Originally written for Shurts Tennis on October 21, 2012.
At the end of Part 2 of this series, I asserted that the moral code of altruism needed to be overthrown if we are ever going to bring our government back to where it should be, protecting and supporting our lives instead of destroying them.
Before I begin my arguments for why this is true, let me make plain that when I am talking about altruism I do not mean benevolence. Virtually everyone considers these two words synonymous when they are anything but. Here are the two definitions I am using:
Benevolence – the quality of being well meaning; kindness.
Altruism – the basic principle that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value…which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
The essential distinction between the two words is completely bound up in the word sacrifice. A benevolent act is never a sacrifice, while an altruistic act must be. Here is what I mean by ‘sacrifice.’
Sacrifice – the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.
A benevolent act benefits both people in the exchange, and a benevolent person acts because it makes him happy to assist a worthy person without causing any loss to himself. A benevolent act is a selfish act, meaning the person acting personally gains from the action every bit as much as the person benefiting from the action.
An altruist means to surrender his values. How the words selfish and selfless are understood and used in our society clearly signify that this is the meaning implied. To be selfish is generally considered to be about the worst thing a person can be, and it is usually accompanied by the refrain, “He only thinks of himself” or “He doesn’t care about anybody but himself.” The implication is clear. You should NEVER think of yourself. You should NEVER do anything that benefits you.
I am all for benevolence. Few things make me happier than helping another person understand something better or helping a willing young person to learn a new skill. The joy these activities give me far outweigh whatever time, money or effort I give up in pursuing them.
Conversely an altruist must gain no benefit, be it material or spiritual, from any action he takes. He must be selfless, thinking only of others in his every waking moment. If this idea is unappealing, you might begin to understand how difficult this moral code is making your life.
Furthermore, there is only one way to live your life on principle, if you are truly committed to an altruist moral code. In the words of Ayn Rand, you must “offer yourself up to a cannibal as his meal.”
But since altruism IS the moral code accepted by virtually every person in society, there is little wonder that it is used continuously as the justification for virtually every government expansion of power. It is embodied in the political idea that ‘the strong must be sacrificed to take care of the weak,’ and as I demonstrated in Part 2 it is this idea that is at the heart of virtually everything the government does.
When you consider that this altruist moral code and its political embodiment have been continuously applied as a principle for decades it becomes crystal clear why there has NEVER been any serious reduction in the expansion of government power since the 18th century. During that time, the political philosophy of the Enlightenment that helped create this country began to erode. President Obama, Obamacare, and the egregious growth in government power we have experienced in the last 4 years are merely the culmination of this more than century-long trend.
We still hold the remnants of the Enlightenment philosophy that gave us ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ and these remnants are the reason our economy has done as well as it has during this period. But a political philosophy of sacrificing the strong to the weak will NEVER result in the generation of greater and greater values by or for anybody. As our culture has embraced this philosophy more and more, the natural result has been and will continue to be the economic disaster that has occurred everywhere else this philosophy has ever been seriously implemented in history.
I will show you how this is true in Part 4 of ‘Shurts Tennis for Everyone.’