Is a society dependent on altruism sustainable?

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  1. Gerg profile image74
    Gergposted 10 years ago

    Is a society dependent on altruism sustainable?

    To what extent should government intervene to ensure there is a balance between opportunity for individual success and providing systems of care and support for those who can't help themselves?

  2. profile image0
    Sophia Angeliqueposted 10 years ago

    Well,  in smaller tribal societies, they are. It's more about the community members understanding that each member of the community is vital to the survival of the community. You're asking the wrong question. I can tell you from my own experiences that the rich and the well off do not help the individual poor, and that charities and foundations don't either. The bulk of the money going to charities and foundations go to director's salaries. It is a very, very corrupt business.

    If we are to survive, we have to ensure that very large businesses aren't permitted to exist because they have too much power and influence and increasingly pay poor wages and remove the need for services and products from small business. And it is small business that is involved in the community.

    Next, if we can't get rid of big business, we have to ensure that business pays a livable salary to all its staff. The reason that so many of the poor are forced to depend on the government is because business is underpaying.

    There'a tremendous amount of misinformation and propaganda in this area. As an outside looking in (I'm not American), I have not been subject to all the propaganda. You might like to read many of my hubs which touch on these topics. … cal-Thread

  3. CrazyGata profile image75
    CrazyGataposted 10 years ago

    The problem is in society itself.  Remove society and you might be able to talk altruism.
    Society entails strata.  Of the two, one will have more access to information, therefore will control.  The lesser will confide in said control, he finds it easier to live according to an already laid out plan.

    Altruism is impossible within the concept of society.  As well as concepts of good, bad, or any morale parameter.

    Social classes automatically eliminate the possibility of doing good just because.

    There will be, of course, random acts of kindness, as it actually occurs.
    Those are the exception, not the rule.

  4. Rod Marsden profile image67
    Rod Marsdenposted 10 years ago

    It was decided some time ago that in a democratic society where every adult has the right or obligation to vote every child is entitled to an education. Societies where the poor are kept from a formal education tend to be the less advanced societies. Societies where girls and women are forbidden a formal education tend to be overpopulated as well as less advanced. So everyone in a country that wishes to advance or stay ahead of the rest must at least know how to read and write. I reckon medicare or some form of health care for everyone is a good idea. It works well enough in Australia. Also there should be legal representation for those who can't afford it especially in countries that have the death penalty. As for helping the banks when they dig themselves into a deep hole, well, there are people in the financial know who believe that the banks should either sink or swim on their own.

  5. S Leretseh profile image61
    S Leretsehposted 10 years ago

    What human society has ever been dependent on altruism? As to "what extent," It's like asking how long should a string be? No right answer. Gov't services are derived from a tax base. All gov't services should  - IMO- originate from that local tax base, exception being national defense. As for individual success, this is an individual pursuit .  Gov't ensuring a capitalist environment with maximum individual freedom will make sure those who want "success" can achieve it.

  6. mintinfo profile image66
    mintinfoposted 10 years ago

    A society that is dependent on altruism is not sustainable unless everyone in it  believes in that philosophy. That is why communism and socialism are only good in theory but not in practice. In a perfect society the government would only provide minimal assistance to those individuals unable to help themselves while also regulating extreme exploitation of medical and financial systems.

  7. xethonxq profile image65
    xethonxqposted 10 years ago

    I think it depends on the size of the society. The US or other major countries need more than altruism to sustain itself.

  8. Gerg profile image74
    Gergposted 10 years ago

    Great responses.  This is a philosophical question, so no one has the absolute answer.  And I am asking exactly the question I intended to ask.  I want to know how people think and view this question independently of their culture, background or belief system. 

    Recently, I read the interview of a man who believed that if a person didn't work, he should starve, and that there shouldn't be any social supports to fall back on.  Pretty audacious train of thought in our modern age, so it got me to thinking about philanthropists - such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, of the Oprah Winfrey school in Africa, etc, and the myriad wealthy people who recently pledged to give the bulk of their wealth to charity.

    People are both good and bad, and as I've said before, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

    Thank you all!

  9. profile image0
    Larry Wallposted 10 years ago

    I am late on this and it appears that most of the points of view have been covered. I can only add that there is no definitive line to draw where government intervention stops in helping the poor and the needy.

    First, if the government is responsive it will have the resources to give people to help themselves. The old adage,  give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime, rings very true.

