You’re not selfish for wanting to keep what’s yours

Often in political discourse those who argue for fiscal restraint are accused of being selfish. Don’t support higher taxes? Stop being so greedy. Don’t think public money should be spent subsidising other people’s lifestyle choices? ‘Well you’re selfish!’ they squeal. But, what if those who talk the most about compassion and fairness are actually the selfish ones? What if their arguments about fairness are nothing more than a disguise for their own self interest? Is it selfish to keep what’s yours?

For many of us these attitudes go back to the lessons we learnt as a child. As children we were taught to share with others. The concept of sharing can be divided into two broad categories, the first is voluntary, where one child voluntarily shares his toys with another child. The classic example is letting the other child have equal time on the Playstation. The second kind of sharing is involuntary, you probably experienced it as a child. You were busy playing with your toy and some other child (possibly a brother or sister) demanded they have your toy and had a tantrum to get it. An outside force (your mother or father) too tired to deal with a tantrum gave in and forced you to give away your toy. Often that other child would show no respect to your property and break your toy. Or perhaps you were the child having the tantrum, however, if that were true you would probably be watching the ABC rather than reading this article.

It’s often this second kind of sharing that people apply in adult life when they throw around the selfish label. It genuinely surprises me how often people blatantly argue for their own self interest at the expense of others and pretend its a selfless argument. For example, the public sector union that argues for more government spending and the Australian Medical Association that demands the government has more compassion and increase the medicare rebate. Pick up any newspaper and it will be replete with examples. Whenever anyone challenges these demands for ‘fairness’ they’re called selfish.

The libertarian is often called selfish, however unlike the ‘progressive’ they are open and honest about their self interest. They know that people are self interested and seek to create a world which based on voluntary mutual benefit. That’s why the libertarian supports free trade and rejects government intrusions into voluntary exchanges between individuals. It’s the difference between someone renting your property and someone claiming squatter rights and refusing to leave. One is mutual exchange, the other: theft.

Libertarians believe in self ownership and since you own yourself, you own the proceeds of your labour. The progressive believes the collective owns you. The proceeds of your labour belong to the community (them). They will decide what you get to keep; because no rational person in a democracy would agree to theft, the progressive always argues someone else should pay. This other person is the 1%, big corporations or anyone with more then they have. This sharing always comes from someone who’s not themselves. To reject this logic is not selfish, it’s rational.

84 Comments on "You’re not selfish for wanting to keep what’s yours"

  1. becoming a politician is a lifestyle choice, they shouldn’t get anything more than any other worker gets

  2. Who does fund Libertyworks?

  3. Interesting. I think there is a fundamental difference between ‘sharing’ and ‘giving away’ your possessions. For example, Australia used to own its own country and manufacture most of what we needed and employ most of our citizens. With ‘free trade’ we have given away our Lucky Country, as required by Australia signing the Lima Convention in 1975.
    How do we get back our ‘share’ of our ex Lucky Country?

  4. Yes, if other people need it more than you.

  5. If your life and ability to make money is at all related to public infrastructure then yes, you are selfish for not wanting to contribute. Education and roads alone are the only reason anyone can make money, not to mention the security you get from the military and police. In this analogy the libertarian is the kid who may own the playstation itself, but didn’t work for the electricity, house or games, is hogging it and throws a tantrum when he’s told by his parents that the other kid can use it.

    That 150 billion spent on welfare looks like a scary number until you realize only 10 billion is spent on unemployment and the rest is disability, aged pension and veteran support. Every dollar spent on unemployment is money saved because prisoners and homeless cost the system far more.

    • Most people are willing to contribute a bit. But where do you draw the line?

    • My view is provide strong military, security, social security, education and healthcare and tax accordingly. What we have now in Australia is pretty decent, there really isn’t that much waste. There’s some and people will point to the dole, but unemployment figures are related to the strength of the economy, not how much dole citizens get. The effect of taxation and spending on the economy is a whole other discussion.

    • Aaron Brammer Milton Friedman made an exception for what he called Neighbourhood effect which covers the sort of thing your talking about.

