What is greed?

What is greed?

Given the current political and social environment, I think this to be a pretty important question. When do we determine that someone is being greedy? I doubt it’s something that many people have stopped to question, even though many have had little restraint in referring to others in this manner.

Greed is often used to describe the rich, the 1%ers. The idea is that the few filthy rich have only gotten where they are out of their greed, and therefore the rest of man has suffered. Aside from the economic arguments about wealth creation vs. wealth distribution, I’d like to approach this question in a strictly moral sense.

The actions of the poor and the rich alike are derived from something very basic in human nature, the pursuit of self-interests. Almost everything we do is done out of self-interest. Whether we choose a higher paying job over another, or choose a lower paying job with better hours, we do these things because of our own personal desires and motivations. Even philanthropic activity can be viewed in this way. Ask a volunteer at a food kitchen, or the founder of a charity why they do it. Most often you will get some great answers that demonstrate the beautiful nature of human beings. But woven in to those answers is almost always a statement that goes something like this, “it makes me feel good to do _____”. Yes people are helping each other when they perform these activities, and they should in no way be criticized. But stop and ask yourself, would people be doing these things if they truly didn’t want to? If they didn’t somehow value spending their time volunteering over not volunteering, would they be at the soup kitchen on the weekend? The point is that while the person may not have physically benefited as far as third parties can tell, they internally receive some type of value in performing these tasks. Therefore they are in fact engaging in activity that fits their own individual self-interests and desires.

Now to the main argument…

When a rich person makes a million dollars one year, but sets out to make $5 million next year, many of our friends on the left no doubt might consider this greedy. If you’re saying to yourself “no, that’s not greedy”, then what about a person that makes $100 billion dollars one year and wishes to make $500 billion the next? Is that an example of greed? I’m willing to bet that the number of people who think this is a demonstration of greed has gone up from the previous example. 
Now take a low income worker who makes $20k a year. When that worker goes home and wishes he could make $40k next year, is that greed? I’m willing to bet no one would regard this as greedy. However, the thing to consider here is that both the man wishing to make 500 billion and the man wishing to make 40 thousand are both acting out of self-interest. There is absolutely no difference between the two men as far as their incentives and aspirations. They may use that money for different reasons, but the betterment of their own person is the sole reason for their wishes. 
If you think this is an unfair example, or you think that the low-income man’s aspirations for more wealth are somehow virtuous because of his lower income, then consider this. When many people around the world are suffering, or living on just a few dollars a day, is it now benign and virtuous for that man to aspire to make 40 thousand next year? For those of you fixated on equality, isn’t it a morally reprehensible act to want to double your own income, even though you already make a few hundred times what some people are forced to live on?

The point that is being made is that people act out of their own self-interest and incentives. The only qualifying factor that distinguishes between what is considered greedy and not greedy is the dollar amount, and that dollar amount is strictly relative. This certainly seems like a very insufficient way to assess whether someone is deserving of their wealth or not. And besides all of this, where is this imaginary cut off dollar amount? Who decides where that cut of resides? Taking a page from Friedman, “We’re never greedy. It’s always the other guy who’s greedy.”

What about when a rich business man lobbies congress, or sways politicians with money in order to enact favorable legislation? Now this goes far beyond the scope of creating wealth and enters in to rent seeking. This act should be regarded as wrong because it is in fact cheating by using the force of government to get a favorable outcome. The government has a monopoly on force, and using that force to your advantage is particularly dishonorable. No doubt this occurs in our present day politics, and we can all agree that this needs to end. But while the act is most certainly bad, we can agree that the business man is acting out of his own self-interest. 

So using our previous example, what if the man making $20 thousand a year attempts to use government to his advantage? When lower income people vote for legislators promising to increase taxes on the rich and benefits to the poor, is that not the same thing as a rich man using the force of government to his advantage? In both cases, other people must suffer in some regard in order to benefit the people engaging in the rent seeking. Why is it considered morally repugnant when business men engage in this, but not when people wish to tax other individuals more in order to personally gain from it?

