Friday, March 26, 2010

Sean Hannity's False Alternative

I generally try to avoid listening to Sean Hannity, but I happened to catch a portion of his program the other day. A caller was frustrated over the attitude of those who have argued that we cannot claim that a government takeover of the health care system will be a disaster. Hannity offered no explanation for this position, and simply repeated that the free market works.

Hannity is correct of course, if individual freedom and well-being is one's standard for "works". There is ample evidence--nineteenth century America, East Germany versus West Germany, communist China versus Hong Kong, etc.--that demonstrates the practical benefits of freedom. But these practical arguments have been, and always will be, ineffectual. The reason lies in morality.

Faced with a choice between what is considered moral and what is practical, individuals choose what they regard as moral. Having embraced altruism--the belief that morality consists of self-sacrificial service to others--the "conflict" between the moral and the practical is inevitable.

The free market is founded on the premise that each individual has a moral right to act according to his own judgment in the pursuit of his own values. It is a system based on rational self-interest, in which each individual is free to take the actions he deems appropriate to achieve his own interests and happiness (so long as he respects the mutual rights of others). This is of course, the antithesis of altruism.

Hannity, like virtually all conservatives, is blinded to the false alternative between the moral and the practical. He refuses to question altruism, and has no explanation as to why Americans are increasingly rejecting the practicality of the free market. Indeed, his own position adds to that rejection.

If morality consists of self-sacrificial service to others, if we must place the welfare and interests of others before our own, if the needs of one man supersede the rights of another, then morality demands that practical consequences be cast aside. To mystics like Hannity the issues of life on Earth are ultimately of little concern when the fate of one's eternal soul is at stake.

The truth is, a proper moral code is eminently practical. The purpose of morality is to provide man with a code of values for living his life on this Earth, to provide guidance for achieving his values.

So long as Hannity and other conservatives embrace altruism their arguments regarding the practicality of the free market will fall on deaf ears. Until they recognize and accept The Virtue of Selfishness they will continue to endorse the false alternative of the moral versus the practical.

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