More than two hundred years ago, Adam Smith wrote, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our own dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”
Some people mistakenly accuse Adam Smith of promoting selfishness. He was merely pointing out the economic truth that a society prospers because of the collective pursuit of its citizens’ self-interest.
The merchant and the lawyer make the world a better place by pursuing their own needs and wants. They want to do more for their families and themselves. To do that, they create better products and services and sell more of them.
As individuals pursue their own self-interest, they become more industrious. Competition forces them to make better products and offer better service and lower prices. As they do better for themselves, society does better. And the more that society prospers, the more that society can do for others.
Americans are the most generous people on earth, we are told. One reason is that we have more to give.
Everyone is driven by their own self-interest. Even Mother Teresa.
She lived modestly and gave herself to others, with little thought to her own material needs. She was driven by her spiritual needs and worked hard to get her message heard. She wanted others to heed the call to help others. That was her self-interest. By pursuing her self-interest, she did make the world a better place.
Never apologize for wanting to do better. Never feel guilty for earning more than your neighbors, or for wanting to earn more still. You work hard and you deserve it. And the more you do for yourself, the more you can do for others.
If you only do for yourself, however, it can lead to selfishness.
Andrew Carnegie, of the richest men in the world in his day and also one the biggest philanthropists, earned a fortune and then gave most of it away. He said, “Successful men should help the unsuccessful into more productive lives, and a man who neglects this duty and dies rich, dies disgraced.”
Earn as much as possible so you can give away as much as possible. Because avoiding disgrace is clearly in your self-interest.
The formula for earning more than you ever thought possible