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Acting in one’s self-interest means to act in the way that is the most personally beneficial.

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, 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 was saying that when individuals can choose the goods or services they want to buy, and when businesses can choose the goods and services they want to sell, they act in their self-interest. The results create an invisible hand that guides the competition for scarce resources, and thus the creation and pricing of goods and services. The economy earns more wealth and reduces the need for government intervention.

For example, a butcher acts in his self-interest by earning money through his work to support his business and family. The customer who buys the butcher’s meats believes she is acting in her self-interest by spending her money on the butcher’s products. The butcher’s self-interest creates a valuable product that serves the self-interest of another.

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