Friday, February 15, 2013

The Virtue of Selfishness

You can never really know what's going on in the mind of a person. You can only observe behavior. Simply, you can only observe what a person is doing. And every behavior fulfills a human need. Since the need will always be there, people can only replace one behavior with another behavior to fulfill that need.

Republicans believe that the wealthy and powerful should be allowed to behave any way they want to suit their self-interests without regard for the common good and without regard for the preservation of our democracy. Ironically, they call upon the Constitution and our government to protect, unequivocally, their right to behave this way. They rationalize this behavior with a "take what you want and leave the rest" interpretation of both the US Constitution and the Bible.

They behave like a reckless driver on the highway. They speed. They text. They drive erratically and without regard for the health, well being, and safety of other drivers. And they are unable to comprehend that the efforts and taxes of the other drivers also paid for and maintain the highway they are acting upon. Imagine if everyone behaved this way. Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculates what life would be like without law (regulations) and government:

"In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Chapter 8, Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, Leviathan.

Implicit in the founding of America is the notion of a Social Contract. Right-wing Republicans are breaking the contract. Ironically the contract enabled  many of them to prosper. To behave to break the contract is undeniably un-American. Democracy and the laws and regulations that result from the union of the people, created by the people acting as a body, are not limitations on individual freedom, but are actually the expression of  individual freedom.

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