Soho Forum

"Is Selfishness a Virtue?": A Reason/Soho Forum Debate, January 16

Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute takes on Gene Epstein of the Soho Forum, with Judge Andrew Napolitano as guest moderator!

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Reason

Is selfishness a virtue? Ayn Rand, influential among many self-described libertarians, certainly thought so. Her novel's characters are famous for declaring that things such as: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man." In the introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness (1964), she declared:

"The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: 'Why do you use the world "selfishness" to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?'

"To those who ask it, my answer is: 'For the reason that makes you afraid of it.'"

Yet many libertarians say that not only are Rand and her Objectivist followers wrong to valorize selfishness, they make it hard for libertarianism to appeal to a wider range of people.

Soho Forum

This divide will be debated at the next Reason-sponsored Soho Forum Debate at New York's Subculture Theater on January 16. Defending the proposition will by Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. Gene Epstein, the co-founder and moderator of the Soho Forum, will step into the ring himself to oppose the notion that selfishness is a virtue, or even inherently libertarian. Given the heat thrown off by the subject, we knew we needed a moderator with the wisdom of Solomon to preside. So we've got Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst and the author of a string of incredible books, to run the debate.

Because it's an Oxford-style debate, audience members vote before and after the debate and get to ask questions. The winner is the debater who moved the larger percentage of people to his side. Tickets cost $18 and $10 for students and must be purchased in advance. Admission includes free food and there is a cash bar selling beer, wine, and soft drinks.

The event will also be livestreamed at Reason's Facebook page and at Reason.com; online viewers will also be able to vote and submit questions. Event details:

Is Selfishness a Virtue?
Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute vs. Gene Epstein of the Soho Forum
Moderated by Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News

January 16, 2018

Cash bar opens at 5:45pm
Event starts at 6:30pm
Subculture Theater, 45 Bleecker St, NY, 10012
Tickets must be purchased in advance.

For past Reason/Soho Forum debates, go here for an archive.

The debates also appear as part the Reason Podcast, a thrice-weekly podcast featuring Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, Peter Suderman, and me arguing about the news of the week; in-depth interviews with newsmakers, authors, innovators, and politicians; and recordings of Reason events. Go here to subscribe at iTunes.

And subscribe to Reason's YouTube channel, which recently passed 100 million views, and carries video of past Soho Forum debates. Here's December 11's debate with the Center for American Progress's Neera Tanden debating Foundation for Government Accountability's Tarren Bragdon over the proposition "Resolved: 15 Million Americans Would Be Better Off Without Welfare."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

166 responses to “"Is Selfishness a Virtue?": A Reason/Soho Forum Debate, January 16

  1. Let me guess. No one is going to bother defining selfishness. Without such a definition, this debate is meaningless. Why? Because in the broadest sense, it is impossible for a conscious entity to not be selfish. For example, do you think Mother Theresa was selfish? Of course she was. Why did she help poor people? She did because it made her happy and it gave her purpose. She did it for herself. A totally selfish life.

    So, then, what are we really talking about here?

    1. Concern with ones own interests.

      1. Wasn’t Mother Teresa concerned with her own interests?

        1. I just hope they pick a definition and argue that in the actual debate.

        2. Not in the away you mean it. Her “interest” was a moral obligation which she obeyed.

    2. Let me guess. No one is going to bother defining selfishness

      Rand did. But most libertarians have no clue https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7077407

      Without such a definition, this debate is meaningless.

      Including everything you said. That link will educate you on the general principle.

      The did because it made her happy and it gave her purpose.

      Read the link!

      1. Hihn, you linked to your own comment, which is just a meandering rant with all the structure of a shoggoth. Give me your definition right here, right now, in one sentence.

        1. a meandering rant with all the structure of a shoggoth

          THAT causes the boldface ? to highlight multiple errors, even contradicting yourself.

          Let me guess. No one is going to bother defining selfishness

          Rand did. But most libertarians have no clue

          As we see here.

          That link will educate you on the general principle.

          Give me your definition right here, right now, in one sentence.

          If you understood the topic ? It cannot be done without the context — which requires TWO definitions, AND how they relate

          I’d be happy to lay it out, if you become civil.

          You say somebody has to define the term. The TOPIC is the term as defined by Rand. She was a moral philosopher.

          Perhaps if I address your questions more directly

          do you think Mother Theresa was selfish? Of course she was.

          Exactly the opposite ? as established over 60 years ago.
          1) First you say somebody has to define the term — without which the debate is meaningless.
          2) You go on with something which can only be seen as … meaningless … per YOUR standard

          Cont’d

          1. Cont’d
            (Boldface is response to snark. See top of Part one)

            Why did she help poor people? She did because it made her happy and it gave her purpose

            I must clarify cause and effect.
            She mostly likely did it to fulfill a moral obligation. Altruism.
            Happiness and purpose would be consequences (effects)

            She did it for herself. A totally selfish life.

            You have NO WAY of knowing that. You seem to have falsely assumed only one possible cause. Altruism is the most likely, to anyone aware of what she preached.

            If you wish me to continue
            1) You must be civil.
            2) And must withdraw your diktat for single sentence, as explained.

            Or PERHAPS my reply to your other comment MAY be sufficient.
            https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7077425

            Sorry for the length. I had several errors to address.

            1. P.S. At that linked response to your later comment, I began by praising you.

              Going down the page, you’re the first one even in the ballpark. RAND’s selfishness/ selflessness was solely about “moral priorities” Who do you place FIRST — yourself (as a voluntary choice) or every other single person on earth (as a moral absolute, altruism)

          2. Where did you actually quote Ayn Rand?

    3. “For example, do you think Mother Theresa was selfish? Of course she was. Why did she help poor people? She did because it made her happy and it gave her purpose. She did it for herself.”

      I don’t think Mother Theresa’s happiness was her most important motivation. It was her faith and devotion to a power higher than herself that gave her a purpose. It’s bizarre to look upon her life and conclude that she was trying to make herself happy.

      “Why did she help poor people?”

      She was a Christian. That’s the duty of all Christians.

      1. Thanks, mtrueman. I’ll suggest that his “selfishness” question makes it helpful to note that RAND’S selfishness was opposed to the altruism you describe as Mother Theresa’s cause Rand argue that such actions must be voluntary to have ANY moral meaning.

        “The moral can only be the chosen”
        Or — how is it “moral” to obey orders?

      2. MT had a mystical experience when she was young and spent her entire life trying to repeat it. It’s actually pretty sad.

        1. Shame on you.
          It was an orgasm.

    4. Mother Theresa was afraid of going to hell. Gaining sainthood should make her a shoo in to get into heaven.

      1. Sainthood is supposed to guarantee that that person is in heaven. So it’s a green light for believer to pray for her to intercede with God. You know, like, she’ll vouch for you. To become a bonafide saint means you have to perform two certified miracles. No easy feat.

        1. >>”Sainthood is supposed to guarantee that that person is in heaven”

          That’s what he said.

          Gaining sainthood should make her a shoo in to get into heaven.

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  2. The quotation offends less when fully quoted: “nor ask another man to live for mine.”

    1. It’s the social contract. I’ve been asking a question for years.
      To a Christian: what if an organization of gays in your town OPENLY defended your religious liberty .. including your right to despise homosexuals, personally, but keep the law neutral?

      That’s a suggested deal, only .in return for you doing likewise … defending their right to be homosexual, but without you having to approve of it personally approve of it yourself? Would you make the deal?

      Flip the questions to gays.

      I often get, “THEY NEVER WOULD.”
      “What if we’re imagining an ideal universe, something that would be neat at some time in the future?

      I get VERY few disagreements. Often a smile of satisfaction … at themselves.

  3. the term “Selfishness” is itself an attempt to steal a base before debate has even begun

    the term should be “Self Interest”

    Rand may have embraced the former term; but Rand was, admittedly, a bit of a salty cunt.

    “Self-interest” is far less value-loaded; it also is a quality we associate with mature minds, while “Selfishness” is the characteristic of children who are unable to engage in any rational measure of their own real interests. “BUT I WANT” is the only demand of the selfish; awareness of self-interest implies the ability to weigh personal costs and personal benefits and make informed decisions.

    and i think calling something a virtue is possibly also a mistake: everyone by default already has self-interests. its not some quality limited to few.

    Recognizing them, and deciding how to best serve them is perhaps a ‘learned skill’, but not a virtue – which implies some moral-value. Pursuit of self-interest surely *can* reflect an individual’s moral qualities, but i think trying to conflate virtue with ‘ability to get what you want’ (which Rand does) is mixing apples+oranges.

    What is more interesting than the claimed ‘virtues’ of self interest is the fact that some argue the inverse: that *absence* of it is the true source of virtue. “selflessness” is the sign of goodness. I think it is easier to show this latter case to be false, than to try to turn Horatio Alger into a saint.

    1. You don’t think children weigh costs and benefits? They do. I don’t want to tell you what you meant, but perhaps you were trying to distinguish between high and low time preference. As in, kids can’t negotiate well with their future self and everything is about immediate gratification. That is a good point, and important when talking about economic decisions. But I don’t think that goes to the heart of this debate, which seems to me to be a out some concept of sacrifice.

      1. which seems to me to be a out some concept of sacrifice.

        Going down the page, you’re the first one even in the ballpark. RAND’s selfishness/ selflessness was solely about “moral priorities” Who do you place FIRST — yourself (as a voluntary choice) or every other single person on earth (as a moral absolute, altruism)

        ANY other dichotomy is wrong (for the topic)… and WHY both Rand and libertarians are so totally misunderstood (even by most of today’s libertarians) Libertarians are WRONG in trying to apply her moral philosophy to a political philosophy — which she said quite often, as she declined to deal with political questions on more than abstract moral principles, that even libertarians fail at.

        Paraphrasing, “Voluntary Taxation” (a term of the day) could NOT be done until AFTER the concepts of individual liberty had already been imbued to the society.. First, change the culture — which many libertarians (mostly anti-gubmint) FAIL to grasp, in their authoritarian mentality … identical in principle to Hitler’s ls Master Race..

        DO IT SOLELY BECAUSE I AM MORALLY SUPERIOR TO YOU!
        They actually RIDICULE Consent of the Governed and Will of the People. How self-righteous is THAT?

      2. You don’t think children weigh costs and benefits? They do

        Take it up with Jean Piaget, if you need to.

    2. Rand may have embraced the former term; but Rand was, admittedly, a bit of a salty cunt.

      Youn just humiliated yourself, as always. https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7077407

      but i think trying to conflate virtue with ‘ability to get what you want’ (which Rand does) is mixing apples+oranges.(lol) THE LINK!

    3. “Self-interest” is far less value-loaded; it also is a quality we associate with mature minds, while “Selfishness” is the characteristic of children who are unable to engage in any rational measure of their own real interests.”

      To me, it’s even more basic than that.

      The egoists will typically claim that no one is actually behaving selflessly, that the Mother Theresas of the world are simply motivated by other forms of self-interest be it the afterlife, a sense of moral superiority, etc.

      It’s as if the egoists think that nothing can be selfless if there’s any way it can also be interpreted as beneficial to the person making the sacrifice.

      But do they extend the same restrictions on selfishness? Is an action never really selfish if it also in some way benefits the person making the sacrifice?

      Either extreme leads to problems.

      1. I once read about a Marine who jumped on a grenade to save his buddies–the ultimate sacrifice. Some might claim that his sacrifice was actually selfish because he cared more about his buddies than he did about himself. That would lead to one hell of a contradiction–if we’re saying that someone is selfish because he cares more about other people than he does about himself. Doesn’t that contract anybody’s definition of selfishness?

        Meanwhile, all throughout the natural world, we see examples of altruistic behavior giving species an advantage over their competitors. Meanwhile, Adam Smith correctly showed that altruism arises naturally from the individual actions of everyday people–in the form of the invisible hand–and that government interference ruins it.

