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How Does Capitalism Lend Itself to Greed?

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How Does Capitalism Lend Itself to Greed?-


"What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system."
      - Milton Friedman

We get a lot of people coming to this site searching for the answers to specific questions. One of the more recent questions that we got is "How does capitalism lend itself to greed?" I'll try to give you a relatively quick answer to this.

Most people harbor some level of greed within them, this is just human nature. And it's not a bad thing. In fact, greed can be a very productive tool. It's a positive emotion that helps to motivate people. It's certainly more positive than fear or pain, which is another means of motivating people (slavery). One aspect of capitalism is that it uses people's natural greed, ambition and desire for reward to promote progress. It's very much in sync with the way that humans tend to do things and it works with that human greed, instead of trying to repress it.

Unlike other economic systems such as communism, capitalism doesn't restrict how much money a person can potentially make, assuming that they have the ability and the desire to make it. Basically, capitalism allows people to have the option to exercise their greed. It rewards that kind of ambition and provides the possibility for someone to become wealthier or more successful than they already are. Naturally, many people try to take advantage of this opportunity that capitalism provides. You can call it being greedy, ambitious or just trying to improve one's lifestyle, but it all just comes down to wanting something better.

"Why despite evil associated with capitalism it is considered to be the best option?"

Though a bit oddly phrased, this is a related question that we got. First I will state that capitalism is not perfect and that there is no such thing as a perfect economic system; everything has flaws and drawbacks. But the reason that capitalism is considered the best option, is simply because it is.

Many of the people who go around condemning the "evils" of capitalism don't seem to understand the largely positive impact that it has had on society and human progress. As pointed out above, people are greedy by nature and they want rewards for their work. Capitalism provides them with that motivation and as a result, encourages them to put out the effort to innovate and keep pressing forward. If people can't make a larger amount of money or gain any greater level of success for their work, then they won't put in the effort to do it.

It's important to remember that the affects of capitalism are so widespread and all encompassing that it can be very difficult to see sometimes, but it affects everything and life would be much harder without it.

The Twentieth Century introduced an unprecedented level of progress in many fields of human endeavor and much of this has to do with capitalism. So many of the technological advances that we enjoy today, including the computer that you are reading this off of and the software that it is running, are all due to someone wanting to make a better life for themselves and therefore were willing to put in the time and effort it took to create a better product to sell to us. The same could be said for medical advances as well. The capitalist system and the social environment that it creates, is one of the contributing factors to people living longer and more comfortable lives.

And of course capitalism encourages competition among different businesses and by doing so, ultimately helps to provide better products for the rest of us. If someone thinks they have a better way of doing things that provides more value to the public, they're free to try it under a capitalist system. Their reward for putting in that time and effort is winning customers. If they weren't able to make money like that, then why would they bother to do it?

Capitalism provides plenty of room for people to succeed or fail based on their own abilities. It allows for the possibility for the poor to rise up and become wealthy. But this also means that not everyone will have an equal level of success and this seems to be many people's biggest problem with capitalism. The real issue that many of the critics of capitalism don't seem to want to confront is the simple fact that humans themselves are not equal. Not everyone can accomplish things or do things at the same level as others. This means that some people will naturally do better than others and capitalism reflects this inherent inequality. Trying to force equality on naturally unequal organisms (people) usually means that everyone suffers.

However, the interesting thing is that although some people have much greater success than others under a capitalist system, everyone tends to do better in general. For instance, here in the U.S., even many people who are classified as poor by the U.S. Census Bureau still have things like cars or trucks, satellite or cable TVs, refrigerators and air conditioning (not to mention "necessities" like running water and electricity). Though not perfect, when it comes to living a free, comfortable life, capitalism is the best option that we currently have.

- False Prophet

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