Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Selfish greed and decency are both human nature and politically colorblind. Really.
The problem is defining greed and decency. Is it selfish greed to pay $10.00 for coffee and cigarettes or whiskey, or any of the unnecessary indulgences that we take for granted? Most would say no (certainly by our actions) because we work hard and deserve simple pleasures. But if we took 10 bucks from a homeless man to spend in that way it would cross beyond selfish greed entering into inhuman cruelty. That is the choice we make with every silly purchase and wasteful indulgence. That is the human opportunity cost that fills our lives.

Giving that money to a person who needs it seems like a decent thing to do, but is it? What assurance do we have that giving that $10 to the homeless man doesn't do more harm than good in furtherance of an addiction? Perhaps the decent thing to do for a homeless person is to show them kindness and move them into the extra bedroom that many have. But that isn't an answer, because the problems with the homeless don't begin nor end with greed and aren't solved with decency. I don't have the answers because there are none, or if there are there are still huge areas of gray in between. Or purple. Most can read a specific set of circumstances and decide what is greed or decency, it is just impossile to extrapolate that to the populace.

I believe in the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in whatever form that takes for each and every individual. On that basis the only role of goverment is to enforce the laws necessary to protect our health, wealth and personal freedoms. Anything else does not interest me and should never fall under the umbrella of government. Sexuality, race, gender, Nationality, religion and what we put into our bodies are all areas for societal debate, not legislative.

'Greed is bad' seems easy enough in the microview. But you don't have to go too far to realize that every important discovery, invention and improvement to society is in some part due to greed. We happily purchase the products sold by the very greedy bastards we condemn. We all pass right by the very broken wretch that we profess to care about. If you want to embrace either side or condemn either side that is a matter of perspective and personal fulfillment, not right and wrong. Red and Blue are just the uniforms used to identify the enemy no matter how much alike we are in practice. Shades of purple define us more than red or blue, my friends.


T. Johnson (aka "24") said...

Well written and thought provoking. I wish your fellow conservatives could make their case as eloquently, without needing to create ridiculous falsehoods to fight about.

BTW, many great things were created by altruistic people, often on government subsidy. It is possible to define certain elements of our society as areas of greater human concern, and not merely profit-generating products. This might explain why medicine doesn't really want to cure anything anymore.

As for government, the idea of democratic, representative government is exactly to fulfill the things that are better not left to corporate greed, which while not always unbeneficial (I made that word up), is certainly not beneficial in intent. The idea that government is inherently bad is a slippery slope to dogmatic illogic. Sometimes the government is bad, and sometimes it is good. A lot depends upon the will of the electorate.

Darwanism is not the answer. One of the key abilities of man is our ability to defy evolutionary processes.

P Bryant (aka JerryMagicKobe) said...

Many great things were created by altruistic people, and many of those altruistic people were greedy capitalists in their younger years before the wisdom of experience showed them the good that can be done with their resources. Should we reject their societal contributions because they were rooted in capitalism?Every altruisitc foundation has their money managed and invested by the greediest of greedy bastards in the most capitalistic way possible. Is this capitalism contemptable on its face by its very nature, or is it altruistic because of what the net proceedss will ultimately be used for? And pharmaceutical companies routinely give a portion of their medicine and profits to help cure people who would otherwise die. Should we condemn the corners cut in the name of profitablity or rejoice in the thousands of extra people saved because of it?

Unregulated corporate greed is bad. Of course I have great difficulty separating the government from corporate America. In fact, for a moment think of the the Government as a corporation. The Goverment is larger, older, and generates more revenues than any greedy company in the world. They mismanage funds and spend recklessly. They have very little societal accountability as a whole and leave scandal and corruption to be absorbed by the individuals who are caught rather than the system that allows it. Hell, it is predicated on it and there is rarely even an token effort to change the cuture. They admit to lying, stealing, torturing and killing in furtherance of their agenda and protection of their profitability. And what are their revenues based on? Taxes, primarily Income Taxes and Sales Taxes of various sorts. So how do they generate more revenue? By their citizens and corporations generating more income - Capitalism. The last thing I would do is to rely on a political or corporate promise of 'fulfilment'.

