Saturday, January 16, 2010

Being Greedy II

In this clip Milton Friedman, the unofficial economic adviser to President Reagan, gets it wrong. He asserts that technology and freedom need to have greed as it basis for advancement. This is one of the most absurd statements that I have ever heard. And just because greed is rampant does not mean that it is good. Friedman advocates greed as the motivator for achievement. Tell that to the American people who have lost so much over the last two years.

Greed is not good.

"What produced this tremendous improvement in technology? It was self-interest or, if you prefer, greed: the greed of producers who want to produce something that they could make them a dollar, the greed of consumers who wanted to buy things as cheaply as they could. Did government play a role in this? Very little. Only by keeping the road clear for human greed and self-interest to promote the welfare of the consumer."

--Milton Friedman

Fulfilling one's passion does not arbitrarily point to greed; neither does producing products in order to provide for one's family greed. It is love of the work and desire to be productive and responsible citizens, parents, and community leaders. Isn't it clearly seen why President Reagan talked so much about "freedom" and "free enterprise." They appeared to be euphemisms for greed.


zorro said...

I read an article that Friedman had written in 1962. In 1962, government spending was not looked down upon - in fact, it had worked quite well since WWII. He was clearly uncomfortable with this fact. Before WWII, the government put very little money into science. Ironically, the improvement in technology that Friedman is talking about was driven by government spending. Greed in and of itself it what we have is a product of the ideas Friedman pushed. No technology has been developed with much of our current round of greed. But greed is a big motivator behind sending so many jobs offshore and the push behind making us all 'temps'.
Greed will destroy us if we let it. But we do need some greed to move us along. As a nation, we no longer seem able to strike the right balance. In fact there are many who seem to think balance is the last thing we should strive for.

Judith Ellis said...

Excellent comment, Zorro! I agree with everything except that "We do need some greed to move us along." Greed depends on the destruction of others, not merely the competitive edge to which I assume you are actually referring. I do agree that this is inherent in capitalism and even in human nature. But we must rise above base desires. Why does greed need to be the motivation? Why not fulfilling purpose or filling a need or desire or providing for one's family be the motivating force? Greed is NEVER good! It destroys community.

zorro said...

Greed is part of our evolution. Most of the time humans existed, resources were scare. Get it while you can was the way it went. Of course, it was not just individuals who were greedy, it was the tribe - and this fostered community. Greed helped gets us through the ages, but so did cooperation. Friedman only discusses Greed. He does not mention cooperation. He is only speaking of individual achievement.
As a nation, we have been following his philosophy for almost 30 years and we are much weaker because of it. But many of us do not want to face up to it. In many ways, we are not even a country. We are just a bunch of competing individuals. And for some reason, this is called 'freedom'.

Here is another column by Tom Friedman.

Judith Ellis said...

Zorro - I understand your point about evolution and made a similar point about the same elsewhere with a slightly different twist:

I would hope we would not leave this world as we have entered. As babies we are typically selfish and self-centered; we focus on our needs. As adults, we must consider others.

Your point about freedom is well received. Thanks for the Friedman link. I'll read the article and probably have something to say about it.

zorro said...

Milton Freidman also thought there is no need to test drugs or for the FDA to have standards for sanitation. He thought market forces would take care of this. What he seemed to be willfully ignorant of was these regulatons were reactions to large instances of fatal food poisonings and disastrous results from free market drugs.(Thalidomide is one example) All regulations exist because of a failure in the free market. They were not created from the thin air. People like Milton Friedman are in love with an abstract idea.

Judith Ellis said...

"People like Milton Friedman are in love with an abstract idea."

Yes, this is the problem with ideologues. They are not pragmatists at all and because of this they are not able to see clearly or to self-correct. Bad policies are propagated ad infinitum, even to the point of destruction.

I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Zorro.

zorro said...

Science showing that 'the most selfish thing you can do is help people"
that is a quote from the following NYT column

Judith Ellis said...

Zorro - That is an absolutely foolish comment and I'd imagine I don't need to read the article to verify that. But I'll probably read it anyway. I think we had a variance of this discussion on another blog and we probably need not go there again, no?

Judith Ellis said...

Okay, Zorro, I just read the article and I understand the premise. Helping others feels good. Tis true. But I object to the terms selfishness and greed to describe such feelings. With regards to science, data changes all the time as our knowledge increase. But how we talk about science is equally important such as the words used to define the science itself.