Greed is an essential virtue part 1
On this blog, I talk a lot about Christianity and how it is the bitter enemy of Western civilization and modern values. In fact, it's somewhat of a refrain with me : Western civilization and modern values, Western civilization and modern values. It's an important point because the extreme tension between them is an essential part of the culture wars. If Christianity was in accord with modern values, the atheist movement would be reduced to atheology, and thus would have little social consequences. But if Christianity was in accord with modern values, then it wouldn't be Christianity at all.
However, I don't want people to think that I completely support modern values. I diverge with them on many points. One important point, perhaps the most important, is the idea that greed - greed for money (materialism), greed for knowledge (scientific progress), greed for happiness and pleasure (hedonism) - must always be tempered and tamed by the "common good".
It was not always this way. When industrialism just started and people were starting to emerge from the poverty of agriculture, it was more natural to value greed. A greedy person makes a better life for himself than a content, passive one. People didn't join the factories because they liked the smoke or because they liked the products - but because they wanted to make a better life for themselves than the back-breaking 365-days-a-year work of the small unmechanized farm.
Nowadays, in Western civilization, and for the first time in history, we finally have enough resources for most of us have leisure and to pursue our values in a more systematic manner. That means we also have enough resources for the most fortunate and disaffected amongst us to be able to complain about having too much resources - giving us the altruistic and Greenie movements, which are solely built on that premise.
Why do these people argue against greed ? They say that greed is socially regressive, that greed helps the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, that a society solely ruled by greed would be devoid of feelings, decency, virtue.
In fact, if we observe what happened historically, the reverse is true. From the dangerous journeys of merchant ships to today's technological globalization, from man's frantic searches for regularity in nature to today's laboratories and incredible scientific tools, from the original thirst for freedom and equality to today's extensive leisure markets, greed in all its forms has been the single most powerful impetus for the progress of mankind.
Today's marriage of science with capitalism has made the 21st century the best period to live in - expanded our lifespan by more than half, eradicated diseases, made mass literacy, communications and transport available to all, gave us food from around the world at lower prices than ever, gave us the productivity that makes leisure markets possible, but most importantly freed us considerably from the constraints of local culture and politics through commodification. Now lifestyle is no longer as much of a geographic issue as it is a personal issue - where we live, who we live with, how we live, and how we die.
Greed, commercialization, selfishness, have the end result of making things better for everyone. On the other hand, the policies "intangibilists" - people who believe that the "intangibles" are most important - "culture supremacists" and altruists only lead to disaster. It is precisely the motors of progress, science and capitalism, that the altruists constantly attack - in the popular culture (no one is more demonized than scientists and entrepreneurs), in political discourse (movements against the markets and scientific research are legion) and in the post-modern parts of academia.
This article continues in part 2.