Famed playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
This was an astute observation. It is truly selfish to expect others – partners, friends and family – to live according to your preferences; doing so is to arbitrarily elevate your preferences above theirs. Even if it’s done with the best of intentions or out of altruism, it’s still selfish.
This isn’t only true in the realm of our private lives, it’s also true in the realm of politics. The majority of government action today, in the form of legislation, is aimed at forcing (laws don’t ask) people who engage in certain behaviours to live as some special interest group, campaign group or lobbyist wishes them to.
These days there are numerous laws aimed at ‘nudging’ people into living as others, i.e. busybodies, intellectuals and egotists, wish them to. And more come into existence year by year.
We can’t know how widespread selfishness is in the sphere of people’s private lives, but it is glaringly evident that selfishness is rampant in the political sphere of our state-ruled society.
Those with the most influence over state rulers and lawmakers, be they intellectuals, campaigners or lobbyists, are able to indirectly force others to live as they wish them to because state power makes it a legal possibility. Without the state power vested in lawmakers, leveraging the coercion apparatus of the state would not be an option. The peaceful means of persuasion would be the only legally permissible course of action.
Libertarian-ism is often accused of being the creed of the selfish, but this is totally incorrect. To advocate the legal freedom for each individual to live as they wish is the opposite of selfishness in the political realm. To resist asking one’s partner, family or friends to live as one wishes them to live is to offer them the greatest respect.
This is something liberty lovers should never forget as they go about spreading the freedom philosophy and trying to persuade others. It is not us advocates of individual liberty who are the selfish ones.
The truly selfish ones are all those across the political spectrum, from left to right, who seek to force others to live as they wish them to live through the brute force of the law.