Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Greed is Good

Stossel gives a nice explanation on why greed is good.

It reminds me of I, Pencil.

If you haven't read that latter yet, you should.

Also, why don't people see this? Why is altruism so highly regarded, when so much more can be gained from greed? Or, are we giving to much credit to self-interest?

This could be a nice topic for discussion.

Well, this is certainly not an argument against alturism. This is really only excusing a particular expression of greed by claiming it has alturistic benefits.

If greed only helped th individual (zero sum games), then this argument would fall apart.

For example, do Walter Williams or John Stossel feel the same way about greed when it is expressed through force? Like when a theif robs a store or when a company manipulates government connections to squash its competitors?????
I certainly doubt it.
I agree. Greed is a bad thing inherent in human nature with some sweet benefits when used within a system of property rights and voluntary exchange.

The important question is not how to make a society rise above greed (since it's in human nature) but how to channel greed into positive uses. Capitalism is fantastic at this.
Also, does altruism ever work? Only in small groups.
Why? In the market prices coordinate the flow of resources to where they are most needed. Any use of force, or coercion impedes on the flow of information by artificially adjusting the price.
What is necessary is information about where resources are most needed. Prices convey this information well, especially in loose relationships.
The closer the relationship however, the more weight other (non-financial) needs come into play. My wife might have a need for chocolate every now and then, but if I spend time reading to her that is a good substitute.
I might try to get a loan from a bank, and they might charge me a high interest rate if I appear to them to be a high risk. But I might be able to get a loan from a friend or relative at zero interest because of the gains we each enjoy from the relationship.
In other words, people will make rational decisions that aren't always good financial decisions. What is necessary is an alternate source of information to replace prices.
Such knowledge is always local and costly to aquire. Thus it is only possible to act upon such knowledge amidst small groups of people.
"Greed is a bad thing inherent in human nature"

Why is greed bad?

Isn't greed just the "excessive" desire or self-interest that is arbitrarily measured by some other individual. What is greed, but a societal constraint by your neighbor.

Don't be so greedy, you've had enough. Really, you've had enough, haven't you?

What is this? I don't see how greed is inherently a societal bad. The only thing that can be bad about it necessarily, is if someone has excessive control over another individual and that's not really greed, that is more an infringement on the rights (property, liberty, and life) of others.

So what's so bad about greed, anyways?
I'll agree that greed is subjective. So in that way, I can't necessarily tell you when you're being greedy. And greed (subjectively defined) is a vice, not a crime. Sometimes greed drives people to commit crimes, but greed itself is legal.

Do I need to throw in that greed is one of the "seven deadly sins"?

I never said anything about society, and I'm not going to set any standards as to what defines greed. It's something on a personal level, a vice, that is bad. Short of being a vice, it is merely self-interest. And I certainly see nothing wrong with that.
You do not need to thrown in that greed is one of the "seven deadly sins", because it is irrelavent.

I think it should be a point well taken that greed may be immoral, but it is not criminal. My issue, is when people try to make it a criminal act, as if you (subjectively) are undeserving of an additional quanitity of any good or service because of some arbitrary societal constraint.

Yeah, I got problems with that...
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