Punchinello’s Chronicles

May 15, 2009

The Selfishness of Open Markets

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve been hearing a lot in the news about how capitalism and free markets only reinforce selfishness. Every day, the Obama administration announces new regulations, new rules, new laws, and new ideas to remove this selfishness. A few days ago, Mr. Obama made a commencement speech at Arizona State University, telling the graduating class they shouldn’t seek personal gain in their careers.

The problem here is that there’s a major difference between free markets, open markets, and fair markets.

Another problem is that the underlying principle at work in any kind of business society is personal gain, personal profit, and the selfish appreciation of success. That success may be measured in many ways, but it ultimately means reaching a goal. One way or another, a goal is always personal.

We might say that Jesus Christ was an example of a man with a goal that wasn’t personal. But it’s His goal, not your goal to save the human race! It made Mr. Christ feel good about himself that he was doing useful work, the Lord’s work, and helping the people around Him.

But getting back to the issue at hand: Is it true that open markets routinely encourage avarice, greed, and theft? Is the term “selfish” a synonym only for that greed and unethical behavior? Ayn Rand wrote an excellent argument against such a word usage in her book, “The Virtue of Selfishness.”

Consider any product sold to anyone.

The reason for the sale is for the seller to make money, hopefully enough to include a profit. The selfish idea is for the person to get something from someone else in exchange for the product. Suppose the seller is greed-riddled, totally selfish, and hasn’t the slightest interest whatsoever in anyone else. How would that seller even begin to entice anyone else to even look at the offered item?

Nobody can sell anything without first considering the needs, hopes, expectations, desires, and everything else about the people in the open market. Suppose I sell a Widget that I invented, and I don’t care one whit about you or anything you care about. I wouldn’t advertise, I wouldn’t offer a price, I wouldn’t even make it possible for you to know that I even have Widgets, much less that I’m willing to sell them.

A market is only a gathering of people in some form or another. It can be a physical market, or an electronic world like the Internet. It’s a crowd. But unless a crowd looks somewhere, looks at something, or even knows about anything, it’s just a bunch of people wandering around aimlessly.

How can we say that ALL sellers are only selfish? What if we outlaw all sales, all products, and demand that people simply give away everything they have. Would that work?

Of course not! Remember; we’re talking about business, markets and selling. We’re not talking about pulling out a gun and robbing someone! That’s raw selfishness without any interest in sales. It’s usually unethical, too. Sort of like the government and the actions of today’s politicians.

Another interesting little irony is this: where does the robber get the gun? Do they buy it on any kind of market, black or otherwise? Isn’t the international arms merchant taking into consideration the feelings of his or her buyers? If those buyers are greedy thugs or narcissistic warlords, doesn’t the arms dealer have to unselfishly consider the buyers’ feelings? Of course!

The problem isn’t the operation of open markets. The problem is the sneaky, vicious, and politically loaded attack on the word “selfish” itself. We’re told that altruism is the better virtue. We’re told that we should never consider our own personal profit, our own personal gain, our own personal anything. We should consider only the needs of the many.

Worse, we should learn to sacrifice to the many our personal desires, hopes, goals, needs and wants. Our expectations! We should bring pain, misery, and hardship upon our personal selves in favor of providing joy, wealth, and happiness to the many.

What happens if everyone gives away everything they have? Who will TAKE what’s being given away, if nobody wants to take anything at all? It’s a total contradiction in terms. Therefore, altruism cannot in any way be the underlying foundation for what we’re hearing.

Instead, when everyone ELSE gets with the program and starts giving everything away, a shrewd gathering of intellectual elitists and power brokers will step in and take what’s offered. They’ll take it from you, from your neighbors, and from your idealistic children. They’ll take anything and everything that’s being given away by altruistic, not-for-profit, starry-eyed fools.

And when that oligarchy has taken possession of everything that brain-addled idiots have given away, they’ll own everything. At that point, we’ll see the re-introduction of “markets.” But they won’t be free, they won’t be open, and they won’t be fair. They’ll be controlled markets.

At that point, we’ll see the true meaning of the term “monopoly.” ALL goods and services will have been given away, taken, and become the property and possession of the tiny few controllers. All prices will be set, availability will be controlled, and while the ultra-powerful get massively rich, the rest of the world will become peasants.

That’s what the orgiastic, bubble-headed students were cheering for at the Arizona State University speech! They were cheering at the proposition of giving away everything. Giving away their clothes, food, work, ideas, efforts, hopes, dreams, goals, and money. The cheered for the altruistic ideal of everyone being un-selfish. Cheered for the concept of having no self at all.

Altruism ultimately means eliminating the self, eliminating the individual, and eliminating personal awareness. It’s a drug that induces the deep coma of total mindlessness. And that’s what so many people are cheering for! Go figure!

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