What makes the world go ‘round?
Inertia makes the world go
‘round. The world is already going ‘round, so it keeps
on going ‘round. This is excellent physics, but crummy
Ethics? What on Earth does this
have to do with ethics? Well, in the 4th century BC, the
last word on the world’s rotation was that love
makes the world go ‘round.1.
This turned out to be crummy physics, but it’s excellent
Love does make the human
world go ‘round; it moves human actions. Love of what?
Of whatever the action aims at. Whose love? The love of
whoever acts. Human actions are moved by an individual’s
love for his own goals.
This is highly favorable for
egoism. We can roughly re-state it as selfishness
makes the world go ‘round! It puts nihilists, those who
oppose selfishness, in the cheerless position of
opposing the human world’s motive power.
This led old-fashioned
nihilists to despair. Committed to a morality of
anti-selfishness, they abandoned the world. They just
sighed, “Morality has no chance. Virtue’s only reward is
Among modern nihilists, the
simply deny the power of self-interest. Hence
such goofiness as the mantra that “punishment does not
deter,” the absurdity that production will grow even
when the profit is taxed out of it, and the jest that
the “social safety net” is not a hammock!
But most modern nihilists
He was more cunning. He conceded that selfishness was
inescapable, but stripped it of moral significance. He
granted its power, but not its glory.
He introduced something new in
the world: hypocrisy on principle. By regarding
self-interest as a non-moral factor like a force of
nature, he gave those who oppose self-interest an
open door to use it. So they do, brazenly and
To steal a line from the spy
business, they “turn” selfishness to betray its master.
Statists lavish handouts, subsidies and “incentives” on
businesses and the public. They shower patronage on
their supporters. So they get praised and
re-elected—even while their schemes undermine
Hypocrisy has been called the
tribute which vice pays to virtue. This nihilist
hypocrisy is the tribute impotence pays to power!
The statist trend of the last
century or so led many egoists to despair; it seemed to
prove that there was some mysterious power greater than
self-interest. There isn’t. The statist trend was caused
by the gimmick of perverting self-interest, of
using it against itself.
The buggers have been biting us
with our own teeth!
Egoists have sole rightful
title to the greatest power on Earth. For us,
self-interest is no sleazy, hypocritical gimmick; it
is the essence of morality. Self-interest and a
moral code are both formidable powers. In combination,
they’re unbeatable. Egoists combine them!
Egoists honor self-interest as
the material of morality itself. So morality and
self-interest can no more be separated than the iron of
an anvil from the anvil made of it. Men seek goals; the
moral question is only: which ones?
Egoists choose values as
goals. But a value is that which supports and
strengthens you, which makes you better able to live and
to act. Knowledge and wealth are obvious examples. They
enhance your power to live.
For an egoist, virtue is
method, a systematic course of action for achieving
a value. Rationality and thrift are obvious examples. So
an egoist is mightily interested in perfecting his
virtues, and acquiring new ones.
Thus, egoists grow in power in
the normal course of living. We may not yet have enough
allies, but we have powerful allies.
And we will have more
allies. Egoism is contagious! It’s spreading! Everyone
who is infected by our ideas is both recruited to our
side and made more powerful. It’s a good combination!
Better yet, none of these
advantages is a matter of dumb luck. They are logical
results of our basic premises. We planned it that way!
So the right frame of mind for
an egoist is radical optimism! Optimism feels
good; we’re entitled to it; and there’s nothing like it
to spur you to greater efforts, and to sharpen your
Optimism is good for you—if
you’re an egoist! Optimism is no exercise in
self-delusion for those who seek real goods by valid
methods. Facts are friends for those whose policy is to
get on the right side of them.
The clouds of gloom which
darken the world come from the cultural establishment
with its nihilist premises. Nihilists deserve
pessimism; we don’t.
Oh, yes. About those pesky
nihilists and statists. Permit me to recommend a couple
of virtues for dealing with them, one that’s
ridiculously easy and another that’s tougher.
The easy one is quackgrass
activism: fax, copy, and spread good articles. Help
to create more egoists, capitalists, and activists. The
more the merrier!
The tougher virtue is
strategic thinking: review nihilist/statist schemes,
and figure out how they work. That will point the way to
defeating them, separately and in detail.
This means analyzing the
schemes in terms of interests. Who expects to
benefit? Why will they be disappointed? Who gets stuck
with the bill? What can the victims do to defend
themselves? Is there a way to profit?
Strategic thinking can put
self-interest back on the side where it belongs! It will
also unearth evidence to help build your optimism.
Harry Browne is a model of
strategic thinking. He taught a generation how to profit
while defeating statist money-printing. He didn’t end
the inflation of the 70s single-handedly, but he sure
He credits the germ of the idea
to one Jerome F. Smith, who observed that “if the
government is wrong in what it’s doing, there must be a
way for an individual to profit by betting against it.”4.
This is strategic thinking of the first order!
How can we lose?
Love does make the world