Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Is greed good?

Asked by ETpro (34247 points ) January 30th, 2011

Merriam Webster defines greed as follows:

“Greed—noun:
A selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed

Examples of GREED

He was a ruthless businessman, motivated by naked ambition and greed.
<don’t let greed for riches control you>”

The phrase comes from Gordon Gekko’s soliloquy in the 1987 movie, Wall Street. The film was only echoing the spirit ushered in with the Reagan Revolution. The 1980s were the beginning of the age of the leveraged buyout, junk-bond kings, raiding corporate coffers and pension funds, off-shoring all the jobs, selling the property and equipment and leaving one grand old corporation after another without resources to repay crushing debt. Gekko says he doesn’t destroy companies, but we now know that the corporate raiders almost always did destroy companies. They invariably destroyed jobs here and shipped them overseas. The companies they did not completely destroy, they looted and left crippled with debt—THEIR debt used to buy the company.

New tax and corporate laws allowed the LBO experts to use a company’s own cash reserves and pension fund equity along with a handful of their own cash to finance the buyout. It was then a simple matter of siphoning off all the company’s cash assets to the new owners, often giving them a profit of 100 to 1 on their investment, then dump the company before its imminent bankruptcy caused by all the new debt made that impossible.

So if greed truly is good, for whom? The handful of corporate raiders, hedge fund managers, Wall Street investment bankers, and law firms who profit so massively from it, or the nation in general? If greed is good, where are the jobs its supposedly creating?

Why do so many Christians support a party that actually claims greed is good? After all, what is greed if not the lust for mammon? 1 Timothy 6: 9–11 says:
“9—But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10—For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11—But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

The word translated as “money” in the King James Version came from late Latin, and was drawn from the earlier Greek ’μαμμωνάς’, Syriac ‘mámóna’ (riches), and was an Aramaic loan word in Hebrew meaning wealth

According to Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammon, ”Mammon is a term, derived from the Christian Bible, meaning dishonest gain. The term is used generally to describe material wealth or greed, most often personified as a deity.” It covers the lust for the things of this world and the flesh. Greed.

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120 Answers

Mikewlf337's avatar

Greed is usually very bad.

Nullo's avatar

Greed is a sin. It happens to be a reliable, almost constant element of human nature, almost to the point that one can compensate for it.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Healthy cultures are those that understand that humans are both selfish and altruistic, and then make the two the same by making what is good for the community good for the individual.

I see greed as selfishness that doesn’t also serve the community, and in fact harms it.

lillycoyote's avatar

Greed is as good or as bad as any thing else that is both “selfish and excessive.”

john65pennington's avatar

Short, but accurate answer…......greed is the reason the U.S. economy is in the shape its in today.

bkcunningham's avatar

How did this people get so much money?

kathleentoronto's avatar

I think greed is degenerating. I don’t think you could ever be happy or successful if you are a greedy person. Reciprocity is brilliant and does not fail. If you give, you will receive. If you help someone make money, you will make money. ***BUT*** If your intentions are greedy, don’t bother.

xseeken's avatar

Does this answer your question?

bkcunningham's avatar

@xseeken good one. I am going to use the economic theory of greed. If I am greedy, will I be as rich as Bill Gates?

kathleentoronto's avatar

@xseeken I don’t think Bill Gates is greedy which is why he is so wealthy. However, I agree that if you are greedy you can still be as rich as him but overall your life might suck. Example, the wealthiest players in the world are greedy f’ers but their greed is so much that it doesn’t matter. Except that countries are falling apart, people are starving and economic crises are happening all over the world. That’s what happens when greed is an ingredient.

bkcunningham's avatar

@kathleentoronto how did they get their money, these wealthiest players?

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken At the very least, a massive oversimplification, don’t you think? Really.

kathleentoronto's avatar

@xseeken by exploiting and dehumanizing people.

xseeken's avatar

@lillycoyote,

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then there is no reason for me to give you a dissertation on how history and economics works and then compare it empirically to show you how the poor and sick people are a fraction of the population and are in a lot better position in a purely greed driven environment, as oppose to one with government control.

xseeken's avatar

@kathleentoronto,

I didn’t ask that question, @bkcunningham did.

kathleentoronto's avatar

Oops, I don’t have my glasses on! :)

bkcunningham's avatar

@kathleentoronto I truely don’t mean to sound offensive, but you are speaking with emotions and with no logic about ecomomics. Think about it for a minute. You cannot explain a multimillion dollar corporation or giant salaires simply as greed. Thomas Sowell explains it best. He said, “Think about it: I could become so greedy that I wanted a fortune twice the size of Bill Gates’—but this greed would not increase my income by one cent.

“If you want to explain why some people have astronomical incomes, it cannot be simply because of their own desires—whether ‘greedy’ or not—but because of what other people are willing to pay them (or pay for their products or expertise0. In other words, it is precisely where people are spending their own money and have financial expertise that they bid highest for CEOs. It is precisely where people most fully understand the difference that the right CEO can make in a corporation’s profitability that they are willing to bid what it takes to get the executive they want. If people who are capable of being outstanding executives were a dime a dozen, nobody would pay eleven cents a dozen for them.

“Many observers who say that they cannot understand how anyone can be worth $100 million a year do not realize that it is not necessary that they understand it, since it is not their money.

“All of us have thousands of things happening around us that we do not understand. We use computers all the time but most of us could not build a computer if our life depended on it—and those few individuals who could probably couldn’t grow orchids or train horses.

“In short, we all have grossly inadequate knowledge in other people’s specialties.”

Nullo's avatar

As I said earlier, greed makes people act predictably. I imagine that Christians tend to vote Republican, in spite of its tendency (though it’s hardly an exclusive one) for lucre-loving, because they don’t really have a social agenda. Democrats usually do, and it’s usually in conflict with the values of mainstream Christianity. Greed is felt throughout the system, but its evil is external to the self; social meddling, on the other hand, is aimed at getting you to change your values.

