Self-Interest Vs. Selfishness: A case for Capitalistic society emerging from a moralistic foundation
Lately I am hearing lots of statements suggesting the GOP, Tea Party, and conservatives should stay out of social issues or compromise their values to cater to the left, so that we can find a “middle-ground”. Previously when people inquired about my political beliefs, I said that I was “socially liberal and fiscally conservative”. After years of questioning my political opinions, my research led to an awareness of cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt school, and theorists such as Saul Alinsky, who proved that social issues have always been one of the leftists’ key instruments to effect political and fiscal change. I have since decided that my beliefs are more aligned with the “Classical Liberal” ideology.
Government regulation should be as closely limited to preserving the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness as possible. Since issues Americans are currently facing, such as a depressed economy, immense national debt, Obamacare, education, and immigration among others that are undeniably infringing upon those rights, it is understandable why popular sentiment even amongst some republicans is that we need to stay focused on these issues and give into or ignore social platforms to find solutions and win elections. Any CEO knows establishing priorities is tantamount to success, however they also know that it’s nearly impossible to achieve growth and prosperity without having a solid foundation. The values embedded in the culture that manifested the United States Constitution lent itself to a society of self-interested individuals who could compete in a free-market that incentivized resourcefulness, ingenuity, and progress fostering the betterment of man.
Policy changes yielding a waxing government, have effectively attached many social issues under the guise of compassion. Unfortunately that “compassion” combined with government expansion not only infringes upon individual liberties but almost always has a fiscal implication. While there is a cultural movement towards “moral-appearance” and compassionate politics, the government involvement in social issues rarely has a merciful result.
Andrew Breitbart repeatedly said that, “politics is downstream from the culture”. Politics shapes the culture and the culture molds politics. The zeitgeist as reflected in pop-culture, art and education illustrates the feedback loop between politics and the culture. The entitled, narcissistic, personalities whose vacant moral conduct is rampant in our pop-culture demonstrates the triumph of the Frankfurt school, which decades ago set out to normalize the outliers, create antiauthoritarian sentiment and destroy family values and structure, which are the core foundation for the principles upon which this country was founded. By targeting those issues, they knew there was a potential to create instability and chaos, which is a breeding ground for usurpation. Art and education are tools they used to inculcate the social biases that are often personal and emotional, generating a visceral, reflexive, reaction that distract from the fiscal and political agendas they are tying to them. Art (music, theater, film, television etc) has the power to intrinsically, and emotionally change someone on a cellular level thereby making it a valuable medium for cultural indoctrination. Unlike facts and logic, art evokes reactions that people are not always conscious of and sometimes can’t control or explain, whereas reason can be refuted and argued, which creates a separation between the person and the thought. Art and therefore pop-culture is intimate because it links values and worldview. From Ayn Rand: The Romantic Manifesto:
Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. Man’s profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man’s consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence.
As we move left on the political spectrum permitting the expansion of government even when under the guise of compassionate social programs and policies we risk becoming a society of selfish, isolated, entitled individuals who are more apt to destroy thy neighbor instead of self interested people who want to be the best and happiest. We can thrive personally while providing the best for our loved ones. People often mistake self-interest for selfishness and the two are not mutually exclusive and one doesn’t necessarily preclude the other. Self-interest, a fundamental proponent of capitalism cultivates socialization, community and supporting thy neighbor often out of necessity to further ones own gain. In contrast socialism generates isolation and destruction. The former fosters competition that lends itself to advancement, and a world of infinite possibility while the later breeds envy, limitations, competing for the finite and a scarcity mentality.
Wesley Grant eloquently delineates this distinction stating, “Behind this misconception is a reckless interpretation of the economic principle of ‘self-interest.’ It was Adam Smith who argued, ‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’ Self-interest also plays a starring role in the political work of John Locke and David Hume, yet none of these philosophers viewed it in the same manner we view selfishness or greed today. Rather, they understood it to be the underlying motivation to most human action. Self-interest, rightly conceived, is about self-preservation, responsibility and increased quality of life. It is self-interest that motivates us to get up and go to work, tend to our home, care for our children, seek education and follow doctors’ orders. The natural desire and core motive of human action is simply to better one’s condition.” Human nature is implicit in Capitalism leading to economic expansion.
Grant goes on to explain, “Furthermore, self-interest does not exclude charitable behavior. In ‘An Economic Theory of Democracy,’ Anthony Downs noted how ‘self-denying charity is often a great source of benefits to oneself.’ Both Locke and Hume call for individuals and societies to be resourceful, efficient and always caring for those in need. There is far less room for charity if we conceive of self-interest as it is portrayed by Machiavelli or Hobbes, who imagine humans as brute creatures driven by appetite and vice. In their world, fear and power rule the day. Unfortunately, this view is all too common.”
When capitalism is devoid of a moral foundation you encourage selfish people. As government increases individual autonomy diminishes, simultaneously more responsibility and burdens are removed, but the price you pay is a loss of personal freedom. When a civilization’s infrastructure is precarious, people often go into survival mode taking less risks and displaying behavior that is more selfish than self-interested out of desperation. Our politicians need to establish priorities when implementing policies without negotiating their values and the integrity of the Constitution. The current type of compromising in principals yields regression instead of true enrichment. While it would be nice to cherry pick issues and compartmentalize, eventually they are all intertwined. Charles Krauthammer aptly says, “In the end, everything, all the beautiful elegant things in life depend ultimately on getting politics right…. science, art, poetry, baseball must ultimately bow to politics. Every time a civilization achieves consciousness and the kind of science that would allow you to transmit a signal they destroy themselves. Can we regulate our politics in a way that will allow the human species to flourish and produce all the beautiful stuff, and that’s a question that only can be answered by Republicans.” Socialistic, big government solutions have always failed, it’s time for the USA to step up and be the advocates for liberty!