I recently appeared on Bob Garlick’s “Business Book Talk” podcast to discuss Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government.
Archive for Tag “selfishness”
Mike Slater interviewed Yaron about one of the most important elements of self-interest: self-esteem.
Mike Slater recently interviewed me on the real meaning of selfishness—specifically, the fact that the genuine pursuit of self-interest requires a commitment to rationality and productiveness. The segment starts a few minutes in.
The moral attack on capitalism hinges on a certain view of selfishness: the view that selfishness is immoral and destructive. But where does that view come from?
In crucial part, from a fallacy identified by Ayn Rand called “package-dealing.” In her words, it’s “the fallacy of failing to discriminate crucial differences. It consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or ‘package,’ elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value.” In short, a package-deal groups things that are superficially similar but fundamentally different.
As Yaron and I show in Free Market Revolution, the conventional use of “selfish” packages together producers, such as Steve Jobs, with looters, such as Bernie Madoff. Both, after all, are not being selfless but are, in some sense, out for themselves.
In the book, we analogize this to morally equating George Washington and Adolf Hitler because both pursued victory in war. But in his book The Tyranny of Clichés, Jonah Goldberg gives an even better analogy (although he’s not talking about the issue of selfishness or explicitly discussing package-dealing).
If one man pushes an old lady in front of an oncoming bus and another man pushes an old lady out of the way of an oncoming bus, to borrow Bill Buckley’s famous puncturing of moral equivalence arguments, it will not suffice to say that they are both the sorts of men who push old ladies around.
To think clearly about selfishness it’s critical to make a firm distinction between those who think carefully about what their actual, long-term interests are and those who don’t think at all. The former is selfish. The latter, however much he feels in the moment that he’s doing what will bring him pleasure, is self-destructive.
And capitalism? Capitalism is the system of selfishness—of rational selfishness.