A letter from Richard Koch:
“The relations between the individual and society are like a roulette table. Society is the banker. Individuals sometimes win and sometimes lose; but the banker wins always.” This was writer Somerset Maugham’s provocative take on life.
I came across the quote this week and it made me think. What? Well, Maugham was half right, and wholly wrong.
Two Reasons Why Maugham was Right
First, society does benefit from individuals. There is no other way society can progress. Arts and sciences, politics and medicine, literature and music, business and the creation of wealth and well-being – these all come from individuals. And once an idea, a song, a work of art, a book, a medical cure, or a nice new product is created, it becomes part of the common property of humanity. If the idea or item is good, it remains there for a season or forever, benefitting individuals certainly, but really society as a whole.
In our daily life, too, individuals may pursue selfish ends, but still end up as benefactors of the common weal. If the actors concerned use the market mechanism – and what other mechanism is there that works so well? – they are almost certain to help society as a whole, unless their products are harmful to health or happiness. As Adam Smith famously observed, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
So back to the roulette table.......Click Here to read more.
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