By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner / Excerpt from Think Like A Freak: How to Think Smarter About Almost Everything
When put on the spot and asked how we'd behave in a situation that pits a private benefit against the greater good, most of us won't admit to favouring the private benefit. But as history clearly shows, most people generally put their own interests ahead of others'. This doesn't make them bad people, it just makes them human.
But this can be frustrating if your ambitions are larger than simply securing some small private victory. Maybe you want to ease poverty, or make government work better, or persuade your company to pollute less, or just get your kids to stop fighting. How are you supposed to get everyone to pull in the same direction when they are all pulling primarily for themselves?
Most people think there is a "right" way to think about solving a given problem and a "wrong" way too. This inevitably leads to a lot of shouting – and a lot of unsolved problems. We'd like to bury the idea that there's a right way and a wrong way, a smart way and a foolish way.