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Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011, at 1:04 PM

Greed is one of those timeless evils.

It is one of the seven deadly sins; wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

Greed is defined as, "an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth."

What does this mean? Is there an objective standard, or is it purely subjective?

In a free, capitalist society, there are basically only two ways to accumulate wealth. You can either provide a good or service that people desire more than they desire the money charged for it or you can steal it.

To steal is defined as, "to take the property of another without permission or right, especially secretly or by force."

What if someone has something you need or really want and they are charging too much for it? How much is too much? Is there an objective standard or is it purely subjective?

If, when all is said and done, you are still willing to pay the price, was it really too much or did you value the good or service just a little bit more than you valued the money charged for it?

No human being needs a cellular telephone. No one needs a television. No one needs a car. No one really needs meat to eat. These are all wants and desires.

All living things die. If someone discovers that common bread mold (penicillin) can be used to kill life-threatening bacteria, is this medicine a want or need? How much would you pay for this medicine? You may get better on your own without it. You may not.

All humans have a right to be free from slavery. Slavery is defined as, "compelling someone against their will to render goods or services to another."

Do you have any right to compel someone to provide you with his or her goods or services, even if it is live-saving medicine? If you do, how is it that you have not made that person your slave by doing so? How is it you have not committed theft by taking the labor or property of another without permission or right?

In fact, if an inventor should become fabulously wealthy by selling this life-saving medicine to sick people, won't that inspire others to discover life-saving medicines in the hope that they will also become wealthy? In fact, won't the prospect of great wealth inspire many people to develop similar, perhaps better, goods, services, and medicines? Won't the more people providing these good and services force prices down? Just look at what happens with consumer electronics. Note that older medicines drop in price as new ones become available.

Every decade or so, it seems that young idealists feel compelled to tell society at large how we would all be better if certain people weren't so greedy. After all, greed is immoral. One of the seven deadly sins.

But in a free society, no one compels you to buy a cell phone, a television, a car, or even meat at the grocery store. Each and every one of those transactions are voluntary acts where each purchaser decides that they desire the good or service more than the money being charged for it.

Protestors are blaming our current economic malaise on "corporate greed."

But how is this possible?

If someone is charging too much for what they sell, won't someone else undercut the market and drive the other out of business?

If the price is too high, won't people stop buying and drive them out of business?

Moreover, if the corporate entity is providing something other than basic food, clothing and shelter, aren't they selling wants, not needs? No one is forcing anyone to buy something that is a mere want.

If you can't provide your daily bread by working, why would you work? Unfortunately, at this point in time, there are so many uncertainties in the marketplace and so many regulations effecting the production of goods and services, businesses cannot be sure that in the near future, they will be able to earn their daily bread by doing what they are doing today.

Smart businesses are stockpiling today against the risk of loss tomorrow in the hope that they will survive until better times arrive. Other businesses will simply find that they are going hungry, will stop working and go out of business.

Greed is not a matter of accumulating wealth or even the desire of wealth. Rather, greed, also known as covetousness, is an "excessive desire."

It is a motivation for taking the property of another without permission or right, especially secretly of by force. Greed is an excessive desire, which tempts people into committing theft. It is not a matter of being rich or poor.

In a truly free society, the wealthy are the ones who have given the most to their fellow man by providing them goods and services that consumers desire more than the price being charged.

Note Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and many others.

In a truly free society, the greedy, those who are tempted to take by trickery or force, like Bernie Madoff, are driven from the marketplace.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

So Charles, what are your thoughts on Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan? Comments? Would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this plan. Great blog!

-- Posted by karenmeister on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 7:31 PM

I have been thinking about writing a piece on Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 plan. Rather than doing so as a response to a comment, I think I will work on it for a column in the near future.


-- Posted by Charles Hear on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 8:56 PM

I assume then you have read about Diogenes


and also have read Atlas shrugged


I think you'd enjoy these sites but I warn you that you really have to be committed to reading Atlas Shrugged as it can get verbose in sections.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 3:56 AM

Dear Jenny,

Thanks for your recent comments!

As you know, Diogenes was the father of stoicism. Stoicism paved the way for the acceptance of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. I don't think I read more of Diogenes than was covered in my "concentration" in philosophy in college. However, as an avid reader of classic literature, I have read a couple of stoics, and at least one ascetic.

I read Atlas Shrugged in the 1990's and loved it! When thinking on these subjects I often muse about the obnoxious Reardon and how his Reardon Metal improved society.

Economics is neither moral nor immoral. It is as amoral as breathing. Only people, in the exercise of their free will, can be moral or immoral. Law can punish immoral behavior, but immorality can never be regulated away so long as there is free will.

Charitable behavior is wonderful. It is a good that helps to separate saints from sinners. But it is immoral, evil if you will, to compel charity by force of law.

-- Posted by Charles Hear on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 8:36 AM

I look forward to reading your blog about Herman Cain, who so far seems to be the only real one on the GOP ticket for President. However, only time will tell....Lol.

-- Posted by karenmeister on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:39 AM

Funny thing about greed, no one who is greedy ever recognizes it in the mirror, do they?

-- Posted by alwaysopenminded on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 3:25 PM

I really don't think there is actually very much left from Diogenes wrote but he seems to be quoted rightly or wrongly. It's his attitude that if you have nothing than nothing can be taken away from you and that is only way to be happy, never fearing that something will be taken from you. I can see why his attitude was an inroad for Christianity where you focus more on rewards of the next life instead of your position in this one.

Talking about charity...where I am currently living you claim your religion to the government and then you are taxed to support that religion. I see good and bad sides to this. Bad thing is you don't decide how much you are going to support your church as the government decides [I think it's 8%]but the good side is the clergy aren't always trying to fund raise from the pulpit so they can devote their time to ministering to their parish. Of course the other thing is that there are only two state sanctioned religions the government collects for...not quite separation of church and state as we have it in the US as nothing is done to support any other religions. I'm learning a lot.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 3:33 AM

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