The Selfish and Narcissistic Gardener

Every morning on the way to the bus stop, a fictitious gentleman admires a rose in the garden in front of the house of a friendly neighbour. “This rose,” he says to himself, “is no doubt just as beautiful as the many roses in the enclosed garden in the back of the house of an unfriendly neighbour” he knows. “But – how typical! – how selfish and narcissistic he is to prevent the general public from enjoying them!”

“But,” an inner voice objects, “if you believe that, are not all those who plant roses in their enclosed back gardens equally selfish and narcissistic?”

“Yes, absolutely,” the fictitious gentleman replies. “But the trouble is that there is a general consensus in free and open societies – and probably even in dictatorships – that it is virtuous to grow roses in one’s enclosed private garden. Not only that, there are millions who say that a private rose is more beautiful than a public rose.”

“Nonsense,” the inner voice objects. ‘A rose is a rose is a rose.’ Who was it who said that?”

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3 responses to “The Selfish and Narcissistic Gardener

  1. “Who was it who said that?” — Wikipedia says: “The sentence “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem Sacred Emily, which appeared in the 1922 book Geography and Plays. In that poem, the first “Rose” is the name of a person. Stein later used variations on the sentence in other writings…”

  2. Michael Gundy

    I am reminded of difference between public and private goods. A public good such as a street light benefits us all whereas a private good is for personal benefit such as my lunch. The rose carries the virtues of both, it is just a question of setting.

    This thought is inspired by the work of:

    James McGill Buchanan, Jr. (born October 3, 1919) is an American economist known for his work on public choice theory, for which he received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Buchanan’s work initiated research on how politicians’ self-interest and non-economic forces affect government economic policy. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute.