you get something in return. Wasn't there some parable about a mouse helping get a thorn out of a lion's paw, and then getting something in return, way down the road? It wasn't guaranteed, but the idea is, it's worthwhile to at least invest in a possibility sometimes, if you don't have to go too far out of your way, and there aren't going to be unintended consequences, such as moral hazards.
In the case of the Good Samaritan, if you invest in creating a culture where travelers who get waylaid are helped by random strangers, then it avoids the need for everyone to travel with a huge army. Thus, it creates a more efficient society. It helps too if the person you're helping shares your genetics; maybe they're genetically close enough to you that they too have the gene that encourages generosity, so they'll be a Good Samaritan in the future too. So your help will be more likely to pay off.
In a high-trust society, it's assumed that people aren't going to take advantage of your generosity often enough that it would outweigh the disadvantages of being generous. In a low-trust society, generosity gets taken advantage of all the time.
Let's say there's a natural disaster in North Korea, and they request foreign aid. Really, they should be getting that from China, because the Chinese consider them communist brothers. If we help them out, what's going to happen? Are they ever going to return the favor? Or are they going to just take it for granted, and even point to their prosperity as evidence that communism works, rather than giving the west credit for helping them?
Let's say there's female genital mutilation going on in Africa. There are a few ways a concerned westerner can deal with that. We can send them a bunch of propaganda about how the practice is bad. We can threaten to cut off aid if they don't end the practice. Or we can use military force to topple the regime and put in place a government that will end the practice.
Or you can just not intervene, and let them find out for themselves the consequences of that practice. If it's really a harmful practice, then it may be that they put themselves at some kind of a disadvantage as a society, and eventually die out or get taken over by some other society. So then the problem solves itself.
If you're going to topple a regime, though, it should be for your own purposes. You should be trying to take their resources or something. Then at least you have some barometer of success that doesn't depend on their well-being; if you say, "We're not leaving till we build a successful nation that can stand on its own" then you may just keep throwing more resources into that money pit forever. At least if you're exploiting them, and getting more from that than what you put in, the venture is self-funding, and you're not ripping off your own society, even if it's not helping the people you've conquered.
Some of these nation-building projects are lose-lose situations that only help Halliburton. A win-lose situation is superior to a lose-lose situation. One of the critiques of selfishness is that it can produce lose-lose situations, but altruism can do the same.
Compassion exists as a way of getting you to make long-term investments that are going to pay off when the favor gets returned. If you're dealing with takers, though, you have to not let yourself be too compassionate, because they're going to just take your kindness for weakness. They'll consider you worthy of extinction for your foolishness, because they only respect strength, not generosity.
This happens between the sexes all the time; men help some woman they're with become successful in her career, and instead of spending her income on the family, she spends it on herself, and may even disrespect or dump her husband, who sacrificed his own career to help her. She doesn't give him credit for facilitating her rise; she credits herself.
You just have to know what kind of people you're dealing with. There are situations where you can give to people, and it doesn't help create a culture of generosity, nor does it make society richer as a whole. An example would be Haiti, where we tried numerous times to build an economy and functioning government there, and they always went back to their third world ways.
It would be better to give to people who will appreciate it, and will have a spirit of reciprocity, or at any rate will make good use of the help you give them.
Let's say there are girls next door being abused; it's not always possible to give them any help that's going to actually put them in a better position. If they go to foster care, they might get abused even worse there.
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