        There’s a reason why Rand despised Hayek, and it was a bad one.

        1. Meanwhile, Adam Smith correctly showed that altruism arises naturally from the individual actions of everyday people–in the form of the invisible hand–and that government interference ruins it.

          Your anti-gubmint purpose MAY have been what led you far astray. Smith did no such thing, since altruism is a moral commandment. An obligation. An absolute.

          There’s a reason why Rand despised Hayek, and it was a bad one

          Related to the rather obvious error above?

          1. “altruism is a moral commandment. An obligation. An absolute.”

            You seem to have missed out on everything that’s happened in evolutionary science since the 1950s.

            Altruistic behavior is routinely exhibited by organisms that can’t even pass the mirror test.

            https://tinyurl.com/yar6ykdq

            Once again, the point is that altruistic behavior–much to Rand’s egoist chagrin–confers benefits that make society’s thrive.

            One of the key differences is that other species don’t need to contend with authoritarian government forcing them to make sacrifices on others’ behalf. Each of them makes their own individual choices (in whatever capacity) to sacrifice for others in a biological market. Those that choose to engage in altruistic behavior apparently reap the reward of survival and thrive.

            1. altruism is a moral commandment. An obligation. An absolute.”

              You seem to have missed out on everything that’s happened in evolutionary science since the 1950s

              Ready?

              Altruistic behavior is routinely exhibited by organisms that can’t even pass the mirror test.

              How does their free will compare with that of humans?
              What are your views on the most appropriate moral philosophy for amoebas?
              How is free will best applied by ants
              How do spiders redeem themselves for moral errors? Is redemption even available to them?
              When Jesus Christ preached to caterpillars, was that the Sermon on a TINY Mount?

              1. Once again, if the natural world doesn’t conform to your personal biases, that does not mean that the natural world is wrong.

                1. Evasion? LAUGHABLE evasion?

                  Altruistic behavior is routinely exhibited by organisms that can’t even pass the mirror test.

                  How does their free will compare with that of humans?
                  What are your views on the most appropriate moral philosophy for amoebas?
                  How is free will best applied by ants
                  How do spiders redeem themselves for moral errors? Is redemption even available to them?
                  When Jesus Christ preached to caterpillars, was that the Sermon on a TINY Mount

                  Once again, if the natural world doesn’t conform to your personal biases, that does not mean that the natural world is wrong.

                  It’s my “personal bias” that amoebas, ants, spiders and caterpillars DO NOT HAVE FREE WILL!

      2. “But do they extend the same restrictions on selfishness? Is an action never really selfish if it also in some way benefits the person [not] making the sacrifice?”

        Fixed!!!

        You knew what I meant.

    4. There is a Jewish proverb that goes something like ” If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am ONLY for myself, what am I?”

      1. What does that have to do with anything here?

        For Rand, “selfish” merely meant that one’s self could come FIRST … which is not ONLY.
        Versus altruism which mandates placing others above self, as a moral obligation.

  4. There’s no such thing as selfless. We do everything because it appeals, in some way, to us. So selfishness is a virtue, a survival instinct, and a cancer all wrapped into one.

    1. You miss a key distinction. Totally.

      In Rand’s PHILOSOPHY, selfishness means ONLY the opposite of altruism
      Do YOU hold the needs and “welfare” (generic) of every individual human on earth above your own needs? Essentially, having NO self?

    2. Speak of the devil, . . .

      This is what I was talking about above.

      Because something isn’t 100% altruistic doesn’t mean it isn’t 98% altruistic.

      Because something isn’t 100% selfish doens’t mean it isn’t 98% selfish either.

      A man throwing himself on a grenade to save his friends is not behaving selfishly because he cares more about other people than himself. Selfishness is not caring about other people more than your own life.

      In trying to cop out of the dilemma, you’ve basically negated the argument about the non-existence of real altruism.

      And why would you want to do that?

      The more substantive arguments about altruism come from evolutionary biology. There are numerous examples of various species putting their lives at risk to help others. If these sorts of self-sacrificial behaviors net out to a positive (a la the invisible hand of benevolence), that doens’t mean they don’t involve sacrifice and aren’t altruistic. That sacrificial types of behavior gave those specific competitors advantages in the struggle for survival is sort of the point.

      1. The more substantive arguments about altruism come from evolutionary biology. There are numerous examples of various species putting their lives at risk to help others

        They don’t have free will. And your own link proves you wrong!! (emphasis added)

        In biology, altruism refers to behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.[1] Altruism in this sense is different from the philosophical concept of altruism, in which an action would only be called “altruistic” if it was done with the conscious intention of helping another. In the behavioural sense, there is no such requirement. As such, it is not evaluated in moral terms?it is the consequences of an action for reproductive fitness that determine whether the action is considered altruistic, not the intentions, if any, with which the action is performed.[2]

        You don’t know what conscious intention” means!
        Fourth attempt. Your own source says “conscience intent” is the rule. How does an amoeba demonstrate “conscious intent” without Free Will?

    3. Altruism is not irrational. It arises naturally as an aspect of evolution, which itself works like Adam Smith’s invisible hand of benevolence*. Because altruism creates a society in which we can thrive which selfishness can’t is sort of the point. Rand’s problem that she associates altruism with things like forced sacrifice–which isn’t really altruistic at all. The people in power forcing others to do things for the benefit of the people in power–and justifying it with altruism–is not an example of altruism at all.

      *If there were no examples of altruism in the natural world (outside of homo sapiens), that would be an excellent argument for the existence of God. Unfortunately for creationists, altruism is rife in the natural world. Dawkins has written extensively on this issue.

      1. Rand’s problem that she associates altruism with things like forced sacrifice–which isn’t really altruistic at all.

        Because you lied about her position. Not “force” but a “moral obligation.”
        You’re on a libertarian website .. WE know what force means, why don’t you?

