Saturday, April 08, 2017

Altruism and Stalin

Seeing abuses of the concept of altruism by Communists and any number of others, Ayn Rand came to the conclusion that the problem was with the concept of altruism.

She was very wrong.

Anything that has any kind of appeal to people will see someone using it for wrong. This is as much the case with moral values as it is with things such as money, intelligence and beauty. That Stalin and any number of others appealed to the value of altruism to do wrong, no more damns altruism than does the fact that some scoundrels use beauty industry for wrong damns beauty.

Once again, anything that has any kind of appeal to people will see some people use it for wrong. We of course see that with beauty. We see predatory fashion industry professionals convincing already beautiful women that they can't be beautiful unless they keep coming for treatments. We see people using the excuse of intelligence to portray as stupid people who have spiritual experiences. And there is no limit to abuses of money or the government.

Can altruism be used for wrong? Of course. But it is in no way the only thing that can be used for wrong. Once again, anything with any kind of appeal will see some scoundrel wanting to exploit it. This is as much the case for people's moral values as it is for their financial or personal interests.

One statement I've heard is that “wanting to save the world is a front for wanting to rule it.” I for one have no interest in ruling anything whatsoever. I do however very much care about the world in which my daughter is born, and I will do what I can to make sure that it is a good place. I have no interest in ruling anybody at all. I know that I would make a terrible leader. I do not seek power; I do however seek to have influence, and it is motivated primarily by concern as to what kind of world my daughter will have to face when she grows up.

So no, altruism is not always a power trip. Once again, anything that has appeal to people can be used as a power trip, and that also is the case with their moral ideals. That some people use altruism to pull on people a power trip does not damn altruism; it damns them. There are all sorts of people who appeal to altruism who do not have any interest in ruling anyone whatsoever. And it is these people rather than Stalin that deserve to speak for the ideal of altruism far more.


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