Social Question

josie's avatar

Why is it "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.”?

Asked by josie (27502points) August 26th, 2013

Paraphrasing Thomas Sowell

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

26 Answers

drhat77's avatar

Because you are taking someone else’s money to give away to a third party. Instead of reaching into your own pocket to pay the third party. Because that would obviously be too much.

cheebdragon's avatar

The government takes everyone’s money and they are greedy bastards.

marinelife's avatar

Because they worked for it just like you worked for yours.

ETpro's avatar

Because with no roads, no schools to teach a workforce, no police to protect the money you have, no government to print your money, no military to keep other nations from coming here and raping and pillaging at will, you wouldn’t have any money. We tried life with no safety net back in Dickensian England. We tried workhouses and debtors prisons and letting the poor die in the streets if they fell ill. We found out it is in all our best interests to pay a little bit of what we earn forward so we don’t have to live in such a cold, hostile society as that.

DaphneT's avatar

That just seems backwards. Greed and Selfish are not the same. Wanting to keep your earned money is selfish, if you have enough and could spare some but chose not to. Wanting to take someone’s money is greed.

Blackberry's avatar

If you’re tired of your kids always asking you for money, make them get a job. The lousey bastards, eh.

DWW25921's avatar

There is a difference between preparing and hoarding. It’s not greedy at all to prepare for your future. However if you do it in such a way as to alienate or harm others that’s greedy. It’s like a wealthy business owner who pays their employees well as opposed to the one who does not. As far as “taking” other peoples money, that’s a little different, as those who feel entitled have no problem not working and collecting anyway. That’s a selfish mentality that will eventually lead them to their own destruction. Just do the best you can and help out as many folks as you can along the way without putting yourself in a bind.

gondwanalon's avatar

It is BS to say that you are greedy for wanting to keep your hard earned money.

It is not greed to earn tons of money while working hard within the rules/laws of society.

It is greed to collect money by cheating and breaking/evading the laws.

It is also greed when a bloated government continually collects more and more of its citizen’s life blood to just be squandered in bureaucratic red tape and fraud waste and abuse.

Kropotkin's avatar

Oh @josie, you always ask these ideologically framed questions. I wonder if you realise the assumptions laden within them? I’ll get on to analysing how later on. ...

I realise this isn’t exactly what you asked about, but it’s part of deconstructing why your question is so blatantly rhetorical, and why I, and probaby a few others, are reluctant to ever respond to your questions. The thing about an ideologue like Sowell, is that he thinks his particular ideological narrative is some sort of metaphysical truth—or at least he speaks so confidently about the ideas he believes in, that he may as well think they’re the “truth”.

But ideologies aren’t and cannot be true. Not even the best scientific models are “true”. What ideologies offer are convenient and sometimes useful narratives, and these narratives define the social world for us—they tell us who or what to blame for the problems we perceive, what those problems even are, and what needs to be done to solve them. And the attitudes and the sort of decisions made from having these narratives have moral and ethical implications, because they end up shaping the very sort of society we all live in and affect people in very real ways (especially if they’re the ones on the receiving end of blame for perceived problems.)

I’m going to use something from the Marxian economic perspective for a moment just as an example. I’m not advocating it or asking you to entertain it as being valid in any way, since I expect you reject it outright anyway. It is just an example of an alternative narrative. Take the idea of __exploitation theory__ and how “value” (don’t worry about the definition here) is taken from workers by the owners. In this narrative, no typical worker ever “earns” what he actually works for, because the aggregate of people who own the companies which employ the workers, take that surplus that the worker would otherwise have “earned”. In other words: the capitalist owners “take somebody else’s money” with the somebody else being typical working people.

Just to reiterate: I do not care to convince you about Marxian economics. I’m trying to illustrate the ideological assumptions behind your question, in particular the assumptions implicit in the idea of “earned money”, and “take others money”.

Sowell is from the Chicago school economic perspective, which contradicts and offers an alternative narrative to the Marxian one. In his narrative everyone “earns” exactly what they deserve to “earn” because the forces of supply and demand have regulated the wage markets toward equilibrium, and it’s market forces which are the arbiter of what everyone ought to earn.

When accepting this narrative, it’s unions demanding more money for their workers who are now “taking other people’s money”, and it’s people in low tax brackets making use of government funded services and social security who are “taking other people’s money”, and it’s the government instituting minimum wage laws on employers which is “taking other people’s money”.