  5. To be clear Rand talks about “rational selfishness”.

  6. Yeah, I don’t believe in altruism, we do what we do because it’s what we want to do given the options that are available to us. So “selfishness” is kind of a meaningless term. Giving the beggar on the corner a dollar is a selfish act when you consider that you’re really buying a dollar’s worth of feeling good about yourself and if the good feeling wasn’t worth a dollar you wouldn’t have made the trade.

    1. You may be unaware of “altruism” which is critical. She was a MORAL philosopher, dealing with severely opposing values. https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7077440

    1. Not to forget, it’s crackers to slip a rozzer, the dropsy in snide! (For most matters like this)

      1. Drop the “millennial-speak”. It’s just plain idiotic!

        1. That’s from Mad Magazine in the late 1950s. It’s used to lampoon gibberish
          Or do you not know who millenials are?

          1. Were you, also, funny in the 1950s?

            1. The late 50s. Three of us did comedy skits before most high-school assemblies.
              Today is a far more target-rich environment!

              Kids had much more purpose back then. As new Freshmen, in the Fall of 1960, we launched the student protest movement. It had nothing to do with the war or equal rights. It was entirely anti-authority. We had REALLY crazy “rules” at the time. THAT is when the libertarian movement began. The other protests co-opted what we started. Most trace the movement to the layer YAF/Goldwater influence, but that was a few years later. The anti-authority ethic was a few years earlier. We had been raised in the most oppressive decade, so were REALLY pissed when we saw our “liberation” was a fraud.

              Just sayin’ humor can also be quite serious.

              1. My guess was spot-on!

  7. There’s something serious to the suggestion that people wanting to pursue their own interests is fundamental to a free society. That was painfully apparent to people during the Cold War, when the evil of communism was sold on how we all need to be forced to make sacrifices for other people. The obvious stupidity of that idea was more apparent when communists were piling on dead bodies by the millions.

    However, after the fall of communism, we’ve seen some of our own biggest mistakes (from the Iraq War to ObamaCare), marketed as making sacrifices for other people, too. The susceptibility to terrible arguments on that basis hasn’t gone away. The terrible argument hasn’t gone away. They just changed the branding. “Progressive” is all about using the coercive power of government to force people to make sacrifices for what they see as the common good.

    Where Rand gets it wrong is that she conflates the natural benevolence that arises from human interactions (a la Smith’s invisible hand) with the opposite of selfishness. The fact is that altruism arises in the natural world–even as an aspect of evolution and survival of the fittest. Yes, those organisms and societies that embraced altruism survived those that didn’t. The difference is that when people (and other organisms) make such altruistic sacrifices willingly, the benefits to their society outweigh the negatives, but when people are forced to do this by government, it doesn’t work that way.

    1. “societies that embraced altruism survived those that didn’t.”

      But the USSR didn’t survive.

      1. 1) The USSR failed because of the authoritarianism–not because they cared about each other.

        2) The USSR is an excellent example of the opposite of altruism.

        To the latter point . . .

        If altruism is willingly making sacrifices for other people, then how can forcing others to make sacrifices be altruism?

        Like I said, they billed themselves as altruism. It was authoritarianism in sheep’s clothing–Stalin didn’t really care about other people. He sent them to the gulags to die by the millions. He starved them to death. The USSR’s altruism was a lie–something Orwell correctly pointed out before “Animal Farm” in 1948. He clearly saw that Soviet altruism was a lie during the Spanish civil war.

        Libertarians understand that you can’t care about people and also systematically violate their rights. Those two things are incompatible. Caring about people and respecting their rights isn’t contradictory at all. People being free to make choices for themselves is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about rights, and respecting their right to make choices for themselves is what I mean by “caring about people”.

        1. If altruism is willingly making sacrifices for other people,

          It’s not.

          then how can forcing others to make sacrifices be altruism?

          It can’t but for a different reason. Altruism is a MORAL: obligation, imposed by conscience and duty. The USSR imposed by force, and not even close to a primary cause. The USSR primary is denial of all rights. Altruism does not, and enforcement (as such) is by a God (for believers)

          1. “Altruism is a MORAL: obligation, imposed by conscience and duty.”

            Altruism is exhibited by termites.

            https://tinyurl.com/y8n6phbd

            1. Altruism is exhibited by termites

              How does their free will compare with that of humans?
              What are your views on the most appropriate moral philosophy for amoebas?
              How is free will best applied by ants
              How do spiders redeem themselves for moral errors? Is redemption even available to them?
              When Jesus Christ preached to caterpillars, was that the Sermon on a TINY Mount?

              1. How is understanding altruism from observation of the natural world better than making shit up and then randomly attacking people who don’t buy your bullshit?

                That question answers itself, doesn’t it?

                You have no idea what you’re talking about, and when people point out that the world around you doesn’t conform to your random pronouncements, you become hostile–even when they do it politely.

                If I weren’t so bored waiting for a party to start, I wouldn’t bother responding at all.

          2. What Ayn Rand particularly opposed was the concept of duty. Duty was a value that Kant espoused and it was a big reason why she hated Kant. Kant held that human beings have a duty to act in a moral way, and ignore whether or not an action benefited them or not. In fact, the less it benefited the person, the more moral it was. Ayn Rand found this despicable as it was opposed to the moral law of cause and effect.

            1. Altruism is a MORAL: obligation, imposed by conscience and duty

              What Ayn Rand particularly opposed was the concept of duty.

              Thanks for confirming what I’ve said all down the page. Perhaps a tenth mention may finally get my point across.
              We can only hope.

    2. Where Rand gets it wrong is that she conflates the natural benevolence that arises from human interactions (a la Smith’s invisible hand) with the opposite of selfishness.

      TOTALLY backwards.

      Rational selfishness is the opposite of what ALTRUISM says it is. If one does not understandf altruism as a moral obligation one cannot possibly grasp what she was defending.

      She was DEFENDING the natural benevolence of humans as a right … a VOLUNTARY choice .. not a moral obligation.” As a moral philosopher, she did not phrase it that way — as a defense of benevolence — simply because the defense of CHOICE is the higher value. The libertarian value.

