Essay, Research Paper
The line between give and take
I think there are a few reasons for the conflict between selflessness and self-interest. The best real world illustration of this conflict is seen in the formation of a firm. The entrepreneur has the idea that in most cases requires help in its execution. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but without the cooperation of many people nobody except a few hundred would have one. In cooperating the entrepreneur must be willing to compensate the people who are involved in production. This includes laborers, supervisors, and executives who all must share in the revenues in exchange for their service. The trade-off between selflessness and altruism can be seen in any firm with the simple observation that the entrepreneur can trade some of his profits for increased productivity and conversely squeeze his employees for more profits. There is obviously an equilibrium of sorts such that the entrepreneur with take profits past a point of diminishing marginal returns on productivity provided that that point is profitable, competitively stable, and acceptable to the employees. If there is an optimum compensation point it is then easy to see how a balance can be struck between selfishness and altruism. In Lord of the Flies the absence of opposition to Jack allows for selfishness to dominate. Jack s cooperative acts were structured to better his position. In doing this he had to provide for the people he commanded. This is another example of an equilibrium point. The difference between this scenario and the corporate example above is the absence of competition. Axelrod s most applicable views to this scenario are seen in his game theory approach. In cooperation altruism and selfishness are aligned such that both are met at acceptable levels.
Continuing with the equilibrium idea, Lord of the Flies demonstrates this idea in two different ways. Firstly, the balance between Jack and his gang is of huge importance. Secondly the balance between, or the lack of balance between Jack and Ralph, is of equal importance. Without success on both fronts it is unlikely that Jack would have been able to take over. On the first front there is Jacks relationship with everyone. The initial events in the film when they first are organizing are of great importance. Ralph is maintaining order by mimicking the familiar institutions of their military life. Jack s first action against Ralph was in public and followed group sentiment. When Piggy was talking and the group started shouting him down Jack took this opportunity to side with the group. Ralph however, stuck to his plan and defended Piggy in the same way an adult would of in the real world. This event constitutes the first the inning of play . Since Jack went the way of the constituency and Ralph went the right way the game is in Jack s favor. Ralph can easily trump in if he can show his plan to either, work, or be comforting in some way to the group. However, the strategy that Jack is employing is not one of long-term goals or plans. Jack is using a tit for tat approach that is especially effective in this situation being that there is no real retaliation.
At any point before the sighting of the monster Ralph could have restored complete order and regained sole control by retaliation on either of the two fronts. An example of a retaliation that would have been particularly effective would have been to kill a pig before Jack s gang did. This would have been in the favor of the constituency as well as being a direct threat to Jack s rule. However, Jack s approach took into account Ralph s plan to not pay any attention to his actions.
Jack s plan is certainly more selfish than Ralph s. Ralph after all, wants everyone to get off the island. Which although not entirely altruistic is certainly more so than Jack s everyone have fun my way plan. If this is so clear then why does any one follow Jack. This is an important step in answering the question of balance between altruism and selfishness. A balance must be attained by focusing on goals that garner the most utility for all of those concerned. After all a paredo efficient compromise between two parties can be viewed as almost altruistic, especially when the other choices involve a perceived non paredo allocation of rights. This is evident in Lord of the Flies. The group saw Jack s plan as the more paredo efficient given the pay-off frontier of Ralph s plan. Jack in fact leveraged this in his statements to the group. During the first group meeting Jack shouted, They were never going to get rescued . This effectively diminished the group s expectations for being rewarded for their efforts.
If you are a follower you want to follow the group or person that figures to be the most rewarding to you. This equation involves taking into account both, short term and long term rewards. There is also a probability assigned to each possible outcome. In the case of rescue Jack augmented the groups expectations and made the larger latter reward seem less probable and therefore less desirable. This is a tactical move that could have easily been over turned by a strong opposition and counter statement by Ralph.
The balance is more a question of combining selfishness and altruism to get cooperation between the two forces. This bastardizes both definitions but it is certainly observable in everyday life. In the case of Lord of the Flies Jack s selfishness attracts followers who are in search of the same sort of hedonistic rewards. The followers may even understand this selfishness but as long as the group as a whole progresses forward it can be looked at as cooperative energy. Jack s selfish attitude is actually a necessary feature for the group to exist. Many corporations are just groups of money hungry individuals who are all organized under one roof. They all must give up something to work together and know that by doing so they enable themselves to have high long-term rewards. The selfish individual must channel his energy towards the good of the group and only then will his selfish ends be met. Theses have been written on whether or not altruism can truly exist. In this paper it is simply used to contrast complete selfishness. The line gets blurry when someone like Jack gets people to follow his orders and share his dream. Jack was completely selfish in that he did not care about any one else. Ralph was selfless in comparison because he had the good of the group in mind the whole time. When it all comes down to it, the line between the two can be judged only by the participants themselves.