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Conservatives and Ethical Egoism

Posted in current events, opinion, politics with tags , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Recently in my Philosophy class, we discussed the school of Ethical Egoism. Essentially, Ethical Egoism is the idea that everyone’s actions are based on one’s looking out for their self-interest. No one does anything to help out other people; rather, people are only charitable when it is in their best interest to be charitable, when they will gain something from being compassionate. The thought of assisting others in need doesn’t even occur to them until their interests cross.

I am not a huge fan of this school of thought. I consider myself a pretty compassionate person, and the thought that I am only helping others because it is in my best interests is disturbing. The only satisfaction I get from assisting others comes from the positive feelings I get from giving of myself. I don’t seek recognition in my charitable acts, and anyone that does is missing the point.

In class, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscribing to Ethical Egoism, and along with the reading, found that taken to the extreme, Ethical Egoism is bad news. One of the most conclusive arguments we discussed was that if everyone acts in their own interests, and do only those things that are beneficial to them, it opens up a wide world of pain wrong-doing (our book calls it “wickedness”). A physician, acting in his best interests of making a lot of money, will “water down” drugs but still charging the same amount of money. It is good for him, but terrible for his patients, who may die because of insufficient medication.

This made me think about our current political climate, and how it seems that our politicians are acting in their best interests and not ours. The most notable example of this idea comes with the health care reform bill.

For the record: I hate harping about health care reform. I hate hearing other people harp about health care reform. The issue is over and done with. It’s time to focus on bigger and better things.

Republicans, and some Democrats, tried their best to shout down the health care reform bill, saying that is wasn’t in the interests of the American people. On the contrary, reading a summary of the health care bill shows that it is in the interest of nearly every American: 32 million people will become insured, the deficit will be reduced by $143 billion in the first ten years, and by 2014, people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage. (It should be noted that a “pre-existing condition” can pretty much be anything, from heart disease and diabetes to asthma and hay fever. Yes, hay fever.)

Although health care reform was definitely in the best interest of the American people, passing the reform wasn’t in the Republican’s best interest. It’s a well-known fact that Republicans are BFFs with insurance companies, and out current health care system loves insurance companies (as shown by this video describing why we need “government-run, socialized, universal heath care”).

I don’t know about you, but here, I see a classic example of Ethical Egoism: it was in the best interest of Conservatives to vote against health care reform because they were getting a lot of monetary support from the insurance companies, which make huge profits by taking out huge chunks of the money we pay for coverage. The cost of pursuing these interests is leaving millions of Americans in the dust. How ethical is that?