      “The moral can only be the chosen.”

      1. Make no mistake–Ayn Rand was attacking altruism itself as inherently irrational.

        1. Make no mistake – That’s what I said, correcting your “backwards”
          And explaining why.

      2. Sheesh…you finally quoted her.

        1. Paloma|1.2.18 @ 1:54AM|#
          Sheesh…you finally quoted her

          Two days before you claimed I hadn’t https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7078209
          … while also implying I had some obligation to.

          Are you stalking me? I als because that’s three wacko comments (so far)

  8. I.e, it isn’t the sacrificing for others that’s the problem. It’s using the coercive power of government to force people to make sacrifices for the benefit of others (see the Iraq War, ObamaCare, AGW, or other examples of forced sacrifice). Take conscription, for example . . . having individuals in our society who are willing to volunteer for military service and put themselves in harm’s way because they care more about defending the constitution, freedom, and their buddies than they do about themselves is not the problem–and the world would not be a better place if they were more selfish.

    Freely sacrificing for others is not the problem; moreover, forced sacrifice is a form of selfishness.

    The problem with the government throwing millions of people in prison for preferring certain intoxicants and taxing the hell out of everybody under threat of violence to finance it for decade after decade is not the result of benevolence. They may sell such programs as if we’re making sacrifices to benefit the people they’re persecuting, but that’s a sick joke. Programs like that persist because not enough of us care about, for instance, the victims of the drug war. In reality, authoritarianism is incompatible with caring too much about other people. I suppose there is an argument to make that not enough people understand the consequences of authoritarian solutions, but that isn’t the argument Rand is making about selfishness.

    She’s identifying altruism itself as the problem.

    1. , it isn’t the sacrificing for others that’s the problem. It’s using the coercive power of government to force people to make sacrifices for the benefit of others

      Umm, that bbullcraop, by antigubminfg libertartiabs is a disgrace to both Rand and libertarians. If you knew what altruism means, you;d know that your conclusion is the PRECISE opposite of the examples you state.

      She’s identifying altruism itself as the problem.

      So why all the anti-gummint bullcrap? Do you really not know what altruism IS?

      It’s a MORAL principle, for all of humankind, regardless of government, that we have a moral OBLIGATION to place the welfare of others above ourselves — all others above ourselves … which would apply even in anarchy,

      The examples you state ARE why both Rand and actual (pro-liberty) libertarians are so totally slandered.

      1. sorry for sloppy spelling. SUBMITted before the spellcheck

      2. This comment is riddled with logical fallacies.

        It’s hard to know where to begin, but conversations with you always end the same way–so might as well just avoid the whole thing.

        1. Your error was to insert anti-government trolling into a MORAL issue.

      3. Because Ethics applies to individual actions. Ethics as defined by Rand is a code of values to guide the individual’s actions. It doesn’t stand by itself, but rather flows from Metaphysics (the nature of reality) and Epistemology (how do we know this?) And political and social philosophy flows from individual Ethics. Not the other way around.

        1. And political and social philosophy flows from individual Ethics. Not the other way around.

          That’s now your fourth nonsensical response — here “correcting” what nobody had reversed.


          Paloma|1.2.18 @ 1:54AM|#
          Sheesh…you finally quoted her

          Two days before you claimed I hadn’t https://reason.com/blog/2017/12…..nt_7078209
          … while also implying I had some obligation to.

          Are you stalking me? I ask because that’s three four wacko comments (so far)

      4. All of this misses the real point of individual liberty vs just about everything else here.

        The desire/compulsion to control the lives and property of other people is the ROOT of all evil. The relative motives/labels attached to that lust to control others is not material.

        The question is: Whom do you desire to control? Yourself alone, or anyone you can subdue or coerce into “allowing” it? Do YOU want others to be in control of your life? Whether they call that altruism or not? Do YOU want to control the lives of others? Do you call that altruism?

        Why do people allow “Rand” or anyone else to do their thinking for them? Think for yourself.

        1. All of this misses the real point of individual liberty vs just about everything else here.

          It’s neither the topic not the issue here.
          But Rand’s “self” is entirely individual liberty,vs altruism. If one wants to place the needs and concerns of others above one’s self, that’s your right, just don’t try impose it on anyone one else And vice versa.

  9. Well, a large percentage of libertarians lie about what she meant, because .. they are the a-holes progressives say we all are. That’s why they demand repeal of Medicaid .. rejecting what the free-market outcomes were — and SHITTING on the same “voluntary human nature” they CLAIM to support … while REAL libertarians would transition back to the market outcome of universal TREATMENT for the uninsured … even regardless of income

    They also don’t know why Rand REALLY ridiculed libertarians (then mostly anarchists)

    Libertopia is the exact opposite of a free society … roughly patterned on Galt’s Gulch … which pissed off Rand because Galt’s Gulch was created for people who were all almost totally alike … thus would NEVER work for an entire society. (Libertopia is for libertarians only, the moral equivalent of Moonies, Davidians and People’s Temple — a disgrace in itself)

    On taxes, bat-shit crazy notions — like every equivalent to “repeal the income tax and ruin the entire government on FICAS taxes! — would be the last step, not the first step, toward a free society, the last reform, not the first to be launched. A list of things would have to happen first, essentially “change the culture first.” … which our goobers sneer at, being self-righteous authoritarians.. And so we fail.

    The worst damage to Rand is … faux libertarians. (See opening sentence)

    That is on top of free-standing craziness, like Cato’s Medicare Vouchers! Good grief.

  10. If self-interest was good then we wouldn’t have government in the first place. QED.

    1. That is indeed “incomprehensible” … and precisely the mentality that Rand (the topic) opposed.

  11. Do we have a definition of selfishness which the Randians would accept?

    Are there real-life examples of altruism – you know, selfishness’s evil opposite – or will every example of apparent altruism be met with the rebuttal, “well, you know, that’s actually selfishness, properly understood”?

