Tuesday, May 8, 2012

402: The Utopia of the Free Market - Aristotle's ideas


Ivan Boesky famously defended greed in a May 18, 1986, commencement address at the UC Berkeley's School of Business Administration, 

in which he said, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself". 
This speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street, Shortly after, the Feds had busted him for insider trading. Boesky received a prison sentence of 3.5 years and was fined US$100 million.

Maybe greed isn't advisable at all. Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) said of Greed: "it is a sin directly against one's neighbor,  

since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them... it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man contemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."

So, the idea is that man is destined to focus on eternal, which means spiritual things and not on material and temporary things.

You could define greed as the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one's self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. 

Not a dictate of basic survival and yet so deeply rooted in our system. The more you think about it the more fascinating it becomes. What is the essence of greed?

2300 years ago already Aristotle had discovered the existence of greed. He was the first one, who explicitly condemned it.

According to Aristotle in the first place people strive for a good and virtuous life. The establishment of a state must therefore be such that it enables people to achieve this ultimate goal.

On the one hand there was the 'oikonomia', the managing of a household, but it can never produce everything the household needs.

Therefore on the other hand there was the "chremastike", the acquisition of property through sale or exchange, which is the main ingredient of our modern economy.

Aristotle wasn't  really happy about it. He says in his "Ethica': "We are only forced to choose chremastike. Wealth is clearly not the good we seek: it is a commodity, a means to something else."

The situation is thus: you have a commodity, which you interchange for money, so that you can buy another commodity later.

But then greed kicks in. Money is no longer a means to buy another commodity. Now you turn the tables: you first have money with which you buy a commodity, so that you can sell it for twice as much money elsewhere. That is what we call "making money"

Marx went a step further. We'll get to him later. He said, the commodity itself is not what creates the profit. It is the labor power of the workers, that produces the big profit.

Then you get this: You spend as less as possible on the labor power of the workers who produce whatever product and then you sell your product for ten times more than you spend on the labor power.

For Aristotle barter was the natural way of exchanging goods among people to come to redistribution of goods, so that everyone could strive for a good and virtuous life.

This means that there are other values in life more important than accumulation of great wealth, of money.

Therefore in the eyes of Aristotle making money with money was even the most unnatural thing to do. 

I think, that it was about 2300 years ago that we already were warned for the Utopia of the free market.


