Poem by john Donne.

He that cannot choose but love,
And strives against it still
Never shall my fancy move
For he loves against his will
Nor he which is all his own
And cannot pleasure choose
When I am caught he can be gone
And when he list refuse
Nor he that loves none but fair
For such by all are sought
Nor he that can for foul ones care
For his judgement then is nought
Nor he that hath wit for he
Will make me his jest or slave
Nor a fool when others--
He can neither--
Nor he that still his mistress prays,
For she is thrall'd therefore;
Nor he that pays, not for he says
Within she's worth no more.
Is there then no kind of men
Whom I may freely prove?
I will vent that humour then
In mine own self-love.

Adam Smith's self-love

"Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this: Give me that which I want and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of…we address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of this fellow citizens."

-Adam Smith
Written 1776
An inquire into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith, a man whose thoughts were far before his time, was the pioneer of Capitalism (and in my humble opinion a cynical little bastard too). Every time I read this statement I can't help but shudder at how true this thought still is. An entire economy founded upon the premise of, 'I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.' I have to stop myself from thinking that this was an observation made in a vacuum. A man of this stature must have been bred into an elitist society; he was probably fed certain truths that were only true in his reality. Once he stepped out of this social vacuum he unilaterally maximized presumptions, from this micro-society, and purported these ideas were also true in the macro. Shortly thereafter these pervasive beliefs were fostered—spreading like a plague, eventually becoming self-fulfilling truths. That, or I am completely naïve about the intrinsic nature of man and this is truth. It just irks me to think that we would only help our fellow brothers and sisters if we thought that we were going to get something out of it. I know it is human nature to survive as long as we can, and when we can't anymore, it is then our goal to make sure our genes do...but does that mean even at the costs of others?

I know this is a far leap from Adam Smith's capitalism, but today's version seems to not only permit exploitation, but to flourish through it. Is that what Adam Smith meant by self-love trumping benevolence or has this idea devolved into some mutant version of what it once was? At one time it was "tit for tat" a fair bargained exchange, a mutual assent, if you will. Today's version seems to be a far stretch from that once seemingly equal exchange.

Now it's $50.00 for a Nike t-shirt, a nickel for some kid in china, and $49.95 for the Big Wigs in Corporate. Hardly, I think what our forefather had in mind.

Maybe not, perhaps if Mr. Smith knew how far Capitalism has come he'd revel in delight.

I'm just not sure I know.

Self`-love` (?), n.

The love of one's self; desire of personal happiness; tendency to seek one's own benefit or advantage.


Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul. Pope.

Syn. -- Selfishness. -- Self-love, Selfishness. The term self-love is used in a twofold sense: 1. It denotes that longing for good or for well-being which actuates the breasts of all, entering into and characterizing every special desire. In this sense it has no moral quality, being, from the nature of the case, neither good nor evil. 2. It is applied to a voluntary regard for the gratification of special desires. In this sense it is morally good or bad according as these desires are conformed to duty or opposed to it. Selfishness is always voluntary and always wrong, being that regard to our own interests, gratification, etc., which is sought or indulged at the expense, and to the injury, of others. "So long as self-love does not degenerate into selfishness, it is quite compatible with true benevolence." Fleming. "Not only is the phrase self-love used as synonymous with the desire of happiness, but it is often confounded with the word selfishness, which certainly, in strict propriety, denotes a very different disposition of mind." Slewart.


© Webster 1913.

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