Monthly Archives: May 2010

Please Be Selfish, Kobe

This is my first blog post, so I should start by explaining why I am starting a blog. After all, there are plenty of blogs out there, many of them good, and many of them say, as well or better than I can, things I agree with. At least I think that’s true, because in fact I’ve spent relatively little time reading people’s blogs. I feel as though I should be reading more…if I could find more time in the day to do so.

I finally decided to start my own blog after reading this story at It says that, contained in one of the many monstrosities that Congress plans to pass in the near future, is a provision that will give the Federal Election Commission “unprecedented power to regulate political speech online” — including the regulation of political blogs. Yes, that’s right. The power to regulate political speech.

I doubt that I need to explain the significance of this to anyone who is motivated to actually read my blog. You probably know that I agree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, and that I also think she did a damn good job of using her philosophy to analyze and predict political trends. Rand believed that free speech was the pivotal issue in politics, that so long as we have the right to speak our minds, there is still the possibility of convincing others and of thereby reversing the decades-long trend towards statism in our country. So, when I read this news story, the first thing I thought was, even if I didn’t have anything particularly original to say, it was nonetheless important to jump into the fray now, before it was too late, just as a matter of principle.

Since the purpose of this blog is to challenge authority, I’ll start by saying a couple of controversial things about a topic which is not usually thought of as controversial from a moral or political standpoint: basketball. Tonight I watched the Lakers lose game four of their playoff series with the Phoenix Suns. Kobe Bryant had an excellent game, by all accounts. He scored 38 points. Moreover, he scored them all in quarters 2, 3 and 4. Why didn’t he score any points in the first quarter? He shot only once that quarter (and he missed). We were told during a between-quarters interview of Phil Jackson that Kobe was, to paraphrase, “trying to get his teammates involved.” In other words, to use the language often used in basketball commentary today, Kobe was being “unselfish.” Selfishness, we hear time and again, is a vice of basketball players, something to be avoided. Even play-by-play commentary makes use of the term: we often see a particularly skillful assist praised as an “unselfish” play. Objectivism upholds selfishness — i.e., the pursuit of one’s rational self-interest — as a virtue, and so each time I hear this it makes me cringe.

I am not saying I want Kobe to be a “ball hog” — unless that is what it takes for the Lakers to win. (Note that I am presuming that the Lakers have hired Kobe to help them win. If they have hired him for some other purpose, let me know.) If the way for the Lakers to win is for Kobe to shoot as much as he did during the last three quarters tonight, for the entire game, then that’s what he should do. But wouldn’t it be selfish for Kobe to do that? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps Kobe would not want to almost singlehandedly cause the Lakers to win on a night that, to quote Kobe, the Lakers’ “defense sucked.” Perhaps it would not be in the long-term (or even shorter-term) interest of the Lakers for him to do that, as it might just encourage the other players to continue to slack off. But if it would be selfish for Kobe to play that way, during a particular game, notwithstanding the suckiness of the Lakers’ defense, that’s what he should do.

“But selfishness isn’t appropriate in a team situation,” some say. Here is where today’s NBA could stand to learn a lot from successful businesses. BB&T, for example, has done an excellent job of translating a proper moral philosophy into effective business practice. To read what they say about teamwork, and why it is consistent with selfishness, click here. Oh, and feel free to pass the link on to Kobe Bryant and/or Phil Jackson.

Teamwork is not only consistent with selfishness, it is indispensable to selfishness in any context that requires the coordinated effort of multiple individuals working towards a common goal (say, a championship ring). By the same token, selfishness is indispensable to proper teamwork. That is just one of the many lessons to be learned from the success of BB&T.

As for the Lakers themselves, this series, it may be that not even selfishness can ensure they will win. The Suns are playing extremely well and, what’s worse, our President apparently picked the Lakers to win. If his track record with endorsing political candidates recently is any indication, the Lakers are in trouble.

There, I managed to get in an obligatory dig at the President, too.

Thanks for reading!


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