Greed in America beneficial

The best way to describe Occupy Wall Street is as an eclectic movement expressing a shared discontent toward the nation’s distribution of wealth as well as the perceived greed of corporations and Wall Street.

Esther Cheong | Daily Trojan

Though the opinions, grievances and goals of the Occupy protesters are too numerous and diverse to succinctly categorize, there is one observable, important characteristic that separates the protesters into two distinguishable groups.

There are protesters whose primary interest is putting what they see as a rigged system back onto a level playing field where everyone has a fair chance to compete.

The anger here stems from the belief that corporate bailouts are something uniquely un-American, something completely contrary to a system of free enterprise and something that even the top 1 percent would agree shouldn’t fly. For the protesters, the idea is to restore true capitalism — one without supposed corporate greed.

The other group of protesters is primarily concerned with crusading against what it sees as an inherently flawed system based on corporate greed and capitalistic malfeasance. For those, the idea is to eradicate capitalism and the greed it perpetuates altogether.

In response to these protesters who believe capitalism itself is to blame and who have made the concept of greed the main target of their campaign, I would like to quote the famous movie Wall Street: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

Greed is just another term for “self-interest.” The only distinction is that greed is supposedly an excess of self-interest, which for economic purposes is no distinction at all.

The true brilliance of America, aside from its unique heritage, is its economic system in which the pursuit of self-interest generates greater productivity and greater prosperity for the nation as a whole. Even if we completely did away with capitalism and free trade, as some of the protestors would like, self-interest and greed would still exist.

“Tell me, is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed?” economist Milton Friedman once said. “You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? … The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.”

America has prospered because of a system in which the basic human instinct of self-interest is rewarded and channeled into productivity. Individuals are free to make a name for themselves, and in doing so, they can build an economy more beneficial for everyone.

What protesters should understand when addressing problems such as a shrinking middle class, highly skewed distribution of wealth and political system beholden to special interests — all serious problems that require real solutions — is that greed has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Those who rally against corporate greed and companies pursuing profits at the “expense” of everyone else don’t see the full picture. Corporate greed is not greed at all — it’s the basic responsibility of corporations to their shareholders. If there’s a problem with the distribution of wealth in this country, it’s not because of greed. It’s because of the system as a whole, and that lands on the shoulders of the government.

Those who blame the greed of the 1 percent for the plight of the 99 percent completely miss the point. The 1 percent deserves no blame. The bankers on Wall Street have done exactly what they should have done, exactly what anyone in their positions would.


Justin Davidoff is a junior majoring in business administration. 

12 replies
  1. Global Econ 101
    Global Econ 101 says:

    The major problem is that governments around the world and the banks/corporations/financial sectors are so intertwined that they are almost one and the same. The “regulators” are hired from the same sector that they are charged with “overseeing.” Can you say “conflict of interest?” Then we have our “leaders” and “representatives,” if we can call them that, who are beholden to the almighty $$$ because that is what got them into power in the first place. Since multinational corporations operate on a global scale, the executives, stockholders, and the politicians that they buy, are the relative few who benefit from this system. Call it capitalism, a free market global economy, or the new world order, but BILLIONS of people around the world are slaves to the system’s every whim and desire. That is called greed and it is not in the interest of the individual; it is in the interest of the oligarchy, period.

  2. Howard
    Howard says:

    Sorry, but greed and self-interest are not good in and of themselves. What makes them good is when they produce productivity that is connected to communities and society at large. Today’s corporations and banks are not tied to communities and not even tied to American society. They are multi-national, borderless entities, who have all the rights of a person but none of the responsibility. They don’t pay fair taxes, and they don’t have any qualms about uprooting the wealth of this country into their private coffers.

    Self-interest is based on the principle that people are rational. But people are inherently irrational and only rational only in specific cases. There is a wonderful book, Predictably Irrational, that discusses the scientific basis for our irrationality. All theories of self-interest fail, because they don’t take this into account.

