Economists refer to human beings as "rational maximizers," meaning they make the choices they do because the trade-offs involved provide them with more than what they're giving up.
Even insane people, whose behavior appears to be irrational, make cost-benefit calculations -- however skewed their reasoning may be -- before doing their crazy stuff.
This is what I don't like about "preachy" YA: the characters (usually the good guys, but frequently the bad guys, too) don't behave like human beings, and their motivations for doing the things they do -- whether altruistic or sinister, and frequently "selfless" -- simply do not fit into the category of rational human wants.
Read any preachy books lately? I sure have.