The Paradox of the useful Selfishness


Have you ever wondered whether you were selfish for not donating a few bucks at the grocery store? Those people in Somalia you bailed on would probably give up their eye to switch places with you.

No matter how bad you think you have it, there are plenty of people in the world that have it worse. Roughly 50% of the population of Earth does not have access to the Internet in 2017.

You could've helped them

Should you then feel guilty about drinking that extra can of Coke or going to movies too much? Not really. I could end the article here for many reasons, but I’ll do my best to explain the why’s.

Humans are wired up to care about themselves first. The society, however, is built around caring for other people’s needs at least in part. It comes at no surprise that sometimes the idea mentioned above gets carried a bit too far.

The important point to make is that humans perform better when they are in good health and spirit, are energetic and overall happy. The more important the task they’re working on, the better the results. Semi-forced charity actions do not improve any of that. I don’t know about you, but once I give whatever the amount, I feel even worse that I didn’t give more.

In 2011, about $350bn were given to charities in the US. $10.8bn of those came from the 50 largest donors. That accounts for about 3% of total contributions or 15 million times the average person’s donation. In 2000 8.6% of wealthiest families accounted for 51.9% of all contributions.

It is kind of self-evident that there is more room to make a big difference at higher levels of income. Still, I see that many people are concerned about charitable actions a bit too soon if you will.

I believe that it is our duty to take care of ourselves and make sure that our opportunities are maximized because that will empower us to do greater things in the future. We need to strive for great success and wealth if we want to make an impact. And charitable we will be once we get there.

So stop worrying about those extra few bucks that you didn’t give to a homeless man and focus more on acquiring new skills, knowledge and creating wealth for yourself and, as a consequence, others.


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