Self-Interest versus Altruism
Note: A commenter nicknamed Charles asked me to comment on issues like capitalism, self-interest, the concepts of “Aryan way of thought, collectivism, and bigotry. Please click here for the commenter’s full query. The following is my reply:
Throughout man’s history, man or the individual was enslaved or ruled by two kinds of mystics— the mystic of spirit and the mystic of muscle…
You have raised interesting points in your comment. Now let me try my best to deal with the matters you adduced seriatim. First, I have to tell you that I have no formal degree in philosophy, although I have learned through my own efforts to understand life and the concept of reality through reading, observation and the Aristotelian concept of induction. I adhere to the philosophy of Objectivism, a philosophy that can be summarized in the following manner:
- Metaphysics: Objective reality
- Epistemology: Reason
- Ethics: Self-interest
- Politics: Capitalism
I have to lay down these principles because they convey the fundamental premise of this essay. Your queries are focused on the critical questions I raised in my previous essay entitled the Philosophy of Academic Bigotry. I concluded that essay with the following questions:
Why is it that not a single individual honestly defends capitalism in this country?
Why is it that most favor the redistribution of wealth, government intervention and welfare statism?
Why is it good to consider the welfare of others and not yours?
Why is it that most people have been sold to the mantra of collective good, collective effort, common good, etc. when these abstractions have no exact, objective meaning at all but only seek the immolation of the good to the weak?
Why is taking things on faith considered a virtue?
Why is more importance given to faith than reason?”
“Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.” —Will and Ariel Durant
Lest I be misunderstood, let me try to convert these abstractions into clear concretes. But first I would like to state that I am not pushing for what you call “completely neo-classical perspective” here (whatever that term means, because today most abstractions no longer have clear and concrete meanings, and I believe that this semantic corruption can effectively disrupt our understanding of reality.)
“The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.”
I would like to address the first issue you raised. You said: “You are pushing that capitalism and (well I really can’t word it less harshly) self-interest is the way to go.” I see it fit to define my terms here according to Objectivist and Aristotelian concept of self-interest. Let me state here that Objectivism is partly based on the philosophy of Aristotle, although the former is more all-encompassing, more extensive in that it cuts across different categories of fundamental abstractions like economics, politics, aesthetics, psychology, literature and even science. This means that Objectivism is a well-developed philosophy– its ethics is rational selfishness and its basic principles are centered on the sanctity of human life and the primacy of the individual over the collective. Reality is superior to man’s consciousness, and this is the basic tenet of Objectivism.
I’m not surprised that most people in this country will find it hard and “harsh” to accept that man’s ethical standard is self-interest. Most universities today preach the opposite, telling students that we must live for others— that we must sacrifice ourselves to others, and that it is our duty to serve the welfare and good of others. We have an educational institution in this country that seeks to perpetuate this goal with its philosophy of “men and women for others.” The morality behind this philosophy is that of altruism. The meaning of altruism is not simply kindness or generosity toward other people. Altruism means that man must serve others and that it is his duty to satisfy and fulfill the welfare of others. This kind of morality is not simply immoral; it is evil at best. It means that man must put the interests of others above his own. Altruism demands that man must do the impossible.
The Greatest Evil of the Dark Ages is none other than the Vatican City or the Catholic Church…
Rational self-interest means that man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. This does not mean blind desires or random whims. I would like to quote Ayn Rand in regard to this matter: “[Man] must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”
In this predominantly Catholic country, most people regard self-interest as evil. They regard that man’s pursuit of happiness is immoral. In that essay I asked—Why is it that it is good to consider the welfare of others and not yours? The reason for this is the morality of altruism that is heavily entrenched in our religious dogmatism, educational system and traditional values. We have been taught that it is our moral duty to serve the good and welfare of others. But this kind of morality, which is altruism, is not exclusively within the domain of religion. Throughout man’s history, man or the individual was enslaved or ruled by two kinds of mystics— the mystic of spirit (the religionists, cultists or spiritualists) and the mystic of muscle (the communists, imperialists, socialists, fascists, Nazis, etc.). What do these two groups have in common? They are both collectivists—and their morality or ethics is primarily based on altruism.
For the first time in human history, a nation afforded respect and recognized the value of the individual over the collective.
