The Selfish Vote

Contrary to conventional wisdom, democracy is not designed for the rule of the selfish majority. Not even an “enlightened” self-interest would fit the need for — in accord with Jeremy Bentham’s view — “the greatest good to the greatest number.”

For the survival of the soul of America, we need to invoke a higher principle, more inclusive than rational self-interest: the principle of the Common Good.

The Faustian bargain of selling out our vote in exchange for the deceptive promise of lower gas prices at the pump and a bull market — the idol of the Golden Calf — is a sign of a decaying empire losing its spiritual vision. “When there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29)

Corporate greed, evangelical Pharisaism, and Nativism have empowered the MAGA ideology — the “Dweller on the Threshold” of the United States of America — to stymie the will of the spiritual Soul, the true Democrat of the Spirit.

In a true, hierarchical democracy, all souls are equal, subservient — in freedom — to the Common Good, ruling over partisan self-interests — individual or collective — to the Glory of the One. So may it be. -JB

“Genes are competing directly with their alleles for survival, since their alleles in the gene pool are rivals for their slot on the chromosomes of future generations. Any gene that behaves in such a way as to increase its own survival chances in the gene pool at the expense of its alleles will, by definition, tautologously, tend to survive. The gene is the basic unit of selfishness.”

Richard Dawkin, The Selfish Gene

Rational selfishness is a term generally related to Ayn Rand‘s Objectivist philosophy, which refers to a person’s efforts to look after their own well-being, to cultivate the self, and achieve goals for the good of the self. The focus in rational selfishness might be considered to be more self-directed (where the benefit to the group or society is a possible by-product) than the focus of enlightened self-interest which is more group-directed (and the benefit to oneself might be more of the by-product). Some authors say that this concept elevates egoism to the level of a moral principle.



… an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state… The principle of self-interest rightly understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests daily small acts of self-denial. By itself it cannot suffice to make a man virtuous; but it disciplines a number of persons in habits of regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, self- command; and if it does not lead men straight to virtue by the will, it gradually draws them in that direction by their habits.

Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America 1835

How do we renew confidence in America’s institutions and strengthen public engagement in civic life? The Spring 2013 issue of Dædalus suggests ways in which government, corporations, nonprofits, the judiciary, and the media can inspire greater confidence in our democratic system and a renewed commitment to civil discourse.

In the face of increasing polarization and considerable stress on the American polity, this issue of Dædalus begins a much-needed public conversation about how individuals and institutions can work together to strengthen democracy and promote the common good.

One thought on “The Selfish Vote

  1. The Selfish Vote was wonderful. Thank you! I’m sure that many people world respond to this message if it were to be made available in an a wider forum.


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