Sunday, March 2, 2008

Greed Is Good?

Economic theory dating back to Adam Smith always assures us that the best way to run markets is through competition. Less regulation means more sellers, which means lower prices, better products and more satisfied customers. Survival of the fittest. plain and simple. Sounds all cut-throat and dismally greedy? don't worry, Michael Douglas here says it very clearly (skip to 2:35 etha malek 5ulg :)

And the modern World Economy shows us that as a model its really not that bad in driving Wealth creation and growth. Capitalism does work beautifully.

We as muslims however add a non-secular element to the capitalist equation which is Zakat and sadaqa and so on. Rewards that you receive in the afterlife, in heaven, after you die.

But even for non-religious people, I contest that even though greed is good, absolute greed is not always the best way to go. Here's an example that I saw on the way to Bin-Khaldoun St. (Kuwait's Silicon Valley :P)

I was the Red car, and my lane was standing still. Now the classic Adam Smith theory tells me I should strive to get ahead as much as possible towards my destination, full stop. I shouldn't care where other cars want to go, I should only pour all my thinking into finding new and better ways to reach where I want to go. And the theory is, that if we all do the same, then it would serve the greater good. Just worry about yourself and by not being a liability to others and asking for their help, you'd be doing the rest of the community (the street in this matter) a big favor.

So the car behind me Blue decides to obey Adam Smith and does this:

Creating yet another congestion.

Obviously the road width and design are insufficient for the amount of traffic in that area, and obviously not following the traffic laws can cause more bad than good. But my point is that I in the red car only backed up about 2 meters like so, and the congestion in the road from the right was gone.

Thing is, I was not overly charitable when I did this. I was just as bored and frustrated by the traffic jam as everyone else. So by not sacrificing much at all (only 2 meters of forward advancement) a whole problem of congestion on the right side (who are not related to me in anyway, and I couldn't care less whether they wait or not) got solved.

But if you try to put yourself in other people's shoes and "Empathize" with their problems, then you can find ways to solve their problems at very little cost to yourself if not completely nill. And this goes against Adam Smith and Capitalism.

So yes Greed drives progress and makes a great and better world, but also:
a tiny bit of consideration to other people can go a long way

1 comment:

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