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken Well I wouldn’t understand any of that dissertation, history, and empirical stuff anyway, whatever that stuff is, I don’t know. Do you have a picture of the trade embargo against Cuba and a picture of this ”purely greed driven” kind of Capitalism you’re talking about? That would help me a lot. Is “purely greed driven” Capitalism better for poor people than regular market driven capitalism? Is it better for me? Will I fail to succeed if I’m merely educated and industrious, but not greedy, in this “purely greed driven environment”? Do you have a picture of that maybe?

xseeken's avatar

Not every picture speaks a thousand words. Sometimes the answers you’re looking for can only be found in education. To your question, the former. To the threads question, the latter.

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken Well then, I am simply ignorant and uneducated, is that it? That’s good because that is at least a flaw that can be corrected.

xseeken's avatar

All flaws are correctable when given the right circumstances.

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken You’re right, all flaws are correctable, given the right circumstances. Well, then, good. I will take my leave from this thread while we are at point of agreement. I think that’s for the best. Welcome to fluther, by the way. :-)

ETpro's avatar

Thanks to all who answered.

@incendiary_dan Very well put. Thanks.

@john65pennington Succinct and to the point. Amen. Greed got us into the Great Depression and it just missed a repeat in the Great Recession of 2007–2010.

@xseeken Your “image”: is telling, but it is a simplistic view of the problem. Does Fidel Castro live in the section of Havana your image showed. My information says that he has as many as 50 palatial estates for himself. Putin is building himself a 1 billion palace to live in. One might argue that the leaders of free societies are less greedy than those of Communist nations, not more greedy.

@kathleentoronto Bill and Melinda Gates are not only among the wealthiest people on Earth, they are among Earth’s most generous philanthropists.

@bkcunningham In a captialist society, people don’t bevcome multibillionaires by getting high salaries. Even sports heroes making upwards of 50 million a year don’t make the cut. One gets truly rich by either inheriting wheath of by investment schemes that let the investor make hundreds or even thousands of percent on their investment in short order, then cash out. In the 1980s and beyond, the laws of the USA were dramatically modified so this got much easier to do.

xseeken's avatar

@ETpro,

Wow, you’re really hooked on this conspiracy theory crap. Look carefully at the words of what you sent me. “This palace is RUMORED I love that picture of Putin, oh wait, it’s just a blackedout image of a guy in a blue sweat suit.

Since when is a rumor the undeniable truth? You have to much populist in you, it’s clouding your judgment.

bkcunningham's avatar

@ETpro who are the multibillionaires in a capitalist society you are referring to. Just name a few if you would please. You have my attention now and I’m interested to see how they made their monies.

ETpro's avatar

@xseeken More insults. Can’t you have a discussion without defaming the intelligence or character of the other person. I see above you went to work on @lillycoyote even though what she was saying made good sense. Sorry the link I happened to pick included the word rumored. It has since been confirmed, and I didn’t post a link to more up-to-date reports because I wanted the one with pretty pictures. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, or so I have heard.

@bkcunningham Well, we’ve already named on. Bill Gates. Warren Buffett is one as well, and he is also a very generous man. Both grew wealthy not through salaries and wages but through investments. Both invested in ways that benefit the greater community as well as themselves, and they ended up the #1 and #2 richest men on Earth for a number of years. They are in the process of giving much of that wealth away right now.

Here is Forbes list of America’s richest people While Bill Gates is still at the top, the Walton fmaily actually far outstrips his wealth, and the Koch brothers are just behind him.

bkcunningham's avatar

Well, the Waltons are Walmart – very generous and employ geez thousands and thousands of people and provide a good service. The company started small and people apparently liked what they had to offer. They Koch brothers are very generous and own Koch Industries. The own oil refineries, Brawny paper towels, Georgia-Pacific, Dixie cups and other industries like Stainmaster carpets, all which employ people and benefit society. The company started with an invention.

Bill Gates was also an inventor of sorts. Buffett started out delivering newspapers, detailing cars and other jobs to have money to invest. At the age of 11, he bought three shares of Cities Service Preferred. I love that story.

Maybe I misunderstood. I thought you were saying the capitalist multimillionaires were bad, greedy people who ruined society and took advantage of people. Not those examples so far.

xseeken's avatar

@ETpro,

Firstly, why is it every time I challenge your answers, you refer to it as insulting you? Secondly, you’re accusing me of “going to work” on @lillycoyote, when I simply challenged her questioning as I do with you. Thirdly, link me to the evidence that confirms that Vladimir Putin is building a $1 billion palace. Finally, you heard correctly, a picture does speak a thousand words, but there is a difference in a picture based on facts and one based on a fairytale.

Nullo's avatar

@bkcunningham It’s probably closer to millions, worldwide. Plus, good benefits and room to grow into practically every sector that there is. You don’t have to be a cashier forever.

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken I said I was leaving but you’re such a, well, you know exactly what you’re being. You most certainly did not merely “challenge my questioning.” That is intellectual dishonesty. I challenged you, your comment to me was basically: you’re wrong I asked you a couple of questions, you’re response wasn’t to the substance of my question, but was an evasive maneuver:

”... there is no reason for me to give you a dissertation on how history and economics works and then compare it empirically to show you how the poor and sick people are a fraction of the population and are in a lot better position in a purely greed driven environment, as oppose to one with government control.”

And then, when I responded to that you basically told me that I simply needed to be more educated on these matters, here:

“Not every picture speaks a thousand words. Sometimes the answers you’re looking for can only be found in education. To your question, the former. To the threads question, the latter.”

You refused to back up your argument. And maybe my comments were a little snarky and wise assy, but that’s what you get for being patronizing and evasive. And not once did you actually respond to anything, any of the contend or any of the substance, what little there may have been, contained what I said. Evaded any real answers by saying you didn’t need to bother with it or by telling me, in so many words, essentially ignorant, I suppose, for lack of a better word.

