Mar 4, 2009

The New Greed Problem?

I touched on greed versus self-interest in my post about Confidence and Objective Moral Standards, but Sheldon Richman is much more thorough in his piece The Goal is Freedom: All About Greed at the Foundation for Economic Education. And his commenter William Reed provides great clarity:

  • I have what I believe is a working definition of greed. It is sort of a Taoist definition. A Yin-Yang sort of phenomenon which is largely dependent upon one’s personal prosperity vantage point.

    When someone who has more than you wants more, they’re greedy.
    When someone who has less than you wants more, they’re ambitious.
    The two phenomena are actually one.

    As was brutally and irrefutably proved in the USSR, when you try to socialize your way out of greed, you inevitably end up destroying ambition into the bargain.

    I love Mr. Baird’s definition of greed as pursuit of self-interest through involuntary exchange. As noted by George Washington, “…Government is force!…” What a fertile environment for this type of exchange!

    The greed/ambition yin/yang phenomenon may be visualized as a magnet in the shape of a coin. Heads is the positive side, in this case ambition. Tails is the negative side, or greed.

    The difficulty arises when governments, over-privileged due to duped voters or oppressed peasants, is granted a sufficiency of power to attempt to separate greed from ambition in order to dispose of greed, while leaving ambition to thrive. As any student of physics can tell you, no matter how finely you slice our imaginary coin, every resulting slice will still have both a positive and a negative pole. But they sliced away with abandon in the good ol’ USSR, resulting in an ever weaker market force, until finally, greed and ambition had been decimated to such an extent as to be utterly ineffective as a wealth creator in what remained of the market. Ultimately the only meaningful expression of greed remained in the political apparatus, where greed for political control destroyed millions of lives. In a free market greed loses its bestiality, as described by Mr. Richman. In an all-powerful government it is given free rein. In any event, it is, as Mr. Richman so eloquently states, an inseparable, eternal characteristic of human nature. It may be largely tamed by a free market, but can never be excised from humanity. If it finds expression in our government, exercising powers beyond those expressly enumerated by our constitution, may God help us.

  • 1 comment:

    Cathy said...

    Oh boy, WC. Did you catch the latest VDH? Oh boy.