The two terms which go to form this section’s heading amount to spiritual poison for the society that attempts to adopt them as its guiding principles. Man has always been eager to discover that philosophy by which he can consider himself moral without first having to make himself good. It is only very recently that he has finally achieved it, and he did this through the doctrine of self-interest.
Its basic premise is that, if each of us behaves selfishly, then the net outcome will be an increase in overall happiness. We find this at the heart of capitalism, which teaches its adherents that self-interested economic behavior is the engine of the economic progress; we also find it at the heart of sexual libertinism, which teaches that if we would just “leave each to his own,” then we would all be happier and better off. Both teach men to think of egoism as a sort of indirect path to altruism. By caring only for yourself, and leaving everyone else to do the same, society benefits as a whole, even if you never consciously acted in an unselfish manner. A man can care best for society by caring only for himself. Thus, the Gospel is finally made irrelevant. Even more, if selfishness is believed to be the key to happiness and the engine of progress, then unselfishness becomes a vice and the Gospel is not merely irrelevant but is reversed: its teachings are not just unnecessary, but are in fact a menace and must be expelled. Although this may sound like hyperbole, it is precisely what has been done in popular egoistic philosophies like that of Ayn Rand.