Be Selfish or Be Bad

Joe got a piece of land next to Tom. He planted some corn and when it was harvested gave it all to Tom, setting the huge pile of it right outside of Tom’s front gate. Tom asked, “Why are you doing this?” Joe replied, “I’m a good altruist, and I regard each man as a means to the ends of others.” Tom said, “Hmmm.” Then Joe walked back to his place and waited. Three days later, his meager supply of food running low, Joe walked over to Tom’s place and said, “When are you going to give me one of your cows?” Tom answered, “Never.” “What?!” exclaimed Joe. “Why, that’s being plain selfish.” “What’s wrong with that?” asked Tom.

“What’s wrong with it?! Why, it’s evil!”

“Who says so?”

“I do, and so does altruism!”

“So what?”

“Oh my God, you are selfish to the core! You hear me? Selfish, selfish, selfish! When I call you selfish don’t you feel a dark and heavy feeling of guilt?”

“No. Why should I?”

“Cause you’re supposed to!”


“So I can make you do what I want you to do. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and I want to make you want to give to me.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Then you’re selfish!”

“You’ve already said so. Now what?”

“I’m going to get my gun and shoot you. You’ve got to be punished!”

“Is that part of altruism, too? If a person doesn’t act the way you want him to, you kill him?”

I” don’t care, you selfishly evil man; I feel like killing you and that’s all that counts!”

Joe went and got his rifle, came back, and was lifting it at Tom, when Tom, quick on the draw, shot Joe right in the chest with his six-shooter. As he lay on the ground, coughing up blood, Joe gasped, “I was a good man, I lived for others. Now I’m a holy sacrifice.”

Tom spoke slow and even, saying, “No, Joe, you were a very bad man, but at least you’re dying for yourself.”

“NO, Tom, I’m not. I’m dying for you.”

“Joe, your death doesn’t profit me in the slightest. Goodbye.”

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