Seek ways to give more to society

It is good to have Singapore Kindness Movement's Dr William Wan constantly remind us that showing kindness not only creates a more gracious society but also makes us happier ("Making others happy increases one's happiness"; Monday).

In a similar vein, author Seth Godin talks about the "freegiver advantage".

A freegiver is the opposite of a freeloader, who is someone who takes more than he gives, and thus drains the system.

When a community has a lot of freeloaders, it goes into a downward spiral.

Freegivers, on the other hand, are people who feed the community first, who give before taking, always figuring out ways to give more than they take.

It is not difficult to imagine what a community with freegivers would look like. Ironically, with each person seeking to give more to the system than he takes from it, everyone comes out ahead, and everyone is happier and better off.

For too long, we have been influenced by philosopher Adam Smith's "invisible hand" theory that people acting in their own selfish interests benefit the economic system.

We have now seen the damage that unfettered capitalism has inflicted on a global scale, in terms of gross income inequality and environmental destruction.

Imagine the aggregate impact to the community if there are many people acting unselfishly to give more than they take from the system. It would be magical.

We want a society with more freegivers - people who believe in adding value, paying it forward and giving before receiving.

They embrace the wisdom of the old adage that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Francis Yeoh (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Seek ways to give more to society'. Print Edition | Subscribe