This doesn’t mean that “impure altruism” is at all a bad thing; if the deed gets done, then the deed gets done. But, as with anything in life, it is good to understand the true incentives at work.
A few months back, whenever I walked into HSS Library, I would see many books on corporate social responsibility. Titles such as Corporate Social Responsibility: A Stakeholder’s Approach were everywhere. Not long after, I noticed an interesting trend: as new books came in, these titles were gradually replaced by titles such as Corporate Social Responsibility: The Competitive Advantage.
Which made me wonder: In the business world, is CSR nothing more than just a Potemkin strategy? Check out Milton Friedman’s classic here: The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.
I agree with Dubner. At the end of the day, perhaps all that matters is that society benefits from this “altruistic” actions. But it’d certainly be nice to explore the forces behind such behavior.