Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Socialism versus Self-Interest

Though many might consider me making a mountain out of an anthill, I think that the story of Rapture (the setting of the video game Bioshock 2), provides great insight into the dangers, and possibilities of strong capitalism and socialism. If you're willing to suspend your disbelief and consider the ideals presented as those presented by true men and women, then there might be a strong lesson for you and me to learn.

Lets begin with Sofia Lamb, socialism.
To provide a basic summary of her belief system: The pursuits of one's own self-interest is the primary sin of humanity, to instead focus on the common good above all else is the pursuit of a true Utopian (the perfect being). Unity above all else leads to the betterment of society at the cost of personal freedom. Strong moral standards in opposition to human nature.

Now Andrew Ryan, capitalism and self-interest.
The pursuits of one's self-interest without the restrictions of morality and government lead to strides in science, art, and overall ingenuity, the forces behind a true utopia. Self-interest leads to an ambition to better one's self through the fields of art, science, or business, and this eventually leads to an overall increase in the quality of life for all. Moral standards are a hindrance, whose only purpose are to restrict such fields. He also does not believe in restrictions caused by government, religion, and totalitarianism.

Both promise to result in a utopia, a pinnacle of society, yet both provide stark contrasts to each other. One promotes a focus on the common good, while the other promotes an ambition to better one's self. One enforces strong moral restrictions while sacrificing freedom, yet the other provides freedom while excluding moral responsibility. Which is better?

The problem with both is that they oppose basic human nature, both cases. The first opposes basic human ambition to strive beyond others for the sake of pure competition or financial gain or recognition. The second opposes the viciousness of the human-spirit, who would be willing to dominate, repress, or destroy anything that impedes their attempts at success, the only thing stopping many being the restrictions of morality.

We see an example of the latter in Fontaine, a man who uses murder, manipulation, and over maliciousness to secure his own monetary gain. He even goes so far as to take the illegitimate child of Andrew Ryan himself and mentally condition it to eventually destroy Ryan and take control of Rapture. He manipulates the people through the guise of Atlas, rallying them under the facade of promoting the good of the common man, when his true intent is simply monetary gain and control. Without moral restrictions and laws, he is free to trod upon others for his own personal gain without being held to any sense of humanity.

An example of the latter would be Sofia Lamb herself, a person more than willing to destroy someone who she thinks would hinder the common good of the people. She believes that ambition and competition are a sin and that instead, complete unity without focus or care for one's own being is what leads to perfection. Self-identity by means of art, science, and business is evil and thus should not be allowed. Nationalism over individualism, community over self, unity over self-identity.

My own personal opinion? If forced to side with one I would side with Andrew Ryan. I believe that self-identity is something of great importance, we should be ambitious, competitive, and strive to better ourselves. Artistic and scientific exploration should not be restricted due to the mislead belief that we should never do anything that might demotivate our fellowman and make them feel like a lesser-being. In my mind, being beaten should fill a person with ambition to find a subject they are passionate and talented at (the two tend to go hand-in-hand if one is true with themselves), and strive to become the best in whatever definition of the word they use. While moral responsibility should be present, I do not think that they should be taken to the extremes, restricting freedom of speech and expression to prevent situations that might offend others. I do think that they should be in place so that no one can repress a person's human rights and ability to reach their goal (I oppose political correctness, affirmative action, the current state of American welfare, medicare, and social security, and do not believe in nationalizing any business, though some should be kept under certain standards and restrictions, such as the banking industry). I believe in a strong free-market with very limited government restrictions, and believe in art without moral restrictions (freedom of expression), and science with the restrictions of human rights ( I am against what I consider the casual destruction of human life: abortion except under certain circumstances, embryonic stem-cell research except under circumstances where the embryo would be destroyed otherwise, and the death-penalty except under circumstances of extreme human atrocity such as murder, torture, or rape). I believe in the freedom to purchase firearms, unless one is a convicted felon who would be considered a severe risk if allowed a weapon. I do not believe in double-standards (everyone should be judged based upon their skill, ambition, and talent, without bringing race, religious, sexual preference, or gender into consideration).

I DO NOT believe that every person has the ability to master any field they attempt. We are imbued with talents and motivations that allow us to strive in certain fields and fail in others, the best we can do is realize this and focus on those fields that we feel true passion for, instead of lying to ourselves and ultimately failing to focus on what is important to us.

I do believe that we should respect the creatures of this earth and as such not hunt them for simple sport or cause them severe unwarranted physical trauma, but I do not believe this means we should go to such extremes that would restrict the ability of a person to strive in such a market. I believe that a vegetarian or vegan who does not eat meat for moral reasons is simply a person who tries to imbue themselves with a false sense of moral high-ground because they believe that no animal should be used by a human for food, shelter, or scientific advancement. They ignore the fact that many of these creatures, without our aid and security, would have a much lesser chance of survival and reproduction and as such, we are more than likely increasing their quality of life under our care. I do believe certain restrictions should be placed upon farming and fishing as to not damage the ecosystem by severely limiting a food source or predator, instead focusing on the concept of equivalent exchange. An example being the lumber company that plants just as many trees as they harvest, or the farmer or hunter who waits for nature to increase the numbers of the game or size of their herd before slaughtering them for the resources they need. I also believe that following these standards would ultimately lead to benefit for society (since most animals that are fed proper nutrition and given a comfortable way of life tend to provide healthier products; also, wild game, whose nutrition focuses on wild edibles, tend to provide healthier meat and than farm-raised in exchange for lesser quantities).

I do not believe that the government needs to enforce morality, but instead promote it through their own individual actions. A politician should place themselves under strong moral standards (such as truthfulness, ambition, charity), which will in turn inspire others to follow suit. Anyone who, with or without their intention, is a person of strong societal influence is given the ability to change how society functions, if even on small levels.

Laws should be placed only to protect human rights and the free-market. Laws should not be placed for matters that do not involve these two. Incentives such as tax-cuts, benefits, and popularity are perfectly reasonable manners to influence corporations to have a high moral standard. A company, however, should not be forced to take actions they deem detrimental to their prosperity if the action does not impede on human rights and free-market. An example would be providing a tax-cut to certain companies that introduce technological advances that lower the overall amount of pollution they produce or providing an incentive to hire people under different backgrounds. A company, however, should have the freedom to not do either if they view it better to do so. Overall though, most corporations will probably take the incentives and as such, be kept to a higher moral standard.

So there are my own personal thoughts and interpretations of these two viewpoints. You are of course free to oppose them and by all means I implore you to express your opinion, as long as it is one you believe in, but I also implore you to fill yourself with the experience and knowledge that will allow your personal truth to hold credibility with those you present it to through your actions, or words.

1 comment:

  1. You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.............................................