[consulting] Returning to a solution

Sami Khan sami at etopian.net
Mon Aug 10 20:46:20 UTC 2009

On Mon, 2009-08-10 at 13:36 -0700, Domenic Santangelo wrote:
> Sheryl wrote:
> > Judging by how much Americans
> > spend on junk and how little they save for retirement, I'd say that acting
> > against self-interest is the dominant behavior.
> >    
> Your example is good but the conclusion arguable. I think this behavior 
> in fact proves self-interest (if we define self-interest as "what's good 
> for me, /right now/" or "being greedy"). If someone in America fails to 
> plan for retirement, they know that the Government will provide for them 
> (albeit at a minimal level), or their family members will kick in, and 
> so forth. In this sense, they're acting almost purely out of greed and 
> self-interest -- I'll spend my money on the things I want today, and let 
> society/my family worry about me later. I would go as far as to say that 
> planning for your own later years is /less/ self-interested if one of 
> your main motivators is "I don't want to be a burden on my children," as 
> it is for many.

I think I like Sheryl's conclusion more than yours. Not necessarily for
the premises, but because of the categorical imperative of such a
statement. If it is true that your statement is true, then the United
States is pretty much screwed as there is no way that the government or
anyone else can support that many greedy people.

> A quote from "The Wealth of Nations":
> "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, 
> that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self 
> interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their 
> self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their 
> advantages."

Yeah, Adam Smith also thought that everyone would be rich and not have
to work anymore and have plenty of time for leisure because of
Capitalism. His ideas were interesting for his time, but we are far away
from them at this point in our history to be able to use him as any sort
of authority on economics despite what your history profs might tell


> -D
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