    1. Feeding the hungry? “Makes me feel good and improves the public health and I’m a member of the public, ergo it’s selfish.”

      Clothing the naked? “Makes me less queasy to see people fully clothed, and the taxes paid by the clothing industry relieve my own tax burden, therefore it’s selfish.”

      Caring for lepers? “Shows my capacity for healing, demonstrates my power and willingness to take risks, therefore selfish!”

      1. Feeding the hungry? …. Clothing the naked? …. Caring for lepers? “,….

        No.
        Rand fought altruism, that we had a MORAL OBLIGATION to do such things … which actually ROBS them of virtue. To freely CHOOSE such action is a virtue. Altruism equates it to following the speed limit — obedience.
        Of the two, which has the potential to celebrate the human spirit?

        “The moral can ONLY be the chosen.” (paraphrased from memory)

    2. Rand used the dictionary definition: concern with ones own interests.

      1. Rand used the dictionary definition

        That’s only half of it.:
        She meant it as the opposite of altruism — which places the interests of everyone else above the interest of one’s self, as a moral absolute. Rand argued it was NOT to place “self” above others … but ONLY in a non-aggressive way.

        We need not place the needs of others above our own, but must acknowledge place the IGHTS of others as equal to ours. She was raised in the Soviet Union.

        The asshats twist that into claiming it’s immoral to voluntarily help others. Many libertarians (asshats) imply that, which allows critics to say selfishness means (to Rand) trampling anyone else BECAUSE they are non-self.
        THAT selfishness would indeed be a moral atrocity..

    3. Do we have a definition of selfishness which the Randians would accept?

      That’s precisely backwards when the topic is what Rand meant, which seems to have faded from consciousness

  12. It’s a sad commentary on the libertarian community when this kind of thing is viewed as serious philosophizing. This should have been settled in 1957 with the publication of Atlas Shrugged! Is it any wonder the movement has gotten virtually nowhere since then?

    1. Atlas never dealt with it in this manner. The selfish/selfless dichotomy evolved more from Objectivism, it’s many venues,.

      And it actually is MORAL philosophizing, which libertarians REALLY screwed up in HOW we politicized it.

  13. *Pats Randian on the head* Yes, yes, you are the best person ever because you think about your own needs more than other people’s, just like everyone else except with extra humorlessness. Go, do great things. Aren’t you a cute little ?bermensch!

    1. Bullshit. I’d say shame on you, but assume you speak from ignorance — and use the wrong issue.

      The issue is whether the concerns and needs of others is a moral OBLIGATION or a free choice.

      “The moral can ONLY be the chosen.” Following diktats is OBEDIENCE..

      Anything else?

      1. Yeah but Rand made it pretty clear that accepting charity makes you an abomination worthy of death, so however free your moral choice to help others, you’re actually harming them, and she say so very plainly. If that’s even what we’re talking about. I was just making fun of a stupid cult.

        1. Yeah but Rand made it pretty clear that accepting charity makes you an abomination worthy of death,

          Bullshit, Shameful bullshit. You are not normally suckered by the extremes of your left.

          so however free your moral choice to help others, you’re actually harming them, and she say so very plainly.

          Equally shameful.

          If that’s even what we’re talking about. I was just making fun of a stupid cult.

          I’m ridiculing you for confusing her with ,… at least three stupid cults.

          1. So you’re saying that Ayn Rand thought it was morally laudable to accept handouts? Because I read her books and I’m pretty sure anyone who did that dies in a fire or is said to deserve such.

            1. It’s the flip side of “voluntary altruism”
              GIVING help must be voluntary to be moral.
              So ,… you say she defended voluntary charity ,,, with nobody receiving it?
              Which books did you read?. None of the novels. Would have to be a philosophy treatise. Or one of the two newsletters with Branden.

              Do you know she defended hippie communes? Unlike today’s rightwing wackos, she understood the difference between state and voluntary communism. What she said, I thought was BRILLIANT, that they’re only mistake was thinking they had to become farmers. A few years later, as a management consultant, that came to mind when I read of several types of BUSINESSES that were communal. The most detail was a Showtime Special on a video production company. They made.corporate videos.

              I recall feeling being surprised how EVERYTHING was communal, the business and their residences. SO communal that they twice clarified they were not sharing spouses, a question they probably got a LOT.

        2. Really Tony? Where does she make that clear?

  14. I can’t believe anyone even bothers with comments here anymore.

    the reason people left for ‘the other place’ wasn’t as much about the magazine’s editorial tilt as people think.

    it was mostly … this shit.

    1. “other place” meaning Cato?

      1. Glibertarians. Stop by and chat at while. They’ll be glad to have you–so long as you’re not a troll.

        Incidentally, I see this place as different.

        The other place is more like being invited over to a family BBQ. Everybody pretty much knows and likes everybody else. They treat each other well. The other place is about the choir singing together and having some laughs.

        This place is more like outreach.

        This place is for meeting with people who maybe aren’t libertarians–it’s not about preaching to the choir.

        I think it’s true a lot of the old people left because their friends all went over there–and they wanted to keep talking to their friends. I think that was easier to do because some of the new staff here . . . aren’t part of the choir either and don’t write like the old bunch did. I think some of the new staff are libertarian because it’s a paying gig, and those aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. If the libertarian thing didn’t work out, they might have ended up writing for a website about gardening or something else.

        That’s not gonna sit well with true believers in the choir.

        1. In other words, literally the stupidest thing in the history of the universe. Not even saved by the irony of its proud “fascist version of Reason” identity.

          1. literally the stupidest thing in the history of the universe

            Not pictured: Self-awareness.

          2. You need to stop calling everything fascist.

            1. What do you call it when pro-capitalist anti-handout philosophies conveniently find excuses for why they can accept Kickstarter or other donations to run their outfit?

              1. Completely normal? Certainly people voluntarily giving another isn’t any definition of fascism I ever see.

                Do you really make no distinction between taxation and voluntary charity?

