30 July 2009

Thoughts on Allegations of Selfishness


Image credit: Microsoft
One of the most effective tactics for making someone feel guilty (presuming they have an active conscience) is to accuse them of being selfish.

This works particularly well as a progressive closing salvo against free markets and low taxes... at least, it tends to hurt my feelings and shut me up, because "I'm not selfish" isn't much of an argument.

So I've been thinking about that accusation and honestly evaluating my motives for advocating lower taxation and less government restriction and regulation, and my thoughts have solidified into these grounds:

A healthy respect for each individual's natural rights: Life, Liberty, and Property (the fruits of our pursuit of happiness).

This respect leads me to the following conclusion:

I can support Person A as long as I wish. I may give them all of my property, or none, as I see fit. But I cannot take Person B's property for Person A. I cannot violate Person B's property rights in order to carry out my plans to help Person A.

Translating this to daily life: In my situation, I can afford to pay an additional mandatory fee on my power bill that pays for other people's bills. But I do not have the right to require that others do so, not only because I don't know whether they can afford it, but also because I have no right to their property. (Yes, that also means that - although the power company has done it - they were and are violating my property rights.)

The inverse is also true:

Person A may support me as long as they wish. They may give me all of their property, or none, as they see fit. But they cannot take Person B's property for me. No matter how brilliant Person A's scheme is, they may not allocate Person B's resources to it by force.

That I could - possibly, temporarily - benefit from this transaction does not make it right; I would no more advocate violating the rights of others, than I would my own.

It's time more people started to stand on principle instead of convenience. Going forward for myself, if standing on principle gets me accused of selfishness, I'll sleep just fine anyway.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I think it is amazing when I hear someone say essentially that we have "no right" to keep what we earn.

The last issue of the BYU magazine that Dave gets had a really interesting article about Charity, or more specifically charitable giving. (http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2441) And I particularly like where he says, "the day the government takes over for you in your private charity is the day we get poorer, unhappier, and unhealthier. We must demand to take our place as givers and support the communities and people who need the services we can provide. "

p.s. You are really on a roll with great posts--not that you ever waste blog space!