To live is to struggle, in both personal life and in our professional one. At times, this strain turns one cynical, even to the point of becoming comfortable with being a conduit for negative thoughts, feelings, and actions. This pessimistic outlook is all too often exploited by some in society in order to rationalize the demonization of segments of the community as the source of the factors responsible for why we struggle. The value of selfishness is introduced as a natural and needed remedy to the unjust difficulties of life.
The idea of selfishness is very different from that of self-interest. Selfishness involves a reckless and willful disregard for others, while self-interest is merely meeting ones’ individual needs while not perpetrating harm on others. Today, it is common to hold selfishness as a major component to professional ambition.
Thinkers like economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, and philosophers Robert Nozick (before his renouncement) and, of course, Ayn Rand have provided contemporary politicians like Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Ron Paul with reason to champion selfishness as a virtue. These influential people support the cause that the pursuit of money is the greatest virtue, for it brings the greatest benefit to humanity. Just as importantly, they claim, the desire to be compassionate and supportive towards others in the community, altruism, is not just bad, but, in the words of Ayn Rand, “evil.”
This way of thinking requires humans to be supremely individualistic; civilization is simply a byproduct of the greed of the individual. Libertarianism rejects what I would argue is a fundamental aspect of being human: that we are social beings. Humans don’t come together purely because our selfish goals bring us into conflict with others on the path to ambition. Humans are social creatures, self-interested and inherently communal, and yes, altruistic. To deny this is to reject our humanity, or at the very least, to absolutely fail to properly understand it.
I like to think of this analogy when a co-worker or someone in my personal life displays a negative personality.
An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, jealously, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”