Reply To: "Greed" vs. Economic Self-Interest?


I was having a facebook conversation along similar lines of this. I’ll just post one of my comments.

“I have a couple thoughts on greed right now. First is that the desire to profit may not be the best definition of greed for a couple reasons. I may desire to profit for the purpose of using that income to freely help others (family, Church, those with more material needs, etc). In the Scriptures I see greed often tied to desire for unjustly acquiring property as opposed to justly acquiring property. But there is certainly also an aspect of greed in simply wanting to acquire property for your own sake whether at the expense or benefit of others.

Second is that greed is not a distinguishing characteristic of neither capitalism nor socialism. In any form of socialism (corporatism, communism, even mixed economies) greed is exemplified by one group using government force to extract wealth from another group for the former’s benefit or government force is used to gain special privileges that inhibit or prohibit competition with the former. In capitalism an individual’s greediness will result in actions that try to build up his own treasures, but that build up of treasure can only occur voluntarily. A greedy CEO that chooses to use his profit to buy a yacht instead of give to the poor still employs an immigrant yacht builder… The virtue is missing but the wrong lies with the CEO alone and stealing for him to help a poor person does not fill him with virtue.

If I sell my labor in the form of cooking a chicken for someone else to eat (or purchase money) so that I can receive wages that I can spend how I choose, and someone else purchases labor (or sells their money) so they don’t have to cook their own chicken, who is the greediest one – Labor or Capital? Or are both people equally greedy?”

So it seems to me that capitalism is morally neutral to individual motives in general but is certainly morally superior in civil structure (no stealing allowed). Am I thinkin’ right? The conversation progressed into a Biblical discussion of the ownership of property by God and free stewardship granted towards mankind (so that really we don’t actually own ourselves/our labor, but are stewards of what God owns…. the end result being the same –> governments/other people don’t own us). It was a fun talk.