Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Another Journalist Falls Short on Fact Checking

Charles Leadbeater ('a leading authority on innovation and creativity and the author of ‘WeThink: the power of mass creativity’), writes (7 March) for the Guardian HERE

No, we are not selfish – co-operation is at the heart of our existence”

Far from being quaint and anachronistic, collaboration and co-operation underpin our most innovative activities

We are born selfish. Self-interest is the actuating force for economic activity. Without the rules and laws, sanctions and taxes of the state, we would descend into a war of all against all. Evolutionary science and political economy – from Adam Smith and Thomas Hobbes, to Milton Friedman and Richard Dawkins – tell us selfishness is our default mode.
What if they were completely wrong? Science increasingly suggests they are.

The ideas that Charles criticizes are not alone in being wrong – so is his attribution to Adam Smith that he regarded selfishness as the human default mode. He didn’t. His whole philosophy was based on a quite different perspective of human society, namely co-operation (not always voluntary). This arose from dependence on the actions of others.

Smith set this guiding principle at the beginning of his Wealth Of Nations: man ‘”stands at all times in the need of the co-operation and assistance of the great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons” (WN, I.ii.2: 26).

I think Charles confused attributions to Adam Smith that are not founded on his published ideas, and which are often confused with ideas from Bernard Mandeville (Fable of the Bees, 1724), or Ayn Rand (Virtue of Selfishness, and others), and even Paul Samuelson (Economics: an introductory analysis,, 1948, p 36).



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