Coexistence Through Selfishness — Natural Harmony of Interests

Why Focusing on Your Own Interests Benefits Everybody

Libertarian Thinker
4 min readMar 26, 2024

Expressing thoughts about what all members of society want or should want has become customary. Political commentators love to discuss what is supposedly beneficial for everybody. Contrary to that stands a libertarian concept: Natural Harmony of Interests. Instead of examining what “society” should want and work towards, it examines how actual wants of people shape human coexistence.

It whispers the possibility of a world where individual pursuits dovetail into a collective symphony. This principle champions the idea that our individual successes need not come at the expense of others. It posits that in the right conditions, personal gain and common good are not adversaries but allies. According to this concept, if there is no interference from external forces, such as a government, individuals’ incentives are harmoniously aligned steering self interests towards also benefitting others.

A Rising Tide

At its core, the considerations constituting the Natural Harmony of Interests suggest that individuals, by pursuing their own benefit responsibly, inadvertently contribute to the welfare of the community. To a deliberating person, this concept sounds logical right from the beginning. Individuals that are not psychopaths or want to live an isolated life, the vast majority of people, can only enjoy live if the community as a whole thrives. If their neighbors thrive, the whole neighborhood thrives. Only people viewing human interaction as a zero sum game would oppose this view. When individuals are free to innovate and trade, they create value that ripples through the community, elevating the standard of living for all.

Opposing the Idea of A Mighty State

In the late 17th century, Richard Cumberland composed his treatise “De Legibus Naturae” (On Natural Laws) which argued that individuals are predisposed to do good in the world. It was likely written opposing Hobbesian ideas of the necessity of having a mighty sovereign state individuals cannot hold rights against. 100 years later, Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” investigated the concept in greater detail. Smith understood a basic tenet people continue to struggle with: “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 interest.” This awareness underlies his concept of the invisible hand.

Further, this enduring belief in the power of the agency of millions of individuals living together is a fundamental conception of libertarianism as well as Austrian Economics. Frédéric Bastiat expounded the harmony of human interests. Ludwig von Mises detailed this concept describing how individuals best serve themselves by serving others. This understanding has been the driving force behind free market economic systems that have lifted millions out of poverty. Accordingly, the evolution of this idea continues to shape our policies and philosophies, reminding us that people cooperating freely is the bedrock of progress.

The Greater Good

Many think the idea of the Natural Harmony of Interests is a concept just touted by wealthy businessmen to further enrich themselves. While there certainly are some Scrooge McDuck characters out there, generally, people advocating for free markets understand that individuals pursuing their own interests benefit the whole society. The only way for them to amass great wealth in free market, without government interfering everywhere, is persuading human beings to voluntarily part ways with their hard earned money. Hence, they need to either create immense added value for a few prospects or a little added value for masses of customers.

Suppose somebody wants the best living conditions for every member of society, with this awareness, they necessarily need to advocate free markets because free business is the only way to improve living conditions for everybody. A greater good can only be achieved by letting people pursue their own interests. This offers a positive counter-narrative to the divisive rhetoric that often dominates our discourse. By fostering environments where individuals can pursue their interests freely, we create a fertile ground for innovation and mutual prosperity.

Pursue Your Interests in A Free Society

Applying this understanding in everyday life can be done in two ways. First, go after your own goals. Do not feel ashamed for pursuing your own interests. Engage in voluntary exchange, involve yourself in the community, and invest in your professional development. While there are exceptions to this rule, in general, achieving to live financially sustainable signals that you are adding value to society. You do not need to be apologetic for earning more than your peers. Therefore, become a valuable member to society by developing your skills and seek business opportunities presenting itself. However, abstain from forcing fellow human beings to anything, for instance, by acting on behalf of or together with the government.

Second, advocate for free markets. Refrain from encouraging initial use of force in any way, shape, or form. Campaign for transacting freely and making choices voluntarily. Never encourage forcing people to inject medical substances, for example. Whereas in a voluntary professional relationship which can be left at anytime, such as a job, it can be necessary to use authority, in an involuntary relation that can hardly be left at all, such as a “social contract”, force cannot be the way to go if you understand the Natural Harmony of Interests.

Millions of Interests Aligned

The Natural Harmony of Interests is not a utopian fantasy but a pragmatic truth. It is the understanding that when we lift the yoke of undue restraint, we enable a society where the pursuit of individual happiness aligns with the flourishing of all. With this awareness, we can be confident that our own interests not only benefit ourselves but the whole community. Every person opposed to free markets needs to explain their narcissistic notion that they can create more value centrally planning an economy than millions of human beings following their own interests which automatically align to enhance the living conditions of people around them.

Think for yourself and question everything my fellow libertarians!



Libertarian Thinker

I explain ideas and concepts of libertarianism and Austrian economics simply and show how applying them can make your life better, happier, and more prosperous.