"[T]he dominant argument on the right these days is simply 'I, me, me, mine.' It comes off as mere selfishness, which is not a virtue, but a base instinct."
Proponents of individual rights are often accused of considering ONLY themselves. This may be true in some cases, in which case the term "mere selfishness"* may apply. In the vast majority of cases, however, those who promote individual rights as the moral guide to social interaction, are referring to the consistent and equal application of those rights to all individuals.
In fighting for and insisting on the respect of MY individual rights, I am also limiting myself and all others to respecting YOUR individual rights.
Individual rights, properly understood, means equality before the law. It means the equal application of rights to all people, myself included.
Insisting on individual rights means insisting there not be separate laws or standards of behavior based on race or income level or gender or sexual orientation or occupation, or any other limited identification.
I can see that this aspect of individual rights can become lost as people speak out in self-defense. In attempt to offset centuries of philosophy and religious teachings which call for the sacrifice of oneself to others, an understandable and natural response is to speak loudest and most often about the right to live one's life for one's own sake. But an inseparable aspect of denying the morality of self-sacrifice is denying any claim on my part to sacrificial acts of others.
Individual rights apply to individuals, and that includes me. Rational consistency requires that I apply moral standards equally. A moral code which can not be consistently applied is irrational and arbitrary. A moral code that demands or accepts sacrifice is one that defines a single act as both moral and immoral at the same time. (If the act of sacrifice makes the giver moral, what is the moral status of the receiver?)
Ayn Rand named the moral virtue of rationally and consistently respecting the right to life of all individuals: "selfishness." Even if you don't like the term she chose, can you disagree with the moral concept it stands for? Can you deny that everyone, including you yourself (and me myself), has a right to live his own life as a end in itself?
The right of an individual to live his life for his own sake, for his own values and happiness, has so long been besmirched that it is important to make the defense of this right clear and explicit. But it is also important to keep in the forefront that this same right is granted to each and everyone, equally and consistently. The moral standard of individual rights is not "mere selfishness" but Selfishness in its grandest most universal form. The fullest respect of human individual life possible is the respect for the lives of others AND for one's self.
The true virtue of selfishness is its rational, consistent application to every Self --and that includes you as well as "I, me, me, mine."
* I interpret "mere selfishness" to refer to the narrow consideration of how something effects only oneself and only the direct and obvious effects. A full concept of selfishness takes into consideration the entire relevant context: long and short term effects, logical consistency, as well direct and indirect consequences.