I read an opinion piece in an online newspaper on Sunday just been. And then I went on to read the comments. Possibly a mistake, but, meh. It happened.
The article was about private property vs a community’s right to protest what the owner of the property wants to do on or with that private property. In this case, there was a native tree estimated to be 500 years old in line to be chopped down for development. A comment (I’m not going to go on and rant about) disputed whether we knew the age of the tree … Certain trees grow at certain rates. The size of the tree can give you a pretty close estimate). I guess you can see which side of the argument I err on. While I totally understand people’s desire to develop housing where housing is needed and wanted, and I understand people wanting to use their spare capital to grow their wealth, I just think there is more to the whole picture than our (fleeting) human wants and needs.
Anyway … back to the rant.
So, I came across a comment that included this statement:
Society uses self-interest as a motivator, which is fair enough; why should I advance the collective well-being if there is nothing in it for me? I have always regarded pure altruism as pretty stupid & highly unreliable.
Of course, I took some offence. I spent a great deal of time–that I could have put to my own endeavours–fighting to win gigabit speed internet for my city last year. Why? Because this city has been steadily losing jobs because of decisions made by other people and I (along with several others) figured this was a way to bring valuable new businesses to this city. For our own gain? For many of the hardest fighters: no. I (and several others) do not live in one of the areas that can access the fibre to get the gigabit internet. But, I know that there are now businesses already setting up and others looking to set up in Dunedin because of the Gig. Sure, there are flow on effects I hope to benefit from: a more vibrant city (already being achieved through new Street Art initiatives, which I have donated to also), more development and redevelopment which will provide jobs to builders and other services (and, yes, I work with electricians, so …)
Still, in the past I have volunteered for the SPCA and Victim Support. I got little directly out of this other than the sense of a job well done. (And, honestly, Victim Support damaged me for quite some time, but that’s a tale for another time).
Guess I’m just stupid.
But the part of the comment that really got to me was the next bit:
Thus the developing world uses various degrees & forms of self-interest to drive forward improvements in the common-weal. This is a working proposition as individuals who contribute the most get a better share of the returns. (emphasis added by me)