virtue out of selfishness

“virtue out of selfishness”?

Ok, really? First, know what selfishness really is: “concerned chiefly with one’s own interest.” – Oxford Modern English Dictionary. No ethical evaluation is present in that definition.

The conventional thought on its meaning however, is:The irrational, undeserved focus on oneself over what is right and rational. Notably, people feel that being selfish is to harm his fellow man. An ethically charged definition.

So, to that end, being selfish has been demonized and no one wants to be labeled selfish. And as the less conventional but growing voice of objectivists notes, “In fact it is against one’s own long-term self-interest to behave irrationally or trample others. Such actions are the exact opposite of selfish–they’re self-destructive.”- Ayn Rand. We all know someone that fits this bill and verifies this observation.

But under the actual meaning, selfish is simply living for one’s own sake rather than for someone else’s. So there’s a healthy selfish and an unhealthy selfish. It is a rational self-interest and a healthy character and selfishness for anyone who aspires to gain value and values and it is certainly virtuous to earn and keep those values. It is an unhealthy self-destroying selfishness for anyone who aspires to gain value by taking and breaking down others’ value.

So, who is selfish? Those supporting these “taxes” or those whom do not? Both (under the actual meaning) is the answer, because both those “for” and those “against” are concerned with their own interest – as it must be. It is a question of self-esteem health. Under the actual meaning of selfish, in the context of an American life of aspiration and hope, selfishness and rational self-interest is a virtue. It is the foundation of our way of life – each citizen’s pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

On the other hand, something is revealed about a person who will take without having earned it. He/She feels something is “owed” to him/her. It is a psychological weakness. Using the conventional wisdom about “selfish”, this is the question: whom is harming his fellow man more – the man with his hands out, or the man who’s hands are busy.

A simple differentiator is: which serves a healthy and rational self-interest and self-esteem?

And, if someone’s says, “well, it’s for the good of society”, or it’s “patriotic”. Other than the clear fear of increasing the number of low self-esteem self-destroying citizens, they should be asked but one question: Who decides who has “need” for money and who has the “ability” to pay? The government? Barrack Obama? Is it rational that need alone is a basis for reward? There ARE many examples of what happens when a society supports unearned rewards and unrewarded earns.

So, finally, here are three questions to answer with (thanks John Galt):

  1. “Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it a way?”
  2. “If it is not moral to keep a value, why is it moral for others to accept it?”
  3. “If you are virtuous and selfless when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they take it?”

Answering that third question; in today’s liberalist (and too many conservatives’) view anyway, the answer is NO. BECAUSE, they think, or someone else thinks, they “need” it. So, you are not selfish if you take when you need? And you are selfish if you keep when you earn? Check the definition again? You’ll find what can’t be – a contradiction. Check your premises and you’ll find one of them is wrong. The not so good answer, it is wished that we believe is: you are not selfish if you take what you need and you are if you keep what you earn. You are selfish if you produce extreme wealth and not if you take from it.

One wonders… do enough individuals really feel they can no longer control their own possession of wealth or the lack thereof? Are we so dependant on law and policy that we’ll legislate personal wealth through it? Have so many given up on self-reliance and perseverance?

Are there enough individuals left who will confront themselves enough to vote from their minds, from their grit, and from their determination?

I hope, for the sake of my 3 young kids, the answer is yes. And I hope that from this winded text, some coherent message can be gleaned and that it can be retold, and with more impact, and to the betterment of decisions made on November 4th 2008.

With all my mind (such as it is), Thomas