                1. Accepting handouts is to admit that your product can’t survive an actual market, which is supposed to be the prime arbiter of value in the world. I’m hardly the first to point out the irony of how totally libertarianism (Reason, think tanks, professorships, movie versions of Atlas Shrugged) relies on charity.

                  1. Except it’s not. People funding things of their own volition is an example of markets as well. If people think this is some contradiction than they have a grave misunderstanding of markets.

                    1. A billionaire funding a pet project does not exemplify the cumulative rationality that markets are supposed to be.

                    2. A billionaire funding a pet project does not exemplify the cumulative rationality that markets are supposed to be.

                      Are you REALLY Tony, or Ken Schultz trying to make Tony look like a drooling idiot.

                      LEAVE! I am embarrassed for you.
                      1) Should he fund something he disapproves of?
                      2) Or never fund anything?
                      But YOU are not the fascist?

                  2. I’m hardly the first to point out the irony of how totally libertarianism (Reason, think tanks, professorships, movie versions of Atlas Shrugged) relies on charity.

                    Tony, Tony, Tony,

                    This is NOT a good topic for you. NOW you see “irony” that organizations fighting to replace government welfare with private charity are not opposed to the very thing they’re fighting for! That’s like the “irony” of Bernie voting to double my taxes. WITHOUT considering the wacky notion of them relying on charity! FOR WHAT?

                    Is it related to the wacky notion that Rand argued against RECEIVING charity … and supported GIVING to charity. So I’d be trying to help some less fortunate .. while telling him to refuse my help!

        2. I blame Facebook

    2. What pisses you off about this so much?

      1. He gets ridiculed so much.
        So he blames …

        1. For real Gilmore. I ask you this question in good faith with true curiosity.

          1. If threads these days are mostly Tony, Hihn, Tulpa sock puppets, Shrike and other trolls, why would you want to stick around for that?

            It’s all the worst things about threads with little of the good stuff.

            Why would a thread inhabited mostly by the people who used to come here for the sole purpose of trolling the rest of us be better now than it used to be?

            1. I don’t think it is. Hihn is intermittent at best. But I think I get a lot of good discussion here. I think trolling isn’t too high, though there is a lot of fucking around. I don’t know I would qualify as troll or not under your estimation.

              I still think it’s a pretty good place for open discussion and comradery. There is a smattering of people who are avowedly not libertarian as well who often give good discussion, even if I disagree. Chemjeff, Stormy, and some others.

              I’m very new though, I barely started posting around the election so I missed out on the old days before the Glibbening. I don’t have any hate towards them leaving, but I don’t believe here is bad at all.

      2. -dDid i say “pissed off”?

        no, i was just depressed at how this place has turned into a sewer of stupid. its the dregs of the dregs all the time now. the signal-to-noise ratio is all noise.

        i don’t think i should even need to cite ‘evidence’ of this when its quite literally sprinkled all around you. try and count 3 posts without stepping in an intellectual cow-pie

        1. No, pissed off was just my colloquial way to ask “what do you dislike.” Did not mean to imply anything negative with that phrasing.

          And I don’t think it’s as bad as you say. The population is low now, but I think reasonable discussion and smart people still come to talk. The biggest loss was that it seems many of our oldest members left, which means we lost a lot of knowledge. But I don’t believe that everyone left is stupid in anyway. I’ve had good conversations with several people just this week.

          I’ve noticed you do frequent here and Glibs though. What brings you back?

          1. -“”What brings you back?””

            i’ve never left. i just read w/o bothering w/ the comment section.

            with reasonable/fascr turned on, i look down at the comments and its a sea of blanked-out entries. which means, “tony, mtrueman, buttplug, amsoc, hinh, et al” running rampant.

            1. I miss Reasonable. It’s broken for me now

  15. RationalWiki really is full of good stuff:

    [Ayn Rand’s] philosophy is sort of a photonegative of Leninism. If Lenin believed that capitalists exploiting the farmers and workers of the world is killing them, then Rand says that capitalists producing value is the only thing keeping the farmers and workers of the world alive. If the Communist ideal is collective ownership, then Rand is going to say that there is no such thing as society, only individuals. It’s possible Ayn herself was aware of this: In an equivalent of Lenin, Galt spends an exhaustive 12 years hiding from the police and building his spy network.

    Here’s the funny thing, though: In Atlas Shrugged you have a small group of men in charge of the whole economy. They are above the law, they can even kill those who stand in their way so long, as the phrase goes, the trains run on time. Which, of course, is similar to how the Soviets ran their economy. She just replaced Politburo-appointed apparatchiks with strong-jawed Captains of Industry.

    1. For a Wiki called rational…

    2. Here’s the funny thing, though: In Atlas Shrugged you have a small group of men in charge of the whole economy. They are above the law, they can even kill those who stand in their way

      What’s “funny” about a far more oppressive government than we had then or have now? Many see it as Orwell’s 1984 on drugs.

      That reads crazy enough to be from Daily Kos!

    3. Oh, RatholeWiki, you will never be OK.

      It’s funny that this comes up here, since when I first looked at that dump I was googling stuff about Rand. Obviously people who claim to be “rational” should dig her, right?

      I ended up on a page that was basically a whiny, illiterate, passive-aggressive hit piece on her, which ended with a photo of her tombstone. Ha ha, get it? What a rational argument!

      OK, so maybe this is one of those troll boards that shits on everybody equally? I looked up Marx. Of course they wrote him a blowjob.

      It’s just another Atheism+ circlejerk of retarded neckbeards lying about everybody they consider “right-wing” (which is almost everybody) while fellating each other for not being creationists. Well, at least it keeps them off the streets.

      1. “Well, at least it keeps them off the streets.”

        Are you sure?

      2. I’m not vouching for the whole website, so do you have anything to say about the “photonegative of Leninism” critique?

        1. You weren’t vouching for the whole Web site, but you said “RationalWiki really is full of good stuff.”

          So it’s just a matter of looking really hard, I suppose?

          1. It’s full of something, alright.

          2. It kind of depends if you’re into rationality and not constantly searching for confirmations of some fringe bullshit political philosophy.

