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.