America, Altruism, and Trump
Democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists, the media, Hollywood, academia, and even many Republicans have been having nervous breakdowns since Trump became president. They complain that he is moving too fast, that he isn't consulting people, that he doesn't care about immigrants, that he is too authoritarian, that he is too blunt, and on and on. Why this meltdown? We think the root cause is that Trump is threatening the very core that binds them together: their moral code of altruism.
Altruism holds that other people's needs, wants, and desires come first. Ayn Rand defines it: "the basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value." Progressives know altruism by their mantra of "the common good," and they believe that wealth belongs to society and should be used for this "common good." Social justice, equalitarianism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism are all versions of altruism. The code of altruism comes into direct conflict with the moral code in the Declaration of Independence – that of the pursuit of personal happiness.
Altruism is incompatible with freedom and capitalism. The altruists want America to sacrifice: to allow illegal immigrants into the country regardless of any risk of terrorism, to become a multicultural country instead of a sovereign one, to take down its American flag, to apologize for its wealth, to tolerate behaviors that are intolerable, to say only what is politically acceptable, to disregard their own religion, history, etc. Americans are fed up with putting America, and themselves, last.
Then along came Donald Trump.
Trump wants to put America first. He wants to make it great again and restore its wealth, and he has the courage to say it. His executive order, "Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals," states: "In order to protect Americans, we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles. We cannot, and should not, admit into our country those who do not support the U.S. Constitution, or those who would place violent religious edicts over American law." On January 25, 2017, he said in his speech to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "As your president, I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people."
Of course, by stirring the morality pot, Trump is threatening the sacred cow, altruism, the moral code of the progressive movement and all the groups listed above. He is not doing this on an intellectual level with rational arguments and principles, but he is doing it through actions and statements that appeal to common sense.
He is living up to his campaign promises at breakneck speed and is demonstrating that America's security and interests can and will be put first. Trump is countering altruism by example with an incredible work ethic and pride, and he is showing that success is possible and expected. He has assembled a great team of talented people, many of whom are successful and wealthy and, like Trump, are proud of it. He is pronouncing moral judgements on the Iran deal, radical Islamic terrorists, global warming, and unfair trade practices. And as he promised, he has nominated a constitutionalist to the Supreme Court. To many progressives, the greatest fear of Trump is that he is living up to his campaign promises – such a novel idea.
President Trump is also appealing to the sense of life of his core supporters. This "sense of life" can be characterized this way: "Trump appeals to the America that I knew growing up. Americans are optimists, they take initiative, they have a can do attitude, they can solve and create anything, and they admire achievement. Americans are independent, proud and generally happy. America is the home of the self-made man where money is made, not looted or obtained thru political favor and plunder. Americans are not blindly obedient and they are defiant and will not be pushed around. That is the attitude that Donald Trump has captured." President Trump's supporters – workers, producers, and American patriots – have a core egoist belief that if they produced it, they earned it, and they own it. Although they are oftentimes generous, they don't generally operate by duty or guilt. They believe that individual success is possible and that America can be made great again.
The power of morality is the greatest of all intellectual powers. It is held subconsciously, developed through a lifetime of experiences, thoughts, and value judgments. It is difficult for people to act against their morality. When faced with incongruent facts or experiences, people will evade, make excuses, rationalize, and have strong emotional responses to defend their subconscious morality. It is often an automatic response; most don't even know they are doing it. These are the visceral responses and nervous breakdowns we see in the above groups in the form of bias reporting, fake news, emotional personal attacks, protests, and violence.
The moral code of self-interest named in the Declaration of Independence was a new idea, and its conflict with altruism must be resolved. On this conflict, Ayn Rand said in "Philosophy: Who Needs It": "What most moralists – and few of their victims – realize is that reason and altruism are incompatible. And this is the basic contradiction of Western Civilization: reason versus altruism. This is the conflict that had to blow sooner or later."
Whether or not you like Trump, a battle for America's heart, soul, and morality is underway, and that is the real issue. Trump is just the tipping point. Take courage from him, and join in. Your life belongs to you and no one else. It is time that individual Americans act like it. And fight for it.
Craig Schwartz is a retired business director of a Fortune 100 company and has been involved in the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism for over 30 years.
Charlotte Cushman is a Montessori educator and authored Montessori: Why It Matters for Your Child's Success and Happiness. She has been involved in the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy since 1970.