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December 6, 2011

The Greed Fallacy

Quote of the Day: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” — Groucho Marx (channeling the spirit of politics)

Most days, these Dispatches come from But today, the following 627 word essay by James Wilson, is presented as an educational service of the Downsize DC Foundation.

The Greed Fallacy, by James Wilson

Too many people use the word greed in a greedy way – especially left-statists. Consider . . .

No one accused corporations of greed when rising earnings caused 401(k)s to grow. But when our accounts lost value many of us were quick to blame the losses on greed.

Likewise, no one accuses themselves of greed when they line up at the pumps to take advantage of falling gasoline prices. But we’re quick to accuse the oil companies of greed when prices rise.

Can you see how childish this is? We’re never greedy. Only others are greedy. This unrecognized hypocrisy allows us to use the word greed in a greedy way, to manipulate others to get what we want.

But most of what people call greed is simply other people trying to honor their responsibilities. For instance, you have an obligation to get the best income and pay the lowest prices in order to support yourself or your family. All businesses have a similar responsibility. They owe a profit maximizing obligation to their stockholders, many of whom are charities, and others of whom depend on investment income to fund their retirements, or to support their families. None of this has anything to do with greed.

This is one of the evils of Statism: It tries to turn the virtue of responsibility into the sin of greed.

As long as no theft or fraud is involved then profit-maximizing behavior is responsible behavior, NOT greedy behavior.

But it IS greedy when we ask politicians to initiate violence against others to get what we want.

And look at the ironic results. If Person A pressures politicians to steal on his behalf, then he shouldn’t be surprised that corporations will ask politicians to steal on THEIR behalf. For instance . . .

Imagine that the State “condemns” your home so a corporation can build a parking lot. There will tend to be two reactions . . .

  1. Some will be angry at the State for using coercion to steal property, regardless of the supposed justification.
  2. But others WON’T care as much that you lost your house, but will instead be more enraged because a “greedy” corporation benefited.

Statists (especially left-statists) will typically adopt the second position. They ignore the fact that THEY created this outcome when they asserted that the State can steal from some to give to others. When Statists argue that politicians can initiate force against Person B for the benefit of Person A, they’re promoting a system that corporations (and others) will use for their own ends. Cronyism, corruption, and the abuse of power are the inevitable results of such a greedy, theft-based system.

Statists need to recognize that they are greedy in their manipulative use of the word greed. They project onto others their own selfish, greedy desires, which manifest themselves in constant calls to use State coercion to steal from and control others. It is hypocritical for them to express outrage at the natural outcome of their own self-contradicting beliefs.    

NOTE: Some may object to the word “steal” to describe the taking of a home under eminent domain, for the reason that the home owner is paid for his or her property. Here’s why the word steal is justified. If the homeowner likes the price, then the transaction is roughly the same as a voluntary peaceful transaction (though the threat of coercion still hovers in the background). But if the homeowner DOESN’T like the price, and the property is seized at that price anyway, then violence is involved, and the crime of theft has been committed. No mere words on paper can change this truth, even if those words are inscribed in the Constitution.


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Jim Babka
Downsize DC Foundation

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