The Greatest Evil of the Dark Ages is none other than the Vatican City or the Catholic Church, as this evil institution cohabited with powerful empires that ruled world. With its brand of morality and mysticism, the Catholic Church suppressed the development of science, freedom and reason. The Pope persecuted, prosecuted and imprisoned Galileo Galilei for his virtues. This draconian cult’s morality of altruism resulted in piles of corpses, constant stagnation, bizarre poverty, genocide and mysticism. The Philippines remained under the brutal and mystic custody of the empire of Spain for more than 300 years simply because of the sedative power of religion, the fundamental morality of which is altruism.
But one man came to save the world from the collectivist claws of religion and the imperialists, and this man is Aristotle whose ideas were developed and explained by Thomas Aquinas. If there is one man who nearly proved the existence of God, it was Aquinas. During the Dark Ages a great nation, the philosophical foundation of which was based on the philosophy of Aristotle, came into being. And this nation is the United States of America. It is this nation that first embodied the basic principle of individualism, thanks to the wisdom and eternal vision of its great visionary founding fathers.
Did you know why the United States of America is the country of birth of individualism? The answer is laid down in the Declaration of Independence. For the first time in human history, a nation afforded respect and recognized the value of the individual over the collective. The Declaration of Independence states that man’s inalienable rights consist of his rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. The philosophy behind this great document means that man’s rational self-interest is his primary duty. It means that it his self-interest to protect his life, freedom, vocation or profession, and pursue happiness. Happiness, according to Rand, “means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own private, personal, individual happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as he respects the same right in others.”
Do you know what economic or political system is most consistent with these principles? It is capitalism. However, capitalism is loosely defined these days and even those in the academe miserably fail in defending the virtue of capitalism. (For fuller discussion of capitalism please read my previous blog entry entitled Capitalism and Imperialism are Contradiction in Terms). In this essay I stated the following: “I support capitalism because it is the only economic system that is consistent with man’s rights– his right to life liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.” Capitalism and rational self-interest are compatible with each other. In a free society, the standard of value is the individual, not the disembodied gargoyle they call society. However, most educators these days try to associate capitalism with altruism. These are the worst destroyers of capitalism. I also stated the following: “Only in a capitalist society can man own a private property, as well as the products of his own mind. Under a socialist or communist system, all properties are owned by the state.” Let me restate what capitalism means: “What is capitalism? Ayn Rand gave the most accurate and consistent definition of capitalism. Based on Ayn Rand’s concept of capitalism, this economic system has the following attributes:
1) it is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.
2) it means a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
3) its moral justification does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.”
4) it is a system wherein all human relationships are voluntary, and that men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions, and interests dictate.”
You said: “You seem to espouse no government intervention/control aside from human security.”
Of course I do. Study economics and you will learn that most economic crises were caused by government intervention into the economy. We have high costs of electricity because of the altruistic tendencies of the government. The EPIRA law led to the mandatory subsidizing of independent power producers regardless of the reach of their service or the amount of electricity they provide. This is the Filipino version of that infamous American bailout. We have high costs of electricity because the government had created looters and moochers by subsidizing these IPPs through people’s money. This anti-capitalist policy destroys free-market competition and is the worst of all economic phenomena in this country. It is the altruistic-socialist government policies that create looters and moochers through taxpayers’ money. You must remember that every word has its exact meaning. Capitalism does not seek the sacrifice of a group to a particular group. Did you know why the prices of computers or laptops continue to decline? Price decline is mainly attributed to the existence of competition in both the global and domestic markets. The most abused, vilified and distorted word in the dictionary is Capitalism. Why? Because of the philosophy of most educational institutions. Now that the latest documentary film of Michael Moore entitled Capitalism: A Love Story is going to hit big screen, there is not a single doubt on my part that most Filipinos will love it and some schools will even endorse it.
People in business who get rich through government subsidies, political connections, graft and corruption, and government favors are not capitalists; they are cronies or looters. Cronyism and capitalism are contradiction in terms. Mike Defensor, who cornered government contracts and even subsidies for his two mining companies, is a good example of a moocher that benefits from political largesse. In a truly capitalist society, only the strong and the competent can excel. And in a free-market economy, no one can ever corner the market; the system will definitely destroy any group that tries to establish a monopoly. The American taxpayers’ bailout of financially ailing companies and banks is the worst economic experience in recent history. In effect, this bailout is one of the safest ways for a government to nationalize private companies.
