Friday, October 31, 2008

The Virtue of Selfishness

Obama says about his plans to add to the tax burden:

John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic. You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.

Since the left bloggers have been waging war on objectivism and Ayn Rand in particular, it makes sense that this would surface in Obama's speech. What it reveals is that despite his attempts to portray himself as a centrist, he is what he appears to be: a hard core radical leftist with a socialist philosophy of government and finance.

Obama says he can enrich the individual at the expense of other individuals but that is the oldest con after 'try it, you'll like it'. It only enriches the con man. When done to an eager mark, it is an act of confidence over arrogance. When done to a country simply wanting to be rid of confidence men, it is fraud against justice.

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand -

The extreme objectivist position is that if a government gives to each according to needs and takes according to abilities, a society of incapable needy emerges. Experience shows that is too extreme. What happens is the needy move to the capable and unless the capable take more, they can't give more. This is called the 'free rider' dilemma in web communities. The response is usually to close the lists to real contributors with participation agreements for intellectual property that do not harm the commons but do not enable the commons to be pillaged.

Objectivism isn't wrong. Rand overromanticized her position but behaviorally, it is correct.

Selfishness isn't virtuous but neither is theft by a powerful minority in the name of an undiscriminated majority. It is the supreme confidence game which victimizes the poor and the rich simultaneously for the good of a few who are grabbing for wealth and power. In short, it is piracy, a very democratic institution, which, by the way, is why America is a republic.


Paul Hsieh said...

The kind of selfishness that Obama apparently opposes (and as Glenn Reynolds noted was promoted by Ayn Rand in her famous book "The Virtue of Selfishness") is a completely noble and moral American virtue. This country was founded on the principle that men and women had the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" free from government interference and tyranny.

Many immigrants (such as my parents) came to this country precisely to be able to work hard, prosper, and give their children a chance for a better life. They came to this country with little more than the clothes on their back, but did well over the years, sent two children to college and medical school, and are now enjoying a well-earned and comfortable retirement. Their life has been a real-life embodiment of the American dream.

If we want America to remain a beacon of hope to millions around the world, we should re-affirm our commitment to free markets and capitalism, and reject calls for more socialism and "redistribution of wealth".

This country is great precisely because it allows people like my parents to attain selfish goals such as their lives and happiness. Americans should be proud of that fact, not condemn it.

John Cowan said...


Len, I grew up around hard-core radical leftists. (These days I'm a soft-core Bartlett pearist.) Some of my close friends are hard-core radical leftists. Barack he ain't no hard-core radical leftist.

You disappoint me.

Rob Koberg said...

But Obama has righteous wind:

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