Lessons on Selfishness from a Calliope Player and an Albanian Immigrant
“But the clowns don’t understand supply and demand,” Atlas added. “They demand rewards without supplying hard work. That’s selfish!”
This line from The Tuttle Twins and the Search for Atlas comes just moments before Ethan and Emily have their big “ah ha!” moment and come to a realization that’s been evading them since the beginning of the story.
“The twins hadn’t considered that it was actually the clowns who were being selfish, rather than Atlas.”
You see, in classic socialist style, the lazy and entitled clowns had spent the better part of the story trying to get everyone to think that Atlas was selfish for expecting merit-based reward, and attempting to “prove” his selfishness by pointing to the fact that he left the circus when the ringmaster decided that everyone should get the same reward—regardless of how much work they contributed or how much value they brought to the circus in terms of ticket sales.
If you Google “capitalism selfishness” you will find pages of articles and videos dedicated to making the same argument that the clowns from Atlas’s circus made. And just like the clowns’, those arguments end up holding absolutely no value when they are put to test against reality.
Barry Brownstein, writing for FEE, shared:
“Years ago, an MBA student of mine had immigrated from Albania after growing up under Communism. She shared with her classmates what she observed to be the most unexpected mindset difference between Americans and Albanians.
“She got emotional as she explained how in Albania, charity was rare—caring for anyone other than yourself and your family was uncommon. In contrast, she experienced Americans as generous and caring.
“My student described how exasperated she felt hearing the claim that capitalism leads to a survival of the fittest mentality. In her experience, it was the opposite; under communism, the mindset was to not care for others.”
Likewise, Alexander the calliope player (someone who actually knew where socialistic policies led), shared his experience with Ethan and Emily even as they were being swept up with the clowns’ version of fairness and selfishness. “You clowns want the same rewards as the exceptional performers like Atlas,” he said, “even though you do not contribute in exceptional ways! This way of thinking is what destroyed my Russia. It was a terrifying failure. My family lived in poverty and struggled to escape and now I see it start to happen in this circus.”
Nearly every time we talk about socialism or communism on our social media accounts we get comments from people who have actually lived in socialist or communist societies who are, like Alexander the calliope player and Barry Brownstein’s Albanian student, shocked that anyone has succeeded in getting people to equate capitalism and merit-based reward to selfishness. Their experiences have been exactly the opposite!
And yet the lie persists and search engines continue to fill up with pro-”virtuous” socialism and anti-”selfish” capitalism content. So what can we do?
Well, for starters we can teach our kids about the morality of the free market. People who understand that free trade = free people are a lot harder to sell on the idea that it is somehow virtuous to take from some and give to those who haven’t worked for or earned it.
We created an entire curriculum that teaches the principles of the free market to kids ages 5-18. We even included content for parents to help them brush up on principles and ideas that they may have forgotten, or simply never learned.
Our version of Atlas Shrugged is also a pretty useful source to teach the principles of supply and demand and merit-based reward to kids. I just read an article about Bernie Sanders’ plan to nationalize the production of electricity in the United States should he win the presidency. I may need to write a followup to my Atlas that follows the whole nationalization of resources storyline.
Hopefully not… 😉