Today, the economic czars and political appointees of Barack Obama are now the ones running companies like Chrysler, General Motors and a number of nationalized banks. After creating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that caused the mortgage crisis, the already bankrupt American government has the guts to run private companies. The morality behind this bailout is altruism. Taxpayers’ money is being used to save the incompetent and inept companies in the guise of preventing massive job loss. The US government enacted the altruistic Community Reinvestment Act that forced banks to lend money to people regardless of their financial capacity to pay. Thirty-two years after the Act came into effect, financial crisis swept America last year causing bank runs, affecting the rest of the world.
But a socialist leader like Barack Obama cannot cheat reality, as unemployment rates went beyond 9.5 percent, the worst in about two decades. As a result, the Federal Reserve is now massively printing money out of thin air to save America’s ailing economy. But can these socialist-monetarists and Keynesian-altruists save the economy with that reality-faking strategy? The bailout system is a good example of exalting the weak and the incompetent.
You said: “Basically earn your way to the top with no help at all from anyone else and be able to say that you did on your own correct.”
Is there any other moral way to achieve success than to rely on our own? The taipans today like John Gokongwei built their empire bit by bit. He started his empire after World War II when everybody was in his or her knees. He had to rely on his own, he never asked anybody’s help, and no one guaranteed him a bailout. A man like him must be exalted and praised, and not vilified. Ayn Rand immigrated to the US in 1921 after the Leninist-communist seized Russia. Having no enough money, Rand had to work odd jobs. She studied English on her own to fulfill her ambition to become a novelist. After publishing The Fountainhead, the academics, media men and American intellectuals disparaged her for her unique philosophical views. But no one was able to stop her. She once said: “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.”
You said: “Does not this echo of an Aryan way of thought? Survival of the fittest (in your case the one who is a self-made man is the fittest to rule the world and not the weak who have to rely on the much more powerful to survive in this world)?”
Your “Aryan way of thought” is based on Hitler’s Nazism, which is founded upon the crude collectivist concept of racism. It is improper and wrong to associate men who achieved virtues and success on their own with what you call “Aryan way of thought”. The first (personal achievement) is earned, meaning success or virtue which proceeds from one’s intransigent struggle or selfish passion to achieve. The second (Aryan way of thought) is unearned, which means that everything you have is something that you owe from or is attributed to your race. It means you are guided by some external phenomenon and that you have no option but to simply take things on faith. As I said, it is improper to man to take things on faith. Such an “Aryan way of thought” means that faith is superior to reason (or that reason is nonexistent). A man’s desire to achieve is personal in nature— it means that he has to make choices and be accountable for his own decisions. Man has to make choices for his life because he is not a determined being. On the other hand, “Aryan way of thought” presupposes that man is a determined being— that his fate or destiny is tied to his racial origin, family history, or academic background. It is you who leads the way for your life by making your personal choices. You are not a determined being.
A man who preaches the virtue of sacrifice wants to be the master and the collector of sacrificial offerings.
Try to consider this. Supposed you’re a man of ability and you discovered a cure for cancer, would you feel guilty for that virtue of yours? In reality even if you were a man of intellect and ability, it would take you years and a great deal of efforts to discover a scientific formula, which you would use to manufacture medicines for cancer patients. You have earned it, and as such you have the very right to reap the fruits of your achievement because it is the product of your own mind. You could make fortune out of that great discovery of yours. Why feel guilty? However in just a few years the collectivists-socialists who preach the virtue of altruism were able to seize government power. These collectivist-socialists believe in the concept of economic equality, which they would achieve by looting private property and companies, redistributing wealth, and playing a major role in the life of every citizen. Definitely, a man of achievement like you would not be able to exist in that kind of evil society, for nobody can rule a man of self-esteem. You only have two choices— perish or look for a country that suits your values and beliefs. This is how the United States achieved economic success. The most brilliant men and women in the world— the men and women of achievement and self-esteem—migrated to a country that respects individual rights and man’s right to self-interest. This is how the ancestors of Gokongwei, Lucio Tan and other taipan nowadays found their way to the Philippines, which is now their country of choice.