    Finally, the government is not solely responsible for this current economic climate. Banks, economics, and corporations heavily lobbied the government to produce this climate for their own greed, and then handed ordinary citizens the bill when it failed. To end the problem, we do need different ways of constructing how banks and corporations use their wealth to unfairly influence the government.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      The problems you just mentioned, corporations not paying fair taxes and using money to influence the government- don’t have anything to do with greed and self-interest. They have to do with laws and government regulations. I think you just proved the author’s case unintentionally lol

      • Howard
        Howard says:

        How did those laws and government regulations come about? So I suppose no one is responsible for the failure of our economy? Everyone just showed up to be greedy under some rules that magically appeared?

        To change laws and government regulations, we have to get Congress and the President to act. How is that possible when the opposing side has unlimited amounts of money and friends in high places? If that’s the natural outcome of greed and self-interest, then it is wrong and psychopathic.

        • Matt
          Matt says:

          No it’s simple really. We have to stand up to our elected officials, and vote them out of office if necessary, to do something about the way lobbying works- campaign finance reform for instance. I think the author even mentioned that he’s totally fine with protesters who want that. I mean look at what the Tea Party did, whether you agree with them or not, they used their voice to make their issues the #1 concern and their agenda is succeeding. So instead of blaming private individuals, blame government and demand a change in the rules. I think the author put it brilliantly actually, but I’m happy to clarify.

  3. Jasmine
    Jasmine says:

    Refreshing point of view. I consider myself pretty liberal but I can see the merits in this argument. Definitely not what you would expect from an average college student.

  4. edward hay
    edward hay says:

    What’s worse…a greedy corporation, a greedy union, or a greedy politician?
    All 3 are power corrupted, both have lost their guiding principles, & live off the wealth of others.

    So why all the focus on private sector corporations?
    The public sector UNIONS, who buy off & control their DNC POLITICIANS are equally to blame if not more so. Their objective is clear: power. control. silence the opposition. “i’m OK, you’re not OK”; my agenda 1st, yours last”, no independent thinking. create dependent minds. Visit ANY Communist/Socialist country & you’ll see how this plays out.

    NO WONDER WHY PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD FLOCK TO THIS COUNTRY. They don’t want to be dependent on others … UNLESS they are the lazy type that suck the wealth out of the labour or others….like mosquitos & parasites.

    Abraham Lincoln was right when he said…”America’s greatest enemy will come from WITHIN.”

  5. emily
    emily says:

    I’m glad to see the DT finally published something reflecting an alternative viewpoint as they so rarely do so.

  6. m.d. Wills
    m.d. Wills says:

    You had me with you until the end where you said: “If there’s a problem with the distribution of wealth in this country, it’s not because of greed. It’s because of the system as a whole, and that LANDS ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE GOVERNMENT.” I hate to remind you of your 5th grade social studies but…. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT!!! You, me the 99% and the 1%. To repeat a tired old metaphor “We have the best government that MONEY CAN BUY.” The 99% are trying to wrestle the power of the government back to the people. The same government that has refused to prosecute the bankers on wall street that caused the recession of 2008-present. The same recession that has sucked in 5 trillion TAXPAYER/99% tax dollars. When Enron crashed – the corporate decision makers were tried, convicted and sent to jail. When Worldcom crashed – the corporate decision makers were tried, convicted and sent to jail. Where are the trials and convictions of Lehman Brothers executives who’s reckless and dangerous decisions (and 250% bigger than Enron and Worldcom combined) that led to the meltdown? Where are the indictments and trials of Merril Lynch, Goldman Sachs, B of A executives who also WERE THE MAJOR PLAYERS AND MADE THE SAME RECKLESS AND DANGEROUS DECISIONS? Capitalism succeeds when everyone is treated equally under our Constitution. When a group of people ARE ABOVE THE LAW, the law no longer is valid. If something is too big to fail, it NEEDS TO BE BROKEN UP. None of that has happened. Capitalism no longer exists when the government fails to uphold the law and protect those who hurt the very people the government is formed to protect.

    • James
      James says:

      You can’t prosecute someone for reckless decisions man. Enron and Worldcom were frauds, they were illegal by the law. The author is saying that the system was broken, which was the fault of the government for not putting enough regulation on bankers. But it wasn’t the fault of the banks. They might have made stupid financial decisions, but it wasn’t illegal.

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