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.
3 Comments »
Comment by suek
What an extraordinary teacher! I want her for _my_ school!! (hmmm…would that be like trading toys???)
(extraordinary teacher because it’s such an excellent demonstration, and extraordinary because it seems that so few teachers are convinced that capitalism is actually a good thing.)
Comment by turfmann
My counter-example is an incident that took place in my daughter’s art class a couple of years ago.
On the first day of class, the teacher handed out a sheet detailing what supplies were required of the student.
We dutifully drove to the local Staples and procured said items.
The next day, the teacher went around the room, shoebox in hand, and collected all of the items from the students.
She would distribute them as she saw fit.
My wife and I lectured our daughters on what had taken place as a perfect example of the Communist creed – from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. As much as I hated my resources being confiscated, it was an inexpensive lesson for my girls.
Specific instructions were given that any such attempt to redistribute our property is to be rejected outright, the teacher informed that she will be hearing from us. Hell hath no fury like my wife when she is on a roll.
Comment by suek
Good for your wife! Tell her to “roll on!”
I was a school board member for a number of years. When we began our first term as the result of a recall of 4 out of 5 board members, the school was in dire straits financially. The political turmoil of the recall election with various members of the community taking each side, didn’t help, as some felt so strongly about the loss of the election that they decided to remove their children from the school, further depleting the coffers of the per student money we were paid by the state. We had to cut to the bone, and there were those who wanted the children to have various benefits, and wanted to donate money in order to make sure the kids had various supplies and field trips. We were certainly amenable, but learned that the state laws prevented our taking the money and applying it to specific needs – it had to go into the general funds and had to be expended as needed without regard to preferred activity. The State, of course, can require that certain funds be limited to certain expenditures, but we could not. The upshot of all this was that an outside charitable 501c3 group was formed to receive funds, and disburse the funds for specific items that were then donated to the school. The board of the group was composed of parents, teachers and the school principal/supervisor. They held an annual fundraiser, and made sure that teachers didn’t have to pay for various supplies out of their own pockets. It worked for us…each class had at least one field trip a year, in addition to the supplies, and a part time music teacher was paid for as well.
I’m no longer on the board, but it’s been nearly 15 years now, and the group is still going strong as far as I know. It also keeps parents involved and aware of the financial condition of the school – which is also a good thing, I think.