Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Debunking statist concepts - Altruism part 1

Part of the purpose of this blog is to look at the conceptual and philosophical roots of people's nonsense, and debunk them. Following this, I am starting, with this entry, a new series debunking Steve Kangas' Liberalism Resurgent FAQ.

Why did I choose this FAQ ? Not because I oppose liberalism more than conservatism (both support state power and are therefore immoral), not because I don't like Kangas (he's dead anyway), and not because it's particularly popular (even though it is). I like this FAQ because it is a rare attempt by a statist to use basic principles to mount some sort of apologetics for his beliefs. He goes through all the basic concepts like individualism, democracy, equality, and so on, and is honest about his irrationality and collectivism. So this FAQ illustrates very well why statists are morally wrong.

In this entry I will examine his first point, individualism vs altruism. Guess which side he's on ? That's right, he's against individualism.

All of his articles have a summary that explain his position, with details and ramifications explored below it. So in each case I will mainly examine his summary, with support from the main text when needed.

Let's start with the first sentence :

Individuals are not 100 percent self-interested.

Great, we just started and already we fall into statist rhetoric. How can anyone not be 100% self-interested ? That is tautologically absurd. Anyone who does something, does it because he thinks that's what he should do. Yet Kangas thinks he has some examples :

Undeniable examples of altruism exist among families (in a strong form) and among communities (in a weaker form).

And to quote him in the main text :

In fact, there is powerful evidence that humans are not pure individualists. (...) [F]amilies are deeply altruistic; both mothers and fathers sacrifice unselfishly to ensure the welfare of their children.

Wow. Does anyone really believe this ? I think it's very insulting to any parent - to be told that the raising of his children is not in his own interest ! This implies that he has no love or consideration for his children, that they are not part of his values.

Most parents would dismiss Kangas' comments as bullshit, and yet this kind of thinking convinces people who don't understand parenting and, seeing it from the outside as hardship, not sharing in the parents' values, classify it as aberrant behaviour. But this is the height of arrogance. Furthermore, parenting has a lot of other motivations than simply raising children.

The point, however, should not be overstated. People do commit irrational actions. This is definitely true and a fact that we simply cannot ignore. We can call this irrationality "altruism", "evil", in that it is simply moral error. But to say that every single parent in the world is irrational and in error, however, is ridiculous to the extreme. Is having children the best way to express your values ? For a lot of people, the answer is obviously yes.

Of course, statists promote altruism to stomp down individualism, and Kangas hits the nail on the head by calling his page "Individualism vs Altruism". That is the crux of the issue. If you can make other people believe that individualism is in some way bad for society, then you have the tool to attack the individual's value-expression. This is what Kangas, and statists in general, want to do.

Due to length, this article is divided in two parts. Go to part 2.

No comments: