I stumbled upon a Facebook post the other day which appeared in my feed because a friend “liked” it.  It in, the author was expressing their exasperation over a lesbian friend who did not support “trans rights” – equal rights for transsexuals.  Naturally, I checked out the comments hoping for some amusement.  Within the comments I found the exchange you see below.  I didn’t comment on it, as I didn’t really feel like starting a Facebook war with a bunch of people with whom I likely share very little common ground.  I’ve redacted the names and profile images in the following screenshot because the point here is not to skewer the people making these comments, but rather the idea they are expressing.

So let us discuss.  First, we notice the implied assumption of those commenting that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would have been more friendly toward LGBTQ rights than Donald Trump.  This may be correct, it may not be.  I’ll leave you to your own research and conclusions on that point.  The striking problem with these comments is a more subtle thread running through them.  All four of the individuals in this discussion are assuming that they know the best interests of the people they are discussing (gays and lesbians who voted for Trump) better than those individuals themselves.  This is a blatant example of a fundamental misunderstanding of human preferences and action.  All rational human action is taken for the express purpose of improving the situation of the actor.  This is one of the foundational ideas of praxeology – the study of human action as articulated by Ludwig von Mises in his seminal work Human Action.  Granted, it is possible that these individuals will come to regret their choice, but that does not affect the fact that when they cast their votes for Donald Trump, they were taking rational action which at the time they believed to be in their best interest.  Had they not believed such a course to be in their best interest, they would have chosen a different option.

By what right do these Facebook commenters declare that they, in fact, know the best interests of other people, many of whom they have never met?  Quite simply, by no right.  They can only determine what is in their own best interests – not what is in the best interest of others.  They can guess at what may be in the best interest of someone else, but they cannot know.  The only individual who can determine their best interests is that individual themselves.  Declaring with conviction that you know what is in the best interest of your neighbor is the basis from which all social evil stems.  It is the subliminal declaration made by every politician, dictator and busybody who seeks to subvert freedom in the name of the “public interest” or the “greater good”.  It is an insidious form of collectivism that judges people based on their shared characteristics rather then their individual selves.  It is the shortsighted mentality that narrowly defines individuals based on a single metric.  Oh, you’re a woman?  Pro-choice policies are in your best interest!  You’re gay?  Hate crime legislation that includes sexual orientation is in your best interest!  Not so fast.  While many women and many gay people may agree with those previous statements, not all will.  That does not make the dissenters wrong.  It makes them rational human beings who have prioritized other preferences over the issues society most closely associates with the collectivist groupings they are pigeonholed into.  This mindset is dehumanizing to the individuals targeted by it.  It takes away their unique experiences, outlooks and existence by dumping them into a figurative box with a collectivist label on it – woman – man – white – black – lesbian – straight – transsexual – Muslim.  The smallest minority is the individual, whose every rational action is taken in the pursuit of what they believe to be their best interests at the time.  We all need to take a step back, down a few doses of humility and recognize that we – none of us –  are fit to run one another’s lives.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Consider Liberty: https://considerliberty.com/2017/01/a-note-on-self-interest/

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