Terri Decker | AC-T | December 8, 2008
Dreaming of those snowcapped “Thomas Kinkade cottages” sitting like a beacon of enchantment through the forest with ember glow spilling out from the windows and smoke billowing magically from the chimney, I anticipate the warming comforts of family and friends. . . What happened to the conviction of believing in something bigger than ourselves though? If you don't believe in a higher power, what of the network of people around us working together as a thriving, living unit?
The writer's attempt to sneak a subtle collectivist morality into a syrupy fable does not go unnoticed. She urges us to abandon selfishness -- which she intimates is a vice -- in favor of a sense of unity and fealty to "something larger than ourselves."
To the contrary, we are not a "living unit." Human beings distinguish themselves from the animal kingdom by this very fact. Certain moral and political philosophers would like to characterize human beings as metaphorical ants in an ant farm. But this is a misapprehension -- and a serious and consequential one.
Human beings are individuals who purposely and voluntarily choose to cooperate in a variety of societal arrangements, properly guided by self-interested motivations, and to our greatest mutual benefit.
People are not parts of an organism. They possess Reason, Free Will, Self-Consciousness, and are Individuated; that is, each person is unique. It is individuals making free choices and seeking their own rational long-term self-interest that makes social cooperation work. And the result is a synergy of value that delivers the greatest prosperity to the greatest number.
It is for this reason that I disagree with the writer and her advocacy of a collectivist self-image of humanity.
Sylvia Bokor comments:
Ms. Decker's article ignores the extent to which Americans have already spent millions in helping those in need. We have helped people through private charities, and through foreign aid to victims of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires.
To use the term "selfish" as if it were a dirty word ignores the source of value-creation. Men create values because they're concerned with their own interest---the dictionary definition of selfishness. To admonish us for being selfish as if it were a moral offense and simultaneously cry for the values we've created to "help those in need" is a monumental evasion.
Decker's collectivist premises are clear. For instance, referring to the irrational conduct of some New York shoppers, she asks, "What's happened to our humanity?"---as if we were all responsible for the disgraceful conduct of a few.
People like Decker are forever talking about things "higher" than you while asking you to give more and more without a single note of gratitude. Ignore her. Americans, you are to be thanked for your generosity, for your benevolence, for your concern for your own self-interests, which is a virtue. Thank you.
The Virtue of Selfishness
Ayn Rand | November 1964
rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.
Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist
By Tara Smith | April 2007
Far from representing the rejection of morality, selfishness ... actually demands the practice of a systematic code of ethics.