Nothing Wrong with Selfishness
By Andrew Bernstein
Re: "What's Wrong with Selfishness in the NBA" (USA Today, Nov. 9, 2004)
Even though Robert Lipsyte properly recognizes "selfishness" (i.e., rationally self-interested action) as beneficial to human life, he makes a critical error. He accepts the conventional view that rational selfishness precludes cooperation and the achievement of joint goals.
In fact, the exact opposite is true. Rational individuals choose to cooperate only when a team effort is necessary to advance the specific goals of each member. This is why, for example, such profit-driven private businesses as Microsoft, Wal-Mart, et al., are often so spectacularly successful. Individual members of a productive team derive fulfillment in terms of both pride and monetary remuneration from their contribution to the overall success of the team.
The same is true in team sports. The goal of a team is to win the championship. The nature of rationally self-interested behavior requires each team member to contribute his utmost to that joint effort. It is not a sacrifice, for example, for a point guard to score fewer points if his distribution of the ball gives his team a greater chance at victory. It is in his rational self-interest to do so within the context of the overall goal each team member values. Nor, if he does his job well, will he lack for individual recognition.
Just as the highest value in such individual sports as tennis or boxing is the attainment of the championship, so it is the highest value in such team sports as basketball or soccer. Though there is no "i" in "team," there is one in "win."