Monday, June 27, 2011

Zero-sum morality

While the pie metaphor has been abused by Keynesian economists, the argument behind it has been abused by those who promote the altruist morality as well. The standard criticism of selfishness is that the selfish person gets what he wants by taking it away from others. This is as false as saying the wealthy get rich by stealing from others.

There is no such thing as a fixed or limited supply of value. Just as wealth is created by productive effort, which leads to economic growth rather than a static economy where there is only a fixed amount of wealth to be "redistributed", so moral value is achieved by one's own productive effort, so that the morally successful person does not achieve happiness by causing pain in others.

Altruists, on the other hand, would have us believe that the alternative to sacrificing yourself to others is sacrificing others to yourself. The rationally selfish person comprehends that sacrifice serves no one's long-term interest, and that genuine happiness can only be achieved by his own effort, not at the expense of others. He understands that taking pleasure in the pain of others is immoral.

In fact, it is the happiness of others - as evidence of their moral success - that gives him a profound motivation to achieve his own happiness. The achievements of others are a crucial demonstration that such things are possible in reality - or, as Ayn Rand might put it: "in this life, on this Earth".

The rationally selfish person knows that "sacrifice or be sacrificed" is a false alternative and a false view of genuine selfishness, which requires no sacrifice on anyone's part whatsoever. It is altruism and sacrifice that are, in fact, the zero-sum game.

1 comment:

  1. There is more criticism of puritanism, and more distance from Christian morality, than there has been before.