Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Individual vs National Self-Interest

  1. Apr 19, 2003 #1
    I think that most people would agree that harming your neighbor to acheive your own selfish goals is wrong and something that people should not do. However, when it comes to one's nation imposing its will on other nations and people of other nations, to the detriment of those people/nations, many people I have talked to seem to find that acceptable in the pursuit of national self-interests. Why the disparity? Are people of your own nation (which is naturally the best in the world) somehow better than those of other nations and equal to yourself, which means that you have to respect them more, while people from other nations aren't part of that "best country in the world", and don't deserve to have their rights considered as important?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2003 #2
    This is a gross over simplification. People can and do impose their will on their neighbors all the time in order to achieve their personal selfish goals. In case you hadn't heard it is called the "law" and has been used and abused since time immemorial. If most people are unwilling to admit the reality of this situation, it just goes to show that politicians aren't the only hypocrits around.

    As for the international scene, there is so little law on an international scale that the abuses are even greater.
  4. Apr 19, 2003 #3
    Good post Dan. What you have to remember is that it isn't the public's morality which should be challenged here, but their ignorance to the fact that their morality is confitioned (from birth onwards) to be refined around the premise that "We love our own country" (nore than we love anyone elses).
    That's why morality gets twisted. The same moral principles exist, but they are mirrored to reflect the conditioning of our minds.
  5. Apr 19, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !
    Overall it is wrong in both cases, but one
    should distinguish between causing real damage
    and "lighter" damage - we do live in a competetive
    world after all. :wink:
    (BTW, if the above is somehow related to the conflict
    in Iraq then my response above is completely unrelated.
    A "normal" human being - in the sense that his/her
    life was not spent only in the above mentioned so-called
    "best country in the world"(which BTW if it reffers to the
    US then is a highly questionable term) and who has first
    hand experience with non-democratic rules will agree
    that freeing a people from a tyrant is a good thing for
    the people even if some relativly very low - minimmum
    casualties are sustained. The fact that this is
    economicly beneficial to the US and that it is one
    of the causes for the war does not change that simple
    fact. But, hey ! This is not the politics forum... :wink:)

    Live long and prosper.
  6. Apr 19, 2003 #5
    I think that people too often polarize large-scale issues as black/white, us/them. It is easier to deal with complexity when you make it simple, no matter how incorrect that view really is.
  7. Apr 20, 2003 #6
    Of course, there are people who maliciously impose their wills on others in any society. However, I'm rather sure that most people would say that such action is wrong (even though we all have been guilty of it at some point).

    I have talked to people who value the lives of people from within their own political boundaries over those of people outside, even to the extend that they wouldn't mind the killing of people outside their boundaries to save the lives of significantly fewer people inside their political boundaries. Yet many these same people would say that it would be wrong to do such a thing to citizens of their own country.
  8. Apr 20, 2003 #7
    And you would be wrong. There ARE certain large segments of the population of any counrty who subconsciously hate everyone who isn't just like them, and would be happy to see them 'convert' or suffer.
  9. Apr 20, 2003 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    How about cases when people don't know what's
    good for them ?

    Unfortunetly not everyone is a scientist for
    example, but then again - if everyone were than
    the word would loose it's practical meaning because
    such a situation is not realistic. What I'm saying is
    that scientists - for example, could make much better
    choices and yet they need to consider the others'
    opinion because the others are too foolish to
    understand what's good for them and because
    absolute power corrupts absolutely - even in the
    case of HUMAN scientists.

    So, the point is that "imposing your will" can
    also be a good thing for the one upon whom
    it is being imposed. In wars, for example, each
    side HAS to use force to win - wether you consider
    that side good or bad.

    It's just how the real world works...:wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  10. Apr 20, 2003 #9
    Unfortunately, Drag, that same justification is used by tyrants. Hitler and Saddam Hussein surely thought that their rule was the best for the 'ignorant peasants'. Imposing your will is NEVER positive...the best you can hope for is to minimize the danage.
  11. Apr 20, 2003 #10
    As I said before, politicians aren't the only ones to prove hypocritical.

    I agree with Zero on this and would add that hypocracy is rampant. In addition, as I said before, international law is lax and virtually nonexistent. If people are going to insist on treating nations and multi-national corporations as individuals and pseudo-people then they had best police them as such and stop insisting they are somehow better than the rest of us.
  12. Apr 21, 2003 #11
    Well, if you want to compare the U.S.'s relationship with the rest of the world, to that of the law and the people, then you make the U.S. better than all other nations. You also make it the U.S.'s responsibility to impose their law on other nations. This is of course faulty, as the United States has no such authority. The U.N. might be considered to be a more likely candidate, for the law enforcers of the world. The U.S. is presuming beyond itself.

    BTW, this is a political issue. Shouldn't it be in the Politics Forum?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook