Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Are Selfishness & Greed Always Good? ... Are They Ever Good?

Are selfishness and greed a good thing? Many advocates of business, capitalism, and free trade seem to make that argument. For example, they will cite the following quotation from Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
"Every individual...generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention." (Book, IV Chapter II)

Yet, a more careful reading of Adam Smith yields a different conclusion. As Douglas Rushkoss explains in his 2009 book, Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back :

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