Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Selfish Virtue

Time and time again, I read on supposedly liberal rags how we must work to reign in the selfish impulses given free reign in our capitalist system. I don't really think saying it again is going to help, especially since I doubt many Al Gore cheerleaders are reading these posts. On the other hand, if I say enough things like Democrats, Social Justice (tm), fair-trade, living wage, and so forth, some of them are absolutely bound to surf on in, right?

Ahem. Anyway, allow me to coin a word and beat a dead horse at the same time: such umbrigificating remarks both ignore the fact that we're about as close to capitalism as the Chinese Communists are, and makes the assumption that greed and selfishness leads only to bad things.

Leaving aside the invisible hand argument, it's worth bearing in mind that being selfish is essentially doing what you want, action that is consistent with your personality (i.e. not insanity, accident, and certainly not coercion). If I give to a charity that gives food to orphans, that's perfectly within the free-market sense of selfishness.

Selfish business too can result in actions that harm the profit motive for the sake of less tangible capital - maybe selling fuel-efficient cars gets you great publicity. Maybe it pleases the CEO and chairmen of the board. Who knows, it's not important, except to say that all of these things are every bit as selfish as Uncle Scrooge, try as you might to paint them all rosey and cover them with butterflies and sparkly glitter. Someone is getting something, and "gettin'" is the essece of selfishness, from money to love to satisfaction.

And I'm not even going into the "the US is an evil capitalist oppressor" argument, since that's too stupid to bear reason. We're one of the most over-regulated nations on the planet, and here in Russia, I actually feel FREER and LESS regulated.

Laws here are blissfully ignored, and even the enforcers don't seem to care. Under a sign on the streetcorner prohibiting the peddling of merchandise (mostly done by old women, trying to supplement their pensions), you'll find dozens of goods for sale, from potatoes and herbs to sunflower seeds and knit sweaters. No automobiles on the beachfront? Tell that to the dozens of cars parked there.

Is it good? Well, it does undermine the "rule of law", which I can't say is entirely bad, but it's definitely a breath of fresh air, a place where being a little bad doesn't get you damned to a hot place (heck, it's already Siberia - I mean, this is where the sent exiles, where can you be exiled FROM here?).

On a slightly tangential rant, in light of this burden or regulation, I sincerely hope that our government is so excellent in the creation of new laws that it excessively burdens the people living under it, leading to a collapse and eventual rebuilding (i.e. perestroika, from "pere", through, or re-, and "stroit", to build).

But whatever they case, I'm going to keep writing things like that until they take away my right to say it (I've a few months at least, right?).

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