DEFINITION of 'Self-Interest'

Acting in the way that is most personally beneficial. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, famously explained that it is possible to achieve the best economic benefit for all even when, and in fact because, individuals tend to act in their own self-interest.

BREAKING DOWN 'Self-Interest'

Smith wrote, "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 self-interest." Smith's explanation of the invisible hand showed that through the self-interested actions of dozens, hundreds and even thousands of people, without any centralized planning, goods and services get created that benefit both producers and consumers.

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