apparent self-sacrifice -Reply

P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU
Mon Jul 17 22:39:11 MDT 1995

My reason for posting the kamikaze example is that it is a classic
instance of an individual acting obviously against his personal
interests, but in the perceived interests of the group to which
the individual belongs. The concept is that in complex societies--
which some animals other than humans may also develop--the concept
of the group and its survival may develop, to the extent that an
individual may be willing to sacrifice him/herself if that is seen
as being in the interests of the group.

It is also a comment that, coming from a non-orthodox economics
background, comes easily to me. One thing us Post Keynesians are
forever trying to get across to the "individual rationality is all"
mob who dominate economics is the idea of a "fallacy of composition".
This is the idea that what is good for the individual may be bad
for the group (and what I'm suggesting above is the reverse paradox).

The classic example is the "paradox of thrift". If an individual wants
to save more money, the method is simple: consume less. But if a
society wants to save more money, consuming less may lead capitalists
to invest less (who invests when sales are falling?), leading to
a drop in income which, consuquently, reduces savings.

I am not about to pit myself against Lisa on evolutionary theory! But
I think there is a potential lesson from this economic insight when
it comes to the application of the individual rationality analysis
to behaviour, when that behaviour occurs within a complex society.
When our individual survival is largely a matter of our individual
behaviour, then I can easily accept explanations for behaviour which
look solely at the individual's self-interest. But when survival
can become a matter of group behaviour, I think other levels of
analysis--which may involve accepting that an individual can act
against his/her direct interests--become relevant.


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