By Tara Smith
In Atlas Shrugged, Judge Narragansett condemns non-objective law as "humanity's darkest evil." This lecture explores the question of exactly how destructive non-objective law is.
Ayn Rand's view of the purpose of government is essential to understanding the nature and the value of objectivity in law. Her identification of individual rights as moral entitlements to freedom from force and of the indispensability of freedom to the exercise of reason shows why (contrary to the claims of anarchists and many conservatives) proper government is a necessary good, but also why government's tremendous power must be held in check through a strictly objective legal system.
By drawing on examples from Atlas Shrugged as well as from historical and contemporary experience, the lecture lays bare the material and the spiritual ravages wrought by non-objective law. It demonstrates how the injection of any elements of non-objectivity into a legal system necessarily contaminates other aspects of law and ultimately, undoes the rule of law. When a legal system is not objective, the government's power to use force is unleashed from its proper purpose. The victims are the individual's freedom and, more fundamentally, the individual's life. The government designed to protect men, in other words, is, through non-objective law, transformed into a deadly threat.
Note: This lecture is adapted from an essay in Essays on Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged', edited by Robert Mayhew.
This lecture was recorded at the 2009 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 89 min., with Q & A, 64.04 MB)