Thursday, January 12, 2012

About Time

I have to confess that I don't know all the nuances of 'Venture Capitalism' or whether or not 'Private Equity Companies' do more harm than good.  But I will say that it appears we are beginning a national discussion which is long overdue, that being the value of selfishness to a free society.   And that, I will say, IS good.

I realize that the line 'Greed Is Good' is from a movie but the question I ask is was that art imitating life or did life subsequently imitate art?  Because that little speech by Gordon Gecko/Michael Douglas perfectly sums up 'free market capitalism.'  Do what is in your own, selfish best interest and America will be better for it. 

But really?  The argument is that without the incentive of personal gain, nobody will give his best effort.  But, here's the problem: nobody disputes that.  The actual other side of the argument is that it is possible to harness the 'profit motive' for the overall good of society.  Not, however, through unrestrained selfishness but with restrained selfishness.  People should pursue their own self interest; they not only have that right but they need to.  It's what keeps us alive.  But if there is to be any benefit to society somebody has to look at the overall effect.
A government of the people, by the people, for the people seeks to govern in a manner that promotes the overall good.  Self-interest is fine but we don't allow people to steal or kill to promote their own interests.  We the people created a government to protect us from people's selfishness and greed.  To establish justice.  To promote the general welfare.  Nobody disagrees with this, right?  Yet when it comes to 'the economy' we believe that 'the government' should get out of the way and let people be as selfish as they desire?

The role of the government then, in the economic realm, is to incentivize profit-seeking behavior that benefits society and disincentivize profit-seeking behavior that debilitates.  They do this through regulation and through tax policy (the two things that Republicans, and some Democrats, have demonized and chopped away at for thirty years now).   Regulations that say, go ahead, pursue self-interest, within this framework.  And a tax structure that says, go ahead, seek profit.  Make profit.  But expect to pay taxes on your income and above a certain point expect to pay more tax on your income.  Or, maybe, defer some of that profit, don't take it as personal income; instead reinvest it in your business, share some with the work force (bonuses: not just for the Chief), avoid that highest tax rate.

If selfishness is really 'good,' then what's with all this allegiance to the flag pledging and national anthem singing?  Shouldn't I pledge allegiance only to myself?

I pledge allegiance,
to myself,
to my own, selfish interest.

And to whatever it takes,
to advance my interests,
there is no 'nation,'
there is no 'God'
and justice, for ME! 


  1. interesting. but when trying to understand, A government "of the people", "by the people". How does one cipher the difference from "of" and "by".

  2. Government 'of the people' refers to the body being governed. 'By the people' refers to the governing entity. And of course, 'for the people' refers to at whom the governing body should look when determining whether or not it is having success.

  3. notacynic:

    I think capitalism is better than any of the other economic systems, but it must be regulated in the public interest to keep greed under control.

  4. GOP - Greedy One Percent.

    No rules...
    The rich get richer and who gives a damn about the sick and the poor...