I often see people attribute many of society’s ills as the result of “greed”. They use the word ambiguously as though it is an absolute immorality. However, there is little regard to the thought that greed may not be such an abhorrent desire. It is as though only the wealthy can be greedy and that only their greed is a problem.
While attempting to take a moral high ground, they have failed to observe one basic fact: we are all greedy. If we were not greedy, then everyone would be content living in studio apartments with a hot plate and bedpan. Even the loudest critics of greed do not adhere to that. Greed is a desire for material goods that extend beyond necessity. It is naive to think that only applies to a singular group of people who conspire against us all.
People think greed causes harm to others, but I beg to differ. Consider an innovation such as the smart phone, which is arguably the most important of the last 100 years. Steve Jobs rightfully deserves most of the credit for it. However, he did not altruistically bestow this upon us for our benefit. From design to manufacturing to retail, Jobs had one motive and one motive only: money and the betterment of his life.
Jobs knew this could only be achieved through exchange in which both parties are better off. Thus, by maximizing your utility from a smart phone, he also made a lot of money. However, Jobs is not the only greedy person in this scenario. The consumer, or you, is equally greedy. Do you need a smart phone to survive? I would hardly say so. Even if you say phones are a necessity nowadays, I don’t think the necessity would include the ability to post selfies on the Internet.
When greed is generalized as a problem, the finger is pointed at rich people and the solutions are to confiscate part of their wealth. Here’s where I get confused. How is it greedy to want to make a lot of money, but not greedy to forcibly take other people’s money in order to fund a subjective agenda? Furthermore, greed does not make one wealthy. You can be extremely greedy with a burning desire for material satisfaction, but that desire alone does not guarantee obtaining vast amounts of wealth.
As with the example of Steve Jobs, he did not wake up one morning with greedy intentions only to have piles of money dropped on his doorstep. On the contrary, Jobs only became wealthy when other people benefitted from his pursuit of wealth and higher living. If the price of an iPhone (about $500) was more than your perceived benefit, you would not have bought it and Steve Jobs would not have made an enormous amount of money. In fact, if the creations of “greedy rich people” did not benefit so many people, we would not be having this conversation and you would be reading parchment by the candle light.
Greed and self-interest are natural instincts of human beings. We are all self-interested, which is a good thing. If we can accept this truth, we can see where greed becomes an issue. When a group of people is granted a monopoly on force, they are able to wantonly pursue their self-interests at no benefit to others, or at least not on the scale of smart phones. Government inevitably fits this description.
Whether it be subsidies to friends or mousetrap policies, government has been used as a medium to pursue self-interests under the guise of “helping others”. Politicians will make promises to no end without questioning if they are needed or if they will result as promised. Of course, these elaborate schemes first require funding through compulsory taxation. However, no amount of wealth confiscation matters if the idea sounds good enough to get them elected or re-elected. Is this not greed and the self-interested pursuit of personal gains?
The desire for material satisfaction does not only apply to the wealthy. Greed can be found in all walks of life regardless of income. People are always pursuing a higher lifestyle. Blaming “greed” for worldly ills is simplistic and lacks honesty. I have yet to find a person content with living only in the bounds of necessity who would not gladly pursue more money.
When you hear socialists complain about capitalist greed, remind them that your greed motivates you to buy things that, in turn, provide others with jobs. If socialists are so anti-greed, they can go back to using leaflets for recruitment. Of course, they won’t admit the Internet was invented in the pursuit of material benefit.
People will tell you not to be greedy or that greed is wholly bad. As a capitalist, I am here to tell you that greed is good. Pursue whatever legitimate means possible to maximize your wealth and buy all the goods you can consume. If it were not for us greedy bastards, the world we live in would be much different.