Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Preference vs Sacrifice

In a recent conversation, someone lamented that he cannot understand why he has to live his life for others, always sacrificing himself for others. I'm particularly skeptical when someone is painted with such a heroic label of "sacrificing" him/herself for others.

In Economics, there is a term called the "utility". Utility can be defined as a measure of the relative satisfaction from, or desirability of, consumption of various goods and services [Wikipedia's definition]. Simply put, among various choices, a rational individual would seek to maximise his utility by committing himself to the choice that pleasures him most and pains him least.

When one "sacrifices" oneself for another, in actual fact, one is maximising one's utility. He made a preference to "sacrifice" over not to "sacrifice". Such a "sacrifice" could really be a sacrifice in the eyes of others, but to the "sacrificer", it cannot be said to be a sacrifice. By "sacrificing", he actually derive satisfaction.

Putting it into context, when you "sacrifice" yourself for the nation, you derive joy because you met your obligations as a citizen, unleashed your boiling patriotic blood and lived a good life. To a third party who doesn't appreciate the extent of your patriotism, then of course you would have been seen to be "sacrificed".

That said, I would prefer to use the word "Preference".

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