Most people think that “altruism” means nothing more than being nice to people. Contributing to Haitian relief, or medical research. Helping the poor, supporting the arts.
But the real meaning of “altruism” when used in an ethical/political context is significantly different. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language defines altruism as “the doctrine that the general welfare of society 1 is the proper goal of an individual's action”2 — the sacrificial antithesis of one acting in pursuit of his or her own interests. Others, anyone, everyone—before me, or you.
Ayn Rand defined altruism in the ethical/political context more fully: “the ethical theory which regards man as a sacrificial animal, which holds 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.”3 She elaborated:
Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must continue buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others [“society”?] is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. * * *4
Contrary to popular belief, collectivism has nothing to do with people who share common interests voluntarily coming together, as in a bowling league. On the contrary, and antithetical to the principles of individual rights and limited government, “[c]ollectivism holds that the individual has no rights, that his life and work belong to the group (to ‘society,’ to the tribe, the state, the nation), and that the group may sacrifice him at its own whim to its own interests.”5 “Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group— whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called the ‘common good’.”6
Because altruism and collectivism are ethical, not political/legal, doctrines, the only way to implement them is by brute force, of which the government has a monopoly.
Necessarily, altruism and collectivism have a political/legal corollary, statism: “the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty”7 and of limited government.
Altruism and collectivism are the antithesis of the individual rights principle of the Declaration of Independence, the limited government created by the Constitution of the United States of America, and the enumerated and unenumerated rights protected by the Bill of Rights.
Not to see Rick Santorum—now anointed by many of the anti-Romney Republican primary electorate as “The Great Right Hope”—for the unapologetic altruist-collectivist-statist he is would be a huge, dangerous mistake.
Either woefully ignorant about the nature and consequences of altruism-collectivism-statism, recklessly indifferent to these ethical/political doctrines, and/or seeking any port in a storm, in the last several days too many Americans have fallen for Santorum’s rousing paeans to individual rights and limited government.
Despite the vigor with which he claims to stand up for liberty, individual rights, limited government, and property and contract rights, and despite wrapping himself in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (how did he miss the Northwest Ordinance?), Rick Santorum is a cunning altruist-collectivist-statist of the worst kind.
Don’t take my word for it.
On September 27, 2005, then-Senator Santorum gave a speech at “The First International Conservative Conference on Social Justice” entitled “The Conservative Future: Compassion.”
That’s quite a mélange: “Conservative” (“in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs, and against abrupt change”8), “Social Justice” (often understood to mean “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”9) and “Compassion” (“sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help.”10).
The catchy title of his speech would have been more accurate had Santorum entitled it something like “The Future As Seen By This Compassionate Conservative: Sacrifice Of Some To The Needs Of Others, For The Common Good, Backed By Government Guns.”
Do I exaggerate?
Here’s Santorum in his own words (in Times New Roman), with my emphases, at the Conference:
“America’s conservative heritage never pursued a limitless freedom to do whatever one wants so long as no one is hurt. That kind of ‘freedom’ to be and do whatever we want, irrespective of the choice is a selfish freedom that cannot be sustained or afforded. Someone always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own self-interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom, or as I like to say, ‘No-Fault Freedom”—all the choice, none of the responsibility.
“We here today believe in something altogether different. It is the liberty America’s Founders understood properly defined. Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye toward the common good. Freedom is the dual activity of lifting our eyes to the heavens while extending our hand to our neighbor.
“The only orthodox conservative philosophy that matches with this is compassionate conservatism.”
Indeed! The above quotation is why every self-respecting free American should run as if from a plague from Santorum and other “compassionate conservatives” who, according to him, claim to understand the Founders’ intent and accomplishments better than they themselves.
In his speech, Santorum confessed that he and his compassionate conservative cohort scorn the individuality and personhood often called the “self.” They do so because the individuals possessing those essential human traits are not selfless— meaning, that being selfish the latter don’t have the good grace to be complicit when they are, in Santorum’s own words, sacrificed for the common good. No man or woman with stature and pride will willingly be complicit in their own destruction--let alone in the name of the "common good."
What does Santorum mean by “something bigger or higher than self”? Probably mystical forces that drive him and other compassionate conservatives to make irrational and indefensible pronouncements about where rights come from, and how we are all our brothers’ keepers.
Have we not seen enough by now of what comes from sacrificing human beings for the “good” of others, rationalized by the mystical doctrines that give birth to altruism, collectivism and statism?
Putting aside all of earlier recorded history, did not the Twentieth Century provide evidence enough of how much human suffering these doctrines produce?
Included in Isabel Paterson’ groundbreaking 1943 book entitled The God of the Machine is her essay The Humanitarian with the Guillotine.
I leave you with what Paterson’s title implies, as we hear more and more about Rick Santorum’s mystically-rooted belief that some of us, sometime, must be sacrificed by government to fulfill the needs of others. But, all that killing and plunder, devastation and pain, is of course for the “common good.”
 According to Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, a “society” is nothing more than “a group of persons . . . .” Meaning, other people.
 Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition.
 Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 74.
 Ibid. Emphasis in original.
 Ayn Rand, “Racism,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 175.
 Ayn Rand, “The Only Path to Tomorrow,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1944, 8.
 Encarta Dictionary.