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May 30, 2011

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I think this where an understanding of self-interest comes in. Self-interest also includes a recognition of the greater good. We benefit if a system that recognizes the value of the individual and the freedom of choice is not supplanted by one that values only the collective and relegates decision-making to a powerful few. It is that way that we maximize "total surplus".

Well said, Jonathan, well said.

Thanks for the good comment, Tim. Are you envisioning something like "enlightened" self interest? Enlightened self interest can certainly do much if the incentives are there. But there is still a huge problem of free riding, which I don't think can be fully solved by rational self interest. I think we do need something like Smith's moral sentiments model also at work (but of course I am biased). Cheers.

I am envisioning "enlightened" self-interest. And while I agree that "rational" self-interest can lead to different outcomes, including free-riders, I don't see enlightened and rational as necessarily being exclusive. Smith wrote both books, and I never bought the argument that he was writing for different audiences.

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