  6. Liberty at work (example no 1 of 1,000,000,000,000,000): Heather Bresch is an American business executive and the daughter of Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. In 1992 she started working as a clerk in a factory owned by Mylan, a pharmaceuticals company, a job her father found for her. In 2007 she was accused of inflating her resume by claiming an unearned MBA degree that was given to her by West Virginia University’s president, Michael Garrison, a politician, a friend of her father and a former lobbyist for and consultant to Mylan. She became the Chief Executive Officer of Mylan in 2012. She was named one of Fortune Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women In Business” in 2014. In 2016 Mylan became embroiled in controversy after having raised the price of one of its products, the EpiPen, by nearly 500 percent since 2009. Questions: are there any fairness issues raised in this case study? What policy responses might be suggested?

    • Fairness, if a company starts making a big profit. Other entrepreneurs start up by offering a similar product at a lower price. If entrepreneurs can’t enter the market this is because state prevents them, this is craptialism (or crony capitalism)

    • Of course the dominant capitalist is entirely passive in this scenario – if you believe in fantasy. It has certainly never occurred in history. Then Ancaps and Libertarians are prone to fantasy (and self-serving rhetoric).

    • The policy response is to deregulate the provision of drugs and allow competitors to supply the epipen, which American law forbids them from doing without going through an onerous regulatory approval process for a drug that is *off patent*. http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/08/29/reverse-voxsplaining-drugs-vs-chairs/

    • I think most would agree that there is more to the fairness issue than merely regulation obstructing entry to a market. The example I gave illustrates privilege perpetuating privilege, which is what the wealthy do. But even in the narrow confines of drug pricing i. Vox isn’t as averse to the market solution you suggest in all cases BUT ii. it is not always so clear cut. “In the case of the EpiPen, I’m pretty sure Alexander (and my Bloomberg View colleague Megan McArdle) are right that competition, not price regulation, is the solution to the problem. It’s a product for which there is a large and growing market, and there are already multiple competitors being sold in Europe, where prices for both the generics and brand-name EpiPens are much lower than in the U.S. Tear down this wall, FDA!

      The situation is totally different, though, for Daraprim, which is essential for treating certain parasitic infections but is (1) only prescribed to about 2,000 Americans a year and (2) doesn’t need to be taken for very long. That isn’t a market opportunity to warm a generics manufacturer’s heart. In fact, it may be a natural monopoly.

      In an article on the off-patent pricing issue published earlier this year in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Harvard Medical School Ph.D. student (and startup co-founder) Naren Tallapraganda described one Daraprim workaround: Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmacy that “fills doctor-prescribed, patient-specific formulations of mixtures of drugs,” has made a deal with pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts to sell a compound of Daraprim’s active ingredient and a complementary drug for $1 a tablet. Still, there are limits to what compounding pharmacies can do, Tallapraganda writes. For some off-patent monopolies, government price regulation might actually be the best available remedy. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-09-09/the-strange-case-of-off-patent-drug-price-gougers

  7. Care & compassion come from the heart not out of the barrel of a gun.

  8. If you own yourself you own the proceeds of your labour, but if you don’t own yourself? If someone damages you and inhibits your ability to produce for yourself then that makes the perpetrator responsible to provide compensation for the damages done!

  9. WOW, where do I start dismantling the arguments in this article? It’s not selfish to keep what’s yours? Sure, but surely it depends HOW it was acquired. Let’s take Australian shareholders of a multinational that has used ‘transfer pricing’ to boost profits in a low-tax jurisdiction and that keep their ‘profits’ in Swiss banks. According to the concept that it isn’t selfish to keep what’s yours, these shareholders aren’t doing nothing wrong and would be wrong to suggest that they do. A close examination reveals that they have enjoyed the benefits of living in Australia, they have made use of the infrastructures all Australians have contributed to, their ‘profits’ was obtained using Australian labour that have been educated and kept healthy through an education and health system contributed by all Australians, and the firm in which they have invested have used ‘fancy and unethical’ accounting practices to avoid paying their fair level of taxes in Australia. Clearly the “HOW” what’s yours was acquired has a lot to do in answering if it’s selfish to keep what’s yours. What about wealth that was inherited? Is it really yours? What if that wealth was derived through crime? What if you are the grandson of the Mafia boss that made his money through extortion and drugs? Simplistic answers to complex issues has never been a good fit.

