"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works."
Gordon Gekko's infamous speech in Oliver Stone's 1987 film "Wall Street" came to embody the excesses of 1980s high finance. Now Gekko, fresh out of prison, is back in Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," which features the financier (played again by Michael Douglas) warning of the impending economic crisis of 2008. Turns out greed caused some trouble while Gekko was locked up.
But is greed capitalism's worst sin? Not so, argues economist Victor Claar. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week, Claar posited that another deadly sin -- envy -- is an inherent part of the free-market system and can prove even more insidious.
Claar, a co-author of Economics in Christian Perspective, relied on Thomas Aquinas's definition of envy: sadness at the good of another. He cited the biblical parable of the prodigal son, in which the older sibling is envious of his dissolute brother, whose return home sparks a big party. "It sounds like blue-collar frustrations that we hear today," Claar said. " 'I did everything the right way, I played by all of the right rules -- and here I am.' "
Whether because of differing intelligence, skill, ambition or luck, free markets produce different outcomes for different people, so envy is inevitable. . . .
Saturday, September 25, 2010
In this Sunday's "Outlook" section of the Washington Post, Outlook editor Carlos Lozada reflects on my lecture earlier this week at the American Enterprise Institute:
Posted at 9:07 PM