One reason people object to Ayn Rand's emphasis on egoism is that they don't know the difference between serious egoism and superficial "me-firsterism." Egoism is an adult's understanding that virtue is personal, practical, and objective. Me-firsterism is a child's idea that virtue is getting the biggest scoop of ice cream.
As an egoist, I believe that the purpose of virtue is my own happiness. As a me-firster, I maintain that the essence of virtue is my happiness. Ayn Rand calls that whim worship. She says that the essence of virtue is rationality.
As an egoist at the supermarket, I reflect that my interests are best served by having orderly checkout lines. As a me-firster, I look for ways to cut in line ahead of others.
As an egoist on the freeway, I figure the best way to get home with minimum hassle is to make sure to signal what I intend, and avoid taking chances. As a me-firster, I bring traffic to a stop trying to get ahead of the guy in front of me.
As an egoist on the job, I see that my well-being depends on production, so my aim is to get the work done. As a me-firster, my first concern is pay and perks.
As an egoist in the family, I see the advantage to me of cooperation. As a me-firster, I see advantage only in domination.
In the me-first context, Ayn Rand does not seem serious, because she denies me permission to indulge my whims. She tells me to focus on reality, but I want to focus on me.
The problem is that I am part of reality. To be successful, I must have methods for success, personalized to match my unique abilities and limits. To perfect these methods, I must focus on reality. To apply these methods, I must focus on reality. To check on the efficacy of these methods, I must focus on reality. If I neglect to learn, apply, or check my own methods, in what sense am I putting myself first? Me-firsterism is a mock word for mock egoism. By using it, subjectivists would unwittingly mock themselves.
Subjectivists sometimes say, "Life consists of boredom." That's the me-first inversion: nothing can be important unless it first takes me into account. Put reality first? You can't be serious.
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