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 Post subject: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:39 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:16 pm
Posts: 961
I heard this phrase not too long ago about capitalism being born out of greed, what say you?

Knowing very little, I am interested to hear your opinion on the matter.

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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:53 am 
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I think that is completely correct. Capitalism is driven by greed and selfishness. But so what? It's a good form of greed.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:54 am 

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:15 pm
Posts: 1213
Greed is good. - Gordon Gekko :)


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 1:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
Posts: 1629
Location: Seattle, WA
Coincidence: this was just posted today:
http://www.psyfitec.com/2011/06/de-tocqueville-trust-in-self-interest.html
Perhaps it's a little vague, but my take-away is that by trusting each other, we all do better. So it's in one's own self-interest to work for the betterment of the community.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:01 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:33 pm
Posts: 1164
Location: Illinois
DoingHomework wrote:
I think that is completely correct. Capitalism is driven by greed and selfishness. But so what? It's a good form of greed.

This.

Greed, and I'm using the term as desire for money and material possessions, is responsible for our quality of life. I be willing to bet 95%+ of the technological advances we have (medicines, cars, computers, etc.) are the result of greed. People worked to develop/create these things to make money, not just for altruistic reasons.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:07 pm 
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bpgui wrote:
Greed, and I'm using the term as desire for money and material possessions, is responsible for our quality of life. I be willing to bet 95%+ of the technological advances we have (medicines, cars, computers, etc.) are the result of greed. People worked to develop/create these things to make money, not just for altruistic reasons.


I'm reading some Ayn Rand now so I am going to sound even more extreme...

Why is doing something for others considered good? What if Hitler had faced starvation and you saved him? People tend to view altruism - doing things to help others - as fundamentally good. Why is that? If you have $100, is it better to spend it improving yourself or helping someone else improve? What if keeping it for yourself provides more long term benefit overall by allowing you to make business connections on the golf course that lead to technology or productivity improvements than say feeding 20 homeless people for 1 day?

It's definitely something to think about.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:32 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1785
Location: Ottawa, Canada
This is an interesting topic. I think at a most metaphysical level, everybody is acting selfishly. Priests go into the priesthood because of a selfish need to feel like they're helping people. Parents have kids out of a selfish need to propagate their genes. People are nice to other people because it selfishly makes them feel better about themselves.

Honestly, I think I act particularly selfishly. I don't actually give anything to charity, except when children come to my door selling stuff. But even then, my main motivation for buying things is so they don't tell their parents I'm a cheap bastard, and so they don't egg my house on Halloween.

But sincerely, I don't feel bad about being selfish. Our household income is around $150k, and it's pretty evenly distributed between my wife and I, which means we pay an enormous amount of taxes. I'm comfortable that we're already contributing far more to society than we're taking.

Previous posters have made a great point, in that without selfish motivations, society would not have advanced as far as it has. Bill Gates didn't pioneer the modern PC and operating system out of some altruistic motivation - he did it to get rich (and he succeeded). Donald Trump wasn't motivated by providing housing to deserving individuals - he wanted to get rich. Over and over again, you can see that the richest people in our society go there out of selfish reasons, not altruistic ones.

I think altruistic motivations are important for a compassionate, empathetic society, but they really don't have anything to contribute to getting wealthy.

Honestly, this is one thing that bothers me about finance blogs. I don't understand the emphasis on "giving." Giving money away obviously has nothing to do with getting wealthy. It is a direct hindrance to getting wealthy. Giving money away may be admirable in its own right, but it is in direct contradiction to "getting rich." Giving money away can never help you get richer. If your goal is to get rich, then giving money away with no benefit can only be a detriment to that goal.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:07 am 

Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:40 pm
Posts: 60
Location: USA
kombat wrote:
Giving money away obviously has nothing to do with getting wealthy. It is a direct hindrance to getting wealthy. Giving money away may be admirable in its own right, but it is in direct contradiction to "getting rich." Giving money away can never help you get richer. If your goal is to get rich, then giving money away with no benefit can only be a detriment to that goal.

My wife and I make a point to frequently give to charity. Just like we have an "adult allowance" (as JD calls it) for guiltless purchases, we also have a monthly allotment for donations to the charity of our choice.

Although I certainly understand your point, one benefit I do see to charitable giving is that it can be a good starting point for discussions of budgeting. Getting in good habits of budgeting/conscientious spending, in turn, helps lead to the buildup of wealth.

And yes, you can do the same thing without donating money.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:46 pm 
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kombat wrote:
But sincerely, I don't feel bad about being selfish. Our household income is around $150k, and it's pretty evenly distributed between my wife and I, which means we pay an enormous amount of taxes. I'm comfortable that we're already contributing far more to society than we're taking.


