The Libertarian take on “self interest” can be annoying:
A colleague of mine still insists — after a good twenty years of our discussing the subject — that people can act altruistically. “Give me one example,” I ask, “just one. We have numerous and varied interests we pursue, and we act only in anticipation of being better off afterwards than if we had not acted,” I tell him. “In other words, all volitional action is self-interest motivated.”
I like Butler Shaffer and a lot of what he writes, but when you start bandying about “all” statements you’re bound to wind up in a logical wasteland. Your seemingly emphatic statement about this or that becomes, when further considered, meaningless and without content:
A rhetorical tautology can also be defined as a series of statements that comprise an argument, whereby the statements are constructed in such a way that the truth of the proposition is guaranteed or that the truth of the proposition cannot be disputed by defining a dissimilar or synonymous term in terms of another self-referentially. Consequently, the statement conveys no useful information regardless of its length or complexity making it unfalsifiable. It is a way of formulating a description such that it masquerades as an explanation when the real reason for the phenomena cannot be independently derived.
Grant the point: all volitional action is self interested. So what? Then on that score, no act can be distinguished from any other, by definition. Murder is the same as a self-sacrificial effort to heal the sick. Yet because these two acts are obviously so profoundly different they can still be distinguished; we’ll just call it something else other than the one being “altruistic” and the other being “self interested”.
Logic is not a silly word game. The world is a real thing. You can dogmatically define yourself into a corner and claim victory, but you’re still painted into a corner. What’s the point?
Ayn Rand had some valuable insights. But “all volitional action is self interest motivated” is not one of them.