Who said ''The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or one''?

Mr. Spock (Leonard Nemoy) says these actual words to Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) in the movie Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan. In the movie, they are attributed to the Vulcan philosopher Surak.

Many think this quote is old and from some famous philosopher. The thought does have its origins in an ancient text, but it wasn't spoken by a great philosopher, and the thought didn't originate from a 1982 motion picture.

The thought came to us from Caiaphas, the High Priest mentioned in the Gospel of John. In John 11:49-50 the Apostle John wrote, "And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."

Slightly earlier than the reference above, Aristotle, in his "The Aim of Man" develops a similar idea. In his discussion about the "highest good" he writes,

"Even supposing the chief good to be eventually the aim for the individual as for the state, that of the state is evidently of greater and more fundamental importance both to attain and to preserve. The securing of one individual's good is cause for rejoicing, but to secure the good of a nation or of a city-state is nobler and more divine."

In early Indian cultures the needs of the many actually did outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

In Germany, before the adoption of liberal western economic ideas, the country had an economic policy so named, "Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz," meaning "the welfare of the nation takes precedence over the selfishness of the individuals."