This was a necessary characteristic of each and every one of your ancestors, as proven by your existence. It is a good thing if not taken to the extremes of narcissism or aggressive pursuits that harm others. But, respect for others does not include allowing yourself to be manipulated, sacrificing yourself for others, or accepting other demands on your life without your consent. The Dutch philosopher Spinoza and others called this selfish struggle of life CONATUS.
Ayn Rand, in The Virtue of Selfishness, wrote:
Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival, since he has to support his life by his own effort, the doctrine that concern with one's own self interest is evil means that man's desire to live is evil - that man's life, as such, if evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.I don't claim that all people act selfishly all the time, but it is a prudent, default assumption until proven wrong in individual cases. To clarify, I include mutual, non-monetary benefits that both parties to a friendship or association gain to be evidence of a healthy, selfish relationship, without contradiction. I do not distinguish between "selfish" and "self-interest," as some people do.
My second premise, as discussed in my mid-nineties LifePower articles SEEK JOY, CREATE VALUE and LIFE IS EGOCENTRIC, is that honestly self-aware and self-motivated people make the most productive, supportive and happiest friends, neighbors, associates and yes, even citizens - when left alone to pursue their selfish interests - as long as they do not deny or restrict the equal right of others to pursue theirs.
My third premise is that people own themselves, which means they have a right to their lives, liberty and property, which deserve to be protected against aggressive force, theft or fraud. These rights are not granted by any human authority, but are inherent in human nature, as most powerfully described by the English philosopher John Locke in a section called OF PROPERTY in Chapter II of his TWO TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT. Locke's concept of human rights was one of the primary inspirations for the American Declaration of Independence.
I draw a sharp distinction between aggressive and defensive force. However, I do not necessarily support retaliatory force. Although retaliatory force may be appropriate or justified in some cases, it most often leads to the escalation of smaller conflicts into larger, more destructive conflicts, like road rage. I don't presume to tell others how to live their lives or what to believe, but if an individual chooses to exercise retaliatory force, that individual should be willing to take sole responsibility for any additional damage done as a result of that choice. The problem with government and other coercive collectives is they absolve individuals of responsibility; making the group responsible, which means no one is responsible for destructive actions. A lynch mob and its victim are the (almost) perfect democratic collective (only one dissenting vote). Now you can see why government is so addictively popular and destructive - it too often protects individuals from the consequences of their actions.
My fourth premise is that government as we know it (a legal but coercive monopoly of force against innocents) works against most of its citizens when it exceeds its proper authority to protect individual rights - the only legitimate justification for its collective force. Please read the section, WHAT IS LAW? in Frederic Bastiat's 1850 masterpiece, THE LAW. Government cannot protect your property by giving it to others.
My fifth premise is while coercive, monopolistic government exists, its purpose should be strictly limited to the protection of people and their property, including police and/or defensive military and impartial courts. For the federal government, other duties authorized by the U.S. Constitution would be included as part of necessary goals and limitations for much less oppressive government toward which the current government should gravitate. See my article SUBORDINATE ACTS.
My sixth premise is that coercive, monopolistic government should not be involved in the economy at all, except for adjudicating disputes in civil cases, since it almost always makes the economy worse, not better. See CHAPTER 1 of Henry Hazlitt's ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON. Coercive government's complete ignorance of 1) market economics and 2) the productive nature of the unsubsidized private sector is both striking and unconscionable for an organization that claims to represent the people. See Chapter 3 of FOR A NEW LIBERTY by Murray Rothbard to understand the nature of coercive, monopolistic government.
My seventh premise is that about 90 percent of knowledge is dogma. This idea began as a joke several years ago, due to my frustration to make sense of large inconsistencies I found in so many fields, like philosophy, science, religion, law, politics, economics, dog training and both contemporary and alternative medicine. In every field of knowledge I have studied, there are far more unknowns than knowns. An honest search for more and better knowledge must include the attitude that what we know today is only our best current approximation, to be improved by further knowledge gained later. Please spend some time at the SIMANEK PAGES, for which you will be richly rewarded. The four points below are a sample of Donald Simanek's summary and conclusions page:
- Logic (and mathematics) alone tell us nothing about the natural world.
- Through our senses we form a mental picture of what we call the "real world". It's just a name, and inquiry into the "reality" of this world or our perceptions is futile philosophizing.
- This "real world" shows regular patterns and behavior, so we can express these as "things" and "laws", often with mathematical precision.
- The reliable regularity of natural laws allows us to do science. We can't even imagine a universe that had no regularity at all, or one whose behavior unexpectedly changed in unpredictable ways without warning of any kind.
I CALL THESE PREMISES BECAUSE human knowledge is so often dominated by arrogance, vanity, chauvinism, uncritical repetition and dishonesty. Premises sometimes called self-evident "truths" are just assumptions with which to begin investigations. Most philosophies, professions, religions, sciences and other bodies of knowledge are often dominated by dogma and blind conformity to authority or custom, which people adopt to avoid changing existing beliefs. Changing beliefs is often a sign of maturity, unless done in a haphazard, unthinking manner. As I understand the current science of sub-atomic particles, that big rock you and others see is mostly empty space.
Uncertainty is the beginning of knowledge.
Certainty is the end. - James Craig Green
Simplify - Eliminate the Non-Essential - Bruce Lee
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke
As always, I welcome disagreements, criticism and alternative viewpoints. I frequently learn more from those with whom I disagree than those who pat me on the back. All I ask is that you are polite and show me the same respect you would like to receive. You can comment on the May 24, 2011 blog post identical to this page HERE.