Greed is great
Some of my critics appear convinced that I’m an uncompassionate, greedy conservative whose only goal in life is to pillage and plunder at the expense of others. One example from a reader: “…maybe he can explain to those same people that lost their jobs how his greed was a part of their losing their jobs.” (”Right Hook Missed,” Letters, Sept. 9)
This particular reader and most of my critics in general apparently suffer from the misguided belief that life is a zero-sum game. In other words, if someone has too little, it is because someone else took too much. I beg to differ.
“The point, ladies and gentlemen, is that greed—for lack of a better word—is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed—you mark my words—will not only save [this company] but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA,” said Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street.
He was right. Want and greed are why all Americans live healthier, freer, and more comfortably than any other people, at any point, in any country in history. Every inspiration, invention, innovation and improvement has been as a direct result of the inventor, the innovator and the improver’s desire to better his or her own condition. In short, they wanted more things and more stuff for themselves.
It is this greed and want of more things and more stuff that drives us all to work longer hours and to build better products. It is this greed and desire for more stuff that causes us to seek better lives, to take more risks that support more businesses, to move the free market and ultimately, all of mankind, forward.
Companies are even now developing ways to feed the world by producing more food on less land (indeed on no land) with less water, less fertilizer and less pesticides. These businesses will not succeed because they’re comprised of good, honest people working tirelessly for free to eradicate world hunger.
These businesses will succeed because the scientists doing the research and the employees doing the work want the recognition, the accolades and the monetary rewards that come with innovation and success. They will succeed because the scientists and the employees of these companies want the stock options and pay raises that come with working for such companies.
They will succeed because management wants the pay raises, the bonuses and the approval of the directors that come with working for such companies.
They will succeed because stockholders have invested money in these companies on the expectation of the profits that may come to the company that, for example, can figure out how to genetically insert an anthrax vaccine into an apple.
As economist Dr. Walter E. Williams once said: “The public good is best promoted by people pursuing their own private interests. This bothers a lot of people because they’re more concerned with motives than with results.”
Like it or not, accept it or not, greed is good. If the end result is that hybrid crops lead to fewer hungry people in the world, who cares what the motivation was?