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The Tyranny of Need

Is Self-Sacrifice a Virtue? No, Argues The Tyranny of Need

In the new ARI Press book The Tyranny of Need, Peter Schwartz challenges the conventional morality of self-sacrifice — and points to the moral alternative of a rational, non-predatory self-interest.

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We’re all taught that to be moral is to be altruistic, that virtue lies in self-sacrifice. But what if that idea is wrong?

Why should you be called upon to suffer so that your neighbor might benefit? Why does the fact that someone needs your money somehow create a moral entitlement to it, while the fact that you’ve earned it does not?

Such provocative questions animate Peter Schwartz’s new book, The Tyranny of Need, which argues that there’s “no logical justification” for an ethics of self-sacrifice. Schwartz shows the unavoidable injustice of requiring one person “to be a servant to the needs of another.” The book refutes widely held assumptions about altruism and offers a moral alternative: selfishness. Clarifying misconceptions surrounding selfishness, Schwartz makes the case that genuine self-interest is non-predatory: it is not achieved at the expense of other people. In reality, it necessitates an “adherence to moral principles and a commitment to an honest productive, self-respecting life.”

The Tyranny of Need is an expanded second edition of Schwartz’s 2015 book In Defense of Selfishness. The new book features a revised introduction and two new chapters applying the morality of selfishness to the issue of a nation’s self-interest. Schwartz shows how “every element of a proper foreign policy is negated by the altruist ethics.”

Peter Schwartz is a retired chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute and a distinguished fellow at ARI. He was the founding editor and publisher of the Intellectual Activist (1979–91), a periodical that covered political-social developments from a pro-individual-rights orientation. He is also the author of Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty and The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America; editor and contributing author of Ayn Rand’s Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution; and coeditor of Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed. His articles have been published in the Washington Post, Forbes, Huffington Post and The Hill.

The Tyranny of Need, published by the Ayn Rand Institute Press, is now available in paperback and soon in Kindle.

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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and vice president of content products at the Ayn Rand Institute. His latest book is titled What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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