Do you see how the different perspectives benefit different interests? It’s not a matter of ascertaining which is “true” or which is more valid. They simply have different consequences, but you’ll also find that the dominant narrative, and the one espoused by many intellectuals, and pundits in the media, is usually one which benefits the interests of the __socially dominant groups__ (the political class, the rich, bankers, CEOs, corporations, etc) in our society, and ideologies and perspectives that oppose the socially dominant groups are the ones which get castigated and caricatured.

Lastly, the narrative which benefits the socially dominant groups will try to sell their ideology as being beneficial to everyone, some of whom go on to internalise the values of these “elites” and repeat their slogans as if they were truth, and perhaps go on to ask rhetorical questions couched in their language and framed with their ideological assumptions.

Damn. That was too long.

marinelife's avatar

I misread the question. I do not think it is greed to want to keep what you have earned except as a matter of degree and extremes.

gorillapaws's avatar

There is an underlying assumption in the phrase “you have earned.” It implies that you did it completely on your own without any help from other people. Unless you raised yourself on an isolated island, then you had a lot of help to earn that money: education, access to infrastructure, safety, clean food/water, a relatively stable economy with well-educated customers/employees, legal protections/guarantees and enforcement of rights and property, environmental protections from having your neighbor contaminating your drinking water, etc…

The real question is “Isn’t it greedy to earn money as the result of all of these benefits, but not want to contribute back to help sustain mutual prosperity? Isn’t that attitude parasitic?”

ETpro's avatar

@josie You need to watch it through (it’s short), but in this video Bill Maher contrasts how the NFL operates compared to Major League Baseball to answer your question eloquently.

annabee's avatar

Wanting to take somebody else’s money is envy, not greed.

Actually taking someone else’s money without consent is called stealing.

rojo's avatar

Greed is wanting more than you need. It is wanting for the sake of having and, in some cases, for the simple reason of keeping it from others. It has nothing to do with the source of whatever it is you crave.

josie's avatar


I had not seen the video. Thanks, it was good.

But I have heard the same comparison many times.

I makes a point, but misses the big point. The manifest difference is who is doing the deciding about how the money is split up.

Thomas Sowell comments on the hypocrisy of the Federal Government decrying greed and then exhibiting greed.

The NFL, and MLB are not the Federal Government. They are not attempting to run my life, only to sell me tickets or TV packages. If I do not approve of the NFL, or MLB, I simply do not have to buy tickets or watch them on TV, and my life will go on as if they do not exist.

It does not matter what side of the discussion you are on, the Federal Government has jail cells, a virtual monopoly on the use of force, and a tendency to use words like greed for their own greedy purposes. They are potentially, and occasionally actually, capricious, corrupt, immoral and dangerous. But I can’t refuse them like I can football games.

ETpro's avatar

That’s the price we pay for civilized society. It you really think king of the mountain would cut you a better deal, Somalia and other failed states lie it beckon. I don’t see you making a beeline for the Airport, though.

cheebdragon's avatar

You have to get a passport from the government before you can go….just sayin.

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon Applied and been denied? just sayin.

cheebdragon's avatar

@ETpro shockingly I’m completely legit, no unpaid tickets, no lawsuits past or pending, no arrests or convictions. I could get a passport but I don’t have the money to travel to another state today, so another country is definitely not in the budget this year.

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon So would you if you could?

cheebdragon's avatar

Travel to another country or completely move? Yes to both depending on the location. I’d move to another state if I could afford it, I really just love moving.

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon No, it you dial back to where I first asked, we were specifically talking about failed states like Somalia. Your complaint was “The government takes everyone’s money and they are greedy bastards.” and I was trying to find a place where you could escape the horrors of having to pay for government. No tax collectors in Somalia, so you should find it a paradise.

cheebdragon's avatar


The Somali budget has been in deficit since the early 1970s. Disintegration of the national economy since 1991 has led to relief and military intervention by the UN. No central government authority existed as of 2002, so there was no functioning system of civil administration to collect and disburse public finances. External debt totaled $2.6 billion.


Direct taxes are imposed on income and profits, when officials can collect them. In 1986, tax rates on wages and salaries ranged from 0% to 18.9%. Income from trade and the professions was taxed at rates of up to 35%. Indirect taxes are imposed on imports, exports, mortgages, vehicle registration, sugar, alcohol, and a number of other goods and services. In 2003, Somolia’s sales tax rate was 10%.

Read more

Some countries without income taxes include….

British Virgin Islands*
Cayman Islands*
Turks and Caicos

* places I’d love to live

ETpro's avatar

Go for it.

cheebdragon's avatar

Like I said, I would if I could, but Uncle Sam sure doesn’t make easy.

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