Friday, June 03, 2005

the ethic of self interest

I wrote in my philosophy that the space between your fingers is as much a part of your hand as the fingers are. By cultivating this understanding, you expand your self concept, your concept of "I." In David's blog, he posts, Ethics: Self-interest. It's a pragmatic ethic, but it's moral quality depends upon the individual's concept of self. In the extreme case of the APD, there is almost exclusively a self interest with virtually no moral quality. White (or any other racial, religious, or philosphical) supremacy members have as their core ethic self interest. To believe that our kind is superior to your kind justifies lynchings, bombings, church burnings, and plane crashings. While these groups have an expanded version of self--me and those like me--they are extreme and not supported by reasonable people. It is not them I wish to address. "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone. " Ayn Rand But I'm so intensely bothered by their existence I couldn't refrain from mentioning them.

It is those who disregard unacceptable consequences to others to promote their own self interest that I would hope to persuade to expand their self concept. When Andrew Carnegie tacitly approved the The Homestead Strike incident, he was certainly acting in his own self interest. Three pinkertons and seven laborers died because Carnegie, through Henry Clay Frick, didn't want to negotiate with workers who were acting in their own self interest. If Carnegie and Frick were to have pondered deeply the truth of the space between the fingers, they would've understood that the interests of their laborers were in fact in their own self interest. Carnegie did indeed understand the value of benefitting the masses when he founded the Carnegie Corporation. He championed the rights of workers, but crushed their unions. This is the danger of an ethic of self interest when the concept of self is too small. A corporate giant like Carnegie couldn't exist without a labor force, and yet he kept their wages low, and was willing to allow murder to get rid of a contract that essentially was profit sharing. The workers at Homestead received pay based on the current market value of their work. Why would a man who would give away a fortune for the public good, who would publicly praise workers rights, allow a murderous stoppage of reasonable worker demands? Because his belief in the ethics of his own self interest overrode his other beliefs when it came time to pay, a NIMBY reaction, workers rights, but not from my bottom line.

The larger your concept of self, the less harm you're willing to do. When a self interest ethic leads to me and my own and screw you mentality, then it is of low moral quality and harmful to collective society. The illegal dumping of toxic waste to circumvent the expense caused by environmental laws serves the self interest of the offending company, but what of the mentality of the truck driver who opens the spout? If you never personally have to drink the contaminated water, even if someone else does, have you served your self interest? Does he think, screw them damn moonbat environmentalists, I should be allowed to do what I want and keep the profits? In the case of the whistleblowing truckdriver, he thinks he has a responsibility to his community to not potentially endanger their health. He realizes he is more than himself and more than an employee of a company, he is a member of a community, and possibly he realizes he is a mammal dependent upon an environment, and a healthy environment provides a higher quality of life. Dead fish and burning rivers don't make for great vacations. He has a larger concept of self, and his ethic is of high moral quality, and he does the right thing, he blows the whistle which actually puts his self interest at risk.

It is the action of those who understand the space between their fingers that reduces suffering.

" I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together..."


Blogger david said...

Perhaps a clarification is in order: Self-interest that does NOT infringe upon the rights or existence of others. The idiot white-supremacists, for instance, do embody "self interest," but AT THE EXPENSE of others.

Good post.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks David. Yes, basically you use the golden rule (not the one about he who as the gold rules). In New Games there are 3 rules: play hard; play fair; nobody hurt. I think perhaps the supremacists embody self delusion more than self interest.

10:58 AM  

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