The single greatest cultural barrier to the preservation and advancement of liberty is our reverence for sacrifice. We use the word in reference to things which are actually profitable transactions, like choosing to study for a test rather than go drinking.
The true meaning of sacrifice is exhibited by an author at Slate who thinks you should give up what’s best for your kids for the sake of an “eventual common good.” Allison Benedikt writes:
You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.
Note the nature of the transaction. Benedikt calls you to literally sacrifice what’s best for your kid. Your willingness to give your kid less makes you a better person, by her particular moral calculus.
This is what real-life altruism looks like. It’s not charity. It’s not being nice to your neighbor or helping around church or benevolence toward a stranger. Altruism is the irrational sacrifice of your life-affirming values – like the education of your children – for the alleged benefit of others.
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
Benedikt can’t even define what this common good is, only that it won’t manifest for you or anyone you know. And really, that’s the whole point. The litmus test for whether something is truly sacrificial is that it must surrender something you value without redounding to your benefit. We’re not talking about investment. We’re not talking about some kind of legacy or inheritance. This isn’t about you and your children or grandchildren. This is about other people you don’t know or value supposedly benefiting from your self-inflicted loss. If we accept such moral claims upon our lives, we don’t deserve to be free.