This is because the idea of greed is only relative to an arbitrary standard, and the people screaming about income inequality and economic fairness have a monopoly on the power to set these standards. Some might view the millionaire’s desire for 5 million as a qualification of greed, some might not. Most might assume the billionaire is greedy. But where does this line begin? Why are similar actions deriving from the very same pursuit of self interests considered to be on the opposite side of the moral spectrum? Why are middle class Americans like myself who engage in the pursuit of more wealth not considered greedy even though we make a considerable amount more than what is needed to really live on, or even what our fellow humans are living on.

These are the real questions that we need to be asking. The more we ignore this, the more we will decline into a society pitted against each other where we all suffer. Eventually we’ll all be equal but financially, physically, and morally poor.

Things are not always what they seem

The world is a complex and intricate place, filled with endless uncertainties and variables which undoubtedly shape our experiences. Often people jump to conclusions about the world, using their own knowledge of life, and capitalizing on the knowledge of those closest to them. It seems like an inevitability of life; we all do it. But preconceived notions and limited experiences can only go so far, especially in the realm of politics and economics. Many of our generation’s “problems” change quite dramatically when we consider the uncertainties and variables surrounding those concerns.

Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.


This quote sums up much of our national concerns regarding everything from inequality, race, and gender, to foreign policy, money, and markets. Many of these concerns are packaged into neat single servings of information and rhetoric, mostly because the appetite, or attention span of the average citizen cannot simply handle more than that. But while the average Jane and Joe gorge on the latest hashtag or reality show, their anorexic appetite for clarity allows them to idly sit by as the world we have created for ourselves is tested, and threatened.

Emotions and feelings are discharged as WMDs in today’s “war on the mind”, with almost any conversation about world events turning into a Cold War stare down. But it’s often the “first appearance” of many topics that garner much of the emotion. With some closer scrutiny, many of these pillars of modern political debate tend to manifest themselves into issues and situations much detached from the emotions of those waging a verbal assault on their opponents. Feelings are an important part of our lives, and they are necessary for us to remain human in a world so organically detached. But before we let our feelings get the best of us, it might be of some worth to remember “things are not always what they seem”.

I’m “pro-choice”, but wait…

I am “pro-choice”, but this label does little to define why I consider myself such. Unlike most pro-choice advocates (although I wouldn’t consider myself an advocate), I don’t see abortion in a positive light, but I do recognize the liberty involved with allowing a woman to make those decisions regardless of how deplorable some may see it in a given situation. I also recognize that there are certain medical instances in which an abortion may save the woman’s life, or how an abortion may be necessary to combat the consequences of something out of a woman’s control, like rape. Putting these points aside, there are a few issues that are made synonymous with the “pro-choice” argument, and I wish to address those.

Often the first platitude to rear its ugly head when discussing “pro-choice” or “women’s choice” is almost always “access” to contraception. This strays away from the actual pro-choice argument, but it invariably gets brought up when a “pro-lifer” and a “pro-choicer” discuss this issue. I don’t think I’ve ever had a serious conversation with someone about abortion where the issue of birth control and contraception hasn’t made an appearance. I think this is because the issue of contraception and women’s “access” to it gets neatly packaged together with other things like abortion, and with a little verbal virtuosity, we end up with a phrase, women’s rights, that makes it almost impossible to have a serious conversation about the problem at hand. It almost seems like a game of word play is being made out of such a serious issue, and it almost always happens at the expense of people opposed to the political left.

Somehow the definition of the word “access” has been contorted and republished in some Orwellian fashion, changing it from the ability to obtain or make use of something, to the ability to demand something be provided to you with someone else’s money. Unless the world magically changed since my last trip to the pharmacy, contraceptives in many different forms are readily available, and at minimal cost to the consumer. In fact I think it would be harder to purchase cough medicine as a young teen under 18 than it would be to purchase a box of condoms. And let’s not stop at condoms… We have male condoms, female condoms, condoms with spermicide, diaphragms, sponges, sponges with spermicide, and cervical caps. All, with the exception of cervical caps and diaphragms, are completely over the counter, no prescription required, and all come in fun sizes, shapes, colors, and even flavors. Then we have birth control, the drug, which for $50-80 a month can be “accessed” with a simple doctor’s prescription. My fiancé practically had to fight the doctor to NOT prescribe her birth control during her last visit. So what exactly is the issue about “access” to contraception, and why does it get brought up when discussing abortion?

