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Henry Stein December 7th, 2008 04:56 PM

Don't Just Blow Away Smoke--Put Out the Fire!
"Why Wall Street Always Blows It," by Henry Blodget, in the December 2008 issue of The Atlantic, side-steps the humility of personal responsibility, by proposing that "everyone" is to blame for the current financial disaster. The author takes refuge in the assumption of a natural and inevitable self-interest in all people, without contemplating the potential for overcoming that egocentricity. The root of the problem, as well as the solution, is not simply adjusting our economic habits by saving more and spending less, but breaking the psychological glass ceiling of self-interest and aspiring to a new philosophy of enlightened mutual-interest. The Wall Street dream of retiring at 40 reflects a larger American dream of making money without improving the common welfare.

Nearly a century ago, psychiatrist Alfred Adler pointed out that the only road to genuine security and significance for individuals and groups is through social contribution. If we look behind the obsessive accumulations of wealth, as well as the widespread desire for gaining wealth without contributing real social value, we often find the uncertainty of personal value hiding behind a facade of financial worth. After we blow away the financial smoke by implementing economic first aid, we could address the psychological root: encouraging people to transcend the archaic assumption of self-interest and pursue a higher purpose of mutual benefit through contribution. The deeper meaning of democracy is not merely the freedom to pursue personal gain, but to provide for the common good. Imagine a world where this value is reflected in relationships, families, schools, businesses, religious organizations, and government. For an amplification of this perspective, read "A Psychology for Democracy" at

sk8rgrl23 December 9th, 2008 09:16 PM

Re: Don't Just Blow Away Smoke--Put Out the Fire!
Self-efficacy, self-in-relation, mitaku oyasin, Erickson's generativity, concepts and moral standards central to most cultures, until big business took over. Since the industrial revolution there has been a growing disconnect between sense of self and sense of community, of social attachment. Attachment disorder isn't something talked about on a societal scale, but it exists. And so yes, definitely a sense of self in terms of one's value to community is essential to mental health. Otherwise you have the classic antisocial.

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