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When they tried to say that egoism was good

Let’s say we could classify some of the stuff that humans do as primarily in our own best self-interest. Let’s call those “egoistic” actions. And then stuff that’s primarily helping others; let’s call that “altruistic” actions.

Wouldn’t it be nice if egoistic actions could also benefit others, could benefit society as a whole? Like let’s say I go down to the station and buy some ice cream. Then I could tell myself that the money I spend on that ice cream would then be passed on and down the road maybe end up doing some good. That would feel pretty good, right? (That’s just another sign of how unnatural egoistic actions feel for most of us; that we kinda wanna kid ourselves into thinking that we’re doing good as we’re doing bad. And if egoism really were the unknown ideal, why don’t Roark and Galt just steal that ice cream? That’d be the ultimate ego trip. “Looters, the unknown ideal?”)

A while back, that’s exactly what some philosophers tried to argue. That egoism was a virtue, that capitalism was the unknown ideal. One of the biggest arguments in their favor would’ve been the idea that under market capitalism we had the highest standard of living, the best quality of life, that society was prospering.

Now with hindsight, now that we know that all of that was built on sand, know that the black gold we were pumping up was our own future, know that we’re boiling the planet and making new inroads into plundering the Earth, now that idea looks pretty dumb.

Truth is, there are plenty of situations were market capitalism rewards egoism by exacerbating and amplifying the worst consequences of it. The most brutally raw and soulless actions equals more cash for the bottom line.

And there’s not even anyone at the wheel. A lot of the ownership of people’s livelyhoods are in the stockmarket for the biggest possible detachment, in non-voting shares, in funds and papers, often automatically traded by machines making managerial decisions. Corporations’ prime directive being to make numbers go up.

And more money means more power to further protect the richest; and since we (for at least a couple of more months) ostensibly live in a “democracy”, they need votes and so they push wedge issues, go after minorities to drum up votes.

If there really was a system where seemingly egoistic actions and looking after oneself were secretly good for everybody, secretly altruistic, that’d be pretty nifty. But dream on, because market capitalism isn’t it.