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Enlightened self-interest

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Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest. [1] It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual, group, or even a commercial entity will "do well by doing good". [2][3]

This is in contrast to greed or the concept of "unenlightened self-interest", in which it is argued that when most or all persons act according to their own myopic selfishness, that the group suffers loss as a result of conflict, decreased efficiency because of lack of cooperation, and the increased expense each individual pays for the protection of their own interests. If a typical individual in the group is selected at random, it is not likely that this person will profit from such an ethic.

Some individuals might profit, in a material sense, from a philosophy of greed, but it is believed by proponents of enlightened self-interest that these individuals constitute a small minority and that the large majority of persons can expect to experience a net personal loss from a philosophy of simple unenlightened selfishness. Enlightened self-interest might be considered to be unrealistically idealistic and altruistic by detractors and practically idealistic and utilitarian by proponents.

Enlightened self-interest also has implications for long-term benefits as opposed to short-term benefits to oneself.[4] When an individual pursues enlightened self-interest that person may have to sacrifice short term interests in order to maximize long term interests.

An individual may choose to forsake pursuing immediate gratification by supporting and not interfering with others' pursuit of self-interest. An individual may have to sacrifice his immediate self-interest for the purpose of a positive relationship to a group of individuals to which he relates. For example, a merchant likely will maximize profit over the long term if he chooses to be generous to his customers in a manner beyond the requirement of policy, say, in accepting returns and refunding the purchase price when not required to by the letter of the law. By doing so, he may lose short term gain but likely will eventually profit from increased business as he gains a reputation for being reasonable, honest and generous.

Enlightened self-interest is also different from pure altruism, which calls for people to act in the interest of others often at the expense of their own interests and with no expectation of benefit for themselves in the future. Some advocates of enlightened self-interest might argue that pure altruism creates inefficiency as well.

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