Thursday, December 16, 2004

Don Boudreaux = kewl

Don Boudreaux casts aside the lid on social attitudes. Behold:

Ever notice how enthusiastically our popular and political culture endorses and even celebrates self-interestedness?

Nope. But wait --

Many obviously self-interested actions are admired and encouraged. Only some self-interested actions are slapped with the label "greed" and condemned as ugly and harmful.

Jogging to stay healthy is virtuous; managing your pharmaceutical firm to stay profitable is inconsiderate (and for many people downright scandalous).

Damned greedy, those joggers.

Boudreaux analyses the patterns of double standards in the "greed" definition -- and reaches a surprising conclusion.

Don B. doesn't delve into the whys and wherefores here, but I think people tar financial aspirations as "selfish" because they believe it's a zero-sum game. Nobody loses out if you run a mile, but if you earn a hundred dollars -- why, you might as well have taken it out of a homeless person's pocket, the way you'll be reviled.

4 comments:

Damian - said...

You are right on, Clara! It makes perfect sense.

And how come you are so smart? I am glad you are on my side. And on my blog. ("My blog"? How greedy.)

Clara said...

Actually, you're on MY side. =)

Dan said...

An interesting response:
http://universalacid.blogspot.com/2004/12/myths-and-fallacies.html

Basically, self-interested actions can harm others (cutting back quality control in the drive for profit: Union Carbide).

I know the response: "But if a company hurts people/prodcues a shoddy product/shits on my doorstep then people will stop buying their products."

This assumes that the consumer bears the negative externalities of production. In many cases (Union Carbide- it's just so easy), the consumer is thousands of miles from the flaming ball of pollution and doesn't care.

Perhaps the answer lies in making sure there is total informational symmetry- everyone knows about the product, where it comes from, how it was made, how many people were killed making it; this may help inform the consumers final decision.

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