By Joseph Kellard
Rational selfishness got a hearing at a “tax revolt” in Levittown, Long Island, hosted by a Young Republicans Club on Saturday. In other words, I got the opportunity to speak to a crowd of about 100 people.
Throughout, I held a sign that read: “Ayn Rand was right, Read Alas Shrugged, www.aynrand.com.” Two teens waved their “Who Is John Galt?” signs at me. One scheduled speaker told me about mine: “That’s a great sign.” And a 20-something man told me he’s reading Atlas, say it was “amazing” how Rand “predicted everything going on today” in 1957.
The speakers gave standard conservative speeches, railing against onerous taxes, left-wing media and the loss of personal responsibility. The best comment among them was: “I like making money and being sorta selfish.”
This woman, the emcee, later gave the microphone to anyone willing to talk. A few protestors made more standard comments.
I recall that I started my speech by mentioning Atlas Shrugged, and said that our nation’s founding principles – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are based on rational selfishness, the morality that Ayn Rand fully, explicitly developed and advocated.
Mentioning a speaker who had questioned how it was possible that socialism was making a comeback, I also noted that our nation grew out of tax revolts and that we’re still holding them today. “It’s because Americans still hold to the morality of self-sacrifice, the belief that we must live our lives for others,” I said. “If we don’t question that ethic and understand that there is nothing morally wrong with living for our own sake, then we can expect more and more taxes.”
I said that self-sacrifice is the basis for such government programs as welfare for the poor “to, yes, even Social Security and Medicare.”
I ended by stressing that the tea parties/tax revolts will ultimately amount to nothing unless people challenge the morality of self-sacrifice and uphold the rationally selfish principles on which America was founded. The crowd gave me a generous, if slightly reserved, hand.
After I handed the microphone back to the emcee and walked to my car, I heard her tell the crowd that what I said was “partly true,” and she tried to qualify my appeal to rational selfishness by saying it was OK to help others!
Ultimately, all that matters is that I was able to broadcast the central issue: rational selfishness = freedom.