Altruism Versus Justice

In an editorial last week, the Chronicle demonstrates that altruism isn’t limited to the devoutly religious. It is a scourge that afflicts Houstonians of nearly all religious persuasions. The editorial briefly relates the story of Jesus’ birth, which it calls an “outlandish theological claim.” The editorial goes on to state that Jesus later

will remind his followers that our treatment of “the least of these,” not our obeisance to the rich and famous, is our true measure of self-worth….

In the halls of Congress and around the dinner table, we can debate what form our attention to the least among us should take – private charity, government programs, some workable combination – but we cannot ignore our obligation. It’s particularly urgent when our own innkeeper-in-chief, with support from millions of Christians, prepares to deliver the nation to a gaggle of billionaires for whom money and power, not justice and compassion, would seem to be the measure of all things.

Notice that the paper equates justice with altruism. According to altruism and the Chronicle, the needy deserve assistance from others. Why? No rational answer is ever given.

Altruism holds that we have a moral duty to self-sacrifically serve others, that we must place the needs of others before our own interests. According to altruism, our self-worth is not determined by adhering to such virtues as honesty, integrity, and productivity, but by our willingness to sacrifice for others.

Justice is the virtue of judging others by rational principles and treating them accordingly. But altruism holds that we are not to judge others, that the reasons for their misfortune is irrelevant. Their need is a claim on our property and our lives.

Justice demands that we distinguish the innocent from criminals, the productive from the parasite, the good from the evil. Justice requires us to identify who will contribute to our well-being and who will do us harm.

But altruism holds that we are to refrain from such judgments. Not only that, we are to give deference to the criminal, the parasite, and the evil. Their need for understanding, compassion, and mercy supersedes our self-interest. This isn’t justice. It’s the inversion of justice.

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