In a very real sense, then, when we act in the marketplace we are not acting as abstracted individuals, but rather as human persons embedded in a deep social and moral reality. We act in our callings as representatives of the interests of others. The father sacrifices a day in which he otherwise might seek his own limited good to head to the assembly line so that he might bring home a paycheck to provide for his family: to put a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs. A mother takes an extra shift at the hospital so that she might be able to get something special for her child this Christmas. These kinds of sacrifices are so common and so familiar that we often forget just how remarkable they are. Families all over the world make significant sacrifices every day in the time and effort that parents (and sometimes children) expend in the marketplace.
It is morally significant, then, how we define our interests and where we place our happiness. As the economist Paul Heyne noted, “While self-love or self-interest is certainly capable of producing selfish behavior, it need not do so.” Instead, said Heyne, “self-interest is not the same as selfishness, and the narrow pursuit of private purposes has no necessary connection with greed, materialism, or a lack of concern for others.” We might, in this way, choose to align our economic interests with those of our families, our churches, and those who are materially impoverished. The marketplace is in reality, rather than in abstract theory, a place where this sacrificial love of neighbor is realized, a love which is in no way inconsistent with self-interest, rightly understood.