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Selfishness is not the same as self interest.  Not even neoclassical economics allows for selfishness.  Altruism, however, is just as misplaced as selfishness is, and, contrary to what you've just said, there really isn't very much evidence for it in any field of social science.  What there is more evidence for is that people act out of expectations of reciprocity in some way.  For example, Alberto Alesina has done a lot of work showing that altruism is based on racial affinity -- racism.  People are generous to others like them, not to everyone, and that explains a lot of the variation in welfare state generosity between countries.  Those countries which are more racially homogeneous are more generous than those countries which have high degrees of racial diversity, with the US having the most racial diversity of all.  
by santiago on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 03:17:38 PM EST
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