Improving your Community is Selfish

Do I have everyone’s attention? Good. Now let me restate my assertion; Improvement and Uplifting of the general standard and quality of living in a community can be done for selfish motives.

If the end result is lowered crime rate, a better educated workforce that sees higher employment in local corporate divisions/plants whatever that in turn see higher than average profits, and so generate more revenue, does it matter why a person supports this goal?

I would like to think that so long as the end result uplifts a general area then the reason behind supporting improvements shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately given we are not in a perfect or even remotely nice world it seems selfish behavior seems to be more along the lines of ‘I got mine, I don’t care about the rest’ instead of ‘I’m getting mine and don’t have to hire a private security force to keep my home safe, a team of accountants to find every tax loophole possible, and a team of lawyers in case I feel like suing somebody because i felt my ego was wounded.’

The latter seems to be less of a hardship to maintain leaving more time and energy to go look at other ways to spend your time and money. So, why is the former attitude more often found in the world? A study should be done on what sort of time/effort that currently goes into paying armies of underlings to secure self interests verses just simplifying health, taxation, bettering police and other social services.

I am not sure this study would find in favor of strengthening the public good verses ‘I have to spend millions to find the best way of leveraging the system.’ Maybe it’s that these people don’t feel that they ‘win’ unless someone else is clearly worse off and thus ‘lose’.

Discuss, please.

Suddenly it makes more sense that all those people were using the term “Community Organizer” as an insult back in 2008. It’s code for “selfish!”

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Well I chose the title as an attempt at getting discussion going since I don’t really understand why bound up lots of money and time in accumulating more money if that’s all you’re really doing with yourself.

It all has to do with shortsightedness, I’d suggest, and that lack of forethought affects a great many people. I think “enlightened self-interest” is what we call it when we realize that improving the public schools and job opportunities for those less fortunate than we will end up directly benefiting us, if for no other reason than that our neighbors are noticeably less likely to be driven to desperate measures if they’re reasonably well-educated and not flat broke.

There are other forces at work here, however. Some people refuse to acknowledge their own advantages that allowed them to prosper, and resent the idea of anyone else getting help that they themselves don’t believe is deserved. That particular flavor of selfishness I would call “benighted self-interest,” and that one is much harder to channel toward mutual success. Pollyanna that I am, I do believe that most people’s self-interest can be enlightened relatively easily, since most people like to think of themselves as the Good Guys. The trouble is that there are entrenched and well-funded entities dedicated to preserving the status quo, and funneling the vast majority of the fruits of the economy toward themselves and their cronies.

And they don’t want us educating the poor.


Different mindset. No, make that completely different mindset. You know, a bit like the bad guys in the movies who want to rule the world but never explain why.

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I agree with you entirely —it makes more sense to me too.

However, I believe there is mindset issue over the balance between “Right” and “Good”. Our moral philosophy (mine and that of the OP at least) weighs the balance in terms of Good —and it is self evident to us that improving the community for everyone is an overall good. The opposing camp comes down in favour of what is Right and sees only that it is right that the hard working should experience the fruits of their labours —and wrong for the rest to be advantaged if they haven’t worked themselves. The problem then boils down to the fact that those who judge by what is Right would rather see bad punished than see Good increase overall. That and a certain blindness about privilege and the effects of blind chance …


If we were all looking to live in a sensible world, you’d be absolutely right and no one would have any complaints.

The problem is that we live in a world with capitalism gone amok. Capitalism only works “properly” when there are people who are destitute and can be exploited in severely inhumane ways. Western society has perfected it in such a way that the most egregious elements of this exploitation occur where it is difficult for many people in the west to see it.

And then further refined it so that when the exploited in the west see the worst of it, we’re powerless to avoid participating in it (unless you’re willing to chuck all your clothes and go foraging).

Even this would be ineffective if not for the fact that many of the poor who are white are taught to believe that they’re on the verge of becoming proper capitalists themselves and that POC and disabled people are the reason they can’t have nice things. If people understood how unlikely–less than “winning the lottery if you don’t play” unlikely–it was for them to become millionaires, we’d see a lot more unrest and maybe get some shit done.

Bootstrap! Bootstrap! Bootstrap! (In my defense, or offense, I am slightly tipsy.)

The “1%” doesn’t benefit as much from having everyone comfy as they do from the knowledge that no one is as comfy as they are.


So basically, as a friend said, these people would rather be universal masters of a dung heap than the well regarded lords of a functional society.



I thought the “meta” tag for for Discourse related topics, not metaphysics.


I think a person might have selfish reasons for doing this but will need to do some pretty selfless acts to achieve this goal.

It’s all about long term. The logic is ‘These people will like me enough so that they will want to keep me living comfortable’ rather than ‘everyone hates me, I must build a fortress of scumdetude.’

Capitalism only works “properly” when there are people who are destitute and can be exploited in severely inhumane ways.

We don’t really know, because that’s the only way that capitalism has ever been tried. But why wouldn’t it would work even better with a higher baseline?

The problem is that our concept of economics (the allocation of scarce resources) comes from a time when 80% of the population worked in agriculture and everyone constantly feared famine. Now <1-2% of the population works in agriculture and we throw away half our food (not counting the amount that gets lost in production, shipping, and storage). There’s an abundance, nowhere near scarcity. Yet still we have several massive bureaucracies to force people to prove that they deserve a chance to not starve. That’s absurd.

Given that we live in a land of plenty, the baseline could very well include secure housing, adequate food, and sufficient healthcare. The alternative, forcing people to be destitute, means that we lose a lot of potential by forcing people to be unemployable (homeless), missing work due to health issues that could be treated or prevented, distracted by hunger, and/or performing poorly because they have to work several jobs just to scrape by. A lot of people could be more effective and efficient (and therefore make their employers more profit) if not living in constant peril.

There’s no economic reason for it anymore now that scarcity has become scarce.


Pretty much, they don’t want to lift themselves up by improving the lives of others, they want to put other people beneath them. I don’t think they believe that they’ll literally become Masters of Capital, or that their tax returns will increase, they just want to see someone suffer more than themselves.

All is zero-sum.

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