On what level, and from what place, does one decide that a particular person- a stranger perhaps- makes too much money, and then consequently give that person the supposed rightful title of “greedy, fat cat, selfish, money monger”? This is a question, of which I have no answer. Actually scratch that. There are, in fact, a few explanations. But to empathize, or understand on a level relating to some sort of enlightening realization- well that’s just madness.
With the recent economic malaise, Wall Street and other Big name financial institutions have seen what it’s like to be truly hated (and I don’t intend to argue with anyone concerning the origins of this economic malaise. There is a slew of evidence that points to the intervention of Government- not, in fact, because of the aforementioned “greedy”). There are a few explanations for this- of which I will list here.
Firstly, what we as a culture and society deem to be moral seems backwards. The moral norm is that of self-sacrifice, of altruism, of a celebration of the meek, the poor, and the less fortunate. This is in large part due to religion and its self-sacrificial pronouncements. Part of this moral sanction tells us we should give away what we produce to those that do not, in the form of handouts, entitlements, and its ilk.
And so, the Big business types, CEOS and the rich, because they have pursued their self-interest and achieved a great amount of wealth, are demonized. Is it not rational or moral to achieve great wealth and production? Let’s say there are two people. One person decides to pursue their happiness, and self-interest, starts a company, and becomes a billionaire. This person, while pursuing their own self-interest, while being “selfish,” has created a great product, has employed hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, and has raised the standards of living for its employees, its consumers, and the economies surrounding the business.
The other person follows this moral norm of altruism and sacrifices their self to those that are less fortunate, the poor, the homeless, etc. Now, before I continue, an important point to make is that I am not belittling simple acts of human decency- of which are all innate within us- nor am I condoning psychopathic behavior of any sort. What I am denouncing is the idea of living a life committed to altruism, which states that:
Man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value” (Philosophy: Who Needs It, pg. 61, Ayn Rand).
In this sense, the man who lives as an altruist, abandons self- i.e. he has no self. His life becomes that of the beggars, the non-producers, and the second-handers. The altruist finds moral value in meekness, and wants everyone to be equal in their worthlessness. It denies the right of man to live for his own sake, to hold his life as his standard of living, and his happiness as his highest moral purpose. It states that “any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil” (The Virtue of Selfishness Ayn Rand).
But how is this moral? How is this virtuous? How is it good to live self-sacrificially? It seems backwards to me when Bill Gates is vilified for his wealth- which is brought forth by creative thought, innovation, productivity- and praised when he gives said wealth away to those that have not earned it.
The second explanation is an issue of fairness, which stems from the moral misuse of the first. The moral sanction of today claims it’s “unfair” that Wal-Mart, and other Big businesses and their CEOs are doing much better than their competitors. They claim it’s not right that these rich CEOs and Big business-types are making billions while there are those that are barely getting by. But what does that say, really? To the altruists, the wealthy have a moral duty to spread their wealth around; to the altruists, the rich have a moral duty to give their well-earned money to those that haven’t earned it; to the altruists, the producers have a moral duty to provide for the non-producers. Now, I ask, how is that right- how is that moral?
This isn’t a new phenomenon either. Read your history concerning Rockefeller, to start. Decades later, during the 80s, the government forced Bill Gates to give some of his secrets away to the competition. On what level, from what place is that moral? The nature of the market necessitates the existence of both small and large business. It necessitates uneven salaries, and wealth. But the altruists say it’s unfair these businesses have created so much, have produced so much, and have earned so much. The “American dream,” I’d say, is not one of giving your wealth away, nor is it about enabling those who choose, for some reason or another, not to. The American dream (and I’ll say this is, more deeply and philosophically, a human dream, a human right) is wholly individualistic. It’s about our individual right to choose to amount to something; it’s about our individual right to choose, on our own volition, to employ the talents we have to expound upon said talents; it’s about our individual right to pursue our own happiness, with reason as our means of perception. The Sam Waltons, or Bill Gates of the world should be viewed, not as immoral, “greedy, and selfish,” but as heroes, as producers, as the individuals who pursued their own self-interest and, in doing so, created millions of jobs, enhanced economies, raised standards of living.
If you think that is wrong, well, you’re simply crazy.
If you want to learn more about these ideas, about Ayn Rand, the failings of Altruism and Man’s rights, check out the links listed below:
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