Is it Selfish to Pursue One’s Own Self-interest?

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th 1776. It states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Sadly, 235 years later we find ourselves once again debating just what that really means. It seems we have been conditioned to believe pursuing one’s self-interest is synonymous to being selfish and therefore evil. But nothing can be further from the truth. Consider the very idea of giving your body sustenance. When you eat and drink are you not pursuing your own self-interest? What if you bought cloths to keep warm, is that not pursuing your self interest? If you worked to earn a living so you may provide for your family, is that not pursuing your self interest? Of course they are and no one would deny you those rights or accuse you of selfishness for merely satisfying those common necessities.

If, however, your personal consumption begins to exceed what some may consider your “fair share”, then you will likely meet waves of tacit disapproval. This despite your extraordinary hard work, huge sacrafice and unwavering work ethic, not to mention the your responsible use of uncommon talents with which you may have been blessed. When those who are envious of your “excesses” (as defined by them) are themselves experiencing hardship, you will then become the target of more overt criticism. And when the hardship becomes more severe as it is now, you will be made into a contemptable characture, a subject of vilification and exploited to advance a political narrative.

Envy is truly one of the most vile of human weaknesses. Those who justify their envy by accusing others of “selfishness” think somehow that gives them the right to impose judgment in the name of “fairness.” The truth is many of us have a common misconception of the true meaning of pursuing one’s self interest, a right our Founding Fathers reminded us was granted by God. Who’s role is it to define what your “fair share” should be? Is it your neighbor, the more “enlightened”, or is it the government’s political elite? In a free society, what business is it of anyone’s how you choose to live your life as long as you harm no one and obey our laws? The answer is self-evident: that absolutely no one has that right to enslave you, especially in the United States of America.

Yet there are those who perpetuate and exploit this grossly misleading notion of pursuing one’s self interest as being selfish, greedy and thus evil. If you believe that to be “selfless” is noble and to only work to serve the “needy” or to give all your worldly belongings away to those you deem deserving, then by all means do so. But to impose this flawed and sanctamonious moral view on others is nothing more than restricting the freedoms of others and preventing them from the pursuit of their happiness. Which is more evil, enslaving others based on your moral beliefs or allowing others the dignity and freedom of pursuing their own self interest?

Consider this, when Bill Gates was busy building Microsoft, he became the richest man on Earth. He was hated and reviled by many. His jealous competitors lobbied the Federal government to go after his company because Microsoft’s dominance was “unfair.” People protested his “greed”, attacked him personally and went after his organization unrelentingly with the intent of destroying him and the enterprise he built. Today, with the Gates Foundation giving away hundreds of millions of Dollars of his hard earned fortune, Bill Gates is now adored and revered as a “saintly” philanthropist.

The truth of the matter is, by Gates pursuing his own self interest, his genius benefited mankind in immeasurable ways through Microsoft products. His philanthropy, while noble, pale in comparison to its actual impact on humanity to say nothing of the hypocrisy of the transformed public perception of Bill Gates. Indeed, had he not pursued his self-interest decades earlier the Gates Foundation would not exist today.

So what does pursuing one’s own self interest really mean? Is it selfish to follow your dream? Is it greedy to build a “profitable” enterprise? Is it “evil” to grow your enterprise and your personal wealth? Was billionaire Steve Jobs motivated by greed when he created the Apple devices that transformed how we work, communicate and live our lives? Did Walt Disney steal from others to enrich himself so his could change the world of entertainment? Did Henry Ford create one of the great cornerstones of the industrial revolution because he was selfish and greedy? What about Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and all of the individuals who pursued their own self interest and made the lives of countless millions better in the process? I think we all know the answer to those questions. Irrefutably, pursuing one’s self interest has profoundly benefitted humanity in far greater ways than institutional charity or government controlled redistribution.

So what about the vision of the liberal progressives, where government becomes a centralized clearing house for all wealth? What if each American shall receive an equal distribution of their apportioned share of the American pie regardless of their contribution? What does that do to society? Is it just to burden the productive to support the non-productive? Is it moral to deny people the dignity of self-reliance and the rewards of achievement? How is being a burden to society a virtue because you have been relegated to becoming a permanent member of the victim class? Do we want a society where achievement and excellence mean nothing? How is abdicating one’s personal responsibility to the government create a productive and virtuous society? The answer is self-evident: it never does and has never been the case throughout history. Look it up, the history books are full of failed examples of collectivist societies. But above all, what about your personal liberty? What happens to your freedom when you give up personal responsibility and become a member of the dependency class?

Today the deliberately misleading narrative from the progressive left that target the most productive in our society poisons our political discourse. The progressive political class in their desperation to hold onto power and continually inflate ever bigger government has shown they are willing to do anything to perpetuate their statist agenda even if it means pitting Americans against Americans by stoking the hateful flame of envy.

America became the beacon of liberty for the world because for the first time in human history ordinary citizens were free to pursue their self-interest and realize their own dreams. The Declaration of Independence, arguably the greatest document ever written articulated and affirmed the process of the unshackling of the human spirit. From the Pilgrims who came to America to escape religious persecution to our courageous revolutionary Founding Fathers, their wisdom and sacrafice created the miracle that is the United States of America. A free nation where a half black, half white boy abandoned by his parents could grow up to miraculously become its president.

Today, we’re at great risk of losing that miracle if generations are continually made to believe that selfishness and greed are the moral equivalent of pursuing one’s self interest. As freedom loving Americans we have an obligation to teach our children about the importance of self-reliance and its virtues. We must re-educate America on the Declaration of Independence, our Constituion and Bill of Rights. Miracles happen for the collective when ordinary individual Americans are free to pursue happiness by exercising their God given right to pursue their own self-interest.


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Filed under Opinion, Politics & Liberty

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