Here is a great essay by the brilliant Andrew Ferguson on McCain and Obama’s egomaniacal exaltation of politics as “service” greater than leading one’s “self-interest,” which is to say one’s own life and doing good in service to one’s family, church, business, etc.
Condescension lies behind the call to a [Cause Greater Than One’s Self-Interest]. Why does a candidate feel compelled to exhort his nation to a higher cause, especially a cause that’s purposely left gauzy and undefined? He reveals a low opinion of his countrymen by doing so. He implies a population lost in self-absorption and narcissism, each member ignoring others in pursuit of selfish ends. It takes a lot of nerve to say that, even by insinuation—and since Obama and McCain want to make it personal, let’s do.
It gets better from there.
And, not to get too highbrow, but it never hurts to remember…
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.” — Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, bk. I, ch. II.
“Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the publick interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…. He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” — Ibid., bk. IV, ch. II