  10. Anybody who becomes rich by the exploitation of another’s labour is the epitome of selfishness. In our society the value of labour has been limited by legislation and regulation to the extent that nobody actually considers the true value to an employer of another person’s labour. Hence the wage paid is the minimum the employer can get away with. Of course it works the other way too. Anybody who draws a wage from an employer and who returns to the employer less labour than the employer pays for is also acting selfishly. The records of our industrial courts are full of continual battles between employers and employees over what constitutes a fair wage, fair conditions, fair hours etc. Some would say deregulate. Let the market decide. This would work under conditions of perfect competition, but such conditions are only a theoretical construct and have no basis in reality. Therefore, to give certainty to both employers and employees there needs to be a minimum wage, that takes into account the all inclusive costs of running a household. That would be the base cost of providing labour. This would be good for employers as they decide how many people to employ. It would be a known cost. The problem is that for households prices and charges continually change, in an upwards direction which feeds into a spiral of rising prices and rising wages, giving neither employers, nor employees the certainty they require to plan ahead. It’s all part of the historical, ongoing struggle between those who own the capital and those who own the labour, and the ham fisted political machinery that attempts to legislate fairness, and in so doing, tends to favour one side or the other. Some countries avoid such problems. They allow chattel slavery. To some extent slavery still exists in another form. Only when a person earns enough so that he/she can decide freely whether to work on a given day or not will wage slavery be abolished.

    • I consider ONLY the productive worth of a worker, but you’re right that group negotiations and legislated wages have blinded people to the true worth of their employees.

  11. No it isn’t selfish to want to keep what is yours. It is selfish to take what belongs to someone else, for less than it is worth, with the force of law at your back.

  12. There are always two sides to every argument. If you are incapable of seeing the other side you are steeped in the epitome of selfishness.

  13. If I have worked hard for something, why can’t I keep it? On the other hand I do work hard for other people and the community involved in volunteering for three major organisations. I think there is a balance.

  14. there’s no simple true/false.
    if you have enough food to feed 16 families, and your neighbours are starving then yes it’s selfish.
    if you want to keep your toothbrush and underpants to yourself, that’s not as selfish no.

  15. Conservatives give more time, money, and blood to others. The accusation of greed is a childish emotional manipulation.

  16. Also, there’s a consistent correlation between being left-wing and being a criminal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2w23Zc-Zfs

    • Yes, I think we’ve triggered a few people by suggesting they aren’t automatically entitled to what’s not theirs.

    • You did more than that, you poked at the core of their self-worth, which, sadly and dysfunctionally, they primarily gain from empty virtue-signalling and looking down on an outgroup (the right).

    • Sam you hit the jugular and hit it perfectly. I have only commented twice in this argument seeing if there are more people with a functioning brain out there and willingness to stand up.
      Nicely done my friend. Not bad at all mate.

    • I know some very good and decent people well over to the left. However, when it comes to the public debate, I am sick to the back teeth of the moral slander and libel against anybody to the right. The only way to modify that behaviour is to penalize it.

  17. In Australia we look after those less fortunate, it has always been so.

  18. Depends whether “what’s yours” has been made off the backs of those missing out to fund YOUR lifestyle choices!

  19. Painfully pointing out the obvious which is unfortunately necessary in todays World. Nicely done.

  20. But muh social contract! You signed up to d’soshul kontrakt to pay for my ugly, obnoxious children, jetski fetish, Kuta trishaw hire and batik sarongs, commodore collection, gender reassignment surgery, etc etc etc…..

    • You know you can’t buy that stuff on $250 a week. Its generally a hardworking tradie and his family buying this stuff that people automatically think is some dole bludger and trot out the “I saw a poor looking person with an iphone therefore I shouldn’t pay tax” garbage.