No really, I’m asking…

I often see the argument made as sort of a rhetorical jab at opponents of abortion, essentially saying “hey, well you won’t provide people “access” to contraceptives, so how else do you expect people to deal with unwanted pregnancies!?”. People often tie this to the failure of the federal government (specifically Republicans) in providing free contraceptive to women. Hence our only course of action must be to abort pregnancies willy nilly. Anyone should be skeptical the second someone mentions the word “access” when making their point on this matter. Once again, it’s almost impossible to avoid it when discussing abortion or women’s choice.

The second bromide that gets thrown around in certain media outlets is the “pro-choice” rhetoric itself, which often phrases anti-abortion advocates (or just those like myself who think that killing a baby in the womb might not be the most responsible solution to this problem…) as “attacking women’s rights”, or leading “the war against women”. Not only do I think this garbage is unnecessary, but it’s malicious. The way I see it, the matter of “choice” should be considered in all aspects surrounding the argument for abortion. The left simply looks at choice as the ability to choose to have an abortion performed, and stops almost completely right there. While this aspect of choice is something that I recognize, the other side of the issue gets COMPLETELY ignored; the choices that people exercise which lead to these unwanted pregnancies. Somehow the argument about abortion and unwanted pregnancy begins and ends with a pregnant woman, but there is much more to the story. Women aren’t born pregnant, they do not become pregnant out of some arbitrary luck of the draw, and do not come down with an illness that ends up in pregnancy. Pregnancy is usually the result of a very specific, and involved set of actions (consensual intercourse) that, excluding rape or an immaculate conception, are completely avoidable if so desired. If the problem exists where some women are having unwanted pregnancies, then the logical fix would be to PREVENT those unwanted pregnancies. This is usually where the banal argument about evil Republicans waging wars on women’s bodies comes in to play (look for the term “access”). As I illustrated above, contraception is readily available to anyone who wishes to use it. So why does the conversation seem to always steer towards placing the responsibility to “access” those preventative measures on someone else? Regardless of those arguments, I don’t think it’s a particularly biased opinion that juuuuust maybe we should put some more emphasis on the choices that cause pregnancy in the first place.

My point is that people can easily avoid an unwanted pregnancy, so why is the idea of championing for “women’s choice” only brought up AFTER the problem has been created? Why are platitudes about a woman’s body only used AFTER a woman has conceived? If some people actually cared about their bodies as much as the media would have you believe, I would think that people would put more of an emphasis on avoiding pregnancy in the first place. Instead, it seems like the entire pro-choice movement simply ignores this whole part of the equation, and focuses on what should be the least desirable alternative to an unwanted childbirth. I may be crazy, but it seems that avoiding an unwanted situation and taking the necessary precautions to prevent that event is common sense.

This is where I consider myself “pro-choice” in the non-traditional sense of the phrase. Yes, I believe that women should be able to make the choice to have an abortion, but I hold far more weight on making the right choices BEFORE it gets to that stage, in so far as they prevent the unwanted. I’m pro choosing to remain abstinent. I’m pro choosing to use over the counter contraception. I’m pro choosing to use birth control or other prescribed contraceptives. Most of all I’m pro responsible decision making, or responsible choices. The issue with unwanted pregnancies should not be centered on a women’s “access” to certain procedures, which I think is just another example of left wing word play. Rather, it should be centered on those actions that lead to the unwanted situation, and the focus of curbing choices, or encouraging smart and responsible ones which avoid the situation altogether. I think if more emphasis would be put on this sort of pro-choice and personal responsibility, the movement itself would be a bit more tolerable to those of us “on the fence” with certain aspects of it. Like I said, I’m pro-choice, I just think we need to be focusing on other choices before those that involve the medical termination of a pregnancy.