MAL: How come you didn’t turn on me, Jayne?
JAYNE: Money wasn’t good enough.
MAL: What happens when it is?
JAYNE: When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.
JAYNE: As long as you treat my loyalty as if it is available for purchase, it will be.
ZOE: We can’t steal a shipment of medicine bound for a bunch of sick miners.
MAL: I agree. What we can do is the job we were paid to do. Would you have me rob my employer on behalf of strangers unwilling to protect their investment?
ZOE: Jesus, Mal.
MAL: Do you agree that in a free society, men deal with one another by voluntary, uncoerced exchange, by mutual consent to mutual profit, each man pursuing his own rational self-interest, none sacrificing himself or others? That all values, whether goods or services, are traded, not given away?
ZOE: I don’t think this has anything to do with whether society is free or not. It’s about –
MAL: Everything is about whether society is free or not. If I am not free to act as I choose, then society is not free. There is no society without the individual. There is no freedom without the “I.” If I am not free to disrupt this shipment of medicine for profit, I am no better than a slave. If you demand I perform a selfless act for a group of strangers who mean nothing to me, you are a threat to my freedom, and I will deal with you as such.
ZOE: You wouldn’t shoot me, Mal?
MAL: No. But I would boycott you.
ZOE: What does that mean, in this context?
MAL: I cannot answer your question. I am on strike.
[MAL sits down.]
ZOE: What are you doing?
MAL: Asserting my freedom.
BOOK: That young man’s very brave.
MAL: [scoffing] Yeah. He’s my hero.
BOOK: Gave up everything to free his sister from that place. Go from being a doctor on the central planets to hiding on the fringes of the system…Not many who would do that.
MAL: I am glad of that, at least. The man is an altruist, and refuses to exist for his own sake.
BOOK: You think he should have left her there to die? Or worse?
MAL: Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not rescue your sister from torture school. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without rescuing her from torture school. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, rescue by rescue, from any sibling who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”
DOCTOR CARON: “These are just a few of the images we’ve recorded. And you can see, it wasn’t what we thought. There’s been no war here and no terraforming event. The environment is stable. It’s the Pax. The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression. Well, it works. The people here stopped fighting. And then they stopped everything else. They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating. There’s 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die.”
MAL: I see no difference between this planet and any other.
SIMON: Jesus, Mal, this is where Reavers came fr –
MAL: Explain to me how the strangulation of men’s respiratory systems through Paxilon is any different from the strangulation of men’s ideas through government regulation.
MAL: If one upholds freedom, one must uphold man’s individual rights; if one upholds man’s individual rights, one must uphold his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness; which means: one must uphold a political system that guarantees and protects these rights; which means: the politico-economic system of capitalism. All I’m saying, is that under true capitalism, this never would have happened.
ZOE: People need to know about this.
MAL: A free mind and a free market are the same thing. What people need are unregulated trade systems. And I’m going to give it to them.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.