The Free-Market vs. The Morality of Altruism

by | Apr 4, 2024

The Democrats are following through on the dictates of altruism. The Republicans are balking at what altruism demands without challenging the basic premise.

“The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.” – Ayn Rand

Virginia Democrats are backing a bill that would extend taxpayer-paid healthcare to illegal immigrants. Not surprisingly, Republicans are objecting to the bill, but they won’t challenge the morality that underlies it–altruism. One state Senator said,

They want to grant illegal immigrants driver’s licenses that are valid for up to eight years. Now, they’re also working to divert limited resources from low-income Virginians to pay for healthcare for illegal immigrants.

The Senator believes that it is acceptable for taxpayers to pay for the healthcare of low-income Virginians, but not the healthcare of illegal immigrants. In other words, it’s proper for Virginians to rob their neighbors, but it’s not acceptable for those damn immigrants to do so. It doesn’t occur to the Senator that robbery is wrong, no matter who commits it. And the reason for his oversight is that he accepts altruism—service to others—as a moral ideal.

So long as one embraces altruism as a moral ideal, one is morally disarmed in opposing such bills. Altruism declares that we are our brother’s keeper, that we must place the welfare and interests of others before our own. The Senator doesn’t challenge this premise. He just resents the fact that more brothers are flocking to Virginia.

In this particular case, Virginia Democrats are more consistent than their Republican counterparts.  And that has been the downfall of Republicans for decades. They have consistently tried to defend the free market while embracing altruism. But altruism and the free market are polar opposites.

It is not a coincidence that every dictatorship in history has sought to eliminate the free market. It is not a coincidence that every dictatorship in history has proclaimed that the individual must sacrifice for the nation, the race, the workers, or some other collective. Dictatorship requires the individual to sacrifice for others. And so does altruism.

The free market enables individuals to pursue their own interests, to live their life in an effort to make it better and flourish. Altruism demands that they do the opposite, that they live for others. Anyone who wishes to defend the free market must do so on egoist moral grounds. To do otherwise is to accept altruism. If one wishes to defend the free market, one must challenge the morality that underlies every policy that forces individuals to sacrifice for others.

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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