An always larger and more consolidated body of empirical evidence documents that individuals donate money and time and their sense and satisfaction of life is strengthened by good relationships with other human beings.
This evidence should lead us to go beyond a misled opposition between a “satisfactory” pure egoism – which is still a standard benchmark in most economic models (individuals pursue their own pecuniary interest with no regard for that of others and are happy in doing it) – and a “suffered” pure altruism (individuals may decide to pursue the interest of others at their expenses for deontological reasons but this makes them unhappy). What seems to emerge from this new body of evidence is an integrated paradigm of enlightened and longhsighted self interest by which individuals may discover their intrinsically relational nature and learn (in proportion to their investment in civic and moral virtues) that their sense and satisfaction of life builds upon the capacity of doing things that are valuable for those others whose benevolent outlook represents a fundamental part of their own identity.
The new paradigm has important consequences in terms of policies. Approaches based on the reductionist paradigm which just aim at solving conflicts of interest by limiting the possibilities of opportunistic behavior should be integrated by actions aimed at reinforcing the law of motion of moral and civic values and, through them, the natural antibodies of the society which may help it to achieve socially desirable goals.
Keywords: ethics and economics, homo economicus, lab experiments, time and money donations