Self-interest, broadly conceived, is recognized to be a strong motivating force in all human activity; and human action, if not bounded by ethical or moral restraints, is assumed more naturally to be directed toward the furtherance of individual or private interest. ... From this, it follows directly that the individual human being must undergo some effort in restraining his "passions" and that he must act in accordance with ethical or moral principles whenever social institutions and mores dictate some departure from the pursuit of private interests. Such effort, as with all effort, is scarce: that is to say, it is economic. Therefore, it should be economized upon in its employment. Insofar as possible, institutions and legal constraints should be developed which will order the pursuit of private gain in such a way as to make it consistent with, rather than contrary to, the attainment of the objectives of the group as a whole.In short, altruistic effort is a scarce resource, and therefore wise social institutions will ration its use.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Posted by Glen Whitman at 11:57 AM
An excellent passage from James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent, University of Michigan Press, 1974 , p.27: