14 Sep 2010

Mutual self interest

Some more useful thoughts from WEH:

I heard a discussion the other day that "self interest" in capitalism is really "mutual self interest."

The discussion should be framed as "mutual self interest" because exchange does not occur due to self interest as that is individualistic. Exchange occurs when two or more parties have "mutual self interest". Self interest has been framed as "greed" and used politically when the the case is really mutual self interest. It is much more difficult to frame mutual self interest as "greed" since you are then arguing that all parties are greedy.

For example, you buy a gallon of gasoline. It's mutual self interest that drives this transaction between you and the gas station owner (refiner, oil company, oil driller, etc.). Are all parties "greedy," including YOU? The political argument that oil companies are greedy is more difficult to make when it includes all the mutual players in the exchange, including YOU.