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Phrase: Enlightened self-interest

Posted by Bob on October 05, 2000

In Reply to: Phrase: Enlightened self-interest posted by John Penna on October 05, 2000

: From an NPR interview 3 Oct 2000, and subsequent letters from listeners 5 Oct 2000,
: what exactly is "enlightened self-interest"?

: Connotation in original broadcast was simply what is in a person's best finacial inetrest.

: In letters from listeners the connotation was "what is better for the world at large is better for me".

What is better public policy, better for the world, is (eventually) better for me, even though it may not be obvious at first. Take, for example, large tax cuts. My self-interest might lead me to say "bring it on!" so I can put cash in my pocket. But... if a large general tax cut causes an inflationary spiral, fails to pay off the public debt, deprives government of the ability to fund infrastructure, and in general causes long-term damage to the world... then (having become enlightened by thinking this through) I realize that my enlightened self-interest is in saying "no thanks" in spite of its illusory attractiveness. Other examples might be Not trading on inside information, Not fibbing on a health insurance application, saving for retirement rather than buying sports cars, etc.