Picture this: a world where your neighbor loves you more than himself, the random person on the street will give you his or her breakfast if you hadn’t time to get your own, and you have but to need and others will satisfy you. Picture this world of altruism, where everyone is finally equal thanks to sacrifice. Are you disgusted yet?
Altruism means exploiting capable individuals in order to benefit the sycophants of society. The more able a person, the more they must give to society without equal repayment. An altruist’s set of moral choices consists solely of self-sacrifice. Everyone produces to the best of his or her ability for no personal gain, no personal benefit. Their theory of no benefit must then even exclude the giver having a contented feeling of having done something “good,” because that would be an unshared, selfish reward. For honest altruism, the giver must actually not enjoy giving, but willfully and actively continue their pinnacle level of production. An ideal altruistic state would then, by definition, be the unhappiest place on Earth.
Some insect populations exhibit biological altruism, but the meaning changes when applied to biology. Biologists clarify that the sacrifice directly furthers genetic reproduction. A bee may sting you and die to save the hive, but only the queen of the hive reproduces anyway. The drone simply does its best to increase the number of genetically similar entities, its siblings, since it will have no opportunity to breed its own offspring. Were it not to die to save the hive, a very similar genotype will not eventually continue on to a new hive with a new queen.
Humans expect a different sort of altruism from each other, though. They expect the most successful members of society to immolate themselves on the knife of need brandished by those incapable — or worse, unwilling — to succeed of their own merit. Communism desired an altruistic society, where your ration equaled your basic need regardless of your efforts. The theoretical surplus created by the most capable creators would be spent on maintaining the same level of relative prosperity for the incapable drainers. This could have sustained itself in a sad, repressive way, but then everyone realized that the harder they worked, the sooner they died, and their families were no better off for it. The system promised them food whether they produced or not — someone else would provide it for them through their efforts. Consequently, Russia fell to pieces. China’s communism has held together through a fearfully violent regime maintaining a culture that supports anonymous martyrdom and provides little choice for a second option. But even China is becoming more capitalized.
You see, the problem with crossing the insect drone’s ideal of sacrifice to humans is that people are unique and each has a shot at breeding (notice that the queen of the hive doesn’t sacrifice herself for the colony). Humans innately have basic rights to equal and fair treatment. However, equal and fair means giving someone not less than they have earned, not giving whatever they claim a right to.
Helping out another person does not make someone evil. A person demanding what they never earned does. There is a cliff between making your community a better place for you to live — such as through education programs, recycling, and carpooling — and plummeting over that cliff into sacrificing yourself so others need not exert effort. Human nature will never allow a truly altruistic society, and I believe never should seek to destroy individuality by attempting it. Every reach for altruism only invites exploitation — someone will always want more at your expense for less of their own expense.
In the June 1966 edition of “The Objectivist,” Ayn Rand rightly says, “It is altruism that has corrupted and perverted human benevolence by regarding the giver as an object of immolation, and the receiver as a helplessly miserable object of pity who holds a mortgage on the lives of others — a doctrine which is extremely offensive to both parties, leaving men no choice but the roles of sacrificial victim or moral cannibal … “
Matthew Clausen ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English.