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On the Uses of Greed and the Current Finacial Mess

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4 Responses

  1. On the other hand, as natural and justifiable as our revulsion to greed is, I’m skeptical of how useful it is when thinking about systemic causes and solutions.

    Really? Apropos some of the recent discussions of Marx and Marxism on this board, those of us who find some useful ways of thinking about society and culture in Marx’s work (and the immense secondary literature) find the power of capitalism an immensely useful prism for thinking about systemic causes and solutions for all manner of social phenomena.

    To be sure, it is hardly the only cause, and as to this particular phenomenon it may well not be the primary cause, but I think it unwise to discount the awesome social force of capitalism as an engine for all sorts of ideas, conditions, events, both venal and salutary.

  2. Lori Ringhand says:

    This post resonates with thoughts I had earlier today after hearing the “greed” explanation from various actors. It strikes me that invoking “greed” in this context is the functional equivalent of the “bad apples” defense we’ve heard in relation to things like Abu Ghraib: a way to place blame solely on individual conduct rather than a systemic breakdown. That approach seems particularly inappropriate in a corporate context where, after all, the duty of the corporate entity is unabashedly to make money for the shareholders. In such a context, it is the job of regulators, not CEO’s, to establish and enforce responsible and necessary limits on corporate conduct.

  3. pal says:

    Nate, I agree very much with your observations. But I wish you wouldn’t use words like ‘irregardless’ (see 2d paragraph).

  4. Frank says:

    I can see your points about the futility of looking to change hearts and minds here; but this post by Larison of The American Conservative is interesting:

    “As the temporary ability to pay increases, restraint recedes and a culture of feeding and exciting appetites grows. As virtue is the moderation or even denial of appetites, moral integrity in society as a whole weakens as this culture gains ground.”

    “When limits to our consumption seem to fall away, the desire for acquisition and domination becomes stronger and it begins to be expressed in our relations with the rest of the world. We begin to define our interests to satisfy unbounded desire, and so the scope of what we believe is rightfully ours expands until it encircles most, if not all, of the globe, and we are then violently offended when our claims are challenged. ”