Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bailout (literally) -- and the ugly hydra of altruism

Congress bailed out on the Bailout. The reason is altruism. That is the belief that it is a moral imperative to help others. That belief gave birth to the so-called Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which mandated that banks focus more on "underdeveloped" areas of the country and make loans to more poor people or people with dubious credit and worth. I won't go into the particulars of this act, since the WSJ has done a terrific job of outlining it and its faults.

My main point is that nobody has talked about the philosophical reason for this act's presumptuous beginnings. Before I start on that, let me give a more accurate definition of "altruism." The only one I completely agree with is that of Ayn Rand: The belief that self-sacrifice is a moral ideal, that putting others before our own welfare is moral, that taking care of others' values before our own is the best way to live. It used to be in this country that many people thought this way, but they did not insist on government acting that way. It was still somewhat of a problem, but it didn't interfere wholesale in politics (outside of eminent domain, Interstate commerce clauses, etc.). Our Founders believed that altruistic tendencies were best kept personal and private, insisting that if someone wanted help, then he must approach others and ask for it via a charitable contribution or work.

The "progressive" movement in this country 150 years began the regression that we now see in all its government monstrosity -- the transferral of altruism into legislative and judicial action. One of the main additional problems with this is that the weight of the altruistic act has been transferred from the early-American personal sacrifice to an elite cadre of politicians who do not feel the pain of what is being sacrificed. It is now us, the people, who must pay on a grand scale for the altruistic bailouts and the hydra-headed welfare state.

The only cure for this is for Americans to feel their own eminent domain, their own hegemony of action, the self worth that they felt 200 years ago -- and even more, because our Founders were still enamored to some degree with altruism. The only means for that to happen is a rational understanding of human nature (i.e. that we are rational and can completely run our own lives and have an inalienable right to do so and that anyone who does not wish to exercise his rationality will feel the full brunt of that without any sympathy from the rest of us who are trying to live in wealth and happiness).

Ayn Rand was spot-on in this regard.

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