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It's one of the key stupidities of neoclassical economics that it confuses selfishness with self interest. I doubt you'll find many neoliberals who could explain the difference in practice. And their actions certainly don't support a reading with any particular evidence of nuance.

Altruism isn't just reliably observed in the social sciences, it has a biological foundation - mirror neurons seem to explain it quite adequately.

There's no uncontrived Darwinian explanation which explains why people get incredibly attached to their pets, but they do.

Anyone who's ever paid a vet's bill can tell you about non-reciprocal altruism. There's no objective benefit to owning a pet - e.g. most cats aren't even that good at keeping vermin at bay, never mind defending anyone against hostile people or larger predators, and pet fish don't do much of anything at all - but humans will lavish food, attention, affection and resources on them all the same.

There may be a perceived subjective benefit, but once you accept that, it's no step at all to accepting why altruism exists too.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 03:48:15 PM EST
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