The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor.John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“Stop the Madness,” Interview with Rupert Cornwell, Toronto Globe and Mail (6 Jul 2002)
The above citation is no longer online. A number of books cite this as a 2002 utterance, but the quote can be found in Peter Lawrence, Peter's Quotations (1993).
In Max Perultz, I Wish I’d Made You Angry Earlier (1998), he quotes a variant: "The modern conservative is in fact, not especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest pursuits, best financed and most applauded and, on the whole least successful exercises in moral philosophy. This is the search for a truly superior moral justification for selfishness."