January 30, 2019 by Anders Ingemarson
According to most accounts, from YouTube college-to-Congress dancing performances to tweets to media appearances, Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fun-loving, intelligent, passionate young woman with strong beliefs.
What contributes to her appeal is that she gets what most of her more seasoned opponents don’t understand or choose to evade: that morality trumps both politics and economics. When asked by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes about her misrepresentation of certain facts she stated:
“If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees. I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” (emphasis added)
This insight puts her ahead of most politicians and pundits with decades of experience.
What’s more, her moral and political compasses are aligned; unlike most of those who oppose her, her political and economic goals are logical extensions of her moral code. Combined with her charisma she could be a tremendous force for good. It is therefore regrettable that she subscribes to the same old, reactionary, lethal moral code that repeatedly has brought, and continues to bring, misery on mankind: altruism.
“The basic principle of altruism,” explains American philosopher Ayn Rand, “is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.” 1
Strong words, no doubt, but the past 200 years of history bear them out; all modern tyrannies have justified their immoral actions in the name of altruism resulting in millions upon millions of sacrificial deaths and stunted or no progress for billions of others.
Altruism’s impact is not limited to rogue societies: every welfare state on the planet, the United States included, is violating the individual rights of its citizens through taxation, redistribution and regulation in the name of altruist catch phrases such as the common good, the public interest, the wish of the majority, or the protection of a minority.
Moral arguments cannot be refuted with political or economic arguments, no matter how rational and true because morality is the foundation of both politics and economics.
A claim that billionaires should be taxed at 70% cannot be refuted by arguments that it will reduce total tax collections due to lower economic activity as long as the prevailing morality of altruism considers it good to sacrifice “the rich”.
Dreams of a “universal basic income” will not be crushed by arguments that it is too expensive as long as it is considered moral to give up what you have for the benefit of the have-nots.
A “Green New Deal” cannot be refuted by arguments that it is economically prohibitive as long as altruism of the environmental variety preaches the virtue of sacrificing our comforts for the supposed benefit of the earth and future generations.
The only strategy that will work against the Ocasio-Cortezs’ of the world is to reclaim the moral high ground. Their lethal altruist moral code can only be defeated with a human life-centric morality of “…rational selfishness” to continue from Ms. Rand ”—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.” 2
Again, no holding back, and again the evidence is there to support her: the fits and starts of human progress the past 200 years with its frequent, always disastrous tyrannical interludes are explained by altruism’s stranglehold on morality. Without it, Stalin’s, Hitler’s, Mao’s, Khomeini’s and countless other irrational brutes’ call to sacrifice for the nation, the race, the class, the tribe or the faith would have gone unheard. And without the altruist argument that sacrifice is the essence of moral virtue, the peoples of the civilized world would not have given up as much of their freedom to government controls.
Why do most conservative critics of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez refuse to take the fight to the battlefield of morality? Why do they insist on repeating economic arguments that, while often true, have not deterred the proponents of altruism from putting their moral code into political and economic practice since the time of Adam Smith?
The answer is that they are conflicted. The vast majority of conservatives subscribe to the same moral code of altruism as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, while at the same time acknowledging the economic virtues of capitalism. They give capitalism two cheers, with the third being withheld due to capitalism’s selfish nature which is anathema to their moral code.
Hence, they choose to play in the sandbox of economics where they don’t have to face the inconvenient truth that capitalism, being inherently selfish, can only be successfully defended with a moral code of rational selfishness.
Until conservatives have the moral conviction that it’s immoral to violate the rights of individuals regardless how rich, they will continue to lose ground to Ocasio-Cortez and her Democratic-Socialists.
Until they can claim with moral confidence that a universal basic income is an unethical monstrosity forcing individuals to give up their hard-earned gains for the benefit of those who aren’t as productive, the idea will not be put to rest.
Until they are prepared to point out that it’s a vice to impose individual rights violating environmental fees, taxes and regulations on individuals and corporations, we will continue down the road to environmental serfdom.
But most importantly, until the rest of us are prepared to examine our moral premises and reject altruism in favor of a morality of rational selfishness, not much will change for the better. Because it’s up to us to put pressure on our elected representatives to embrace that third cheer for capitalism.
Until such time, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other “progressives” will retain the upper hand simply by not being conflicted between what they politically and economically practice and what they morally preach—regardless how lethal their moral code.
1 “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World” from Philosophy, Who Needs It, p 61
2 Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics” from The Virtue of Selfishness, p 31.