You're being forced to give to charities you may not support. It's one thing to tax people to pay for defense, roads, and so forth that everyone uses. But now we give billions of tax dollars to charities through government grants. If the causes were so worthwhile, wouldn't people give on their own? Even though we give to charity, I'm not a fan of the government giving tax dollars to charities!

kombat wrote:
Honestly, this is one thing that bothers me about finance blogs. I don't understand the emphasis on "giving." Giving money away obviously has nothing to do with getting wealthy. It is a direct hindrance to getting wealthy. Giving money away may be admirable in its own right, but it is in direct contradiction to "getting rich." Giving money away can never help you get richer. If your goal is to get rich, then giving money away with no benefit can only be a detriment to that goal.


Why is giving money admirable?

The whole idea of "tithing" or otherwise supporting religious organizations that otherwise don't contribute to productivity originated in a time when priests were actually scientists and the made a very significant contribution. They figured out when to plant or when to harvest to avoid frost damage or the annual inundation, they cured the sick, and that kind of thing.

I have not seen a case where a religious leader has actually made a positive contribution along those lines in at least several centuries. Religions now basically only have entertainment value for their members. If people choose to support them, then that's their right. But I think the original need to "give" came from that role that priests played in society.

We've moved beyond that. We now have the US Naval Observatory to keep track of the calendar and doctors to heal the sick. We support those causes (whether we like it or not) through tax dollars (defense budget and medicare respectively).


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:35 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:15 pm
Posts: 1213
DoingHomework wrote:
The whole idea of "tithing" or otherwise supporting religious organizations that otherwise don't contribute to productivity originated in a time when priests were actually scientists and the made a very significant contribution. They figured out when to plant or when to harvest to avoid frost damage or the annual inundation, they cured the sick, and that kind of thing.

Where did you hear this nonsense?


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:25 pm 
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Tightwad wrote:
DoingHomework wrote:
The whole idea of "tithing" or otherwise supporting religious organizations that otherwise don't contribute to productivity originated in a time when priests were actually scientists and the made a very significant contribution. They figured out when to plant or when to harvest to avoid frost damage or the annual inundation, they cured the sick, and that kind of thing.

Where did you hear this nonsense?


It's not nonsense. That's the role shamans/priests/whatever-you-want-to-call-them played in ancient societies. It was important so societies chose to support the priest class. That class no longer serves much more than a vestigal, social role that is more akin to entertainment than anything else.

I guess we found something we disagree about.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:53 pm 

Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:40 pm
Posts: 60
Location: USA
Charles Dickens wrote:
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:01 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:15 pm
Posts: 1213
DoingHomework wrote:
Tightwad wrote:
DoingHomework wrote:
The whole idea of "tithing" or otherwise supporting religious organizations that otherwise don't contribute to productivity originated in a time when priests were actually scientists and the made a very significant contribution. They figured out when to plant or when to harvest to avoid frost damage or the annual inundation, they cured the sick, and that kind of thing.

Where did you hear this nonsense?


It's not nonsense. That's the role shamans/priests/whatever-you-want-to-call-them played in ancient societies. It was important so societies chose to support the priest class. That class no longer serves much more than a vestigal, social role that is more akin to entertainment than anything else.

I guess we found something we disagree about.

Seems so. Although I don't believe in adhering like glue to what most people consider tithing. There's no need to ask most any Pastor of a Evangelical or Catholic Church their thoughts on the subject since that would be like asking the fox to estimate the number of chickens in your hen house.

FWIW, most priests & prophets found in the Bible were just the opposite of what you describe. Most were illiterate & uneducated but all were humble men of faith.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:16 pm 
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Tightwad wrote:
Seems so. Although I don't believe in adhering like glue to what most people consider tithing. There's no need to ask most any Pastor of a Evangelical or Catholic Church their thoughts on the subject since that would be like asking the fox to estimate the number of chickens in your hen house.

FWIW, most priests & prophets found in the Bible were just the opposite of what you describe. Most were illiterate & uneducated but all were humble men of faith.


I was referring to what we know from actual archaeology, history, and anthropological studies of surviving primitive cultures. The bible might be an inspiring book to many, it might even contain some historical fact, but it is far from a reliable source to cite. Besides being self-contradictory, intentionally allegorical in many places, it was heavily edited in antiquity to conform to one group's view at the time, and, if you are reading an English version, it was extensively revised a few hundred years ago to further political ends. Given that history I don't know how anyone can see it as much more than an inspirational text.

As far as the greed/giving/tithing points though, I don't have any issue with anyone that chooses to do that. I just don't think the act of giving is necessarily good. Let's face it, if you give to your church just to go along with everyone else and enjoy the social aspects, that's pretty darned selfish right there.


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 Post subject: Re: Capitalism=Greed?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:07 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
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Location: Seattle, WA
I think y'all are being too harsh on charitable giving.

As a society, 20 members of said society getting a meal is better than one member getting a round of gold. When resources are spread around a bit, they get the most marginal utility.

Therefore, the cultures and/or human DNA's in which charitable giving was present, tended to do better.

Therefore, we are bred to feel good when we give to others. So I think there is plenty of selfish motive for donating to charities etc., even if you don't believe in altruism.


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