THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Lessons from the government shutdown in America
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Of selfishness

The conventional view in Soviet Britain is that those who do business are heartless sorts driven by selfish pursuit of that dirtiest of all words in our foul-mouthed society; p**f*t. Yet my recollection of thirty happy years in business is of being under constant pressure to find ways to serve the interests of others. I like my fellow-men, trust them and certainly respect them more than any Socialist I ever met, but I didn't do it for love of them. I did it because that was the best way to help my business prosper.

Now I live mostly on my savings plus an occasional fee for consultancy, my life is very different. I suspect that in its daily details it's much more like that of a leftist academic (let's call him Ralph) who thinks profit is a dirty word. Subject to my social and domestic obligations, I spend each day more or less as I please. I have an online subscription to The Guardian so as to understand what my enemies have in store for me, but I no longer have any obligation to read outside my field of interest. Indeed most of what I read is written by people of the same views as myself. Despite my painful time with The Guardian each day, I am now almost as little exposed as Ralph to opposing points of view. Everything I write is to promote my own world view and - I suppose - to garner the approval of like-minded folk.

Unlike Ralph, I am not a cost to anyone else. His conscience is of the 'social' variety and is therefore untroubled by living on money taken by force from others. Mine would be. Like him, I now deliberately contribute very little to GDP by my labour, though my capital is doing its bit, as perhaps is his. He may - after all - have inherited from a family who were economic hosts rather than parasites. There are many Socialists of that ilk, not to mention the ones whose fathers prospered mightily as parasitic Ralphs.

Our Ralph does no productive labour because he's more focussed on redistribution of wealth than creation. I limit mine because I already have enough and am apparently - rather to my own surprise - less consumed by greed than he would think. I also don't see the point of working if more than half of my earnings would be taken from me and almost half of what was left when I died would be taken from my children. Ralph is probably an advocate of the policies that created this situation but thinks me selfish for refusing to work anyway and thinks I should be somehow forced to labour (a notion towards which all Socialism trends).

I pay indirect tax on everything I buy (£118.17 on my new iPhone, for example). I also pay Council Tax. This is tax taken from income already taxed, but in fairness Ralph pays it too. The only difference is that he pays from money ripped violently from his fellow men. I pay from cash received freely in return for contractual value.

The more my life becomes like Ralph's and the less I live the way he disdains as selfish - the more selfish I feel. The more I think about how he actually spends his time, the more I despise his self-indulgent lifestyle and his selfish refusal to contribute even his own costs, let alone pay those of many others - as I have done. He has not paid for his childrens education, for example. I paid for mine and for that of countless others.

So who is the more selfish; the man who creates wealth or the man who claims the right to seize the wealth of others? Who is the more heartless; the man who feels a twinge of conscience about no longer serving his fellow-men (despite having done do for decades) or the man who has lived his whole life on them as guiltlessly as a flea on a dog?