Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 26, 2008

Greed, Altruism & Charity

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 10:55 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Much of the political debate taking place for the past century has centered around the concept of greed. Rich people are greedy, everyone else is “something.” What? Nobody knows. It’s a mystery. All that matters is that we should attack and punish rich people, even if we have no rational definition of “rich” or even what it means to be wealthy.

The axiom seems to be that greed and rich are exactly the same thing. When someone is greedy, they become rich. When someone is rich, they must automatically be greedy. They only became rich because they stole more than their “fair share.” How do we know that? It’s simply “obvious.”

To counter this greed, politicians on the progressive side, arguing “for the people,” want to enforce a morality of sharing, fairness, and equal distribution of wealth. The underlying assumption is that we live in a zero-sum economy with a fixed sum of money available. If someone has more money, someone else has less money.

“Equal” is not at all the same thing as “equitable.” To be equal means to be the same. But to be equitable means to include justice and fairness. Equal distribution means everyone has the same amount. Equitable distribution means a ratio between effort and reward.

Greed is the accumulation of something beyond the rational capability to use whatever it is. It’s accumulation for the sake of accumulation, not for any other reason. Greed also means keeping what has been accumulated despite rational reasons against doing so.

I might use greed to take all the mashed potatoes on the table during a Thanksgiving dinner. Even if I can’t eat all those potatoes, I want them and I shall have them! If someone were to offer some actual turkey in exchange for a portion of what I’ve taken, I would say no. I want to keep all my potatoes. Greed also would demand that I get angry, and want the turkey as well.

Drug addicts are greedy. They have no interest in what anyone else is doing. All they want is enough drugs to last them forever, without having to do anything for those drugs. They want to stay high permanently, and get angry when they aren’t euphoric. Since drugs cost money, many addicts simply steal money. They have no interest in rights, property, ownership, or morality.

Excepting in cases of extreme pain and no forseeable quality of life, people who commit suicide are greedy. They accumulate excuses, pain, misery, and view the world entirely from an egocentric perspective. They have no concerns or interests in anyone else, what anyone cares, or how anyone else lives. All they perceive is their own singular world, where all that happens in the universe is under their personal control or is directed solely toward their existence.

The opposite of greed isn’t altruism. Politicians and philosophers, theologians and New Age ideolgues (romantics) have promoted and argued that altruism is that opposition throughout much of modern history. They claim that the natural state of all living things is to “share.”

The argument is that living things live together in peace and harmony. Obviously, this is totally contradicted by the lion and the deer, cat and mouse, bird and worm, and all manner of living things. But the argument is designed to “prove” that the natural and virtuous state of human beings is to share; to help one another, and to love one another.

Altruism and love are considered to be exactly the same thing. Nobody can define love, but hundreds of years of artisitic writings tell us that love is the same as sacrifice. That’s utter hogwash, but who’s making some other argument? Only a few people.

Since greed is accumulation beyond all reasonable expectation of utilization, the opposite must be the distribution of everything without any expectation of accumulation. Give everything away and that’s the opposite of greed. What about self-interest? If you give away all your clothes, how do you avoid freezing to death?

The theory behind altruism also holds that death is the finest sacrifice. After death will come some sort of heaven; some sort of big-time reward. This reward is designed to overcome the stupidity of giving away everything in this life at the cost of staying alive.

Another aspect of political altruism is that if people won’t voluntarily choose to give away everything, or at least make everyone is society exactly equal, then they should be forced to do so. The moral justification is that altruism is the natural state of virtue, so if someone isn’t going to go along with the program, they must be greedy. With greed being a human failing, sin, contradiction, and inhuman characteristic, it must be a disease.

The fact is that charity is the opposite of altruism, not greed. Capitalism is the opposite of greed.

Greed centers entirely on rational versus irrational accumulation. Capitalism subsumes the concepts of rational self-interest, exchange of value, and the benefits of shared effort. Greed contradicts all of these benefits.

Altruism holds that the foundation of human nature (virtue) is to sacrifice and give away everything to someone else. Since that runs counter to facts, history, and observation, the problem is with the morality of altruism itself.

Charity holds that the basic human virtue is rational self-interest. To live, we accumulate food, water, air, shelter, and clothing. After we have enough to survive, we then consider those around us. If we have what we individually consider to be abundance, then we can choose to share or not.

Reasonable people, particularly in America have an ingrained sense of fairness and equity. We’re most of us friendly, which means we naturally assume there are other people alive in the world. (Who would we be friends with, otherwise?) As such, we have a charitable nature, wishing to help those who have problems.

Wishing to help is one thing. Being forced to help isn’t even in the same ballpark.

The opposite of greed is the free exercise of charity. Both rich people and drug addicts can be greedy, but in the vast majority of cases, rich people are more charitable than drug addicts. Rich people give away millions upon millions of dollars, both for good and functional causes and for intangible and artistic reasons.

The main charitable donation of drug addicts is to give someone a needle after it’s been used. The result of rich people and their charity is museums, hospitals, schools, libraries, and foundations. The result of drug addicts and their charity is a worldwide epidemic of hepatitis and AIDS.

If we’re going to outlaw greed, forcing everyone to be equal, then let’s include the drug addicts and suicides. Let’s pass a law that some percentage of the population must commit suicide, based on a national lottery. Let’s also pass a law that everyone should be addicted to at least one drug.

In fact, to create a truly “equal” society, let’s just wipe out every living human being entirely. Then we’d all be equally dead.

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2 Comments »

  1. That was a good ending to a rather long beginning. The message was well conveyed. But to a certain extent, I feel that we are already equals. In-equality is just a myth…

    Destination Infinity

    Comment by Destination Infinity — October 27, 2008 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  2. The problem is to both define the words and to examine how they’re used to affect society. Unfortunately, that leads to long articles. (And no, we’re not already equals, despite cultural and governmental demands that we “should” all be equal.)

    Comment by Punchinello — October 27, 2008 @ 4:45 pm | Reply


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