    Many people who need help are not looking for handouts. They are learning to get the education they missed because they fell through the cracks. They are seeking to learn the responsibilities of parenthood after having an unexpected child out of wedlock. They are looking for help to overcome the handicaps they were born with through no fault of there on. Some people, admittedly do not try very hard, but that does not mean that we should stop trying to help them. We just have to find the right approach.

    So the simple answer is that there is no answer. We should not abandon people less fortunate that ourselves. Also, we as individuals make up the government, thus it is up to us to be willing to lend a helping hand, instead of giving subsidies to football team owners so they will not move their franchise, or spending money to build new buildings because the old buildings were not properly maintained.

    I am from Louisiana. I vividly remember Katrina and Rita. Many people who once had successful jobs and homes had nothing after those two hurricanes. The jobs disappeared and the homes that they thought would never flood did and they did not have flood insurance.

    With government help, many have or are in the process of putting their lives back together.

    Lavish parks, a library on every corner, sports arenas and other items are important to a community, just like a strong defense is important to the nation, but the first responsibility should always be to the people--especially those most in need. I had a friend who served in Vietnam. He died recently from a number of causes, some of his own doing, (he was a diabetic who did not take care of a foot wound and eventually lost his leg) and some that were not his fault, such as delayed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He was bounced from hospitals to nursing homes and back again more that I could count. I had a hard time keeping up with him. His older sister was dying of cancer. He got help, but it was not enough.
    So the answer to the question that ask to what extent should government intervene, the answer is, whatever it takes. We will never be totally successful, but that should always be our goal.

  10. lone77star profile image77
    lone77starposted 10 years ago

    Yes, but ego gets in the way.

    "No government" is best, but that only works if we follow God rather than ego. Even God's "chosen people" couldn't do that.

    "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" 1 John 4:20-21 KJV.

    Even I have a hard time with this. Getting rid of ego is a tough nut to crack, but we have to keep working on it.

  11. ptosis profile image71
    ptosisposted 10 years ago

    Many of the answers are correct that without altruism - no society. We have all seen this in small tribes, after disasters, people paying it forward, etc.

    I had a homeless guy say to me that street folks consider 'kindness as a weakness'. It's little wonder that people who do not show reciprocal altruism are outcasts. (Look up the game theory example of the  'prisoner's dilemma'.)

    The saddest thing was the idea of Social Darwinism and  eugenics in America against the Italian immigrants -  long before Hitler's 'final solution'.

    1 out of 5 people are sociopaths and they succeed in life by aping emotions and kindness in order to fit into society. There are subtle clues as described @

  12. RighterOne profile image58
    RighterOneposted 10 years ago

    Altruism, from an evolutionary perspective, is a higher-order trait that develops in animal species with a high enough intellect, Homo Sapiens obviously included. It is a behavior that is beneficial to the species as a whole, while at times may be detrimental to the individual displaying the altruism. However, most times, helping another altruistically will not harm the altruist and will provide a boost of positive emotion instead, which may be beneficial for the altruist's own survival in the immediate aftermath of the altruistic exchange.

    On a social scale, though, altruism takes on a whole new level of meaning. Now we can ask: are we a selfish society, or an altruistic one? And the answer lies in averages and social norms, and fads and other such things, but a selfish society will always collapse, while one based on pure altruism also seems to work poorly, from small communes of late 1800 and early 1900 both in the US and worldwide.
    Larger scale experiments with Socialism have failed miserably in the past, killing millions in the process.

    So what's the answer? We need a combination of both. One Communist society has not failed - China. And that is because they have allowed elements of consumerism and capitalism into their system, which made it stronger and more resistant to revolution or collapse. And it has brought prosperity.

    On the other hand, we have the US, which is a purely non-altruistic society, as only the deeply religious pay tithe, and welfare and such are at a minimum. Does this work? Also no. We are collapsing because the non-altruistic nature of pure capitalism has turned us into overweight, under-educated, consumerist zombies who cannot control their own democratic republic, due to materialist-related corruption within the political class.

    We need a middle road solution. A mixed system of altruism and capitalism with a generous but FAIR social service undernetting. With mechanisms built in for helping those that have lost their way and fallen back up and on their way.

    But to base a society PURELY on altruism is a foolish endeavor, as the Universe is a harsh, lethal place that will kill you the first chance it gets. It is chiseling, winnowing species (including our own) to be strong, ample survivors. And survivors survive due to their own efforts, and not due to efforts of other 'altruistic' members of their species, with rare exceptions, as the altruist too needs to spend a vast majority of his/her time to survive.

  13. Tom Rubenoff profile image89
    Tom Rubenoffposted 10 years ago

    A brief look at how altruism benefits society and the limits of altruistic behavior. read more


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