You also stated the following: “You also seem to want to do away with the common good as a goal of society as it merely “seeks the immolation of the good to the weak.”
A man or a woman who seeks power is not strong—he/she is a second-hander, a power lust.
The kind of “common good” most politicians promise has no exact meaning at all. Again, the underlying morality of this “common good” is that of altruism. For collectivists (communists, socialists, fascists, Nazis and the like), the concept of “common good” lies in the sacrifice of the strong to the weak, of the competent to the inept, of the mediocre to the esteemed. Every tyrant in history exploited “common good” as a way to turn people into unthinking masses. Napoleon Bonapart relied on summum bonum or the highest good to become one of the worst rulers of France. Adolf Hitler used the same mantra and the concept of racial supremacy to stir the collective spirit of his people in the hope of propelling Nazi Germany to global dominance. Mao Zedong and Lenin brandished their kind of “common good” for the proletariat only to end up burning not merely books but bodies. That’s why Hitler said the following: “What luck for rulers that men do not think.”
In the Philippines, dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ new society was founded on the morality of altruism and the promise of common good. Every tyrant has to use pleasant words to deceive the unthinking masses. This is the reason why we need to embrace the right philosophy. The main target of the collectivists is not your body, it is your soul. Once a man’s soul is controlled, he can no longer think rationally because his only weapon to understand reality is corrupted- reason. ‘Sacrifice’ is the most common term in a collectivist society. People have to sacrifice their lives to the state and that it is their duty to serve it. A man who preaches the virtue of sacrifice wants to be the master and the collector of sacrificial offerings. State or society, in essence, is regarded as God of the proletarians, while in any collectivist-theocratic regime, God is represented by a so-called messenger like the Ayatollah of Iran, Kim Jong Il of North Korea or the Pope of the Dark Ages. The word “reason” is absolutely nonexistent in this kind of evil society, for every man has the duty to take things on faith.
Do you want to know a very good example of sacrificing the good to the weak? The quick example I can give you is the Text Tax proposal of the government (I have written an essay on this matter as well which I titled Why is Text Tax the Gateway To hell). Why are some Filipino politicians eyeing on the telecommunication industry? The main reason is because it is successful, and because it is successful it must contribute something to the society. The strong here are the telecommunication companies, while the weak is the government. Our already cash-strapped, bankrupt government seeks to immolate and sacrifice these successful telecommunication companies in the guise of providing welfare state projects to society. You must understand that the costs of texting and mobile calls declined because of competition, thanks to Sun Cellular. My concept of strong does not mean the wicked and the power-seeker, for this kind of men, in reality, are weak, coward and have no values at all. A man or a woman who seeks power is not strong—he/she is a second-hander, a power lust.
Remember, to have pride and self-esteem that which makes you proud and esteemed is something that is earned, and never anointed, decreed or preached. The test whether something is associated with what you call “Aryan way of thought” is this— Is my success or achievement the result of my own personal choices? By choice does not mean merely enrolling in a school, which you may regard as great or the “best.” Such kind of thinking is not just crude; it is at best an “Aryan way of thought.” If you believe that you are good or great simply because you belong to a particular race, group, school or family, then you are going against the law of identity– that A is A. Your consciousness cannot contradict reality. Any belief, idea or concept which you accepted on faith (or that which you embraced because your government, school administrators, community leaders and parents told you so) is something that only exists in your mind, and it does not correspond to reality. Remember, reality is superior to consciousness, and you try to cheat reality if you take things on faith.
To truly understand my concept and the philosophy of Objectivism, when you have enough time, try to read Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (I advise you to start with Anthem). I tell you, you will definitely enjoy these books. Please do understand some grammatical glitch here; I wrote this piece in between my busy schedule. This week is our final exams. Thanks and good premises.
Related article: Immanuel Kant: Ayn Rand’s Intellectual Enemy
I believe the following videos can help:
Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve
Ron Paul discusses Austrian Business Cycle Theory versus Keynesian Economics
Ron Paul: “End the Fed” The Philippines needs a statesman like him!