Could Greed Be Good?


In his book No They Can’t – Why Government Fails but Individuals Succeed, John Stossel again poses the question “Could greed be good?”  Remember how much criticism Ayn Rand received when she openly wrote and stated that Greed is Good?  Well, they are both right.  The problem really comes from their choice of words, because they have negative connotations.  But both writers are discussing is that when people act (legally) in their own financial self-interest, basically everyone wins.  A great explanation of this reality comes from the definitive essay entitled “I, Pencil,” where author Leonard Read explains how so many different people provide us with pencils by harvesting wood, graphite and clay powders for the pencil’s lead, and rubber and metals for erasers, and then transporters, advertisers and merchants all act in their own economic self-interest (i.e. greed) to provide the finished product, even though they do not really work with or even know each other.  Thus it should be readily apparent that government is not able to do nearly as good and effective job at supplying goods and services as individuals acting in their own economic self-interest.

So why should we expect government to do a better job than private individuals or companies at delivering the mail, building or repairing highways, or providing good schools or quality healthcare for reasonable prices?  The answer is that government should be used in some areas like K through 12 education to set minimum guidelines, and others like building or repairing highways to issuing contracts and then monitoring the operations to ensure that specifications, quality controls and prices are met.  But otherwise government should leave these matters for the Free Enterprise System, where individuals will be free to act in a “greedy” fashion.  In other words, John Stossel and Ayn Rand were right: in this context, Greed Really is Good!

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President