I know you just said to yourself, "Self, this guy must be crazy to say that." But just hang with me for a moment as I attempt to convince you of my meaning.
With only a few days left before the election, there has been a lot of talk about the candidates' positions on the capitalism-socialism scale. Before I go any further let me just say that BOTH candidates are not true free market capitalists, which is what I am (as if you couldn't tell already). They have both advocated socialist policies in one form or another that hurt the economy. There is only a distinction between how extreme one is to the other. After the "spread the wealth" comments by Obama to Joe the Plumber, the public (with no help from the media) has begun to ask just how far down the socialist scale he really is. Well, I am not a rocket scientist, and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but my mom did tell me once that you could tell the soul of a person by who they associate with. After 20 years of listening to the anti-capitalist rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, hanging out with the anti-capitalist (and terrorist, but that is irrelevant to this discussion) William Ayers, mentoring under the anti-capitalist Frank Marshall Davis when he lived in Hawaii, and his love of the works of anti-capitalist Saul Alinsky, my mom would say you can get better than even odds in Vegas that he is a socialist, regardless of what he said in his infomercial.
When challenged on this he simply said he was not a socialist, only he doesn't think "selfishness is a virtue". By this I guess he meant that free market policies are selfish, and by extension, socialism (which he does not believe in, just in case you don't like socialism) is not selfish. I would argue that the evidence shows both are selfish, but for different reasons and vastly different results.
Capitalism IS selfish. That is how it was designed and also the inherent beauty of it. We live in a fallen world, full of selfish people, so a system that actually channels that selfishness into a flow of capital that benefits other people while fulfilling the goals of the selfish individual is brilliant. For example, you want to provide for you family, so you selfishly start a business that sells widgets. In the process you had to hire other selfish people who only wanted a paycheck to provide for their families. They work to produce high quality widgets because they selfishly understand that they will get more money from you if you sell more than your selfish competitors. The widgets are bought by other selfish businesses run by selfish people who use your widgets in their contraptions. They only buy your widgets because they want to make a profit from their contraptions. Those contraptions are sold to selfish people who use them for their own selfish enjoyment. Never does the business owner make the widgets for the sole reason of employing people. The contraption makers never once thought of buying widgets in order to put food on the widget maker's table. The contraption buyer is interested only in one thing...high quality contraptions. However, through all of this selfishness, many people are employed, many families are fed, and contraption enjoyment is at an all time high. Life is good.
Socialism is also selfish, although it claims not to be. From each according to his means to each according to his needs. To some this may sound like a noble way to provide for everyone. Certainly it doesn't sound selfish. But if we look deeper into the consequences of such a policy we see plenty of selfishness at work, and it benefits no one but the selfish. If you know that someone who works harder and achieves more will be there to provide for you, what is your incentive to be successful? If you achieve success you will have to involuntarily give it away to those who choose not to. So the achievers become selfish by producing less so as to pay less while those not as successful become selfish by expecting to get something for nothing. Those who administer this redistribution of wealth know that the only way they can keep this system in place is to have a large enough group of unsuccessful people to keep voting them into power. Keeping others down so as to ensure your own success is certainly the epitome of selfishness. In extreme cases, such as communism, the only way to get anyone to produce wealth that can then be confiscated is to remove all choice and force them to do so with the threat of violence. In all cases, these policies lead to reduced productivity, lower wages, unemployment, less charitable giving that truly helps those in need and the destruction of the human spirit which was designed to achieve. This has been the case everywhere centralized command and control economies have been implemented.
So, which version of selfishness is better? Just look at the standard of living, levels of charitable giving, resources provided to those in need, and opportunities to move from poverty to wealth between countries with free market policies and those with socialist ideals. Which is virtuous?