Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tea Parties and selfishness

I have a letter in the latest issue of the Oklahoma Gazette , just out today, May 6th.
Wanda Jo Stapleton, in her letter in the April 22 Oklahoma Gazette ("Selfishness to a 'Tea'"), accused those organizing and attending the Tax Day Tea Parties of being motivated by selfishness.

I cannot speak for the other attendees - nor was I an organizer - and will not pretend that I can read their minds and tell you what their motives were. But I will stand up, speak for myself, and proudly declare, "You're damn right I'm motivated by selfishness!"

As an "autonomous individual with an independent mind" (to borrow the words of John Lewis from a speech he gave at a Tea Party rally in Charlotte, N.C.), I am proud that - by using my own rationality - I can identify and choose my own values and discover the means to achieve them.

This makes it possible for me to live my own life. I don't need a brother to keep me and I certainly don't need a Big Brother in the form of the government pretending to do that. If it's possible for me to live without a brother to keep me, it's possible for other human beings to live that way, as well.

Nor is it necessary for me to hurt anyone else to get what I want out of life, since I create or trade for my values. Further, I believe that if I can get what I want out of life without hurting anybody, it should be possible for everyone else to get what they want without hurting me and each other. I hold that dealing with such harm when it does happen is the only legitimate reason for any government to exist.

Unfortunately, conventional morality rejects all of that. Altruism assumes that reason is inherently flawed, that human beings are incapable of surviving on their own two feet, and worse: that human nature is inherently destructive. Is it any wonder that both liberals and conservatives always end up pushing for an ever-expanding government to be our brothers' keeper?

Under such circumstances, the budget of that government will keep growing and growing - along with taxes - because no one will have the courage to stand up and say "NO!" And what society under the influence of altruism will want them to? Members of such a society will consider it their duty to pass along their unpaid bills to future generations, until reality steps in and pulls the rug out from under them, plunging them into a downward spiral of recession, unemployment, inflation, depression and worse.

All of this was made clear by Ayn Rand in her novel, "Atlas Shrugged," which is probably why it is currently enjoying unprecedented sales. While many of those who participated in the Tea Parties across the country are aware of Rand's ideas, not all of them are in agreement with her ideas about morality - in fact, most probably aren't. And this is a shame, for without an understanding of the underlying reasons for our leaders' actions and the resulting economic crisis, those who know only that it frustrates them won't know what to do about it. Without that knowledge to sustain and guide them, the Tea Party movement and the thoroughly justified anger which caused it will simply fade away.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City
My letter, which is the second one in this week's column, is followed by a letter from Jim Telcocci of Oklahoma City:
Who is John Galt?

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