Is altruism a core value for civil servants?

Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions and secular worldviews. Altruism or selflessness is the opposite of selfishness. The word was coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte as the opposite of egoism.

Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Studies have found that people’s first impulse is to cooperate rather than compete.

Altruism has deep roots in human nature because helping and cooperation promote the survival of our species. Darwin himself argued that altruism, which he called “sympathy” or “benevolence,” is “an essential part of the social instincts.”

This does not mean that humans are more altruistic than selfish; instead, evidence suggests we have deeply ingrained tendencies to act in either direction. Our challenge lies in finding ways to evoke the better angels of our nature.

Individuals come to exhibit charitable, philanthropic, and other pro-social, altruistic actions for the common good both by nature and by training. Moral education, law, civic leadership also establish ethos to develop altruism. Building social capital is crucial for good governance, economic development and social harmony. At its heart lies altruism and cooperation.

In a welfare state like ours that has the responsibility to eradicate poverty; bring about social equality and deliver goods and services to the deprived and vulnerable, civil service has to be altruistic. It is written in the Code as well. The welfare schemes that we have require our Civil Service to be sensitive , compassionate and generous which is the crux of altruism.

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