Monday, June 9, 2008

The Virtues of Long-Term Altruism

Many people produces a distinction between egoism and altruism. Examples include Ayn Rand and other rational egoists. They despise altuism as an unproductive act. However, we will show that there is no line between egoism and altruism.

Egoism is selfish behavior, and defined as benefiting the individual. Altruism is helping others. However, some conclude that altruism is also selfish, as people feel good helping others.

How can "feel good" be selfish? It can also be altruistic. According to evolution, altruism is an evolutionary adaptation for group survival. According to evolution, the "good feeling" of doing altruistic behavior is coded in our genes. So, in this context, egoistic behaviors are considered altruistic because they were behaviors that are selected by evolution to benefit the group over the individual.

So egoism and altruism can be synoyms. Neither behavior is egoistic nor altruistic. They are only behaviors.

It is impossible to classify egoistic and altruistic behaviors. Does buying apples from the market considered altruistic? It can, because the action of apples is a process of market competition. People do not buy bad apples. Only beneficial and efficient firms survive. So, in this action, you are behaving altruistically, because are punishing the bad firms buy not buying apples there, and helping the good ones. This process creates benefit for everyone, as you are helping them produce good apples.

So, persistent to Adam Smith's invidible hand, egoism and altruism are interchangeable in the voluntary market. Altruism is when one give gifts to others. The receiver benefits and the giver have a good feeling.

So why do many economists classify "altruistic" behavior bad? It has to do with a different reason. Suppose if one is being polite. He must give flower to a person gives gifts to the person. Suppose a person is helping another person to carry his grocery or educating others when they ask for help. These are altruistic behaviors. These behaviors are considered non-productive to them because the person is forced to do immediate reciprocal altruism instead of delaying the behavior and use his resources to do other things.

So altruism, such as giving to charity, wastes his resources instead of doing something productive, such as investing. Altruism is equivalent to immediate consumption, and egoism is equivalent to long term entrepreneural investment. So egoism is an investment, and benefits everying in the long run. Altruism only benefits in the short run.

Federally-enforced holidays such as Valentines' Day, Mothers' Day, Christimas, etc. are highly altruistic and resource wasting periods. People engage in irrational consumption such as giving gifts. Consumption decreases investment.

This is why economists prefer egoism and not altruism. They encourage investment.

Some think that wealth accumulation is egoistic. But what do they spend their wealth on? They wealth spending may be spent on altruistic or egoistic acts. People earn wealth to spend it "altruistically".

But going back to gene example, no behavior is altuistic and no behavior is egoistic.

This is another criticism of Homo economicus. not just wealth. They are just actions.

An example is open-source software. Coding open-source is neither altruistic nor egoistic. It is just a behavior adapted at evolution. It is the same as commercial software. Commercial developers modify open-source software so they can use it. There is a side-effect of improving the software--everyone else would share it. It is similar to a business that does innovation. Innovation first benefits a business, but a side-effect is created because information is distributed. They are actions that increase their happiness, and they are neither altuistic nor egoistic.

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