It is often trumpeted as a virtue that “civilised”, social democratic countries offer their citizens one or more types of “social safety net” in an attempt to eliminate the most dire effects of, say, unemployment, illness or some other kind of incapacity that could inflict a condition of extreme poverty upon the individual members of the citizenry. The idea is that the most basic wants will always be guaranteed by the state should one be unable to provide them for oneself and no one need have any fear of hunger or lack of shelter – situations that are said to be “intolerable” in a modern, twenty-first century society.
A distinct disadvantage of advocating for a society free from state interference is that winning either the rhetorical or emotional battle is a lot more difficult. Democratic socialists and redistributionists can effectively wear their bleeding hearts on their sleeves, forever declaring their care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, or whichever group is in need of their pitiful platitudes at any particular time. Libertarians, on the other hand, appear to advocate for nothing more than greed and selfishness by calling for the right of every person keep own his/her income. Surely this would be the slippery slope to each of us ferreting ourselves away in an increasingly atomised existence?
The virtue of altruism is held in immeasurably high esteem in our society today. Selfless benevolence is regarded as the pinnacle of human endeavours, with societies and cultures often reserving their most coveted honours and elevations for people who have apparently demonstrated a level of unparalleled generosity.
It is often asserted that a system of free market capitalism reduces everyone to the level of animals, subject to the “law of the jungle”. Similar emotive epithets accuse capitalism of being little more than a “dog eat dog” or “winner takes all” economic system. However, as we shall see now, nothing could be farther from the truth.