Anyone who has been by the blessed pages of America’s knowledge fund in the last week or so knows that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia (the encyclopedia that is 90% of the time right all of the time) has been pleading with you to donate some of your money to Wikipedia. You have no doubt seen his majestic mug grinning confidently at the top of Wikipedia’s page, his steely eyes pointed toward tomorrow. But all is not well in Wikipedia-land: those who have read Wales’ Wikipedia (what a meta thing to do) know that he’s a devout Objectivist and therefore believes altruism is an immoral act. How can we stay true to Jimbo’s creed and still give him money when it’s not in our “enlightened self-interest” to do so? How can we be altruists to the anti-altruist?
Some might know that Objectivism is a philosophy created by philosophy-maker and proletariat-hater Ayn Rand, best known for writing profound paperweights like Atlas Shrugged and less effective paperweights like The Fountainhead. Rand believed that mankind could only be moral when he is selfish, forsaking others in order to achieve his highest aims (whatever those may be). This manifested in her undying love for unrestricted laissez-faire capitalism and her hatred of altruism, the sickly belief that people should live to help or benefit others, even if they sacrifice some of their self-interest. As Wales tells us in his Wikipedia, Objectivism “colours everything I do and think.” Fair enough. But how, Jimmy Wales, can we give you money without violating our self-interest? How can we avoid the pitfalls of the dreaded altruist?
We could fail to give Wikipedia any money and therefore remain saved in the eyes of our lord and savior Ayn Rand. We can give money to a Rand disciple (or…imposter!) and hope our benevolent prophetess and goddess in heaven will forgive us. Or we can go on Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia page, edit it so that it says he’s a devout Communist, and give the man his five bucks so term papers from now until doomsday will be powered by the type of place that on any given day can tell you Paul McCartney is in fact dead and that Miley Cyrus has been nominated for her second National Book Award.