If your defense is that you are merely “challenging” questions or ideas or arguments then you need to challenge those things, questions, ideas, arguments. Ad hominum attacks, etc. are not only faulty and lazy reasoning they are annoying and a waste of everyone’s time.

xseeken's avatar

@lillycoyote,

Why should I teach you history and economics on a q&a site? You think it’s that simple? I can point you to the right direction where you can do your own learning.

You can find my evidence here. Free to Choose and here
Ludwig Von Mises Austrian School

Then you can start reading the history on Greece, Rome, Great Britian. See why they fell. Then go further and do comparisons. There is much, much more, but this should be enough for starters.

ETpro's avatar

@xseeken I note argumentum ad hominem because that is what I see from you. You have been here a few days now. In that time, here is what you have said to/about me that I find objectionable:

1—“Do you also believe the world is going to end in 2012?” implying I am a crazy conspiracy theorist.
2—“You’re quite the flip-flopper!”
3—“Maybe if you read what I wrote a bit slower, you wouldn’t have a need to defend yourself.” Implying that I must be dull witted and need to carefully ponder your words, because they are perfection and I have somehow failed to realize that upon too cursory a reading.
4—“Wow, you’re really hooked on this conspiracy theory crap.” More of insult #1.
5—“Look carefully at the words…” Another stab like #3 above at implying stupidity on the part of all who fail to see the perfection of your statements.

I’m not a particularly sensitive type. And I am certainly not one to be intimidated by argumentum ad hominem. It certainly seems that @lillycoyote felt herself under the same sort of attack, and I see that in your responses to her as well. Let’s ditch the insults and stick to talking about the issues.

@bkcunningham The primary source of money for the Koch brothers is coal and oil. With revenuers from that, they buy lots of other industries. They are generous in funding right wing organizations, and in astroturfing. They are the main source of money behind the Tea Party movement. WalMart is a source of a very large number of low wage jobs and a few that pay well. They have driven countless ma-and-pa shops out of business. They do good and bad. They are currently driving suppliers to go green with their packaging, and with their enormous buying power, that will probably impact what gets manufactured for other retailers as well.

lillycoyote's avatar

@xseeken LOL. Yeah, thanks for the Ludwig Von Mises link. Like they’re an unbiased bunch, without an agenda. Those are exactly the places where I like to get my information and educate myself. And you shouldn’t have to educate me, I’d actually prefer if you don’t try, please. You should, however, be able to construct well reasoned argument that supports your position and you don’t seem to be able to. You can evade and toss out veiled insults but that’s about it. I’m done with you, not worth the time or effort.

xseeken's avatar

@lillycoyote, “Like they’re an unbiased bunch, without an agenda.”

You just exposed yourself. Now I know for sure that you don’t even know what Austrian school of thought is or what they discuss in their lectures. Thanks for that comment, no need for me to reply to the rest and waste my time with you.

xseeken's avatar

@ETpro, If you think those are insults, then wow. If you’re not the sensitive type, then why are you even bringing up the term insults?

Anyway, I won’t use any extra words. Strictly on topic.

Please link me to the evidence that confirms that Vladimir Putin is building a $1 billion palace.

bkcunningham's avatar

@ETpro do you think Walmart started as big as they are today? No. Like Sears back in the day or Kmart. They started small and addressed what consumers, you and I, wanted. I personally love Walmart. They don’t put anymore Mom and Pop stores out of business than the big vicious malls did when they were a big deal coming into every town in the 1970s. If you have a product that people are willing to buy, I don’t have a problem with how much money you make or how many people you employ.

I’m from the coalfields and don’t have a problem with coal myself. It provides many jobs to many areas of the country as well as electricity. Koch’s Flint Hills Resources refinery was recognized by the EPA’s Clean Air Awards program for reducing air emissions by 50 percent while expanding operations. Fred Koch started with an invention. If you want a look at history and America and communism, read Koch’s book “A Businessman Looks at Communism.” It’s an amazing story of what drove Koch to hate communism and promote freedom and libertarianism.

Who the Koch brothers give their money, quiet frankly, like the Gates and Oprah, is their business. Because they have different political views than me, I won’t crucify them for that as long as they don’t take away my freedoms and liberty and they don’t try to change the US Constitution and make me bow down to their gods, we’re good.

ETpro's avatar

Happy to provide what I can find.
http://www.theotherrussia.org/2011/01/21/ruleaks-posts-pictures-of-putins-black-sea-palace/
http://observers.france24.com/content/20110125-photos-putin-alleged-seaside-palace-black-sea-controversy-corruption-open-letter-kolesnikov
http://theconsumerism.com/alleged-vladimir-putins-1-billion-dollar-palace-pictures-leaked/

The news article that led me to conclude that this is true, not just alleged, was part of Google’s news aggregation about a week ago. I believe the source was the BBC. I can;‘t find that article through Google now.

Setting Putin aside, do you contest the accuracy of reports that Castro enjoys a lavish lifestyle? Do you agree that the former Soviet bosses and the top leaders of China and North Korea live lavish lifestyles? The fact that they do is more to the original point point I wanted to make than what Vladimir Putin is up to anyway.

bkcunningham's avatar

@ETpro I missed part of the discussion about Putin, Castro, top leaders in China and North Korea living lavish lifestyles. What was the point of that if you don’t mind catching me up please.

xseeken's avatar

@ETpro,

Articles say Alleged, that’s not confirmation. You brought up different names, and for argument sake I just picked one of the names to make it easier for you to prove your claim, but you still gave me the same type of links. It’s not a proof, it’s a speculation.

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham It was this response to @xseeken‘s photo of Havana in 1950 under the Trujillo regieme and today under communism. What I wanted to point out is that all current Communist states are ruled by dictators who could care less about the welfare of the “proletariat.” They just use that song and dance to get dictatorial power, then use the pwoer to enrich themselves and their cronies.