    • Bullshit. I worked at an international airport for a while, and a substantial chunk of passengers out of or heading to Denpassar were on benefits. Who the hell on welfare is only on $250/week? “Housos” is a documentary.

    • Add rent assistance, assorted allowances, free medical and dental etc. The fact that the indolent and feckless can refuse work confirms that benefits are not subsistence, but a subsidised lifestyle. And the few remaining who still actually create wealth are rightly pissed off with providing a living for those who can’t be arsed to do so for themselves. Among the litany of failure of socialism, the welfare state is the most egregious, and expensive.

    • Cite your sources to your ramblings Paul Bickford

    • Look them up yourself, I’m not sodding google. I realise there’s a lot of people in this country who have everything done for them, but not voluntarily by me.

    • I understand how frustrating the idea of a dole bludger is. Genuine ones piss me off too, the thing is they’re not as prevalent as the pigs in the trough want you to believe. Its an easy distraction. In a healthy economy unemployment will always be around the 5% mark and only a tiny fraction of those are gaming the system. The average length of time Newstart is paid out is 3 months. And what little they do steal is not enough to experience anything other than crippling poverty.

    • They’re a minor irritant, who should however be removed from our pockets. What about the intergenerational supporting parent benefit recipients (exponential growth industry as well), the career DSP wranglers with compliant GPs who also get a good screw out of the return business, and the legion of fleabags who service this sector? The usual method of governments when met with abject failure and unintended consequences (how anyone could think paying bogans to do fuck all and produce more bogans wouldn’t result in exactly that shows how pigshit stupid politicians are, unless they’re breeding a voteherd of course) is to of course expand the program, and hurl in more cash.Fast approaching the situation where net contributors are outnumbered by net recipients, and anyone with an IQ bigger than their hatsize knows the inevitable outcome of that scenario.

    • Aaron you previously mentioned about the tradie not being able to cover the costs of raising a family but this is also a lifestyle choice which taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund. Having children is a lifestyle choice. If you can’t afford a family without seeking handouts, then don’t have children

    • Then you’re talking about enforcing the rights to breed or not, which I’m sure everyone on this page would vehemently disagree with, myself included.

  21. The thing I find interesting is all of these bleeding hearts going on about wealth redustribution, the 1% rich etc.
    These are the same people who fail to realise we don’t live under Capitalism or Democracy.
    We live under Corporatist Socialism with a very thin veneer of Democracy.
    One thing Corporatists understand but Socialists never will- you cannot tax a Nation into prosperity. You cannot take from a productive worker, give to an un-productive person, and remain in the green.
    Corporatism is bad because it influences Governance. Socialism is bad because it always leads to Communism or Dictatorship or both.
    Another thing Socialists don’t understand- you run out of money eventually. Then collapse. Then the rebuilding and cleaning up done by Conservatives.
    Rinse and repeat. It would be hilarious in other circumstances.

    • Just out of curiosity, if you suddenly ran a developed Western country what would your tax rates be and what services would your government provide?

    • I am glad you asked! Smallest Government possible. The nuts and bolts needed to Run a Nation are Military, Emergency Services, Infastructure and management of revenue i.e. not economy.
      Tax rate? While I am no economist I will paraphrase Jeff Berwick (who is) and say 2% across the board. No matter ones income.
      Slash taxes and regulation on small to medium businesses. Some small semblance of a free market.
      These things WORK as opposed to stopgap Socialist measures that fix the ‘here and now’ immediately and lead Societies into debt.
      In a free market with surplus charities can thrive and can take care of much of the welfare problems we have.
      Socialism complicates things to the point where losses i.e. debt accumulates and economies crash.
      If you think we are immune good luck to you.

    • Jesse Bell, the last resession we had was the GFC and that was caused by the banks lending money to anyone and charging them enormous interest that could not possibly be paid back. As a matter of fact, all of the resessions and depressions in the history of the industrial age have been caused by markets crashing due to the mismanagement and routing of funds by greedy investors and financial institutions for example, lehmann brothers.
      Oh, and by the way, communism has never existed. Why? Because communism must be worldwide without capitalism existing. Communism cannot compete against capitalism but capitalism will always collapse. Just follow it to it’s logical conclusion, we just keep on propping it up when it does.