And please don't mistake my thoughts as being unpatriotic or unAmerican. I love this country and know it to be the greatest nation because of the freedoms allowed. Unfettered Darwinism is not the answer, and neither is deferring decisions to anyone else be it Corporate America or the American Government. YOU don't need the Government to tell you what to think or do and tell you what is right or wrong, so educating everyone to be as smart as you is a better solution.

T. Johnson (aka "24") said...

What good is it for Us to tell the government what to do if in your view, the government should be uninvolved?

Yes, the government does bad things, and that's because it's populated by humans. Hospitals do bad things at times as well, which doesn't negate the general goodness of the concept of hospitals.

The fact is, the government in our system represents a cooperative venture, while business represents competition. Both are necessary, but one would be naive to think competition and the pursuit of money is the best way to handle larger issues of value to all of us.

You are right that people should be more educated and involved in directing the government. We need to take back and constantly reform that organ of our public will, not emasculate it and hope robber barons will inadvertently meet our societal needs.

P Bryant (aka JerryMagicKobe) said...

Love, it TJ. Let me refine my thoughts a little. The role of the Federal Goverment is to enforce the laws necessary to protect our health, wealth and personal freedoms, including our millitary and interests abroad. Big picture stuff, and despite how much we all love to bitch about the government, they exce at the macro/global level. State and Local Government should be much more accessable to the people, an avenue for social change, and a local platform to try new programs before they are implemented on a national scale. One of the interesting things about living on the West Coast is the relative progressive nature of our residents and the representative policies that they advocate - Gay Marriage, Marijuana decriminalization and CA Emission requirements come to mind. The local government should embody the phrase "a government by the people for the people" and should be able to vary from state to state so as to best reflect the issues and wants of its constituents. The policies of Los Angeles SHOULD be different from those governing a MidWestern farming community. Our huge emmission problem shouldn't harm a farmer in Iowa because his solitary tractor and means of support can't conform to our emmission standards.

I certainly agree with you that "the government in our system represents a cooperative venture, while business represents competition. Both are necessary..." I just think that the more local the government, the more represntative of the people it will be. I also believe that Corporations should be a part of the co-op because they are a part of the community. We have to maximize the positive aspects of their pressence jobs, tax revenues, products and services, social hub) while the Federal Government regulates their business practices at the corporate level. We want the companies to be profitable because it is vital to all of us, yet we want them to be responsible for the same reason. Ultimately, there exists right and wrong, good and bad and a perfect blend of Profitability and Responsibility and of taking care of ourselves and others. I don't have these answers, heck I don't even believe the answer can be static. Our Government needs to be as alive and changing as our people. And it should represent and protect every face in the crowd whether they speak or remain silent.

T. Johnson (aka "24") said...

Glad you realized that generalized tropes, platitudes, and dogmas won't play with yours truly PS! (I'd insert a wink here, but am told this does nothing to reduce the sting, so will refrain ;-), or not)

Agree on the local to some degree, except for two points:

1. When National and international interests are driving and funding power, even down to the local level, it is hard to accept that local is indeed local.

2. There are issues that are of national importance, and affect all people, so are best not left to the local majority. Pollution in Iowa affects more than Iowa. The rights of gay people, or civil rights in general, is a Federal constitutional issue, not subject to the depth of red on the necks of any particular locale. Or would you support a ban on interracial marriage in the south, or heck, the denial of the right of blacks to vote? Because that's how it would happen on a local level.

And no, corporations are not part of the community, at least not in the way you state. They are not people, and we were once wise enough to acknowledge that. Corporations are merely unions, of capital as opposed to labor. Which of course makes a pro business and anti-union stance somewhat oxymoronic, but that's another discussion.

Corporations, and all unions, should IMO be barred from the democratic table. At least with unions, they represent individuals in a defined area. A corporation in reality often has no nationality whatsoever. It does what it does, and does it well: acquire money for shareholders and often provide value for consumers. That doesn't suit it to a voice about citizens, for it has no value or vested interest in such matters.

Not to worry, corporations are generally speaking primarily unions of wealthy folks, and those folks have never had a problem with representation, so their business avatar is not necessary to protect them. All things equal, or even unequal, money has always been the best form of protection in any system.

If you want answers to the problem, the first one is to get big corporate money out of politics. It is what supports the two-party monopoly, and perpetuates it.