Kat Posted February 19, 2006 Share Posted February 19, 2006 Generosity and Self-Interestby David KelleyFrom the December 2004/January 2005 issue of the Fraser Forum.People do generous things. They give directions to strangers, contribute to charities, volunteer in hospitals, send food and supplies to earthquake victims. Actions like these are usually described as altruistic, in contrast to the pursuit of self-interest. In a free society, most of our interactions with people involve trade: we provide values to others only on terms that benefit ourselves. Generosity, however, means providing someone with a value that is not part of a definite trade, without the expectation of a definite return.But this dichotomy between self-interest and generosity is a false one. Trading and giving are different, to be sure, but the conventional view overstates and misrepresents the difference. The chief cause of this confusion is a narrow definition of self-interest as the satisfaction of short-term desires, particularly for material gain. A rational person knows that what serves his interest in a given situation depends on his long-term goals; that it is in his interest to take responsibility for achieving his goals through productive effort; and that he is more likely to gain the values of living in society—everything from economic exchange to intimate personal relationships—by dealing with others fairly and honestly than by cheating.What role could generosity play in the pursuit of enlightened self-interest?One role pertains to emergencies where people are in trouble and we can help at little cost to ourselves. This serves our long-term interests in part because of the potential value that the other person represents. He might become a friend, or a partner in an economic exchange. But there's a more fundamental reason for aiding others in emergencies.Read the rest of the article at TOC... Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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