Friday, October 13, 2023

#286 / You Get What You Expect


I think that David Brooks is putting his finger on an important reality. In his New York Times' column on August 31, 2023, Brooks says that "People Are More Generous Than You Think." 

Are human beings fundamentally good or fundamentally bad? Are people mostly generous, or are they mostly selfish? 
Over the centuries, many of our leading lights have taken the view that people are basically selfish. Machiavelli argued that people are deceitful, ungrateful and covetous. Classical economics is based on the idea that people relentlessly pursue their self-interest. “The average human being is about 95 percent selfish in the narrow meaning of the term,” the economist Gordon Tullock once wrote. In his book “The Selfish Gene,” the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins argued, “We are born selfish.” In the public at large, only 30 percent of Americans say they can trust the people around them, suggesting quite a grim view of human nature. 
But what if this dark view of our nature is not true?
In a recent experiment led by the psychologists Ryan J. Dwyer, William J. Brady and Elizabeth W. Dunn and the TED curator Chris Anderson, 200 people in seven nations around the world were each given $10,000, free, and then reported how they spent the money. Did they keep it all themselves? No. On average, the participants spent more than $6,400 of it to benefit others, including almost $1,700 on donations to charity. Of that prosocial spending, $3,678 went to people outside their immediate household, and $2,163 was spent on strangers, acquaintances and donations to organizations. 
People used the money to take friends out for meals or to support families that had lost loved ones or to support an organization that provides construction training to marginalized people. Sounds pretty generous to me.

Brooks' observations, the way I see it, provide a specific example of a more general principle. Click the link for one of my commentaries on this basic principle of human action. Click the next link for another: Mostly, people do what is expected of them

If I am right about that, then we have in hand an important principle that can transform our politics - and thus change the world. We need, both individually and collectively, to expect "the best." We need to expect that we can succeed in dealing with difficulty, and that we can rise to whatever the occasion may require.

If we expect the best, we will get it. Our designated "political leaders" need to understand this - and then utilize this basic principle.

What if we don't expect the best? What if our political leaders tell us, as former President Trump did, in his inauguration speech on January 20, 2017, that "American carnage" is the reality we face? 

Well, descriptions of "doom" are just as likely to be self-fulfilling prophecies as are descriptions of hopeful possibility. "Doom Loops" reflect not "realities," for the most part; they reflect our expectations.

Let's start expecting ourselves to do what we need to do. 

We might be quite surprised. It's my bet that we will all find out that reality will match with our expectations!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!