In Defense of Selfishness Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2015-06-02
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
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From childhood, we're taught one central, non-controversial idea about morality: self-sacrifice is a virtue. It is universally accepted that serving the needs of others, rather than our own, is the essence of morality. To be ethical—it is believed—is to be altruistic. Questioning this belief is regarded as tantamount to questioning the self-evident.

Here, Peter Schwartz questions it.

In Defense of Selfishness refutes widespread misconceptions about the meaning of selfishness and of altruism. Basing his arguments on Ayn Rand's ethics of rational self-interest, Schwartz demonstrates that genuine selfishness is not exemplified by the brutal plundering of an Attila the Hun or the conniving duplicity of a Bernard Madoff. To the contrary, such people are acting against their actual, long-range interests. The truly selfish individual is committed to moral principles and lives an honest, productive, self-respecting life. He does not feed parasitically off other people. Instead, he renounces the unearned, and deals with others—in both the material and spiritual realms—by offering value for value, to mutual benefit.

The selfish individual, Schwartz maintains, lives by reason, not force. He lives by production and trade, not by theft and fraud. He disavows the mindlessness of the do-whatever-you-feel-like emotionalist, and upholds rationality as his primary virtue. He takes pride in his achievements, and does not sacrifice himself to others—nor does he sacrifice others to himself.

According to the code of altruism, however, you must embrace self-sacrifice. You must subordinate yourself to others. Altruism calls, not for cooperation and benevolence, but for servitude. It demands that you surrender your interests to the needs of others, that you regard serving others as the moral justification of your existence, that you be willing to suffer so that a non-you might benefit. To this, Schwartz asks simply: Why? Why should the fact that you have achieved any success make you indebted to those who haven't? Why does the fact that someone needs your money create a moral entitlement to it, while the fact that you've earned it, doesn't?

Using vivid, real-life examples, In Defense of Selfishness illustrates the iniquity of requiring one man to serve the needs of another. This provocative book challenges readers to re-examine the standard by which they decide what is morally right or wrong.

Author Biography

PETER SCHWARTZ is retired Chairman of the Board of Directors, and currently a Distinguished Fellow, of the Ayn Rand Institute—the pre-eminent organization for the dissemination of Ayn Rand’s ideas. Schwartz is the founding editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist (1979-1991). He is often interviewed on radio and TV, by such personalities as Geraldo Rivera and Thom Hartmann. He lives in Danbury, CT.

Table of Contents

1. The Shackles
Altruism as Servitude
The Perverse Meaning of “Need”
The Omnipresence of Altruism
2. The Straw Man
Selfishness Misdefined
Rational Selfishness
The Selfishness of Love
3. Moral Principles—and Their Enemy
The Selfish Need for Principles
The Moral Is the Practical
Altruism and the Absolutism of Your Neighbor’s Wishes
Rational Egoism Precludes Conflicts of Interest
4. The Myth of the “Public Interest”
Who Qualifies as the “Public”?
“Public Interest”: Making People Pay for What They Don’t Want
Individualism vs Collectivism
The “Public Interest” Is Not What Interests the Public
The Collectivist Mentality
5. Altruism vs Rights
Freedom Is Negated by a Duty to Sacrifice
The Meaning of Rights
The Political System that Repudiates Servitude
The “Equality” Fraud
6. The Collectivist Straitjacket
To Be Taken Care of Is to Be Controlled
Regulations Victimize Both Producers and Consumers
The Selfish Motive to Make Safe Products
Self-interest Makes Objective Thinking Possible
Sacrificing the Rational to the Irrational
Altruism and the All-Powerful State
7. The Black Hole of Selflessness
Human Cognition: A Supremely Selfish Act
The Zombie Order-Followers
8. The Goal of Self-sacrifice
The Altruistic Enviers
A Code of Disvalues
9. Choosing Life
The Need for Consistency
Making the Choice

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