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Are Political Leaders the only acceptable altruists?

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It appears to me that the only profession that , by it's very definition , requires an element of 'selflessness' ( service etc.) is politics. And the person who becomes Prime Minister, or President of a nation has to renounce nearly all of his self-interest .

Which - if this were so - would lead to an interesting paradox, as it takes a massively ambitious and self-interested individual to rise so far.

We, in South Africa, have just elected a new President, Jacob Zuma, who came to power on a groundswell of popular support. His personal charisma out-weighed his shady past, and one is given the impression that his lust for power and egotism are not going away soon!

Personally, I don't understand the cult status any country gives it's leader. I don't want a hero ; give me a grey, incorruptible, Civil Servant, any day : Pres. Whatshisname.

Since when should GOVERNMENT be glamorous?

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Why would he have to renounce his self interest? Just as a soldier chooses his profession because he likes the work, or sees the value of defending a free country, so a politician can selfishly choose the job because he enjoys doing it or else values the proper government of his country.

Could you expand upon what you mean by politicians necessarily needing to be altruists?

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His personal charisma out-weighed his shady past, and one is given the impression that his lust for power and egotism are not going away soon!

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Egotism \E"go*tism\ (?; 277), n. [L. ego I + ending -tism for

-ism, prob. influenced by other English words in -tism fr.

the Greek, where t is not part of the ending, as baptism. See

Egoism.]

The practice of too frequently using the word I; hence, a

speaking or writing overmuch of one's self; self-exaltation;

self-praise; the act or practice of magnifying one's self or

parading one's own doings. The word is also used in the sense

of egoism.

From the Ayn Rand Lexicon:

How is he an "altruist" and an "egotist"?

Edited by Plasmatic
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My meaning of 'egotism' is the conventional one [ as opposed to the Objectivist 'egoism'] which I understand as aligned with altruism in the make-up of a person who lives through , and by , others.

The problem with a 'mixed society' as in a mixed economy is that these definitions become critical...

the other problem is that a country's leader " can eat his cake and have it ".

He (she) who would be no more than a Public Servant - the highest one - in a properly minimalist government, is lauded by the populace for being the ultimate Altruist.

In this world, a President is 'given the keys to the kingdom' and assumes awesome power, as well as prestige and status.

This is admittedly more of a problem in my country which is predominantly collectivist and statist, than in the U.S.

It's just that I have a problem with the adulation a jumped- up civil servant receives. This seems to entrench Big Government ever deeper.

The comparison Plasmatic makes between politics and soldiering is quite valid. And the same principles hold true ( I believe). If one is an unashamed Randian egoist , than one should be clear and uncontradictory about it : " I am a professional,in a job I love and value. I take pride in my expertise and in my exposure to fresh challeges. Please don't give me any of that hero- worshipping,for 'the good of my country' praise. I am in it for my own good , my gain and pleasure."

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It appears to me that the only profession that , by it's very definition , requires an element of 'selflessness' ( service etc.) is politics. And the person who becomes Prime Minister, or President of a nation has to renounce nearly all of his self-interest .

No he doesn't. He is getting payed for doing his job, same as any other employee. Plus, it is in his interest to protect his own country (and its system of individual rights), so the need for a selfish President is even more obvious than with any other job.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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A country's highest leader is supposed to be chosen based on their ability to uphold and defend the laws and people of that country. If you see people elected that are poor in that regard, you can blame your country's population for not putting forth or electing better. One can selfishly want to be a leader in trying to make things better for oneself by running on a platform of individual rights and LF economy.

Currently in Canada, any real rational, selfish person would not get elected to any position, because the culture here is too far into selflessness, and everyone wants their handout from the government. A politician running on individual rights and laissez-faire economy wouldnt be understood or even heard in between all the environmentalists, social welfare-ists and artist-beggars.

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Dunno who it was said " The man best qualified for the job (President), wouldn't want it."

--- or something like that.

[Reminiscent of Groucho's " I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member". ]

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There are very few, if any, professions in which being selfish is as important as being a head of state. If one sets policy that allows progression you may impact many people who make life better.

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There are very few, if any, professions in which being selfish is as important as being a head of state.

That's exactly what I was going to say.

Examples of altruist leaders: Lenin, Bush, Hitler, Obama, Khomeini.

Examples of selfish leaders: Washington, Jefferson, Thatcher, Pericles.

Altruists have a negative impact on their society no matter what their profession is, but politics is the profession where they do the most direct and most immediate damage.

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All responses are true enough, and I have to dig a little deeper to find my motive in posing this topic.

I suppose the question could have been more interesting if it had been:' If a nation (in the future!) was populated by a majority of self-responsible Individualists, wouldn't it's leaders be far less potent and less needed? '

In fact they would be there only to SERVE the will of the people. And less to LEAD.

Am I the only one here to feel discomfit at the amount of power and adulation any leader gets - whether in a benevolent demoracy, or in a malevolent dictatorship?

The best, and the worst of them, I believe, went into politics firstly for the pleasure of Power, for self-aggrandisement (which is hardly rational selfishness ) and secondly because they had a "vision"for the " betterment " of their country; so there is commonality between a Thatcher and a Stalin, a Jefferson and a Mao tse tung.

At this level they are all equal- the good and the evil - in wanting to "make a difference".

The Leader i.m.o. who is necessary, is a Churchill, or Jefferson who comes to the fore in times of extreme crisis.

The rest of the time, we can do without him.

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In fact they would be there only to SERVE the will of the people. And less to LEAD.

No they're not there to SERVE anything. They are there to REPRESENT the people, and to LEAD the government in defending individual rights. Plus, "the people" don't have a will, on account of not having a consciousness.

The best, and the worst of them, I believe, went into politics firstly for the pleasure of Power, for self-aggrandisement (which is hardly rational selfishness ) and secondly because they had a "vision"for the " betterment " of their country; so there is commonality between a Thatcher and a Stalin, a Jefferson and a Mao tse tung.

I disagree (as far as the best leaders in history go), based on what I know about leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, and even Thatcher. But feel free to bring up any facts that support your view of them.

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I suppose the question could have been more interesting if it had been:' If a nation (in the future!) was populated by a majority of self-responsible Individualists, wouldn't it's leaders be far less potent and less needed? '

In fact they would be there only to SERVE the will of the people. And less to LEAD.

Yes, the leaders would be less "needed". But that does not mean they would be absent or even less potent. Leaders, to me, are not people who serve others. A leader has a particular (personal) purpose and a particular (personal) objective and typically tries to convince other people that their ideas are correct and good. Some people agree with those objectives and try to emulate the leader's actions and way of thinking. A leader that "serves others" isn't much of a leader, since they're trying to follow another person's wishes and values. In other words, such a "leader" is merely a follower that does not think on his own. "Serving the people" is not really an objective as much as it is a "duty" based on nothing.

With the way governments work nowadays, it only makes sense that the political leaders who reach high positions show off whatever selflessness they may possess. This does not mean "all good leaders in the past, now and in the future will be selfless".

Edited by Eiuol
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