The ethic of subordinating one’s own interests as a matter of principle to those of others in particular and to ‘society’ in general has been the lifeblood of tyrannies throughout history. All tyrants have invoked “the common good” and extolled (and forcibly imposed) the “virtue” of self-subordination and self-sacrifice as a means of ensuring a docile, acquiescent population.
Altruism is the ethical foundation of collectivism in politics.
Said Joseph Goebbels (approvingly),
“To be a socialist is to submit the I to the Thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”One Volk, with one neck.
Libertarianism deems altruism to be incompatible with individual self-ownership, and upholds instead an ethic of rational self-interest (see Objectivism). As David Kelly argues in his book Unrugged Individualism, an ethic of rational self-interest does not exclude benevolence towards others, it simply recognises that this may only come about once the acting party has secured his own flourishing. "Is it better to give or to receive?" asks Kelley rhetorically, answering, "It is better to produce," without which neither giving nor receiving nor even basic survival are actually possible.
FURTHER READING: See David Kelley's article 'Two Strains of Altruism,' and for a concrete example of how altruism undermines freedom, see Lindsay Perigo's 1996 presentation discussing New Zealand's market reforms and the consequent need for an ethical revolution, 'Antipodean Altruism,' and particularly 'The Foundations of a Revolution.'