Quotations about   self-interest

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Considering the temptations under which politicians are placed, of changing their opinions, or rather their professions of opinion, from motives of self interest, the world will not give them credit for motives of honest conviction, unless when the change shall be to their manifest loss and disadvantage.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of Succeeding, ch. 17 (1836)
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Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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Ambition makes more trusty slaves than need.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Sejanus, His Fall, Act 1, sc. 2 (1603)
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Added on 2-Aug-17 | Last updated 2-Aug-17
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KATE: One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is — Success.

HARRY: Ambition — it is the last infirmity of noble minds.

James Barrie (1860-1937) Scottish novelist and dramatist
The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)
Added on 24-May-17 | Last updated 24-May-17
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This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our Republican example of its just influence in the world — enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty — criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Peoria, Illinois (16 Oct 1854)
Added on 29-Mar-17 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.

Russell - happiness unhappiness paradise - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
New York Times (18 May 1961)
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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Democracy postulates community of interest or loyal patriotism. When these are absent it cannot long exist.

Inge - democracy - wist_info

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 30-Nov-15 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow.

Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) British statesman, Prime Minister (1855-58, 1859-65) [Lord Palmerston]
Speech, House of Commons (1 Mar 1848)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Farewell Address (17 Sep 1796) [with A. Hamilton]
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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International relations are governed by interests, and not by moral principles.

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
“The Illusion of Treaties,” Why Don’t We Learn from History? (1944)
Added on 25-Aug-15 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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Persuasion deals in the coin of self-interest.

Richard Neustadt (1919-2003) American political scientist
Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership, 3.3 (1960)
Added on 20-Aug-15 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Wealth of Nations, 1.2 (1776)
Added on 13-Aug-15 | Last updated 13-Aug-15
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The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.

Stendhal (1783-1842) French writer [pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle]
Letter (c. 1818)

Variants:
  • "The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his are the same."
  • "The shepherd ... can never convince his flock of sheep that his interests and theirs are identical."
Added on 6-Aug-15 | Last updated 6-Aug-15
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Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jun 1734)
Added on 9-Jul-15 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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But when our country had grown great through toil and the practice of justice, when great kings had been vanquished in war, savage tribes and mighty peoples subdued by force of arms, when Carthage, the rival of Rome’s sway, had perished root and branch, and all seas and lands were open, then Fortune began to grow cruel and to bring confusion into all our affairs. 2 Those who had found it easy to bear hardship and dangers, anxiety and adversity, found leisure and wealth, desirable under other circumstances, a burden and a curse. 3 Hence the lust for money first, then for power, grew upon them; these were, I may say, the root of all evils. 4 For avarice destroyed honour, integrity, and all other noble qualities; taught in their place insolence, cruelty, to neglect the gods, to set a price on everything. 5 Ambition drove many men to become false; to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue; to value friendships and enmities not on their merits but by the standard of self-interest, and to show a good front rather than a good heart.

[Sed ubi labore atque iustitia res publica crevit, reges magni bello domiti, nationes ferae et populi ingentes vi subacti, Carthago aemula imperi Romani p18ab stirpe interiit, cuncta maria terraeque patebant, saevire fortuna ac miscere omnia coepit. 2 Qui labores, pericula, dubias atque asperas res facile toleraverant, eis otium, divitiae,7 optanda alias, oneri miseriaeque fuere. 3 Igitur primo pecuniae, deinde imperi cupido crevit; ea quasi materies omnium malorum fuere. 4 Namque avaritia fidem, probitatem ceterasque artis bonas subvortit; pro his superbiam, crudelitatem, deos neglegere, omnia venalia habere edocuit. 5 Ambitio multos mortalis falsos fieri subegit, aliud clausum in pectore aliud in lingua promptum habere, amicitias inimicitiasque non ex re sed ex commodo aestumare magisque voltum quam ingenium bonum habere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Catiline’s War [Bellum Catilinae], pt. 10 (42 BC) [tr. Loeb (1921)]

Alt. trans.:
  • "Ambition prompted many to become deceitful; to keep one thing concealed in the breast, and another ready on the tongue; to estimate friendships and enmities, not by their worth, but according to interest; and to carry rather a specious countenance than an honest heart."
  • "It is the nature of ambition to make men liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will." (Source)
Added on 1-May-14 | Last updated 1-May-14
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It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantage. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Wealth of Nations, 1.2 (1776)
Added on 25-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Feb-14
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Self-interest sets in motion virtues and vices of all kinds.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #263 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 4-Feb-14 | Last updated 31-May-19
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If we would all ov us take kare ov our own souls, and let our nabors alone, thare would be less time lost, and more souls saved.

[If we would all of us take care of our own souls, and let our neighbors alone, there would be less time lost and more souls saved.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Josh Billings: His Works, Complete (1873)
Added on 23-Jul-12 | Last updated 12-Dec-17
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