Why I Love Greed

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Prior to the rise of capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving one’s fellow man. Capitalists seek to discover what people want and then produce it as efficiently as possible. Free market capitalism is ruthless in its profit and loss discipline. This explains much of the hostility toward free market capitalism; some of it is held by businessmen. Smith recognized this hostility when he said, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” He was hinting at government-backed crony capitalism, which has come to characterize much of today’s businesses.

Free market capitalism has other enemies — mostly among the intellectual elite and political tyrants. These are people who believe that they have superior wisdom to the masses and that God has ordained them to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider to be good reasons for restricting liberty, but every tyrant who has ever lived has had what he considered good reason for restricting liberty. A tyrant’s agenda calls for the attenuation or the elimination of the market and what is implied by it — voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people acting voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they should do. They want to replace the market with economic planning and regulation.

The Wall Street occupiers and their media and political allies are not against the principle of crony capitalism, bailouts and government special privileges and intervention. They share the same hostility to free market capitalism and peaceable voluntary exchange as tyrants. What they really want is congressional permission to share in the booty from looting their fellow man.

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  • http://communityofliberty.org Charles Kadlec

    Dear Professor Williams,

    Your failure to distinguish "greed," which we all instinctively know is wrong, with the honorable search for mutually beneficial exchanges is a great injustice to the capitalist system which you support. Saying capitalism thrives on greed is a slur against markets and free people. Your lack of moral clarity risks both.

    I concede that there is no word in common usage which captures your valid point. May I suggest "enterprise" is what drives the ranchers in Texas and distinguishes them from those who Occupy Wall Street. http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2011/02

    • Don Kosloff

      Nobody instinctively knows that greed is wrong. Greed is an instinct. People are told that greed is wrong. That teaching is an oversimplification. Too much greed can be wrong. Greed that has no external controls may be wrong.

      • Libertyman

        The worse type of greed is known as covetous as displayed by the likes of Chuckie Schumer. This form of greed simply wants to engender public hate for those who have something so he and the government can take it away from said person and create class warfare. This is real HATE Crime.

        Thou shall not Covet.

  • Nate Whilk

    I'm reminded of Milton Friedman's remarks to Phil Donahue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

    "Well, first of all, tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy; its only the other fellow who’s greedy! The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus."

  • Amused

    Well atleast we know what seperates Walter Williams from OWS ….Greed . Move over Mr.Gekko .
    Just remember this my deluded greedster , Greed is precisely what got us into the present finacial mess , just as it did in the past Bank Loan Scandal and Keaton , the 2000 Bubble , and if you're a student of history , the Great Holland Tulip market collapse .
    The only thing you're right about is , that people like you do in fact love greed and most likely embrace it . There is a difference between GREED and ENTERPRISE . GREED is ENTERPRISE WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY OR ETHICS , AND IT'S INSEPERABLE PARTNER IS AVARICE .
    Now go APOLOGIZE to all those farmers and ranchers you just insulted , by lumping them in with the truly greedy on Wall Street , the Oil buisiness and Capitol Hill . [ and of course , yourself ]
    Pat yourself on the back chump , you're the reason why there's OWS , they may all be idiots but they do get one thing right .And afterall they do know the difference between those two words …something that eludes you .

    • Don Kosloff

      You need to read beyond the first sentence before you make your critical comments. If you do that, then you will be less likely to make comments that are clearly false.

  • Amused

    That is Keating .

  • Don Kosloff

    Greed is beneficial because it causes people to push themselves beyond getting what is just enough. Without that driving force the more talented people would not push themselves beyond using only a small part of their talent. That would be similar to the actions of the OWS folk, except that the OWS folk seem to have little talent.

  • Amused

    Suck it up Don , he's sellin' it and you're buying . Greed is greed ….period .Wanna dress it up ? sure , put a streetwalker in a white wedding gown and you got a virgin …right ?
    Greed pushes people to break laws , make foolish decisions , sellout freinds and country . Yea greed is "beneficial " …in a pigs eye it is . Yea greed is so good that maybe you'd like it written in your epitaph . Go take a primer in ethics 101 .

    • Don Kosloff

      People decide to break laws, they are not pushed by greed. It is childish to blame a natural instinct for foolish decisions and weak character.

    • Die Fledermaus

      Try using a dictionary. You are distorting the definition, the same thing liberals and idiots do.

      Reminds me of the recent Wisconsin vs. Oregon Rose bowl. Oregon takes a kick off and the guy thinks of coming out of the end zone but changes his mind. His foot and 1/2 inch of the ball crossed the goal line. Wisconsin fans booed when the refs called it a touchback.

      Of course, the rules clearly state it was a touchback because the ball didn't compeltely come out of the end zone. Nevermind, they booed anyway. You would be booing too I bet.

  • Amused

    Oh …and BTW ….talent does not have any need for greed in order for it to rise to the top . No wonder we're in the mess we're in .

  • Kevin Stroup

    Webster's College Dictionary (1991): greed(noun) excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

    I would define greed as: self-interest taken to a toxic extreme. Self-interest is inate. You must teach children to share, not to keep. The enlightened person understands that many times they are more advantaged by helping the other guy win also. The free market is the best possible vehicle for letting the most people win. It is a "voluntary" exchange of goods and services. Socialism is not voluntary. It is coerced, by threat of government punishment. In addition, everything becomes a political calculation in a socialist society, with performance, talent, industry pushed aside. People engage in rent seaking behavior.

  • mrbean

    One should be careful usingg words for shock value that may initially generate negative emotions. They are effective only when someone reads and understands the context in which they are used. More often then not, people already have a mindset on their interpretation of what words mean.

  • Amused

    So Kevin , looks like the author never learned his parent's lesson eh ? I'd agree with that .
    As for the other dimbulbs who chimed in , in his defense ? They have to defend a truly negative rationale …lol…even if they make fools of themselves in doing so .
    Man ! get me shovel , the bullsheet's really piling up here again .