09/29/2010 (1:48 pm)
We’ve known this for years, but it’s helpful to have a brief, professional vid point out just how pervasive is the fallacious message that economic liberty is nothing but greed. This is 90 seconds well spent. Enjoy.
My only objection is that genuine economic liberty has nothing whatsoever to do with greed. “Greed” is defined as self-interest to the immoral extreme, an excessive or rapacious desire. Nothing in the ordinary practice of economic freedom requires or even briefly condones rapacious or extreme desire; those things are destructive, and everybody knows it. The pursuit of self-interest is normal, healthy, and most emphatically is not greed.
I came across a useful illustration in a radio interview with Jay Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem. This is based on Richards’ actual experience watching an elementary school teacher illustrating free markets to her students. Pay attention, class:
The teacher brings out a basket of toys, just enough for everyone in the classroom to get a toy. She hands them out arbitrarily. Then, she asks each of the students to grade their toy, A through F. When they’ve all graded their toys, she does a quick computation to arrive at a class grade for the toys: C-.
Then, she announces that for the next two minutes, members of the class may trade their toys with anybody in the same row. A little confusion follows, after which a large number of the students in the class have exchanged their toys with somebody else. She then allows the students to grade their toys again, and computes the class average again: B-.
Finally, she announces that for the next five minutes, they may trade their toys with anybody in the entire class. Pandemonium erupts, but when she blows a whistle to get their attention after 5 minutes of free market capitalism, and gathers up the grades again, the value of the toys has risen to a solid A.
What we’re watching is wealth creation. The toys don’t change; you have the same set of toys at the end as you had at the beginning. But the perceived value of the toys has increased dramatically, so that nearly everybody ends up better off.
So, where was greed in that classroom? Every transaction in that classroom was made voluntarily; both sides of every transaction felt that they were increasing their wealth by trading, or the trade did not take place. If somebody had coveted a toy they could not obtain by trading, and had attempted to coerce somebody into giving it to them, or trick them into it — that would be greed in action. And, of course, the teacher was there to make sure that did not happen. Greed is the part of the system that is forbidden by law, as our video suggested. What was going on apart from that was ordinary self-interest, and when that’s allowed to take place without interference, it results in increased wealth for everybody, even when there’s no increase in the raw components of the system.
We need to stop paying money to let the Marxist/Leninists tell us how awful it is that we’ve created enough wealth to raise a couple of billion people out of poverty in the last century and a half. They’re lying to us. Put your money into shows that portray the productive genius of individual liberty, like Iron Man II, or The Incredibles.