This is an interesting read, especially the utopian society and self interest paragraphs. http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Essays/BluePete/Man.htm Utopia:- The book shelves of the world are filled with the works of the Utopian writers, "both ancient and modern." They all suppose that a state of society is possible in which "the passions and wills of individuals would be conformed to the general good, in which the knowledge of the best means of promoting human welfare and the desire of contributing to it would banish vice and misery from the world, and in which, the stumbling-blocks of ignorance, of selfishness, and the indulgence of gross appetite being removed, all things would move on by the mere impulse of wisdom and virtue to still higher and higher degrees of perfection and happiness."6 The word Utopia comes from the book, Utopia, wherein Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) described his view of the perfect society. But the first Utopian blueprint in history was written in ancient Greece at about 380 BC. It is Plato's Republic. It was Plato's view that the individual person was not, and could not, be self-sufficient. His view of man is the same that one might have of a laboring beast of the field: "... And even in the smallest manner ... [one] should stand under leadership. For example, he should get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals ... only if he has been told to do so. In a word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream of acting independently ... There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands." (Plato). There was, in this world, to be no perfect state and no perfect men in it, one can only strive for the ideal. To Plato, there was no natural sense on how men ought to live, education was to be the key to the construction of a better society; from the "educated" would arise the elite to rule society. Plato thought it essential that a strict threefold class division be maintained. In addition to the rulers, the Philosopher-kings, there were to be "Auxiliaries" (soldiers, police and civil servants) and the "Workers" (the rest of us). Plato's view of society was pinned by the belief that philosophers are capable of knowing the absolute truth about how to rule society, and, thus, are justified in wielding absolute power. Such a view is in striking contrast to that of his principal teacher, Socrates (469-399 BC), who was always conscious of how much he did not know, and claimed superiority to unthinking men only in that he was aware of his own ignorance where they were not. Now, I think most would agree, a stable and efficient society is important; but one should wonder about a society that will use force (legislation) to make the individual give in to the desires of those who have set themselves up as knowing what is best for everyone. Those who subscribe to the theory that we should be ruled by those who really know best, subscribe, whether they know it or not, to Plato's theory of man. Whether we know it or not (and most do not), it is upon this Platonic theory that our modern day society dwells. The theory is: the community is to permit government to use persuasion and force with a view to unite all citizens and make them share together the benefits which each individually can confer on the community for the benefit of the community. This theory -- so attractive in its statement -- is a false theory. When, in its legislation, in its use of force, government suppresses the welfare of the individual; when its efforts are aimed to foster the attitude that one should not proceed to please oneself, government commits a fatal error in the achievement of its laudable object, the betterment of the whole. The essential problem in proceeding in this manner is that individuals cannot contribute to the whole, indeed will be a drain on the whole, unless they are allowed to be free and productive, that is to say allowed to suit themselves. Men did not evolve into robots; they did not come to possess the independent spirit, so characteristic of man, by serving others; man came to be the superior being, that he clearly is, because of the exercise of free choice: free choice, the essential ingredient in the evolutionary process. [TOC] Tradition and Prejudice:- Habit, as Oliver Wendall Holmes has said, is "a labor-saving invention which enables a man to get along with less fuel." Habit comes naturally to man; and, habit "makes the custom." In turn, custom becomes the great guide to human life. "Customs, even the most foolish and the most cruel, have always their source in the real or apparent utility of the public."7 Some customs, we might safely conclude, are harmful, and, thus, not to be followed; but where left with a choice, habit or custom is more true then most anything else one might choose as a guide. Habit may be equated to prejudice; it is an impression or an inference which one has picked up, -- a person knows not when or how -- as likely as they are unavoidable, they are fair; they are taken from one's general observation, or past experiences. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a prejudice, as Edmund Burke has written, "it is natural and right." "No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may, in the end, prove wiser than he."8 ( William Hazlitt.) We lawyers have an expression, a legal maxim, Via trita via tuta, fancy words meaning, "The trodden road is the safe road." Tradition is simply a set of evolved rules, rules for living. These rules grew spontaneously, viz., they have not by definition been deliberately designed by a mind; the origins of these moral traditional rules are obscured in the mists of past times. While the function of tradition has been to preserve an existing state of affairs, it, nonetheless, has allowed for culture to evolve; the growth of culture, in turn, has allowed for the growth of civilizations.9 Man has had no choice in this process, but that has not stopped him, during the course of the last couple of hundred years, to attempt to lend a hand in this natural process; man's attempts, however -- and History will show -- have done nothing but impede, or reverse the process of man's cultural development. [TOC] Self-Interest:- The human individual, in the evolutionary process, considers his choices and calculates which of his chooses will be to his advantage, not necessarily to his exclusive advantage, but to his advantage.10 A person normally proceeds to take steps which he thinks would best promote his advantage, which often includes "scratching another person's back." "The first principle ... is that all actions whatsoever arise from self-interest. It may be enlightened self-interest, it may be unenlightened; but it is assumed as an axiom, that every man, in whatever he does, is aiming at something which he considered will promote his happiness. His conduct is not determined by his will; it is determined by the object of his desire. Adam Smith, in laying the foundations of political economy, expressly eliminates every other motive. He does not say that men never act on other motives; still less, that they never ought to act on other motives. He asserts merely that, as far as the arts of production are concerned, and of buying and selling, the action of self-interest may be counted upon as uniform."11 And, now we quote the great man, himself: "Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally indeed neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.) There is of course in life to be exceptions. (In the evolutionary scheme of things life could not have come about or combine into complex orders without chance aberrations.) There are people that seemingly do things which are not in their interest, indeed, often against their interest. There is, however, as Rochefoucauld put it, no limit to the roles that self-interest will play, even the role of disinterestedness. Ask yourself, what are the feelings of one as they go about doing charitable work? In what conditions will they proceed to do charitable work? Quite separate from the preceding questions, one might ask, "Does Mother Theresa have absolutely no self-interest in what she does?" Whatever the answer to this last question, one might be assured that the mother Theresas of this world are in a distinct minority. "In general," as Hume has said, "it may be affirmed that there is no such passion in human minds, as the love of mankind, merely as such, independent of personal qualities, or services, or of relation to ourselves." People, in the final analysis, are, as it should be, out for themselves; especially when they are in trouble, even the slightest bit of trouble. "The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings."12 "Man is a creature of social instinct condemned by his nature to be solitary. Creatures in all outward respects similar to himself are awhirl about him. They cannot help him, nor he them; he cannot even be sure, for all he may assume it, that they share his hope and calling." (Hewlett.)13 "No man is much regarded by the rest of the world. He that considers how little he dwells upon the condition of others, will learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself. While we see multitudes passing before us, of whom perhaps not one appears to deserve our notice or excite our sympathy, we should remember, that we likewise are lost in the same throng; that the eye which happens to glance upon us is turned into a moment on him that follows us, and that the utmost which we can reasonably hope or fear, is to fill a vacant hour with prattle, and be forgotten." (Dr. Johnson.) For a Utopian society to work -- What is Needed; and, What is Missing; And Which Accounts for Why Utopian Schemes Have Never Worked and Will Never Work -- there must exist in a large majority of the population, in each individual, a disregard for their immediate self-interest and in its place a public spirit, a patriotism and a concern for humanity in general. The fact of the matter is: it is not in the best interests of the individual to proceed in such a fashion, simply because he knows that most of his fellows will not; and in the face of this he has himself and his own to take care of. William Hazlitt wrote of this: "The personal always prevails over the intellectual, where the latter is not backed by strong feeling and principle. Where remote and speculative objects do not excite a predominant interest and passion, gross and immediate ones are sure to carry the day, even in ingenuous and well-disposed minds. The will yields necessarily to some motive or other; and where the public good or distant consequences excite no sympathy in the breast, either from shortsightedness or an easiness of temperament that shrinks from any violent effort or painful emotion, self-interest, indolence, the opinion of others, a desire to please, and sense of personal obligation, come in and fill up the void of public spirit, patriotism and humanity."