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L. Neil Smith's
Number 589, September 26, 2010

"Why do creators create?"

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Altruists Are Selfish Before All
by Jordan Jetson

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

The notion that there is an ideal set of circumstances in the world at a given moment places a mystical entity called perhaps "humanity" as a global hegemon. What is best for "humanity"? There is no entity known as "humanity". There is only the totality of interacting individuals.

When someone openly declares "you should not be so selfish", they do not do so without any idea with whom you should serve. At the very least, they claim that they would prefer it if you served others. This preference, this desire, for you to serve others rather than yourself is individual. The altruist is casting stones through a glass house, for their very preference demonstrates that they themselves first desire to serve their own needs. They simply aim to substitute their desires for yours.

Many demagogues have employed and will likely continue to employ altruism as the ideological winds which lifts them towards power. Altruism is a war drum. It promotes ideological conflicts under the name of a cause for the good of the group. It has seen the ascension of moral campaigns of every kind, which are invariably catastrophic.

The altruist prefers some groups over other groups. Those that do not serve the cause, the "greater good", of the altruist as the ultimate end stand in the path of the altruist. Hitler promoted and directed both eugenics, and conquest to serve the "fatherland". While Hitler was a racist, he thought he was doing his duty to preserve the "master race", his preferred group.

Even today, much is done in the aim of achieving "homeland security", or if you do not "support the surge" you are "unpatriotic". This is altruism, and it isn't even disguised.

It is alternatively violent to claim that governments should feed the people, for how else do they get the money if not by extorting it from the people? The government produces no food, so it must take the food of others through taxation. A government cannot declare war on poverty without first declaring war on its citizens.

If all this government action did was dampen the spirits of entrepreneurs killing the jobs that would deliver the starving from their current status, it would be bad enough alright. But, to compound the difficulties, the government also corners the market on moral campaigns such as wars against hunger, wars against drugs, and wars of many other forms.

Many assume that bureaucracy exist to serve the greater good, because people are served through bureaucracies. As the status quo, they frequently argue that any alternatives would be worse by virtue of not being the status quo, and then point to the empirical evidence that some people have been helped through the bureaucracy.

It would be a grave error indeed to assume that these governments are singular neutral entities incapable in acting outside of the interests of the people. Governments are not virtuous by virtue of being governments.

Governments themselves are formed only through individuals. For they, like all actors (both coercive and non-coercive) in the economy, serve themselves first. Money and production is cornered and diverted towards bureaucracies and bureaucrats who also aim to serve themselves before their everlasting stream of starving customers and welfare abusers. If one assumes that the survival of the bureaucracy is an irreplaceable means to serve the many, then its welfare becomes the primary factor.

The main incentive for the bureaucracy leaders is to solidify an incoming revenue stream promoting their own job security and status. If a welfare check is mis-allocated, then this part of the story according to the wisdom of the group serves no purpose, for the bureaucracy is first and foremost as the means to the serve the people. They may occasionally do so for credibility's sake, especially if the abuse is already made clear, but there is no incentive for them to improve the means by which they discriminate between mis-allocated checks and properly allocated checks. Welfare fraud is an embarrassment that can only hurt the greater good. Discovering it is a problem. Innovating new ways to discover it, is suicidal.

Assisted by the government, a bureaucracy is placed as a hegemon to a moral campaign. It exercises force to corner the market. It becomes the only means be which certain groups can receive certain advantages. It rules. As such, it cannot be entrusted to rule as a servant to its people.

To deny welfare fraud and abuse thus becomes part of the greater mission, a means to secure a much larger revenue stream. Not spending is seen as wasteful, an admission that no more good can be served by a larger budget. In inception it is supposedly designed to serve, but it doesn't last. As a hegemon, bureaucracy must first promote its own health, since it claims that its own health is necessary to serve the group. Service comes last. All incentives are to first secure its relationship with government, and then to promote its value to the common good through propaganda, and then lastly to serve its customers. It's incentives are first to bloat, obfuscate, and waste.

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