            1. Very insightful:

              “…the comments section on Reason’s “Hit ‘n Run” rivals Yahoo! News for being the worst hive of scum and villiany on the Internet, and provides plenty of evidence to conclude that Web 2.0 with its ‘anyone can comment on anything’ model perhaps isn’t such a good idea.”

              1. I vehemently disagree with that sentiment. The worst political comments boards on the internet are anything linked by Drudge or FOX News. This place is admirably much, much lighter on the overt racism and antisemitism.

              2. Sounds like they have a narrow breadth of Internet knowledge if this is the worst. These comments are actually pretty friendly. People will even talk to PB about apolitical stuff when it comes up. I think we’re pretty good at letting bygones be bygones.

                Also, curious if that last sentence is just a snide remark or if it’s a serious statement.

                1. Genuine; Reason is probably the least white supremacist right-wing comments forum going, which is why I come here. I like to debate people I don’t agree with, but–and this goes conspicuously unnoticed by the outside world–pretty much the entire Trumposphere is just so depressingly ugly in the oppressive weight of the overt bigotry of its citizens. One might reasonably conclude that it’s the central motivating force of their political inclinations.

              3. This place makes me proud to be American.

        2. Other than it seems to be a critique of a different book, what should I say? Would “not even wrong” cover it?

          The trouble with Marxists is that they can’t read anything without filtering it through Marxist lit-crit first to find the “real” meaning, turning it to gibberish in the process, then they complain that it doesn’t make any sense.

          I don’t normally find that sort of thing worth engaging with, any more than feminists looking for double-secret misogynist manifestos in my videogames, or fundies telling me my D&D books and music albums are Satanic. I can’t reason people out of things they were never reasoned into, and it’s boring, tiresome, and unpaid.

          Speaking of which, I’d rather not argue with batshit trolls all night.

          Have a Happy New Year.

      3. No offense intended, but do you what a wiki is? ANYONE can generally write, edit or revise an entry.
        And if one strays from wikipedia, it can be like entering an asylum. This causes many to ridicule Wikipedia as a source, also because they have no clue. Wikipedia is a repository for millions of sources. Look to see the footnotes. Wikipedia policies, and place a bold warning at the top, mostly saying the sources are questionable and requesting editing help.. The others police NOTHING, that I’ve seen.

        Tony got suckered badly by one. Then he got all authoritative, which is tribal instinct both left and right. Absolute certainty based on a Secondary source. Is it MY team? Their high school Comp teachers are spinning in their graves, or weeping at their desks, having taught the importance of sources BOTH primary and credible.

        1. In fact spent many months in my youth in the horse’s mouth, and was merely amused by this particular characterization of Rand’s work, which I also find compelling.

  16. Major layoffs announced in western Kentucky coal mines

    http://www.wave3.com/story/371…..coal-mines

    MAGA!

    1. So, I’m no particular Trump fan. And I’m okay with energy moving to different sources as long as it’s for non coercive reasons. So now, that being said. Gloating over people losing their jobs is pathetic.

      1. I am pointing out the stupidity of Trumptards who actually believed the Con Man when he claimed he would bring those “beautiful coal jobs” back.

        1. And I’m saying you do so in a tactless way that makes evident your cruelty.

          1. Trump voters foisted Trump on the rest of us, which is far crueler than making a joke on the internet, which they will never read anyway because they are too busy having sex with their close blood relatives.

            1. Do you enjoy wallowing at their level?

              1. I have several vices.

                1. I have several vices.

                  Cousin-fucking apparently being one of them since you can’t stop talking about it.

                  1. Do I look like a Trump voter?

                    Not that there’s anything wrong with fucking your cousin. Royalty’s been doing it forever.

            2. Tony|12.31.17 @ 6:57PM|#
              “Trump voters foisted Trump on the rest of us, which is far crueler than making a joke on the internet, which they will never read anyway because they are too busy having sex with their close blood relatives.”

              From an Obo voter who was more than happy to make the rest of us suffer from that lying piece of shit.

        2. When PB talks about xxxtards, this is a very high form of humor
          You may not believe what PB posts as fact. Tribal..

          1. I’m not on a “tribe”, you idiot. I detest Bernie Sanders and his progressive clowns as much as I do conservatives.

            1. you idiot

              Umm, it says NOT agreeing with you is tribal.

              “xxxtards” means when YOU talk about ANYONE as retarded or an idiot, it’s hysterical.
              And you just showed why. Thanks!!

  17. Let’s finish up 2017 by gazing on some great tits!

    1. Damn, all stiff from the cold too.

    1. Media makes me believe the Magi showed up right when Jesus was born. Apparently he had a busy and traumatic time from birth to Epiphany

  18. Welfare is actually in people’s self interest because it prevents the poor from rioting/revolting and killing all the rich people. Either French or Russian style or doing it “democratically” like in Venezuela

    1. Great satire.
      Progressives defending the rich.
      As the first comment of 2018.

    2. In Libertopia there are no poor.

      1. Not sure. But true for a FREE society.

  19. The inevitable argument over definition of terms is sure to be scintillating.

    1. Actually, there’s nothing to debate. As always. several goobers came forward, each spouting their own definition .. when the topic is Ayn’s definition. The ABSOLUTE funniest INSISTED that SHE he had never defined it … then declared how she HAD definned i … and THAT was wrong too!

  20. Ever notice how nobody ever asks whether altruism is a virtue?

    1. It can be. If accepted voluntarily.
      Or do we have a single list of virtues, for all of humanity?
      Determined by who?

      1. f by virtue we mean behavior showing high moral standards then I think at least as it pertains to objective morality we can have a single list of virtues and it would be determined by philosophers.

        1. Or do we have a single list of virtues, for all of humanity?
          Determined by who?

          we can have a single list of virtues and it would be determined by philosophers.

          Who chooses which to believe …
          … when many of them openly hate the views of several others?

          Might that be akin to asking Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of Hezbollah?

    2. Yes they do, it’s called progressivism.

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