ETpro's avatar

@xseeken I addressed the “alleged: issue. Please see above.

xseeken's avatar

I see, so if you can’t find the article now, you can’t make such claims then until you do find it. Also, if it was so well known, why would only one news source cover the story?

ETpro's avatar

@xseeken I can and will make the claim, but with the caution that at the moment I can’t prove it. And I see you avoided the salient point again in favor of one that deflects away for the issue.

The original question is, :Is greed good?” My point was your comparison photos failed to address that question. So how say you? Is greed good?

xseeken's avatar

I answered your question with a picture, then you challenge my picture with claims that you can’t prove, and now you accuse me of deflecting? What kind of mind fuck is this…

Yes, the picture is saying greed is good.

ETpro's avatar

Oh for God’s sake. Erase Putin. Do you believe Castro lives the life of luxury while his people starve. That is the salient point regarding the picture you posted. Is Cuba a basket case simply ebcause Castro is not greedy enough?

bkcunningham's avatar

Wasn’t Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Batista in Cuba in the 1950s?

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham Good catch. I should always Google things from the 1950s. I was a little kid back then.

xseeken's avatar

@ETpro,

I don’t know. I don’t like to believe, I like to know. Do you have evidence to backup this statement?

By the way, I thought you’re an agnostic…@ETpro wrote, “Oh for God’s sake”

Freudian slip? Just kidding, :)

iamthemob's avatar

Ah, the “Greed is Good” myth.

Greed is, when we get down to it, neither a part of capitalism or the free market theory. In the investment market, greed is damaging. Unfortunately, greed has been extolled as a virtue by Milton Friedman style free market enthusiasts, claiming that greed is good and universal.

Of course, greed has manifested itself in the GOP in the form of a new and destructive Republican theory of big-government conservatism. And the ironic part of a Friedman-esque celebration of greed in the market is that Friedman recognized the workings of greed as a negative factor in communist regimes. Communism doesn’t work because of greed. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn’t work because of greed, but works because it is a recognition of the basic human nature of greed. But somehow, the free-marketers (of one variety) ignore the difference Smith originally emphasized between self interest (the desire for success) and selfishness (greed, or the desire for simply more). What “Friedthinkers” neglect is the willful blindness associated with thinking that greed is good in the market and simultaneously thinking that greed is not the reason why “megagovernment” fails.

Greed results in the consolidation of power such that maintanence of power becomes the agenda, and not growth or expansion – control is the motivating force. In communism, greed results in inefficiencies because the political power has direct control over industry. In a Friedthinking economy where the market is left to its own devices sans oversight, greed results in inefficiencies because industry influences policy in a one-hand-washing the other way (as was the result in the move to financial deregulation), such that there is no practical difference between government and industry.

In order for capitalism to breed success, the role of government is to control for the destructive elements of greed.

ETpro's avatar

@xseeken I like the idea of preferring evidence to belief. I did post a link to evidence of Castro;s grand lifestyle. A Google search will provide plenty of additional ones. Guilty as charged on invoking a name of a deity I do not believe in. I just like the ring of it.

But I still don’t have your answer to the original question, “Is greed good?” The photograph you linked to doesn’t tell me what you think. One person might look at those images, and conclude that Castro’s greed doomed Cuba to third-world status while another might think it shows how greed blessed Hong Kong. So the photo I cannot understand. A simple yes or no will definitively let me know where you stand on the question. Feel free to explain why you picked your answer, but no need to do so unless you wish.

xseeken's avatar

No, you posted me another speculation link of a big building being labeled Castor’s home. I already debunked you for Putin, this is no different. Google satellite/earth can easily be faked. Just go on you tube, there is a mirage of them. Either you give me real evidence where more then one news source confirms the story of Castor’s luxurious lifestyle, or stop sending me this stuff.

These are your words “I can and will make the claim, but with the caution that at the moment I can’t prove it.” How this makes sense in your mind, I will never know.

Yes, greed is good, greed works. Why do you have food on the shelves? The most basic factor is a GREED of a farmer.
Austrian EconomicsAnarcho-CapitalismMises

iamthemob's avatar

You keep citing to general statements claiming “proof” that greed is good, that anarcho-capitalism is good, to your Austrian school, but there’s nothing specific except claims from those who can’t point to a single point in history where their system which works so well has ever actually been working.

Please, if you speak again, bring proof of your claims if you’re going to claim debunking others. I know you have no proof for your claims – but I doubt that will stop you.

Just note that should you return ranting without proof but rather more propaganda, I shall not have any qualms in assuming, finally, that you really are nothing but a troll.

PS – the reason why food is on my shelf is probably due to greed – but greed in the form of the exploitation of the small American farmer from one of the :big four” in the CAFO food industry, mixed in with the patent hoarders at Monsanto.

xseeken's avatar

@iamthemob,

I never said that this school of thought is my proof. My “proof”-answer to the thread was exactly what you just confirmed. @iamthemob wrote,“PS – the reason why food is on my shelf is probably due to greed”

@iamthemob wrote, “but greed in the form of the exploitation of the small American farmer from one of the :big four” in the CAFO food industry, mixed in with the patent hoarders at Monsanto.”

This is your biggest mistake yet. The reason for this, is because the government is INVOLVED.

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Allie's avatar

Mod says: On topic please. And no attacks. Thank you.

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xseeken's avatar

If the government wouldnt stick it’s ugly head into what corporations do, you wouldn’t have food corps owning nearly all the food production in the America. You see things only at face value. Why don’t you analyze the root of the cause next time before you do another failed attempt at knocking down greed.

iamthemob's avatar

You first. ;-)

You claim the root cause is greed? Show me the proof. You claim that greed is good? Prove it.

Otherwise, again, you are not responding. You’re just running your mouth.

xseeken's avatar

I did prove it and you agreed. I’ll show you again.

I wrote, “Why do you have food on the shelves? The most basic factor is a GREED of a farmer.”

You replyed, @iamthemob wrote, “PS – the reason why food is on my shelf is probably due to greed”

Then you re-attack greed with this

@iamthemob wrote, “but greed in the form of the exploitation of the small American farmer from one of the :big four” in the CAFO food industry, mixed in with the patent hoarders at Monsanto.”

But you make the mistake of referring to a regulated market when I was talking about a free market.

iamthemob's avatar

That’s not proof of your claim that “greed is good,” and the driving benefit of capitalism is greed.

You have to prove that greed is good. That the benefits from capitalistic industries are driven by greed. This has been your clear claim throughout.

My post shows that greed works against market efficiencies and undervalues externalities as the costs are pushed to third parties.

Again, show me proof.

xseeken's avatar

@iamthemob,

Again, there is no proof for anything in economics. It’s not a hard science. By definition it is speculative. I can only give you a school of thought, and I have. At the end of the day, you’re going to be subjective in your answers, as will I. Proof

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iamthemob's avatar

@xseeken -

No. You’re making claims that greed is good, and that I made a mistake in referring to a regulated market when you were talking about a free market.

We were both referring to food on shelves. Please tell me when farming has been a free market economy, and when the greed in that economy was good.

xseeken's avatar

@iamthemob,

You still don’t understand what I’m saying to you. It’s a shame.

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syz's avatar

[mod says] Please note that this question is in “social” and so has more relaxed guidelines (although personal attacks will still be moderated, as always). That does not mean that you should not attempt to keep all responses helpful and on-topic, however. Play nicely, please.

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ETpro's avatar

@xseeken Showing that something is alleged does not debunk it. It leaves it standing as possibly true or possibly false. Claiming that a picture can be photoshopped doesn’t make it a photoshopped image. All images can be edited, but most images are not, and images do have evidential value.

I did some additional searching, and can’t prove that Castro lives a grandiose lifestyle. I don’t think you could prove he does not, either. The CIA probably has a definitive answer, but probably won’t share that answer with either of us. What I have managed to establish is that Castro works overtime to make it difficult to say how or where he lives. He keeps his personal life very private. The Cuban people aren’t generally told where he lives or even how many children he has and by what mothers. He employs look-alikes to move about the countryside and make themselves visible in various posh locations in order to guard against assassination.

He does have a modest 2-story home that he advertises to the world as his residence. I also found this video shot by a former paramour of Castro which shows Castro living at the same villa that the areal photo showed. Could either or both be faked? Certainly.

You are welcome to believe a man who employs multiple decoys to throw off assassins also advertises his one and only true location if that suits your ideology. You are welcome to believe that Fidel Castro is still a humble military man and lives in the most modest of lifestyles possible. I don’t believe Castro is still a revolutionary constantly wearing fatigues and sleeping in tents so that his “proletariat” can have as much as the Cuban economy can give them.

By “proving” that we don’t know whether Castro is really an egalitarian leader or a selfish bastard, all you have “debunked” is any value your photo of Havana in 1950 and Havana today might have in answering the question, “Is greed good.”

I am glad you went on to provide a clear answer that you believe greed is good. That is what I thought you were trying to say with your photop collage, but again, it wasn’t entirely clear.

Farmers don’t demonstrate greed as the dictionary defines the word when they grow more crops than they need for themselves, and offer them for sale. Far from it. Making things of real value is both self serving and serving the greater community’s good.

I can give an example from the real world, all verifiable from public record, of what actually happened when a billionaire corporate raider used just a tiny bit of his own money plus, as collateral, the large cash reserves and pension fund asserts of a target corporation to acquire and siphon off the assets from a company that once made things of value to real people and provided jobs to tens of thousands of hard working Americans. I can tell you what happened to over 23,000 workers, their former jobs, their benefits and their promised pensions when he sold his acquisition leaving them all the debt he incurred. I can tell you what happened to one billionaire’s bank account in a deal that produced nothing like what your farmer is doing to earn money. But that would be a direct rebuttal of your answer to my question. Unless you wish to debate your answer, I will simply let it stand, as I did ask, and you answered my question with your honest opinion.

ETpro's avatar

@dimxhazy The billion dollar bonuses are great for the people who receive them, but what the Wall Street Journal conveniently leaves out is that while America may be the world leader in financial services, most of thsoe services now produce NOTHING excpet profit for those that provide the services. What really collapsed our economy in 2007 was not the $2 trillion in defaulted sub-prime mortgages, but the $62 trillion dollar per year derivative securities market, most of which was heavily leveraged on those very sub-prime mortgages. That $62 trillion produced enormous bonuses for a few Wall Street financial executives, but nothing of value to anyone else. In fact, what it produced for everyone else was the requirement to chose between coughing up trillions to bail out the high-rollers or suffering a second Great Depression.

dimxhazy's avatar

I disagree, and how do you know most of those services now produce nothing, except profit for those that provide the services?

What Caused the Financial Crisis?

How Government Created the Financial Crisis

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro – It’s not really an argument that something produces “nothing but profit.” Profit doesn’t just sit there – it’s reinvested to some extent in something, even if all of it just sits there.

And even while it’s sitting there, it’s plugged into other investments. It’s not sitting there under a mattress – commercial lenders will use it to fund other markets.

And I don’t think that we can blame the derivitives market – but that’s where the problem was, really, located. The creation of the financial instruments allowed for short-term gain and liquidity on asset loans that were long-term and illiquid. Not a bad thing. In theory, the derivatives reduced loan risk.

Over-leveraging, however, was a huge cause of the problem. As the financial industry started to leverage based on assets that were already leveraged, the dependence on the underlying asset market increased, so that it became possible for a smaller and smaller drop in the value in that market would have a bigger ripple effect in the financial market based on those instruments. And as that market grew, the damage of that effect increased.

The real estate bubble wasn’t really a bubble, as some have theorized, but a form of inflation that wasn’t recognized.

