Thursday, October 14, 2010

The not so virtue of selfishness

Ayn Rand talked a lot about selfishness and how that is good for everybody. Corruption is a direct consequence of selfishness. See Corruption and Capitalism.

How do you define selfishness? As much as I think about it, it sort of boils down to being logical or making the best possible choice for yourself, both of which are incomplete definitions.

Example: Say, I am a doctor. I need to catch a flight. The only taxi ready to go to the airport is charging me 10X the regular price. 

By conventional thinking the taxi driver is selfish. But so am I, because that is the logical and best possible choice I have.  Once I pay 10X the price and I understand the virtue of selfishness, I will also start charging my patients 10X the price when I know they don't have a choice. Yet again, patients are selfish as they are being logical and making the best possible choice and so am I.  

What we have done here is that by being selfish, people start screwing each other when they know the other person doesn't have a choice. Banks do it, Oil companies do it, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Oracle do it.  Someday the pharmacy will do it, airlines will do it, your maid will do it, your wife will do it, your children will do it..everyone will do it. 

So what we get is a screwed up society to live in by being selfish. But if I did think this through and felt that if I start screwing people, eventually I will end up in a screwed up society which I don't want, I might stop screwing people when they don't have choice. Now this again is a selfish choice to make.   

This is my problem with selfishness. What you do by being selfish could be anything and is just limited by your own ability to think and decide for yourself. Being selfish is good if and only if everyone has same IQ.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have not understood Ayn Rand, her Objectivism and enlightened selfishness advocated by her. In this blog you are confusing selfishness to exploitation. As you yourself mention at the end you call it as screwing other people for material benefit. So this is not selfishness. Actually it is enlightened greediness. But more to it later.

    Selfishness advocated by Ayn Rand is something different. Wright Brothers invented Airplane not with an unselfish motive of helping the broader humanity nor with a selfish motive of making money or reaping royalty through patents. It is just to please the self. The sheer joy of achieving the desired goal after repeated attempts and failures and finally taste the pleasure experienced by the self when the goal is achieved (almost equivalent to ejaculation either through sex with a woman or masturbation). Same is true with all such people as Markoni, Edison, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, etc. This is the selfishness or the pleasure of the self glorified by Ayn Rand. Not the selfishness which means greediness, exploitation or screwing other people.

    Nevertheless Money is important to some extant. I am sure you will agree with me. Otherwise how do you fund your next lunch unless you prefer to stand at the end of the road of your house or office soliciting alms.

    BOSS, may be you fail to appreciate all those scientists and thus cannot appreciate the above Para, consider the following Para.
    “Until and unless you discover money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns - or “dollars”. Take your choice-there is no other – and your time is running out. - Ayn Rand [born Alisa Rosenbaum]

    Now don’t say that it is a selfish statement. Correction is, it is an enlightened selfish and meaningful statement.

    Finally at least be well read before you make a comment on an author like Ayn Rand. It is not important whether you agree or disagree with the subject discussed but at least read the books well before you criticize the work. There is an “Ayn Rand appreciation club” right in Mumbai in India and they meet every weekend to discuss her works. You say the characters in her books seem to be made for a TV soap opera, Have you read “fountain head” and how do you rate the character of “HOWARD Roark” in that book.

    You should not look like a person just playing league cricket, not even scoring a century over there, but criticizing the techniques of Tendulkar. Do not become a good example for the proverb "When an elephant (Ayn Rand) walks, all the street dogs will bark".
    Wishing you all the best