for prioritizing ourselves over others. In prioritizing others, however, we sometimes forego the things that we know will make us happy. This raises an intriguing question: Is there any way to pursue self-interest without feeling bad about it? Can we have the proverbial cake and it eat it, too?”

It may be diluted objectivism but in this academic climate that is probably about as close as you will ever get to the original.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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