Gordon Tullock: All of us like to think that we are better, more altruistic, more charitable, than we actually are. But, although we have this desire, we don’t want to pay for it. We are willing to make a sacrifice of perhaps 5 percent of our real income in charitable aid to others. We would like to think of ourselves, however, as making much larger transfers without actually making them. One of the functions of the politician in our society is to meet this demand. (
"So why don’t we just celebrate all good done, regardless of motive?"
Fear of assigning relatively less trustworthy people high status?
"But the credit here should probably go to the slow process of cultural selection, whereby cultures with more functional institutions win out in competition with other cultures."
Whenever you say "should", you are saying "should" relative to some goal. "Credit" is about status. To best achieve the goal of building an effective society, assign status (credit) to individual humans who make valuable contributions, so that other humans will see making valuable contributions as a good way to achieve status.
I like glory! It's fun!
Kids are less culpable for their position, so charity towards them is less conflicted (fewer incentive problem, problems of preventing karma).
The Wright Brothers were probably not the first ones to invent the airplane and even if they were we have proof others followed within mere months and years. The Wright Brothers patented the airplane first and that patent was so restrictive (it held back airplane development for years and the US federal government finally forced them to form a patent pool) that all in all the Wright Brothers did more damage than good, so yes, them being shrewed capitalists had an impact on history and this case is an example of why the public is and should be wary of too much selfishness.
I just don't see this. Maybe I should visit America?
I don't know since I don't live there.
But examples abound: Edison, Watt, da Vinci, etc.
I do agree we tend to credit people who agree normatively with us rather than those who build the intellectual scaffolding that makes a debate even possible. It is a tendency to keep in mind.
I think that's correct, and it's explained by the fact that the underlying ethical offense is one of misrepresentation rather than arrogance per se. This isn't the standard evol. psych. view (and Robin's) that foragers resent self-promoting signaling as such. I apply my (misrepresentionist) analysis to "pompous writing" in Verbosity affronts the court. ( http://tinyurl.com/agft7ga )
Related issues concerning signaling norms are discussed in a Meteuphoric essay and Comments: An illicit theory of costly signaling [ http://tinyurl.com/m4lvkz4 ]
[Title of the Meteuphoric essay is funny. Should be "A theory of illicit costly signaling"]
One problem with people who advertise their intentions to make the world a better place is that they often cause harm in the process.
Advertising these intentions is often a way to tell others, "I am not an evil guy. All this violence that I will do to others is done only because I am wise enough and benevolent enough to understand it will lead to more good than harm."
Compare with, "All the violence I will do is done for my self-interest, but it may or may not lead to overall better outcomes later."
Who do people cheer for? Who gets a free(er) pass on violence?
Who is more dangerous?
People whose achievements produce high public value are typically celebrated even if their motives are selfish (e.g. obtaining wealth and fame).
People who try to oversell achievements of questionable public value for selfish motives are scorned.
"it would just encourage assholes to maximize the appearance of doing well"
People already do that. It's called "voting".
The primary function of the politician, sociopath par excellence, is to exploit all human biases to serve his own corrupt personal riches and power mania.
Inducing the population to conceive of mass extortion as "altruist, social work" is one of the ways in which they accomplish their primary function.
"my guess is that the world is helped more if we just praise all good done for the world, intend of focusing our praise mainly on those who do good for the purest of reasons. And I think we all pretty much know this."
This isn't at all obvious. Rewarding luck isn't much of a selection strategy, it would just encourage assholes to maximize the appearance of doing well, and even saints can't force luck. It would also be a betrayal of all those people doing invisible good things (the group that collectively does most of the good things in the world) and those trying to do a lot of good things but failing because of bad luck. Society is better off encouraging these groups than the assholes who are looking to gain from positive PR.
"Some would respect you more if you entirely dropped the ruse that following your interests will—intentionally or accidentally—help the world."
Seriously, Robin. "Here is how I fantasize that people will react to my motives in a world where everyone thinks I am a famous and important thinker" isn't a very compelling starting point. How about looking at people actually regarded as important thinkers who contributed to human welfare? Do people think less of the wright brothers because they were capitalists? Archimedes, because Hiero probably paid him? Einstein because he cared how others regarded him?
I suspect that many will think less of me if they see my altruism as more accidental, relative to intentional.
Some would respect you more if you entirely dropped the ruse that following your interests will—intentionally or accidentally—help the world.
[The q.m. link answers the question I asked in another thread about whether many-worlds are infinite. Answer: in some versions of MWI. (See my correction with link to Hanson at http://tinyurl.com/b9kn4tb ) The piece nicely states the standard objections to MWI :
If this view is correct, the universe is far larger than you may have thought possible, and you will have to come to terms with having no obvious answer to the question of which future world "you" would live in after some future measurement. (All of them would contain a creature very much like you just before the measurement.) But these are not strong reasons to reject the many worlds view. (Emphasis added.)
[While the "far larger" objection isn't decisive (at least with a finite number of worlds), I wonder why the "no obvious answer .. of which future-world 'you'..." isn't decisive—at least if "no obvious answer" is replaced by "no possible answer."]