Saturday, August 29, 2009

Self Interest

Adam Smith:... "Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By…directing that [labour] in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."

This is saying that everyone is guided by self-interest and nothing else. I want to work for the environment not out of altruism, according to this thinking, but to make a good place for my kids because my kids are my accomplishment, my achievement, so I do better by them doing better. I promote parks and walking trails to have them available for my use and the use of my own family. I promote gay rights . . . because I have gay friends? Because I want to be seem as fair and open-minded and a little radical? A politician gets in the game for the job stability and the fame and so in general acts right to keep up the fame and to get re-elected? When an elected official is in their last term and re-election is not longer part of their self-interest, are they more likely to do corrupt things for more money? It was said many times that George W only did things in view of how his legacy would read. The more closely a person defines themselves by a religious organization, the more likely they are to promote the organization's goals because "self=organization" so things in the interest of the organization are self-interest? What self-interest is there really in the things you do that you think you do for others? Is there anything you do for others that has NO benefit to you, but only to the other? Do we delude ourselves in claiming that there is anything BUT self-interest operation for anyone? And indeed, those who give up too much self-interest to a job or cause often have families that suffer. Or taking care of a relative with an illness but not making sure you are eating and sleeping merely results in you being a less effective caregiver, so isn't it necessary that evolution shaped us first for self-interest? A parent must be strong and healthy to care for young, so cannot give up too much self-interest in their care. We care then, after self, about a hierarchy of others: Immediate family, extended family, those in our social group, those in other similar social groups, humankind, mammals, animals, and on out, which may explain why we have done so badly to the plant and mineral world, allowing such damage to ecosystems. The plant world is seen as to far removed from us to warrant out care? What would we do differently if we assumed self-interest was the sole and only motivation? If we were more honest about our motivation and made choices consciously in this regard? Just asking. Discuss freely among yourselves.

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