The government didn’t create the problem so much as allow for it. The financial industry didn’t create the problem so much as exploit opportunity available to it. The problem is that the government didn’t react soon enough and correctly to control for the problem, and the market is never going to react until it’s already too late.

iamthemob's avatar

The Democrats greed for power and influence.

Wait…that would mean that greed is…not good!

Q.E.D.

dimxhazy's avatar

I think Greed works best in a deregulated market. Doesn’t seem to work well when the government is regulating the market.

iamthemob's avatar

That’s not about the objective value of greed, which is the problem in platitudes like “greed is good.”

Measuring the effects of actions that are driven by greed is an entirely different issue. Greed can produce benefits, as well as rage, as well as charity.

Discounting the benefits of greed is problematic. The problem with big-government theories is that they discount greeds effect on those who hold government power. The problem with free-market economics is that it discounts the effect of greed on those with market power.

The great thing about conservative theories of democracy and capitalism is that they admit that greed happens, and merely attempt to control for the bad effects of it.

dimxhazy's avatar

How can one know if there are bad effects of greed in a free market economy, when a free market economy has never existed? All that one knows is that greed doesn’t work in a regulated market. It’s time to try a deregulated market.

iamthemob's avatar

@dimxhazy

Because we’ve seen, where regulation hasn’t existed in certain areas, where it has resulted in tragedy. Worker safety regulations were nonexistent because government was hands off. Therefore, markets were unregulated as to safety concerns. This resulted in the triangle factory fire.

The regulatory problem in the financial markets was one of (1) government policies that encouraged certain behavior (where the regulations/policies should be eliminated) and (2) a lack of oversight into the free trade of financial instruments that were compounding the risk to the economy while they were benefiting the market.

dimxhazy's avatar

That’s because there wasn’t a need yet. When there is a need, there is a solution.

iamthemob's avatar

@dimxhazy

Wrong. The need was there, the market didn’t recognize it because it’s reactive based on profit, not rights.

To say that the need existed after the fact is defining the need based on the market. The lack of safety concerns meant that there was a need for safety regulations or standardization of some sort prior to the actual disaster, and the disaster was proof of the need.

The disaster didn’t create a need – it demonstrated it. Markets react to profit threats, not threats to equality of rights. Recognizing this shows the bad effects of greed in the market as the market is interested solely in itself. Sometimes, we need to force the market to consider the externalized costs it places on those it exploits.

dimxhazy's avatar

The disaster did create a need. A need for safety. If no one is complaining then there is no problem. Entrepreneurs create solutions. No need for governments to do it.

iamthemob's avatar

The need for safety exists prior to the harm. Harm is evidence of the need, not creation of it.

Harm illuminates need. Simply because I don’t kill myself or others because I drive drunk doesn’t mean that there’s no need to prevent people from driving drunk. It just means that I’m lucky.

Success in a high-risk market is as much luck as it is skill.

dimxhazy's avatar

A need for safety does exist prior to harm, but you don’t know what safety to implement untill the harm occurs. Once the harm occurs, and if, and only if it calls out for a need for safety to prevent future harm in this department, only then do the entrepreneurs step in for the solution.

iamthemob's avatar

@dimxhazy

No. Risk of harm will be clear in many cases prior to any manifestation of harm. Whether the harm is likely and the magnitude of it are considerations in a cost-benefit analysis.

The triangle factory fire is a prime example. Workers were locked in to prevent them from leaving, because it was thought to increase profitability. It is foolish to think that those in charge did not think that it was possible that a fire could break out. However, the likelihood may have been considered low. Of course, the magnitude of harm to the individual was profound – but the increase in profits was great.

If it estimated that there was a one in a million chance, then it’s silly for a business not to take advantage of the behavior. However, the worker subject to it finds that the risk is too great. But if they have no choice in work, they must subject themselves to it.

This is often the theory about recall pricing. If the harm of an item is likely to occur infrequently, companies are not motivated to recall. They are motivated to privately settle.

The market has no concern for people, and this is a problem in it. Regulations internalize in many cases externalities that are highly harmful – ruinous and fatal, in fact – to individuals.

Harms are often clear – but the market has a tendency to minimize the effects or extent of it at times. This is a failure of the market.

dimxhazy's avatar

If the possibility of a fire is highly unlikely, then why is it foolish to assume it won’t happen? If the workers are not satisfied with the conditions, then they should leave. They’re responsible for their own actions. In a free market there is always a choice. The choice was for the worker to leave and find work elsewhere, and if they still had a need to fix their problem, then the solution will be provided by the next entrepreneur. I guess this is where we disagree. As long as you recognize greed in a free market, then any time there is a need to fix a problem, there will be a solution(includes all negative externalities). How is regulation an answer, when regulations still doesn’t work?

iamthemob's avatar

(1) I said it was not foolish – I said that it very well might be foolish for them to consider it a potentially large cost, inspiring them to not consider fire in the calculation. Of course, when it does happen, that doesn’t decrease or increase the likelihood that it will happen to an individual. Therefore, the fact that it rarely happens is actually evidence to continue the practice. So, if a fire is unlikely, it’s more profitable to lock your employees up, knowing that a fire probably won’t happen to you.

(2) “If you don’t like it, leave” assumes that (1) the practices aren’t universal and (2) that the individual has the economic capability to look for another job and/or leave for a while with no income. If, however, you are dependent on the income, the right to leave is an illusion undermined by the economic incapability to do so.

(3) Needs do not go unmet because they are not voiced. If the costs of meeting the needs of certain workers complaints means that paying those costs requires that the price of your good goes up, you are dependent on the market consumers will believe that it is in their present best interests to pay more. If low-costs of ignoring it means that the market will trend to buying the low-cost goods because they can’t afford more or because the oppression doesn’t effect them directly as they see it, then there is a potential barrier to entry for the new practices. This is because the greed of the consumer is a factor.

None of the above can be clearly fixed by the market.

The fact is that we have grown and developed as an economy with regulation of the market. We are more free now than ever before with regulation of the market.

