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Archive for January 2011

Is greed good?

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Here is an NY Times article that describes the change in India since the liberalisation in the 1990s.

No one who remembers the India from the late 1980s will need the NY times or any other media to tell them that things have improved for a large section of society. This change is primarily driven by greed. Someone’s greed to have more money, more power, more fame or simply more contentment, which drives them to create companies, technologies, schools and charities that serve as conduits for benefits to trickle around to other people in society. Yet it is taken for granted and often, even vilified.

Michel Douglas is often quoted as saying “Greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street”. This quote has been used time and again to show the capitalist system to be made of immoral, money grabbing thugs. However, that quote is incomplete. The complete line is “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”, and the additional words make all the difference.

The difference they make is that the “greed” is not material greed any more, but is whatever that makes the practitioner feel good about themselves. Someone like Patrick Awuah will be “greedy” to setup an first rate educational facility in Africa and produce as many good graduates as he can. This makes him feel good because he is contributing to his home nation’s development and ensuring his children don’t lose touch with their roots. To satisfy his “greed”, he enlists people in the USA for financial aid. The Americans involved are also “greedy”, because they can save on their tax, and they too get the feel-good factor of furthering a noble cause.

I use the word “greed” in quotation marks, because it shows that efforts are driven by people wanting more of something, even if that something may not be material gain. We would do good to create an environment where people are allowed to pursue their “greed” with minimum hindrance. It may be the most elegant solution to a lot of our problems.

Update: I had an opportunity to watch “Wall Street” again and realised that this post too missed out most of Gekko’s speech in the movie. A complete transcript can be found here. It is like a 3-5 minutes lesson in the fundamentals of economics.


Written by clueso

January 23, 2011 at 1:42 am

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The utter stupidity of political correctness…

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Read a BBC article on how Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is being cleaned up by substituting the words “nigger” with “slave” and “injun” with “Indian”. Utter political correctness stupidity.

I really enjoy reading the classics, sometimes more than contemporary fiction. I enjoy them because in addition to good plots and fantastic characters, they offer a snapshot of life in the bygone eras. Dicken’s description of crushing poverty in Victorian Britain and Twain’s accounts of deep rooted and casual racism may be shocking, but are also very educational. They serve as reminders of how we have improved and what we should avoid falling back to. If I were in charge of a child’s education, I would like them to read these works as they were written, so that all future generations have at least an inkling of humankind’s past mistakes.

Sanitising the classics because some of their contents are today considered offensive reeks of the Orwell’s 1984, where all literature is continually rewritten to mirror government opinions and policies. The aim in 1984 was to create the impression that the current policy is right, has always been in practice and no mistakes were ever made. The disturbing fact is that 1984 is meant to be a dystopia and adoption of literature sanitisation like this suggests that we endorse its practices.

Written by clueso

January 7, 2011 at 12:23 am