Business & Economy

Greed Is Good: A 300-Year History of a Dangerous Idea


John Paul Rollert

In this article John Paul Rollert analyses the position toward greed that has been taken by the great capitalist thinkers of the last three hundred years. His conclusion? The great proponents of capitalism have been, for the most part, wary of endorsing greed outright. However, the theory of the Invisible Hand, which holds that the capitalist’s self-interested pursuits unintentionally benefit the economy and the broader society, encourages greed intrinsically.

Rollert’s history of the idea of greed in capitalism is a very helpful starting point for evaluating capitalism from a Christian perspective. However, Rollert does not propose any alternatives to capitalist enlightened self-interest. The gospel challenges us not to be acquisitive individuals, but rather to seek above all else to live in right-relationship with God, with people, and with our world. Nathan McLellan has shown that a relational understanding of economic life, while calling us away from the greed of selfish acquisitiveness, will make us think twice before throwing out the baby of the market with the bathwater of capitalism.

How can Christians model an orientation toward the other (toward God, their neighbour, and the whole creation) above the pure pursuit of self-interest, especially in business life?

How, and in what venues, can Christians be more vocal about the sinfulness of the greed encouraged by capitalism, and how can they at the same time affirm the market mechanism for the distribution of limited resources?

Source: The Atlantic

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