By ignoring calls for a free market, a completely unregulated one, we’ve gotten to where we are. The free market has done absolutely nothing because it’s never existed. Saying that it solves the problems is silly because it never has.

If regulations don’t work, prove it. Proof must be in the form of (1) proof that they have never done good, (2) proof that they have done more harm than good, (3) proof that the free market has actually done what you claim in some way, (4) proof that unregulated markets have solved the issues you say they can.

If you cannot, then you cannot state that regulation doesn’t work. If greed is good, then it never has harmful effects.

Regulation is, in fact, the recognition that greed exists in a free market – and therefore, it must be controlled.

From that, we get competitive capitalism in democracy.

dimxhazy's avatar

@iamthemob wrote, “If regulations don’t work, prove it. Proof must be in the form of (1) proof that they have never done good, (2) proof that they have done more harm than good, (3) proof that the free market has actually done what you claim in some way, (4) proof that unregulated markets have solved the issues you say they can.”

You’re suppose to be answering this, not me. I was the one asking you for these very exact details. I don’t understand why you think people can’t provide a solution for preventative harm and that only government can. Secondly, there was still government regulation in the market when triangle fire occurred. We never had a free market, so how can you possibly say that deregulation will not work by cherry picking one unregulated market within a existing regulated market?

In a free market, you think it’s not in the interest of the entrepreneur to provide a solution in preventing harms? It would be not only in his best interest, but it would work more efficiently because of the competition.

iamthemob's avatar

Nope. I don’t have faith that regulations work. You have faith that the market does. I like regulations when we’re dealing with a “better safe than sorry” situation – not because they prevent things, but because they are sensible.

When there is no proof either way, I err on the side of caution. The market errs on the side of profit.

When the market was left to regulate safety, we had the harm of the triangle fire. This is proof that the market did not provide measures to prevent the harm, as the government at the time refrained from regulating business.

I assert that the market (people) did not do so because it wasn’t in the interest of business. And many people died.

PS – competition exists outside a free market.

dimxhazy's avatar

If there is no proof of either, then there is no caution. It’s a delusion. The only difference is you want to pay bureaucrats for this delusion, and I don’t. Enjoy corporate lobbying and funding.

iamthemob's avatar

@dimxhazy

Epic fail. There is proof is that deregulated markets have failed to account for worker safety.

Over-regulation sucks, but deregulation sucks too. Hell, I’ll enjoy the corporate lobbying and funding in an overregulated market like that of the U.S. where our standard of living is incredibly high.

You head out to the third world where markets are currently free from pesky government interference, or are based on bribery structures. Enjoy the sweatshops.

dimxhazy's avatar

There was never a time when markets where ever truly free, epic fail on you. Epic fail number two, is not proving that an entrepreneur can’t provide the solution of preventative harm as effectively as the government can. I don’t need to head out anywhere because I’m wealthy in any environment. I’m an entrepreneur and regulations can’t keep me down.

iamthemob's avatar

@dimxhazy

If they can’t keep you down – well, you should probably stop complaining about them. ;-)

And I never mentioned free markets, did I? I said deregulated – the market sections free from regulation.

Free market theory is a beautiful illusion. If there was never a time when markets were truly free, any argument that a problem can be solved with the free market is adorably free from demands for proof. And the least regulated markets, or periods, have been the times where we’ve seen the greatest disasters of economies or human rights.

I’m glad that our form of regulated capitalism has allowed you to be such a success!

dimxhazy's avatar

I complain because the regulations are preventing me from making maximum profit, despite my overall wealth. I also don’t like being forced to pay for other people’s iresponsibilities. Seems the new American trend is it’s alright to be a parasite and it’s alright to force the host to support the parasite. Perhaps you should check this out Economy of Hong Kong and rethink your criticism of deregulation.

iamthemob's avatar

Deregulation isn’t the problem. Undirected, purposeless deregulation is.

A call for deregulation with nothing more is as senseless as a call for regulation that serves no purpose but to make us seem like we care about controlling harm (like the new TSA safety regs).

ETpro's avatar

@dimxhazy Charles H. Keating, Jr felt just like you about meddlesome regulations and laws preventing him from maximizing profits. You see where it got him. He is a poster child for the “Greed is Good” mantra. What he did with Lincoln Federal Savings and Loan and American Continental Corporation made him billions, and robbed nearly 30,000 innocent people of modest means of virtually their entire IRA savings for their retirement. In bankruptcy, American Continental was worth only pennies on the dollar. The collapse of Lincoln Federal also cost the US Taxpayers in excess of a billion dollars after having exhausted the funds available in the FSLIC..

Keating was an anti-porn crusader but he wasn’t just concerned with other people’s prurient reading, he didn’t want Federal Regulators reading his books either, and much of his bribery aimed at the Keating Five was intended to keep bank regulators from auditing his books, and to replace the Federal Home Loan Bank Board’s Chairman, Edwin L. Gray.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Okay, I have a lot of points that really just haven’t been addressed.

One: Nobody has bothered to define capitalism and seem to be using the word differently from each other (and reality). Capitalism is a system by which those with more material resource (capital) have more power and influence. That’s the most bare bones definition.

Two: Because capitalism requires resource extraction on the industrial scale (hyper-exploitation), which is inherently unsustainable and therefore damaging to landbases, and because communities whose ways of life are dependent on their land seldom willingly allow that land to be destroyed, capitalism requires that these communities be destroyed, and therefore requires the persistent and widespread application of violence to procure resources.

Three: Corporations, and industrialism in general, are not profitable. Some companies defray that by resorting to various forms of slavery (chattel/violent oppression, wage, debt, etc.) or by causing long term damage to landbases in order to gain short term advantages, pawning the true costs onto the people (i.e. externalizing costs and damages). Others do so by going on corporate welfare. Most do a combination. The only people who are really benefitting are those at the top who are consolidating their power.

