That greed is good is a basic assumption of American capitalist belief. As with many things religious, sexual, or terminal euphemisms abound. In fact the religious nature of greed in America is confirmed by the impropriety of asking someone how much they make. Oh, the horror.

The origins of the greed is good concept comes from a mixed set of late 18th century sources tied to the expression “private vices, public virtues”. Bernard Mandeville wrote a small book but long poem in the early 18th century called The Fable of the Bees; Private Vices, Public Benefits advancing exactly that concept. This was continuously debated through that century (in Europe) as Adam Smith and David Ricardo and others developed the concepts of capitalism and the definition of value.

The early phase of capitalism was also early colonialism in Europe and was based on what became knows as mercantilism which, incidentally, caused the American revolution in the 1770s and increasing problems with India for British in the 19th century. That was an evolution of the concept of value as inherent in something of value, e.g. gold. If value was inherent in something, gold or jewels, then you sought those things and brought them home to hoard.

In mercantilism the value had evolved to a closed market. Colonies were the source of raw materials, e.g. cotton, flax for linen, coal, ores, wood, furs, etc. These were brought back to the home country who added value by making cloth from the cotton to sell back to the colonies. A closed loop.

The colonies were not allowed to make things but could only sell raw materials at a set discount to the home country. This was a functional monopoly.

Value was still inherent in material goods. David Ricardo broke out of that by defining the “Labor Theory of Value” that identified work done by people as equally valuable to goods. So you control workers by wage slavery to monopolize their value. That has been about as far as America has ever come.

We are now being forced to a new model of value based on sustainability to keep our planet habitable. This is a very different concept. Wealth is now knowledge with information as currency. Cryptocurrencies are a next stage in identifying possible tokens as symbols of knowledge maintained in block chains.

The old vices of greed is totally irrelevant. So what will they do with all of their hoarded capital? Capital will now be a cost to the planet and not as asset. Ooops.

Written by

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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