Does capitalism breed greed, or elevate the greedy?


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IMO, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.


did capitalism turn this guy into a useless asshole, or does capitalism find the useless assholes and shower them with money?

Lets go with the latter in this case…


It’s like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, plutocracy edition! It is impossible to resolve this conundrum. The best we can do is attack from both directions in a kind of Marxist pincer maneuver.


It breeds greed and elevates the greedy to a new kind of low.


A properly regulated free market capitalism is supposed to be a system that can function as a highly efficient resource distribution mechanism in the presence of greed. Because greed does not seem to be eradicable, no matter how bloody you want to get. It must be survived and that’s what regulated capitalism is supposed to do.

I don’t believe capitalism, in and of itself, can possibly “elevate” greed - because the elevation you’re referencing is cultural and political, not economic.

We worship at the altar of greedy sociopathy and train our children to adulate people broken by greed, and that is culture.

The line from Walkaway is utterly apropos. That’s what we need, a cultural shift, not a reversion to some less effective form of trade that may well be even easier for the greedy to pervert.


you’re probably going to have to limit your grifting to small-scale crime.

way to make me feel bad, boingboing.


Actually I believe in starting out with the minimal viable crime, and then slowly scaling it outwards and upwards


His mass of accumulated capital is protecting him from the consequences of his decisions. It’s enabling his assholishness. I don’t know if it can be said to cause it or elevate it, but it’s certainly helping the situation continue.


Agreed. If it wasn’t for daddy’s money, this guy probably wouldn’t amount to dick soup. Having endless capital allows him to do things like make goofy shirts and not worry about going hungry.


Exactly! When one is born into money and has absolutely no comprehension how working class folks live their lives, this question answers itself.


Not sure if it is so much greed as the nature of power…it is a bit too cliche to say power corrupts, but it attracts the corrupt, and it does it in systems outside of capitalism. Mao and Stalin come to mind.


On the other hand, if it weren’t for daddy’s money, maybe he would have grown up less insulated from normal human experience and developed into a more… useful person.


Except I think greed is yet another evolutionary holdover, like how our taste buds desire salt and sugar and fat over vitamins and fiber. We might innately know that it’s bad, but our basic inner animal brain still wants those things; a squirrel doesn’t understand the concept of greed, it just knows it damn well better store as many acorns as it can find, just in case, and the fact that a good number of those acorns are never eaten doesn’t matter as long as the squirrel lives to the next warm season.

I often ask “how much money does anyone really need?” but it’s moot. Making greed “gross” will only make the greedy shun the rest of society, like they already do to a certain extent.




Oxymoron alert! Oxymoron alert!


In this day and age, you may well be right!

Poor old Adam Smith is spinning in his grave. He felt enlightened regulation was essential to maintaining marketplace freedom and fairness.


I think even back in Smith’s day, he knew that “enlightened” regulation just meant regulatory capture by capital.


In Walkaway, I thought you hit something important about (some of the) wealthy:

“She’d known zottas at Cornell, patrons of her lab. She’d had to do dinners with them, fund-raisers, spent hundreds of hours engaged in high-stakes small talk, under her department head’s watchful eye. They weren’t unpleasant to talk to - many were witty conversationalists. But there was something… off about them. It wasn’t until she’d had her crisis of conscience and walked away from Cornell that she’d been able to name it: they had no impostor syndrome. There wasn’t a hint of doubt that every privilege they enjoyed was deserved. The world was correctly stacked. The important people were at the top. The unimportant were at the bottom.”

F Scott Fitzgerald: “The rich are different from you and me.”
Ernest Hemingway: “Yes, they have more money.”
Cory Doctorow: And “no impostor syndrome.”


That is capitalist culture - the invisible ideology of our society. Non-capitalist societies can certainly also have elements of greed, but in capitalist culture, it’s a celebrated to the point of being seen as a social good as opposed to a negative trait that human beings should do their best to work and rise above.