Four: To get away with these offenses, corporations need systems of governance in place that will protect them more often than not, and legitimize their behavior, and use its monopoly on violence to keep the people in line (such as police and loggers conspiring to murder protesters trying to stop illegal logging, or U.S. Marshalls evicting indigenous people off their lands). The primary purpose of government is to provide a legitimizing force for companies that drive the economy. Numerous presidents have said so outright, both Democrats and Republicans. This is nothing new; civilized governments have always been facilitators of resource extraction, well before feudalism even. The U.S. government and legal system was designed to facilitate this economy and protect business interests.

Five: Those aforementioned people at the top consolidating power happen to quite commonly bounce back and fourth between corporate jobs and government office. They are the same group. Dick Cheney is the perfect example of this, as are all the people appointed to the Department of Agriculture by both Bush and Obama who also happen to have ties to Monsanto, ConAgra, etc., or the numerous logging company execs given posts in the forestry service.

Given all these points, Capitalism requires the State (as does industrial communism). Anarcho-Capitalism is at best an oxymoron, as is Capitalist Democracy.

And don’t even bother with ad hominems and straw men. Don’t insult everyone’s intelligence.

ETpro's avatar

@incendiary_dan Thanks for your input. I take that as a rather solid “no” to the question, “Is Greed good?”

I won’t argue with anything you said. But since the definition of capitalism may be worth stating, here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary version of its meaning.

Definition of CAPITALISM

an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Examples of CAPITALISM

Capitalism is at once far too rational, trusting in nothing that it cannot weigh and measure, and far too little as well, accumulating wealth as an end in itself. —Terry Eagleton, Harper’s, March 2005

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan – I don’t think you’ve described what are the inevitable results of capitalism – but rather, it is what happens when we let greed run amok in a capitalist structure.

Capitalism doesn’t require hyper-exploitation, nor does it lead to damaging externalities. It ends up doing so now mostly because of globalism multiplied by consumerism.

mattbrowne's avatar

Is being slightly overweight good? In the past before we had grocery stores and global logistics it was for most people. There were many uncertainties. Even today, especially when people are older, being slightly overweight can be a plus in case of a more serious sickness.

Is being slightly greedy good? I’d say, yes, for the same reason. It protects your future to a certain extend.

Is being really greedy good? No, such behavior creates a lot of damage. The best recent example is the financial crisis triggered in 2007 and 2008. The root cause was greed.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@iamthemob Your assertion is entirely wrong. All civilized systems (that is, ways of life characterized by the growth of cities) require hyper-exploitation and funneling of resources into centers. That’s the fundamental essence of them, going back 6,000 years or more (check out Montgomery’s book Dirt: The erosion of civlizations). The big issue is that people in these cultures haven’t the faintest fucking clue how to behave without hyper-exploiting landbases.

@ETpro Great quotes. Glad you liked it.

@mattbrowne I like what you said there. I mean, we need to really evaluate what constitutes “overweight”, but as an example it’s good. I think it’s probably appropriate to differentiate between normal self-interest and greed.

incendiary_dan's avatar

More specifics:

Corporations necessarily externalize costs to maximize profits. It’s essential to their nature, as well as their legal responsibility to shareholders. In fact, limited liability companies were created for that purpose. If a CEO decides not to maximize profits in this way, s/he is replaced. Since capitalism is defined by private control of means of production, it gives the corporations the biggest influence in this, including influence/control over the goings on of the government (e.g. the “military-industrial complex” Eisenhower warned about, not to mention the prison-judicial-(educational)industrial complex). In particular, a government won’t go after the corporations that supply it with, for instance, all their fancy military toys, even if it wanted to.

And what is hyper-expoitation? It’s the use of a resource faster than it replenishes. That part should be self-explanatory, particularly for people who have functioning concepts of ecology.

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan – you’ve switched from capitalism to civilization generally. Capitalism arose around the time when civilization had been around for about 5,500 of those 6000 years (16th and 17th century arguably).

The problem is, of course, that the recent elimination of distance as a factor in getting information about the more distributed effects of our consumerist culture to people generally means that, really, as a culture, we’re just beginning to learn about the global effects we have simply by doing what seems normal.

Capitalism, as a fairly novel economic system, really shouldn’t be faulted for the hyper-exploitation you discuss, considering that we can really blame agriculture mostly.

And one thing I do want to point out about corporations is that they are publicly owned. Corporations, as “powerful” as they are, rely on the little guy to maintain that success. They only in the end have the influence we allow them.

iamthemob's avatar

I wonder if Friedman would argue that “greed is good” at this point considering that, you know, it’s the unions and the public employees who are greedy.

Does that mean they’re good?

bkcunningham's avatar

@iamthemob I’ve never read or heard Friedman say “greed is good.” I’m not saying he didn’t. I’m just not familiar with him ever saying that, promoting that philosophy or using that point. I’d be interested in reading something from Friedman that explains “greed is good.”

iamthemob's avatar

I’m betting there’s a link or two above (more than that); however, his main assertion on the point is from a 1967 Phil Donahue interview.

I don’t mean this to sound curt – but note that this has been a long and detailed conversation, and these points are mentioned several times, so if you would just read the previous discussion or do a quick search you’d have your answer. ;-)

bkcunningham's avatar

Yes, it has been a long and detailed discussion (and a good one, IMHO) @iamthemob . I had forgotten about the conversation and I’d forgotten I was following the conversation until I saw your last post pop-up for me as a thread I was following. Anyway, I had to refresh my poor memory and I skimmed through the discussion before I posted. I suppose I went too fast. I’ll give it another whirl and read it again closer. Thanks though.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – That’s why I hoped that you didn’t take my post too snarky. ;) (I was just all like – dude…ctrl f or google! ;-))

bkcunningham's avatar

@iamthemob I’m a woman, soon-to-be 50. But you can call me dude if you say it with a smile ; )

iamthemob's avatar

I know your gender. I refuse to discriminate in my use of the term “dude”

bkcunningham's avatar

lol dude youngsters… (shaking her head smiling).

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