Go on over to Unfogged
and read their post on that new book everyone is so hot over, You Don't Have to Shop At Wal-Mart.
The post is called
Heterodox Orthodoxy: Economic Beach Reading Edition
and you might have to scroll down a bit. (I'd link to it, bu my !^! links are down again.)
Read the comments, because the comments are the important part.
What's being talked about in the comments, along with the usual messing about you find at Unfogged, is the game theory/prisoner's dilemma that controls economic theory and much of intellectual discourse. It's a paradigm, a model; it's a way to see the world.
It's not reality, but as a frame for reality, as Sapir-Whorf theorized, it controls how we see reality. As someone points out, far down in the thread, Adam Smith used an image, long ago: an economic image: the butcher doesn't cut meat out of altruism; that, in other words, everyone acts, always (and implying, only) from self-interest) and (implying) that this is correct civilized behavior and how our society should be run.
Frame the world that way: a world of non-altruistic butchers, cutting meat for money. Everyone running their own businesses, with no interest in helping others in the community, with no care for the commons or aiding the community --no idea that there should be a community, because that's not my business. Make that your model. What do you end up?
Pirates, that's what. Sacking the world, raping the resources, enriching my own, sneering at the idea of ethics as something for suckers. And the poor? The broken? Those who don't have as much booty as me? Losers who couldn't pirate as well as I could, obviously. That's how the game works. Some win, some lose. Go blame Darwin if you ain't like it.
No wonder Johnny Depp's our new hero.
Except the real thing is George Bush, whose neither cute nor clever. And if you want to see what his world looks like, have a glance at Bahgdad. Or, you know, certain neighborhoods in Pork Smith these day, where things are getting just a bit tight, what with gas and power and groceries so tight.
5 hours ago