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Another way to resolve the apparent dilemma of self-interest versus altruism at the philosophical level is to note that the "dilemma" was created by Plato in the "Republic" as a rhetorical device to promote a theory of collective (social) justice over the individualisttic theory that predated his attack and still lingers (precariously).

Plato’s "Republic" is probably the most influential book on justice until Rawls' big book in 1972. It underpins the programs of both outright totalitarians and also the warm and cuddly program of social justice, which also undermines equalitarian justice in a slower but equally deadly manner. For example, affirmative action policies for various ethnic or racial groups in the US represent the most obvious form of official racism in that nation since slavery was abolished.

For a rejoinder to Plato

Freudian metaphsychology is probably one of the most influential modern vehicles of the individualism vs altruism meme, along with the meme of reductionism that it shares with behaviorism. (Just to note that the ideas that undermine classical liberalism and Austrian economics are disseminated through many channels and sooner or later we (or allies in the appropriaate disciplines) need to attend to all of them.)

Another take can be found in the work of philosopher James Otteson. See his book, _Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life_ (

If you'll indulge me a little shameless promotion, you can listen to a talk Professor Otteson gave on this topic at FEE a couple weeks ago at our Young Scholars Colloquium. Find it here:

Paganelli’s paper isn’t directly about resolving selfishness vs. altruism. It’s about Das Adam Smith Problem. She brings something deep and radical to this old problem in the history of economic thought. She shows that TMS contains a more optimistic account of selfishness than TWN. That’s a big surprise, and she shows that she’s right about this point. The argument in TMS is that your vanity and your need to be seen as a good partner in social cooperation come together to create in you the impartial spectator. Thus, your selfish core creates an internal regulatory device that induces pro-social behavior. In TWN you have market competition performing a similar function of transforming inner selfishness into socially beneficial actions. But, Paganelli points out, in TWN Smith recognizes that merchants can and do get hold of the levers of political power and from that *privileged position* they can and do give full liberty to their “rapacious” impulses. In TWN vanity lacks the inhibitory effect describes in TMS because the glory of greatness provides the social approbation that could otherwise be attained only by virtue. In other words, power tends to corrupt . . . When each of us is an equal meeting on equal terms, then each of us must rely on the regulations of the impartial spectator to get the pleasures of approbation and social cooperation. Power removes that necessity. The rapacity of dictators and monopolists are unconstrained and both will happily send other persons' children into war to satisfy their own greed and vanity. Altogether I think Paganelli has made an important and exciting argument in the history of thought and the analysis she has revealed matters for us today as well.

P.S. I think I'm just restating Frederic's excellent summary.

I just have one doubt about these strange books,is Adam Smith the true author?

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