Will Wilkinson and Conor Clarke criticize Matt Yglesias' argument that we should see greed as a vice. A few points.

1. I don't know what greed is. Pretty much everybody prefers more money to less, but at which point does this become greed? Even if you say that, while you can't draw a clear line, at some point it is clear that we're talking about greed (say, when someone who earns three million a year wants more), why would I have to agree? What are you going to say to convince someone that calls it greed when someone else earns three thousand and wants more? Or, indeed, that at three million we're not yet talking about greed.

2. What's bad about greed anyway? Certainly bad things have been done on the basis of the greed motivation, but that is true for all motivations, and contrary to hatred, the basic orientation of greed is not to hurt others.

3. Here's a short excerpt from the dialogue between Tyler Cowen and Peter Singer I embedded in an earlier post:

Cowen sets up a scenario in which person A has selfish motives and does a lot of good on because of those motives and person B has altruistic motives and does only a little good on as a result - wouldn't Singer, as a utilitarian, have to say that A is a better person lest he contradict himself? Singer wriggles around, but I believe the answer is quite simply no. Saying that A is a better person than B is usually quite simply a judgment about intentions rather than outcomes. It is hence no contradiction to say that B is a "better person" while judging the actions of A preferable. (There's a bit of a gray area with outcomes that one thinks persons should have foreseen.)

4. I think there is a bias people have because they go even further. You might call it the Intention Bias. What I'm thinking of is that persons' judgments of an outcome are coloured by their judgments of people's intentions that led to that outcome. I believe distrust of market solutions has a lot to do with that.

5. Back then, the Addam's Family pinball was very popular. If you placed the ball in a certain location repeatedly, a hand would appear and grab that ball while the machine went Ga-reeed! This meant that you were on your way to getting a multiball. I would like to inform the reader that I once set the high score on one of the neighbourhood's two most-played machines. Quite possibly my biggest achievement ever.

No comments: