Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rational selfishness

The Oklahoman published my LTE today:
The rational egotist

Lee V. Rose (Your Views, April 4) is right to blame politicians for creating the current economic situation. But I disagree with Rose’s accusation of egotism. Altruism, not egotism, gives politicians the excuse they need to indulge their power lust. What better way to gain power over people than to tell them they must live everyone else’s lives for them? The idea of sacrifice is what enables altruists to demand that people attempt to live others’ lives for them rather than follow their own dreams. Altruists wrongly reject the idea that you can enjoy a successful and fulfilling life without sacrificing yourself to others and, more importantly, without sacrificing others to yourself.

The rational egotist knows it’s possible to get what he wants out of life without hurting anyone. So long as the conventional morality of altruism is accepted, situations like the current economic crisis will happen again and again. Until people learn the truth about rational egotism and decide to actually give it a chance, capitalism and freedom remain at risk.

Rob Abiera, Oklahoma City
The draft I sent in used "egoist" instead of "egotist" in some places. As Ayn Rand once noted, "egotist" is not the best word to describe the person who practices rational selfishness: "egoist" is better. But it's the word Rose used in his letter, and I think public confusion over the issue makes it a quibble in this instance.

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