Greed - Vital to Human Welfare
What's the noblest of human motivations? Some might be tempted to answer: charity, love of one's neighbor or, in modern, politically correct language: giving something back to the community. In my book, these are indeed noble motivations, but they pale in comparison to a much more potent motivation for human action. For me the noblest of human motivations is greed. I don't mean theft, fraud, tricks, or misrepresentation. By greed I mean people being only or mostly concerned with getting the most they can for themselves and not necessarily concerned about the welfare of others. Social consternation might cause one to cringe at the suggestion that greed might possibly be seen as a noble motivation. "Enlightened self-interest" might be a preferable term. I prefer greed since it is far more descriptive and less likely to be confused with other human motives.
That human greed is the greatest of human motivations should be obvious to all; however, a few examples will make it more concrete. Texas cattle ranchers make enormous sacrifices to husband and insure the safety and well-being of their herds: running down stray cattle in the snow to care for and feed them, hiring veterinarians to insure their health, taking them to feed yards in time to fatten them up prior to selling them to slaughter houses. The result of these sacrifices is that New Yorkers can enjoy having beef on their supermarket shelves. Idaho potato farmers arise early in the morning. They do backbreaking work in potato fields, with the sun beating down on them and maybe being eaten by bugs. Similarly, the result of their sacrifices is that New Yorkers can also enjoy having potatoes on their supermarket shelves.
Why do Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make these sacrifices? Is it because they love New Yorkers? Only the most naive would chalk their motivation up to one of a concern for one's fellow man in New York. The reason Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make those sacrifice is that they love themselves. They want more for themselves. In a word, they are greedy!
But that is the miracle of the market. Through serving the wants of one's fellow man, one acquires more for himself. That is precisely what Adam Smith meant when he said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantage." Adam Smith added, "By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." One might pause here for a moment and ask: How much beef and potatoes would New Yorkers enjoy if it all depended on human love, charity and kindness? I'd be worried about...