During China’s one-child policy, many women aborted female fetuses to ensure that their only child was a male. China now has 32 million more boys than girls.
Why would anyone want to abort a girl? A couple of reasons; boys are seen as more effective on the farm, boys can carry on the family name, etc. If you’re focus is direct personal interest, there might be some logic to the practice.
But then, you end up with a tragedy of the commons. How many of those preferred boys won’t get to carry on the family line because there simply aren’t enough girls to marry? What happens when you have a growing number of frustrated boys, with the majority of the frustrated having less resource and opportunity access than their peers? Putting the wants of the individual ahead of the public good invariably leads to short-sighted action.
Like natural resource extraction without consideration for the environment, like negative attacks that limit voter participation, like ignoring the health needs of the poor and getting upset when an epidemic spreads, we simply can’t afford to not think ahead. Thinking ahead invariably means planning, cooperation, consideration for others. Pro-social behaviour, in other words.
Altruism is really just selfishness with a bit of foresight. It works better for us if we accept this idea, consciously.
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