Imagine there are two groups of hunter-gatherers, each of which move around within a fixed territory in accordance with the seasons, just as our species appears to have done for most of it’s history.
The philosophy of the first group goes as follows: if one member makes a kill, they get the largest portion, but the rest of the group members get equal portions. This ensures that the hunter be rewarded and that the rest of the members don’t starve. This also ensures that all members of the group will have sufficient energy to attempt a kill the next day. It also ensures that when another member of the group makes a kill, the same will occur — the successful hunter today, if he is unsuccessful tomorrow, will not starve, either. It will also maintain services other than hunting, as members of the group that may honesty suck at hunting but can create weapons to help the hunt or facilitate forms of leisure or other services that are enjoyed between the hunts are also provided an equal portion of food and so have the resources they need to keep providing those services to the group. All individuals can develop their talents due to the cooperation and acknowledged interdependence of the group members.
Imagine now that a different group exists with a different philosophy: the one who makes the kill eats it and the other members of the group get nothing and go hungry, at least for the day. Going without food, however, they may not have sufficient energy to hunt so well the following day, or to provide any other services to the group, for that matter. This serves no one, even the successful hunter of yesterday, as starving individuals in the group may gang up on the successful hunter. If they have the energy, that is. And if they don’t, or even begin dying due to starvation, the group that as a whole once gave all members safety in numbers, the portion of the group that provided services other than hunting as well as the portion of the group that would assist in the hunt despite not making the kill — they will no longer be able to provide the cooperative support. In either case, the successful hunter may initially shine bright, enjoying one or even several kills, but his success will burn out fast. The support system that he had took for granted would be ripped out from under him because he didn’t want to share the resource — the food — he saw as his own. He failed to recognize how he benefited from the group. He didn’t want to be forced by the group to give “hand outs.” And now, due to that greed, he suffers with the rest.
Which group would you want to be a part of? Which group is sustainable? Which system appears rational and which appears suicidal?