    • Pfft! The first part you started out well. The second you are parroting propoganda.
      The root problem is a lack of backed currency and having central banks in the first place. Not a Capitalist idea. That is fully within the realm of Socialism and Communism.
      The greedy investors you talk of are merely a product of these left-wing economic policies.
      So is bailing them out when they fail in an economy that is so short-sighted i.e. Socialist.
      We are going to crash. It is inevitable. It is thanks to the left- the irresponsible gift that keeps on giving.
      What YOU are referring to is Corporatism. Again a symptom of Socialism.
      Try again.

    • You’re not gonna get a military on 2%.

    • When enough Capital is made through a free market yes you will. A hard concept I agree.
      A free market, low taxes and minimum regulation makes profits (and therefore tax revenue) skyrocket.
      This is nothing new. Look at Rome compared to Greece and Egypt. Look at America before Washington lost his way. Look at Panama before the yanks killed their President.
      Greater financial freedom means greater profits for business means greater State income from tax.

    • By the way Aaron Brammer Rome maintained a 150,000 plus strong militia from the average citizen working 2 days a year to pay taxes. Until the centralized i.e. socialist measures kicked in. That was the beginning.

    • Lets say that’s Australia. The problem with that scenario is that the GDP would have to grow about 3x its size to bring in the revenue to cover military and roads. Just military and roads. No education, no police, no healthcare. Considering the all time high increase to Australian GDP so far is 9%, the country would collapse very quickly. You’d need 300%.

    • Also you’d have to worry about companies wanting to even invest in a country that can’t afford/provide infrastructure regardless of low tax rates. Best case scenario the country becomes like Bangladesh whose main draw is outsourced cheap, easily exploitable workers.

    • And the Roman system is perfectly fine if you’re happy with Australian soldiers only getting a low wage, a spear and the promise of property when they retire.

    • Sounds familiar then huh? We are in a mess brought about by Socialist policies. By your reasoning we merely keep propping up said mess until we tax the Nation to nothing.
      Has been tried. Has failed. Has been tried again. Has failed again. This system we are under will fall and fall hard. Too late.
      Maybe it might have been a possibility 2 decades ago. Not anymore. Not without severe consequences.
      Having said that those consequences would be arguably less brutal than let’s say Venezuela who kept going to the end of this path.
      Hard decisions need making brought about by easy decisions made by our leftist Governments. Do we fall soon? Do we fall later? Or do we fix this?
      300% increase? High but not impossible in a free market.

    • Ah now you want to google history and joust. Ok. Fair enough.
      Roman Soldiers were initially paid 75 denarii per month. Not a bad income. Free food. Free lodging. And yes they were promised land for 20 years service. Which often (not always) they got.
      Then Rome had a money problem. So they did the Socialist thing and put less silver in the denarii i.e. printed more money.
      Do I seriously need to go further? Or do you wish to google more or look for screenshots on my profile that have little to do with the argument at hand?

    • Fiscal responsibility is not a defining characteristic of the left. It has lead to the downfall of more than one Society. Try googling that.
      Better still try and tell me a single example outside of Government propoganda where Socialism has worked out in the long run? Let’s be fair and say for more than 3 generations.

  22. Awwwwwww he got 7 peas and I only got 6 🙁

  23. Poor argument, one could say exactly the same thing about the 1% the 10% as a progressive. The people with the most always want more, they want to hoard what they have and often have far less empathy than the poor. Freedom to choose should be the case but, so is equal rights and equal opportunity. At what point does having $10 million make life better than $1 million? How much money does a person really need to live a comfortable life? Why is it that corporations always obtain more benefits than people? Why is it the corporations and the rich pay far less tax than average people? Why is it they are treated far better than the average person? It’s so easy to forget people are more important than money, especially when you have it. It is the oligarchs that take away your rights, it is the oligarchs that take away your money. It is the oligarchs that create a mood of fear and anger to distract you from the reality it is them destroying lives all to benefit themselves. Blame the oligarchs, not the people.

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