Friday, February 13, 2009

Doing good doesn't cost you

If you do something other people like, chances are they will reward you for it. If it's really a good thing you've done, the cost to you should be negative. In other words, when you do a really good thing, you'll profit from it. This is a basic principle of human cooperation and one that is widely misunderstood. Everything you do to make money is an investment of something - your time and effort and maybe even your money. When the results are worth more to you than what you've invested, that's called profit. Good results mean that people like what you did. See the correlation? Doing good creates profit. Profit indicates that you have done good.

Of course there are many exceptions to this general rule: You can steal your way into profits without doing any good whatsoever. You can also give up your last efforts to save someone else's life, and though you did plenty of good, you'll be dead. Unless your life was worth more than that of the person you saved. Hmm... Yeah, think about that for a minute. Anyway, these are exceptional cases. Let's look at some more commonplace "doing good" that doesn't profit the "do-gooder."

Charity is giving some of what you have to someone who hasn't got as much. When this does not end up profiting you (mind you, profits come in forms other than money, such as happiness, friendship, etc.), I would argue that you have NOT done good. Why should we consider it good to give something to someone who doesn't appreciate it enough to make you feel good about doing it? I don't think that's good at all. I think the receivers of charity who are unable or unwilling to show natural appreciation shouldn't get it. Does this cut churches out of charitable giving? Perhaps. Does it cut welfare out? Of course. Then how are the poor to survive? Why, by doing good, of course!

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