Stevieslaw: The Virtue of Selfishness

I mentioned once before that our local newspaper, The Centre Daily Times, has moved significantly to the right, what with headlines that might have been written by Rush Limbaugh and the occasional piece by say, the spokesperson for the “Banking Overlords”, that appears in the news rather than the opinion section, but I will admit that I was surprised to see an op-ed piece by Peter Schwartz—an Objectivist philosopher, appear a few days before Christmas. Objectivists are followers of Ayn Rand, the author of several long-winded novels (Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead) and her anthem, “The Virtue of Selfishness.” What bothered me is not that our country, in which the divide between the have and have-nots is rising faster than the ocean temperatures, may have already overdosed on selfishness, it’s that this philosophy is so bizarrely anti-Christmas that if one of its followers had penned A Christmas Carol, the climax of the novel would have the ghosts of Christmas present, past and future apologizing to Scrooge.
Of course, objectivists are not talking just selfishness, but rather a rational selfishness, where if you do what’s in your self-interest, you will also be doing best for the whole world (it trickles down). Every time I think of rational self-interest as an operating principle in this country, I come up with a picture of a bunch of football fans in Green Bay. It’s -13 degrees and they have doffed their shirts so they can spell out Packers on bare skin for the television cameras. And although Rand would claim that no two rational beings could ever bump heads in selfishness, my older brother would often show me, in painful detail, the error of that kind of thinking.

In any event, Ayn Rand is back. Her philosophy is practiced by many of our elected officials. Now, The Ayn Rand Institute has recognized that a major difficulty in practicing Objectivism is the inability of many people to recognize what will best promote their rational self-interest. What people need is a cognitive “crystal ball.” In response, The Institute has constructed an I-device ready application, entitled “What would Ayn do?” Download it today. It will make you feel so much better about stiffing the paperboy on Christmas Day.

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