Altruism versus Selfishness - Which of Them Is Sin and What Is Virtue – Essay Example

The paper “Altruism versus Selfishness - Which of Them Is Sin and What Is Virtue?" is a thoughtful example of an essay on philosophy. This world is faced with a problem, a problem that masquerades as a virtue, a quality that good people are expected to possess and exhibit. Across the world, from the beginning of time, humans have placed great importance and respect in altruistic behavior, behavior that helps others and not oneself. Our culture is invaded “by a tabu on selfishness. We are taught that to be selfish is sinful and that to love others is virtuous” (Fromm 119). While charity and compassion have undeniable benefits to the human race, why do people glorify self-sacrifice and humility, destructive behaviors and feelings, as being right, and self-love as wrong? Selflessness exists as a virtue; selfishness, a sin. People need to realize and acknowledge selfishness, or “concerns with one's own interests” (Rand x), as a virtue, as morally right and good, as this will help individuals to value and respect themselves, ironically, encourage the beneficial kind of helping behavior, and lead to a healthier economy.

From the altruistic perspective, self-love and striving to reach personal goals (those that seemingly only benefit oneself), are wrong, while anything done for the benefit of others is righteous, as Ayn Rand explains (x). “Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value- and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes” (Rand xi). People are taught to strive to be better, then made to feel immoral when they reach too far, try too hard, and think of themselves. This practice exploits the work of the individual and causes hard-working people to feel guilty about their earned successes. If only people opened their eyes to the hypocrisy of such ideas, they would learn to respect themselves and be proud in their success, learn that it is ok, and even good, to be happy even if others around are not as successful as themselves. When a person can focus on their own well being without guilt, they can finally achieve their full potential. This occurs when people compete to be better, such as authors that must continuously perfect their craft in order to write better books to sell more of them. The result is better writers, better books, and satisfied readers.

When people are satisfied and happy with themselves, they are more likely to help other people, ironically. Studies have shown that when people are happy themselves, they exhibit more helpful behaviors, which in turn, lead those people to help others as well. Sometimes, people are not able to help themselves out of a certain situation. Helping that person to get to a better situation is honorable and morally correct. However, the extent of this help matters greatly. For instance, it is far better to supply a jobless poor person with a job and means to money, than to supply them with money alone. In helping someone this way, the helper gets a sense of gratification for doing the right thing, and the helped person now must strive to meet the requirements of this job. Once they fulfill these requirements, they experience greater self-efficacy, as well as the monetary benefits of their work. Benjamin Franklin did well for the poor in such a way, he recognized “...the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it” (Franklin).

The economy as a whole benefit when people and businesses concern themselves with their own welfare, instead of being equally controlled and supported by the government. This is known as capitalism, “a social system based on the principle of individual rights” (“Capitalism”), and is the system the United States uses. When businesses control themselves, they must compete with other businesses for consumers. Businesses competing is always to the advantage of the consumers, because the companies are forced to produce better products and sell them at the lowest possible prices. If a company fails in this effort, it goes out of business. The workers must find other jobs, jobs that they do better at, which also benefits the country. Other countries that use a more altruistic form of the market do more harm to their economies than good. They shelter the smaller businesses that are not doing well, as well as monopolizing the larger ones, creating an environment where competition is not necessary and therefore the prices and quality of the goods are not to the satisfaction of the consumers.

Although some helping is good and beneficial to people as a whole, altruistic behavior can not solve society’s problems and frequently adds to them. This prevailing thought of selfishness and personal interest as immoral causes unnecessary strife in the lives of people. Instead of teaching everyone to help each other and ignore one's own self, people need to teach the importance of self-love and self-worth and see where this leads. The self-esteem and confidence of countless thousands will go up once they realize that it is acceptable and morally alright to be satisfied in their abilities. People will help others in ways that offer them long-term happiness, not just a quick fix, and those people will help others. Businesses will compete with each other healthily, resulting in better and cheaper products. In order to reach such results, the idea of selfishness as caring about one's own self must be recognized as a virtue and accepted and practiced in our society.