Rational Versus Irrational Selfishness

My daughter said to me “The pastor was teaching us altruism.  He told us that before we do something we shouldn’t think about how it will benefit us, we should think about benefiting others.  I don’t believe in that.”

“Right” says I. “The operating premise behind that is that everyone on the planet is worthy of the product of your efforts with the exception of one person and that is you. What kind of premise is that that you are the only person low enough and unworthy enough that you don’t deserve the product of your own effort? That is a philosophy of self-hate.  They tell you that selfishness is bad but what do you know is the true nature of selfishness?”

“It’s good as long as you don’t go to extremes.”

“That’s a misunderstanding because if you believe that then you’re still accepting the premise that selfishness is bad, you’re only saying that there is an acceptable level of bad, but that’s not a correct understanding.  Let me give you an example:  If you’re a teenager who wants money so you mow someone’s lawn for $10 is that good or bad?”

“It’s good.”

“Right. You just benefited yourself and you just benefited that other person because he got the opportunity to trade $10 to free up some time for himself.  Your selfishness caused you to make a mutually beneficial deal.  Now what if you’re EXTREMELY selfish so you mow 20 lawns for $200?  Whose rights did you violate then?”

“No one’s.”

“Correct.  So you see then that selfishness, even in the extreme, is not bad.  It just means you work harder and you are creating more value.  The irony is that in seeking to benefit yourself you also created value for 20 other people.  The money you earn is a representation of that value.  Now if you earn $200 there is sure to be somebody who will say to you ‘Since you have all that money you should share it.’ If you don’t share it are you violating that person’s rights?”


“So you see selfishness isn’t immoral at all.  The one thing that crosses people up is that when they challenge the premise that selfishness is good they will almost always give an example involving dishonesty.  Their example will involve stealing or cheating in some form.  Those actions are bad, not because they are selfish, but because they are dishonest and therefore they’re irrational .  Stealing and cheating are irrational because those actions interfere with the ability to trade by mutual consent which is the very thing that facilitates the creation of value in the first place.  If we live in a society where stealing is rampant then there is no guarantee that you will be able to benefit from the product of your own work because someone will just snatch it.  Dishonesty destroys the motivation to create value.  Since it destroys the very thing it seeks, it is irrational.

“Plus if you lie then people won’t believe you anymore” my daughter pointed out.

“Exactly.  If you’re a thief and a liar then you are setting yourself up as the enemy of the very people you seek to benefit from.  They will either beat the living hell out of you or put you in jail and that is because you are violating their rights.  So stealing and lying are irrational forms of selfishness.”

“Ok, I’m 13 and I get it.  Why are there so many adults who don’t get it?”

“Because the world is full of retarded people and stupid unworkable ideas.  The only answer is to ensmarten everybody so that those other ideas will be allowed to die from disuse.  You see, in a world of rationality, EVERY rational person would benefit and that would be great.  The ethics of altruism, however, requires the presence of victims If you are an altruist then you require helpless people that you can help in order to give you some measure of value.  If everybody were happy and successful the altruist would go mad from the unscratchable itch, from the urge for the presence of victims to help.  If there were no victims the altruist would create them.”

“Nice speech, but we didn’t really say all this yesterday did we? You’re embelleshing for the sake of the blog aren’t you?”

“Yes” says I, “but we did say the first part, the first eight paragraphs really happened.”

“Yes they did, but the rest of this is entirely made up.”

“Yep.  Hey look, the meat blimp crashed! Let’s go hack up some animals!”

“Yaaaay! Hamburgers!!!!”

13 Responses to “Rational Versus Irrational Selfishness”

  1. Citizen Quasar says:


    One of the premises for altruism is that there is no such thing as mutual gain in a trade of value. That is, there is always a winner and always a loser.

    Another premise that altruists use is the dichotomy that production equals theft; thereby the producer automatically incurs some debt to others because of the fact that they are producers.

    Another premise they use is that anytime one makes a choice between two values then they are actually sacricing one for the sake of the other. (My dad used to have a real hang-up with this one. I tried to explain it to him a few times but he would always get mad and start yelling.)

    The government uses altruism to its advantage for mind control. The entire left-right, liberal-conservative paradigm is based on altruism. Liberals declare that individuals must sacrifice their values to the collective state. Conservatives declare that individuals must sacrifice their values to the supernatural. This leaves us with a political spectrum with sacrifice on both ends and everything in between.

    If one looks at it epistemologically, a word that most people have never even heard of, the vast majority of people believe in the Primacy of Consciousness as opposed to the Primacy of Existence. This allows them to:

    1. Make things up on the spur of the momment thus leaving them with a disintegrated jumble of concepts and emotions in their minds.
    2. Succumb to the herd instinct…�everybody else says it is true so it must be true� (Puhraise Jezus! Make SURE and tithe!)

  2. mexi says:

    (My dad used to have a real hang-up with this one. I tried to explain it to him a few times but he would always get mad and start yelling.)

    I’m louder so I’m right. I think my first two exes went to that same school.

  3. Phelps says:

    Most people think that production equals theft because they subscibe to the Marxist theory of property, rather than the Lockian theory of [Labor+materials=property]. The flaw in Marxian property is that it assumes that everything belongs to someone, rather than there being a true unowned and claimable commons. That marxian view gives you a world where no one homesteads, wealth is never created (only moved around), &tc, virtually all of which is empirically untrue.

    This is also where they stumble into the zero-sum fallacy — if wealth is never created, it must have to come at someone else’s expense (which is not true.)

  4. mexi says:

    Zero sum logic:  Anyone can win the British Open, it’s just a matter of stealing the clubs!

  5. guy in the UNLV Jacket says:

    If the preacher man was al altruistic as he says he is hten he would preach for free and go to Hell so some poor sinner can get into heaven.

  6. mexi says:

    Preach for free?? That’s crazy talk. Oh Lawd wants him to have a pimped out car!

  7. guy in the UNLV Jacket says:

    A preacher riding in a Yugo makes baby Jesus cry

  8. Vee says:

    My son has always felt the same way and I think it’s great. Some people pipe up with the “don’t be selfish” thing real quick, but I see no problem with looking out for your self / family first.

  9. R says:

    Your premises are much too Socratic in nature, Mexinoob.

    Leading the witness.

  10. mexi says:

    This discussion began with the understanding that we were on the same side. The dialectic is more akin to prepping the witness than it is to direct examination.

  11. DA says:

    “It’s good as long as you don’t go to extremes.�

    “That’s a misunderstanding because if you believe that then you’re still accepting the premise that selfishness is bad…

    Not really. ‘Good’ things in extremes can turn out bad as well. Oxygen, for example.

  12. mexi says:

    My point was that selfishness is not one of those things that is inherently bad but is considered acceptable in small doses (like cigarettes). Selfishness is inherently good.

  13. Citizen Quasar says:



    Live long!



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