So What If I’m Selfish?

In an article for the Mises Daily, Gary Galles addresses a common fallacy of confusing selfishness with self-interest.

Economists assume that individuals are self-interested. That simply means that there are some things each person cares about; some ends matter more to them than to others. Its consequence is that each person would prefer command over — i.e., the power to decide about the use of — more resources rather than fewer, because that allows us to advance whatever ends we value more effectively than we could otherwise. But valuing command over the disposition of more resources is not a monomaniacal focus on oneself (bold emphasis added).

If all a person cared about was limited to himself or herself, that person’s self-interest could be equated with selfishness. But if someone cares about anything or anyone else beyond themselves, then this differs from selfishness in several important ways (bold emphasis added).

I’m in a particularly blunt mood, so I’ll be direct.

It’s good to discern the difference between the two, but if you think about it, it’s also a moot point.

The issue he’s addressing is the oft-repeated accusation that the free market engenders selfishness. We also see this in the objection to libertarianism that those who promote it are just selfish.

So what? So what if I, and all other libertarians, are horribly selfish? What’s their point?

I don’t get it. What does it have to do with politics or laws? What does it have to do with the justification for the state? How does forcing me to do what you say make me selfless? Is compliance intended to make us selfless? I don’t comply with the IRS because I’m altruistic. I do it to avoid being thrown in jail and having my property confiscated. I don’t obey laws that were passed on their supposed “virtue” because I’m selfless. I obey because I will be a victim of state violence for disobeying them. Some may call these “selfish” reasons.

So what’s the point? Selfishness and selflessness are both states of mind. As hard as you want to try, you can’t force someone to think or feel a certain way.

What, then, is the objective?

In reality, proponents of state violence are incredible selfish. It’s about projecting and self-deceit as they steal and expropriate in the name of altruism.

Physician, heal thyself.

This entry was posted in Central Government, Crony Capitalism, federal government, free market, free speech, libertarianism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to So What If I’m Selfish?

  1. Pingback: So What If I’m Selfish? - Freedom's Floodgates

  2. Damn good topic!

    The Selfish Libertarian is one of the most frequently encountered (at least by me) slanders against us liberty minded folks. If we could all just realize that self interest is a fundamental axiom of human action, that is we are all interested in advancing our own agendas (selfish or not), I think we would sooner recognize the fallacy of representative democracy and placing our lives in the hands of men and women in whom we trust to advance our interests above their own.

    Asking a politician to avoid the “pay to play” offers from multi-billion dollar corporations, is like asking a kid to avoid touching any legos in Legoland! Sure a few kids might have the restraint, but the odds are against you. Same with politics; for every Ron Paul, there are 100 Harry Boehners (or John Reid, whichever bipartisan crony amalgamation you prefer).

    Now getting people to understand that non-aggressive selfish behavior promotes the health of individuals and society much better than aggressive altruistic behavior, will be admittedly much more difficult (though it shouldn’t be).

    Isabel Paterson offers some help with her essay, “The Humanitarian with the Guillotine”:

    “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.”


    • The Question says:

      On a similar topic, another quote that comes to mind is by C.S. Lewis concerning “altruistic” people.

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”


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