Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Greed is an essential virtue part 2

The fundamental problem with belief in "intangibles" is that there is no such thing as an "intangible", and that it is an arbitrary demarcation meant to separate individualism from collectivism, so one can preach the latter as a superior position. Religion, family, society, culture, charity, as well as feelings towards all of these, are elevated to a status of "intangible". But all of these things are tangible and exist within the material world. When analyzed rationally, they are values which can only be pursued when one has the resources to do so (if one desires to pursue them at all).

Should we temper greed to accomodate these "intangibles", lest progress leave them behind ? Why ? If they are really desired values, then people will pursue them regardless of progress. But on the other hand, if people recognize them as unuseful, then they will be abandoned.

So in essence, the "intangibilists" and the "culture supremacists" are contradicting themselves in clamoring that their "intangible" values are important, and in demanding that those values be promoted or enforced in some way. If these values are so important, then why do they need promotion or enforcment ? No one needs to promote friendship, love or sex. The value of these is immediately apparent. But most importantly, unlike the more collectivist values promoted by the "intangibilists", these values have freely chosen expressions. You choose your friends, but you don't choose your family.

The altruists claim they have only the good of their fellow men in mind. Yet we've seen the ultimate result of the rejection of greed for collective sacrifice in the 20th century - in the form of the most murderous dictatorships known to man. When individualism, voluntary cooperation and self-interest are rejected, the only things left are sacrifice, violence and death. While we can't compare the scope of the simplistic anti-consumeurism, anti-capitalist beliefs of the modern altruists with the grand social programs of the Nazis and the communists, both partake of the same river. They both seek to suppress individual thought and action in the name of a "noble" collectivist ideal.

I am an individualist and a moral realist. My basic position is that we should leave people free to express their values, regardless of whether they offend us or not. The constant attacks on science and capitalism, and emphasis on religious and tribalist premises, offend me very much, but unlike them I don't want to impose my value system on everyone else. I simply want to live in a society that leaves us all free to express our values. But we must all realize, whatever our opinions, that whatever values you have cannot be effected without resources. Without the progressist power of greed, any expression of value would still be at its most primitive, "intangible" or not. There is little place for family or religion when you constantly need to work and hunt for your bare survival.

Does the altruist's belief in "giving is better then making/taking" hold any water ? At its simplest level, it is a self-destructive contradiction - without any production, there would be no resources to give ! But even when taken in a more sophisticated way, it is still nonsense. While it may be morally indicated, there is no inherent merit at all in giving away resources. All you're doing is signing a check. The hard work is in producing those resources and making them available to everyone. Therein lies the progress and the biggest help in eradicating poverty, not "giving", which has no enduring value and no standards.

I'm not against charity, of course. Charity is morally validated by desiring to live in a better society, one with less poverty. But this is actual enduring value with empirical standards. The "giving" of the altruists, on the other hand, brooks no standard or enduring value - we have to value it for its own sake. For example, in the notion of "corporate responsibility", there is no comparison done between the money given out by such programs and the commercial uses that money could have been used for, and the benefits of each to society. Empirical comparisons are the last thing altruists want, because their principles are based on feelings.

What about the accusation that greed is devoid of feelings, decency, virtue ? What can be more virtuous than being a producer ? And what is more devoid of decency than suppressing people's needs and desires for a better life ? It is the fist of the state and the church that is indecent, not the open hand of the markets. Can people lack these things ? Sure, but it's our role to detect this and support competitors, not to use it to make life worse for everyone else.

Greed has always been one of the most precious human virtues. We shouldn't let the propaganda of the statists and the religious turn it into a sin.

Post a Comment


At 3/11/2006 12:12 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

"If these values are so important, then why do they need promotion or enforcment?"

Well said. It bears repeating.

"It is more noble to give than to receive."

Now there's a nice intangible for you, nobility. Class. Birthright. And who is foisting this generosity falsehood off on whom? Give a man a fish, and you teach him to beg you for another tomorrow.

At 3/15/2006 3:58 PM, Blogger Dwight declaimed...

My question is: how is it not the case that the individualism, and in this case greed, etc. are not also values which are being promoted. In this case, they are being promoted on this site.


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