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Beef, Confused, and Love: Greed Versus Compassion By Walter Williams HAT'S THE NOBLEST of human motivations? Some might be tempted to answer: charity, love of one's neighbor, or, in modern, politically correct language, giving something back or feeling another's pain. In my book, these are indeed noble motivations, but they pale in comparison to a much more potent motivation for human action. For me the noblest of human motivations is greed. I don't mean theft, fraud, tricks, or misrepresentation. By greed I mean being only or mostly concerned with getting the most one can for oneself and not necessarily concerned about the welfare of others. Social consternation might cause one to cringe at the suggestion that greed might possibly be seen as a noble motivation. "Enlightened self-interest" might be a preferable term. I prefer greed since it is far more descriptive and less likely to be confused with other human motives. That greed is the greatest of human motivations should be obvious to all; however, a few examples will make it more concrete. Texas cattle ranchers make enormous sacrifices to husband and insure the safety and well-being of their herds: running down stray cattle in the snow to care for and feed them, hiring veterinarians to safeguard their health, taking them to feed yards in time to fatten them up prior to selling them to slaughterhouses. The result of these sacrifices is that New Yorkers can enjoy having beef on their supermarket shelves. Idaho potato farmers arise early in the morning. They do backbreaking work in potato fields, with the sun beating down on them and the bugs maybe eating them. Similarly, the result of their sacrifices is that New Yorkers can also enjoy having potatoes on their supermarket shelves. Why do Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make these sacrifices? Is it because they love New Yorkers? Only the most naïve would chalk their motivation up to one of co for their fellow man in New York. The reason Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make those sacrifice is that they love themselves. They want more for themselves. In a word, they are greedy! But that is the miracle of the market. Through serving the wants of one's fellow man, one acquires more for oneself. That is precisely what Adam Smith meant when he said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their Walter Williams, “Greed Versus Compassion, from The Freeman, 50, 10 October 2000, pp. 1-2. Copyright © 2000 The Foundation for Economic Education. Permission to reprint granted by the publisher. “Greed is good” taught unironically in universities
Beef, Confused, and Love: Greed Versus Compassion
 By Walter Williams
 HAT'S THE NOBLEST of human motivations? Some might be tempted to answer:
 charity, love of one's neighbor, or, in modern, politically correct language, giving
 something back or feeling another's pain. In my book, these are indeed noble
 motivations, but they pale in comparison to a much more potent motivation for human
 action. For me the noblest of human motivations is greed. I don't mean theft, fraud, tricks,
 or misrepresentation. By greed I mean being only or mostly concerned with getting the
 most one can for oneself and not necessarily concerned about the welfare of others. Social
 consternation might cause one to cringe at the suggestion that greed might possibly be seen
 as a noble motivation. "Enlightened self-interest" might be a preferable term. I prefer greed
 since it is far more descriptive and less likely to be confused with other human motives.
 That greed is the greatest of human motivations should be obvious to all; however, a few
 examples will make it more concrete. Texas cattle ranchers make enormous sacrifices to husband
 and insure the safety and well-being of their herds: running down stray cattle in the snow to
 care for and feed them, hiring veterinarians to safeguard their health, taking them to feed yards
 in time to fatten them up prior to selling them to slaughterhouses. The result of these sacrifices
 is that New Yorkers can enjoy having beef on their supermarket shelves. Idaho potato farmers
 arise early in the morning. They do backbreaking work in potato fields, with the sun beating
 down on them and the bugs maybe eating them. Similarly, the result of their sacrifices is that
 New Yorkers can also enjoy having potatoes on their supermarket shelves.
 Why do Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make these sacrifices? Is it because
 they love New Yorkers? Only the most naïve would chalk their motivation up to one of co
 for their fellow man in New York. The reason Texas cattle ranchers and Idaho potato farmers
 make those sacrifice is that they love themselves. They want more for themselves. In a word,
 they are greedy!
 But that is the miracle of the market. Through serving the wants of one's fellow man, one
 acquires more for oneself. That is precisely what Adam Smith meant when he said, "It is not
 from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but
 from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their
 Walter Williams, “Greed Versus Compassion, from The Freeman, 50, 10 October 2000, pp. 1-2. Copyright ©
 2000 The Foundation for Economic Education. Permission to reprint granted by the publisher.
“Greed is good” taught unironically in universities

“Greed is good” taught unironically in universities

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