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KJinAsia's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by KJinAsia

Templeton and D'Souza are unfortunately bed fellows in this case, but Shermer is on the right track. Our impulses towards greed and fairness are not opposing instincts, they both emerge from self interest and how we measure ourselves against others.

Wealth is not a zero sum game and the utopian notion of totally even distribution of resources is neither possible nor desirable. Exchange of goods (economics, capitalism) is a complex system of human culture. An uneven distribution of those goods is a mathematically inevitable outcome that provides the structure upon which the system develops efficiencies (technical and logistic) that add to total material well being.

Concentration of wealth is an emergent property that CAN occur by the restriction of access to wealth of others but by no means does it require this. The emergent economy doesn't grow by restriction. Think Bill Gates. Our challenge is to regulate trade and commerce so that wealth is generated via efficiencies rather than restructions. That means promoting interconnectivity and openness.

Exchange of goods most definitely requires an application of the fairness impulse and self interest. Of course morality is involved. When trading activity increases, the fairness impulse is being extended - by definition. Call it greed if you want, but you risk throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Why do you think the classical Greeks became our venerated contributors of inductive reasoning? Were they genetically more rational than other cultures of the time? No. They were in the right place (scattered, loosely connected island and coastal communities in the Med) at the right time (after the Phoenicians developed better shipping technology) to rapidly emerge as a great trading culture. Exchange of ideas go along with exchange of goods. When they started trading with the Egyptians, they started re-examining their own myths. Voila.

What kicked off the Italian Rennaissance and all that followed? The emergence of Venice as a great trading culture that was able to bypass the stranglehold on pan-regional trade by the Arab empires (plus other flashpoints of increased trade such as in Moorish southern Spain).

Those of us that have the luxury to spend time thinking about matters (such as science) that are not directly related to growing food and finding shelter are all beneficiaries of trade driven by self interest and fairness.

It's time to stop with the knee jerk reaction that the whole commercial enterprise is ridden with a version of self interest we call greed. This is just a(nother) unfortunate lagacy of our Christian heritage. Those bad bad money changers and filthy merchants. That kind of thinking is the product of xenophobic, jealous goat herders.

Tue, 31 Aug 2010 03:47:11 UTC | #508352