A blupete Essay

Self-Interest and the Arts of Production, Part 1 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Economics"

Self-interest is in the nature of man.2 A person does a thing because he or she calculates, that in the doing of it, it will be to his or her personal benefit and/or advantage. It is this propensity, this quality or character of being of man to serve himself, that is the great reliable and fixed engine of the economy. Man, in serving himself, serves others. A man will work and produce goods and services wanted by others, because, by so doing, he will receive the wanted goods and services produced by others; all, if things are let to run their course, will balance out with the right amounts of the wanted goods and services being produced and consumed. The "central truth," as was stated by Alfred Marshall, is that,
"... producers, each governed under the sway of free competition by calculations of his own interest, will endeavour so to regulate the amount of any commodity which is produced for a given market during a given period, that this amount shall be just capable on the average of finding purchasers during this period at a remunerative price: a remunerative price being defined to be a price which shall be just equal to the sum of the exchange measures of those efforts and sacrifices which are required for the production of the commodity when this particular amount is produced, i.e., to the sum of the expenses which must be incurred by a person who would purchase the performance of these efforts and sacrifices."3
This statement on the "socio-economic organism" -- like all of Marshall's, concise and clear -- is typical of neoclassical economy theory. It is not so dreadful or narrow as some would have us believe (and, even if it were, we have no choice). We should expect that people will proceed with an enlightened self-interest, which, when well understood, will identify with an interest more enlarged and public.4 We turn to James Anthony Froude:
"The first principle, on which the theory of a science of history can be plausibly argued, 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."5
Arthur Seldon:
"Individuals in households and firms exchange property rights by a pricing system in markets, which thus coordinate billions of transactions spontaneously. Individuals may act with the motive of self-interest but the consequence is usually to serve the general interest because transactions will not normally be made unless they benefit both, or all parties. Neither does self-interest connote selfishness: people act from self-interest because it is the only interest they know and are equipped to judge. They do not profess to know the interest of others better than others do themselves. This is the profession of politicians."6

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Peter Landry

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