The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you.....
[13:22] herman Bergson: The floor is yours...
[13:22] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I dont see how barter makes any difference to greed
[13:22] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks
[13:22] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): For example gold could also play a part in bartering, and that is equivalent to money
[13:23] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i want to know how aristotle ate?? did his students feed him?
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: gold also have a true value compared to money
[13:23] herman Bergson: to barter you have add the concept of the JUST PRICE , Merlin...
[13:23] Debbie Dee (framdor): It is the idea that money makes money, but money = exchange commodity for goods
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: cause its a valuable material while money is just paper
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: or not even that
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: only 1 and 0 in a computer
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): but money is a form of barter which allows finer tuning
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): Money tends to flow into the hands of a few, unfairly.
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin when it is not used to make profits but works with the just price
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): if you trade two sheep for one cow they will not have equal values
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: the main prob with greed is clear however, yes a few wanting more and more by "sucking out" the others '
[13:25] herman Bergson: I don't know....depends on the needs involved...
[13:25] Lizzy Pleides: greed often leads to dishonesty
[13:25] herman Bergson: When I need milk and I have many sheeps ...
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: just because they think that make them more valuable and the rest is just worthless to them
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: but a life cant be measured in money
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: but they seem to think that
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: and thats really sad
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well Bejiita, I have heard of some institution that really calculated the price of a human life...
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yes herman, we do it now
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): The cost of road safety etc
[13:27] Fred123 Aiten: how do you determine the just price of a commodity?
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: eeh but is that even possible, how can a life have a price?
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Medical treatment too
[13:27] Celtos (firelight7): i think behind greed is often fear of mortality
[13:27] herman Bergson: A difficult question Fred, but one feature can be the labor put into creating the commodity
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: your value depends on who you are as person , if your nice and so id say you have a higher walye then the ones that are bad
[13:27] Debbie Dee (framdor): I think greed is promoted through advertising....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: at least really bad
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: like the mass murderer on norway Brevik
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes it is Debbie....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: hes a monster not a person
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: was shocked from what he said on the trials
[13:28] herman Bergson: All advertizments instruct us t "you must have this or that"
[13:28] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think I missed something
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: Brevik is the coldest person ever in modern times
[13:29] herman Bergson: Stick to the subject Bejiita...
[13:29] Debbie Dee (framdor): Advertising is also full of lies, that undermine our moral values - eg eat this powder and get thin
[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): advertiser create a need..and we believe them (sometimes)
[13:29] WAINSCOT reports: camilla Csak is on your land now!
[13:29] herman Bergson: I still do't know how to explain greed....
[13:30] Fred123 Aiten: if I aqquire lots of money but live a very basic life am I greedy?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje it can be induced from the outside....
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: hmm greed is tricky subject
[13:30] Debbie Dee (framdor): especially greedy ;)
[13:30] herman Bergson: but also from the inside....
[13:30] herman Bergson: people who never are content with what they have...
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: but the basic is wanting more and more and not willing to share it with others
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): true
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: thats greed to me
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): people want moere and more..even if they have enough to live
[13:31] herman Bergson: question only is..WHY do we behave like that....
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: yes and even if they cant spend it
[13:31] Debbie Dee (framdor): Greed is often disguised as progress....
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i think it's fear
[13:31] herman Bergson: I mean....when you earn 5 million dollar a year.....
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): fear for poverty
[13:31] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Hmm this is all interesting stuff
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: people who can't share will never be happy
[13:31] Celtos (firelight7): could we compare greed to a hunting instinct?
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: money is simply a status symbol, as i said they think they  are more valuable then others just because they are millionaires
[13:31] herman Bergson: next job you expect to earn at least 8 million
[13:31] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): If I baked a cake Herman, and divided it into 10 and you took 3 slices, ... that's greedy
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: money
[13:32] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): lol Annie
[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no it means your cake is superb Annie:)
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:32] herman Bergson: Depends on the number of guests Annie...
[13:32] Bejiita Imako:
[13:32] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): It was for here, now its 11
[13:32] herman Bergson: It also could mean that your cake is so delicious that I cant resist taking three slices
[13:32] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): exactly
[13:32] Bejiita Imako:
[13:32] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): so it is in life
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: mmm loves cake
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: yummy
[13:32] Bejiita Imako:
[13:32] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): You want 3 houses
[13:33] Kime Babenco: Hello everyone
[13:33] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Hi Kime
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: hi Kime
[13:33] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I only want diamonds..grins...
[13:33] herman Bergson: I can t imagine myself wanting three houses...
[13:33] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Hi Kime, I think you missed most of it
[13:33] Kime Babenco: I am sorry :-(
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: yes what to do with 3 houses? or 20 luxyry cars
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: some have even more
[13:34] Lizzy Pleides: 2 houses are enough, 1 in rl 1 in sl
[13:34] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): or 3 slices of cake?
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol Lizzy
[13:34] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): its all the same
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:34] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): cake , houses , cars
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy !
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: i use to say dont buy more then you need
[13:34] herman Bergson: Well...you know of those rich stars who have 15 cars....!
[13:34] herman Bergson: or more
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: that you have use of
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: yes thats insane
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: 25 cars?
[13:35] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): just a tool to got to A and B
[13:35] herman Bergson: I still dont understand greed
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: what to do with all those?
[13:35] Fred123 Aiten: If it is wrong to make lots of money where is the incentive to work hard?
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: 1 ferrari and 1 rolls royce, .... we need that for several uses
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we all have had greed when we were little kids
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): wanted all the candy
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): all the toys
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: its not wrong but the wrong thing is making use of others and not willing to share some, a few in the world have sort of 90 % of the worlds money
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: thats not fair
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yet greed , or the drive of wanting more and more is the cause of our problems today
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): that is greed
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): Fred, we should work hard on our communal happiness, not on owning as much as possible
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:37] herman Bergson: Maybe there is a connection between increased individualism in Western culture and greed....
[13:37] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hope not fred
[13:37] herman Bergson: the liberal idea of everyone for himself...
[13:38] herman Bergson: No fred keep it
[13:38] Kime Babenco: If you earn it everyday? Or every month ? Or ....
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:38] herman Bergson: Just pay your taxes
[13:38] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Herman I still think your use of the word Liberal differs from mine
[13:38] Fred123 Aiten: surely if spend my $1000 then I am halping the community by keeping people in their jobs
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): you can send me some
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin we have to look into that sometime...
[13:38] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): :)
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well...if you have a dull moment.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: one day..
[13:39] herman Bergson: take your time to find out what Greed is....
[13:39] Celtos (firelight7): calvinism had a strong influence on the way people think in the west,people who are wealthy are loved by god
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:40] Debbie Dee (framdor): the problem is that if you are earning too much, someone is getting screwed....
[13:40] herman Bergson: All religions reject greed...
[13:40] Fred123 Aiten: how do you define what is too much?
[13:40] herman Bergson: that is what Thomas Aquinas already said Debbie...you are right
[13:40] Kime Babenco: But all religion temples are paved with gold...
[13:40] Celtos (firelight7): well its a pervesion of religion
[13:41] Debbie Dee (framdor): You know if it is too much fred ;)
[13:41] herman Bergson: too much what is more than you need for survival Fred
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i beg to differ .. there are some here in the states that actually say it is god's with if you are getting it all ...
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): religions
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: religions have their extremists that read everything wrong
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: so some maybe things cause I am rich god loves me
[13:41] Fred123 Aiten: so we should all earn exactly the same amount of money?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Then this is a very unjust God, I would say...
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: look at islam the koran say nothing about blowing people up and repressing women
[13:41] Celtos (firelight7): what about the cruisades, they were greedy
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): you are rich because god wants you to be
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:42] Debbie Dee (framdor): No, we should all work to maximise the happiness of the community
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: same there they get everything wrong with miserable results
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: happiness is good
[13:42] Bejiita Imako:
[13:42] Kime Babenco: God's only luck is he(or she) doesn't exist
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie...and that is based on the social feeling of solidarity
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): Thank you herman ;)
[13:43] herman Bergson: And today's neoliberalism is just breaking down social solidarity
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): When god made white man she was only joking
[13:43] herman Bergson: With Ayn Rand as the extreme example
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: ok...greed versus solidarity.....the global problem!
[13:44] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ;-)
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: everything in the basic wellfare system like hospital scool and transport get in the hands of greedy private companies
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: not a good thing
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor): Solidarity is going to become more important as the energy crisis deepens
[13:45] herman Bergson: yes and in the situation of the deprletion of recsources of this earth
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:46] Debbie Dee (framdor): Especially with 7 Billion peeople on the planet
[13:46] Kime Babenco: Things in life and the world ... behave like water... It goes from where there is only a little.... towards the ocean, where is already plenty of it...
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: the prob is everyone buys new and new all time cause a better model is out
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: the comercials screal
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: scream
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: BUY BUY BUY!
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: and working stuff is thrown at the scrap heap
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: a true waste of resources
[13:47] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): speaking of scream the painting sold yesterday for 120 million DOLLARS
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): yes . We still act as though there are no resource limits
[13:47] Fred123 Aiten: but miliions of people survive by supplying goods to the greedy
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: and also quality is sometime so low it brakes after a a while so they can sell even more
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: thats also waste
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yet, keep an eye open for the counter movements....liek Occupy, Greenpeace,etc....
[13:47] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): How do you share fairly amongst 7 Billion, Herman?
[13:48] Fred123 Aiten: if the greedy stopped buying stuff how would these people earn money for food
[13:48] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Agrees with Annie
[13:48] Lizzy Pleides: we have enough food for all, its a question of distribution
[13:48] herman Bergson: To begin with to take care that everybody has food ans shelter
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: WOW gemma thats extreme
[13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yep
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: hehe heard aboyut the auction in the news before
[13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): anonymous buyer
[13:49] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): The distribution of wealth between rich and poor countries is outrageous
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): Weak argument, fred. We must be able to come up with a better solution than increasing the burn rate, and trickling the ashes down to the poor
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: indeed we need to share all resources more equal
[13:49] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): wh has lots more i bet!!!!!!!!
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: thats a must
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: the prob is the greediness prevents that because " And what do i get for doing that"
[13:49] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Number of motor cars per 1000 of population
[13:49] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): 800 in USA
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: thats how people think
[13:49] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): 550 in Europe
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: they want something for everything they do
[13:50] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): 0.8 in China
[13:50] Kime Babenco: Would like to have such a paonting in your house ? (at first from how it looks, and secondly because the price of it ?)
[13:50] Debbie Dee (framdor): I'd store it in the attic...lol
[13:50] herman Bergson: since World War II you see a remarkable process....
[13:50] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hopeully it i perhaps for a new museum
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: hmm don't know the scream is a well known painting for sure but its just a painting even if its the original
[13:50] herman Bergson: just after the war people had no car or vacation abroud...
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: no art expert at all
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: but like art if looks good
[13:51] Bejiita Imako:
[13:51] herman Bergson: with the increase of wealth...a vacation abroad became "normal'
[13:51] herman Bergson: then...even with a low income...a car became normal...
[13:51] Kime Babenco: Depends on where you live and what is abroad...!
[13:51] herman Bergson: time and again we go a step further...
[13:52] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): now they ask were i'm going on vacation..and they look very surprised when I say I stay in my own country..that's not normal anymore
[13:52] herman Bergson: it is a peculiar process....
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje....
[13:52] herman Bergson: Like young graduates.....
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: today everyone in sweden goes to thailand now and then it seems
[13:52] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I like England and stay here usually
[13:53] herman Bergson: the first have to make a trip to thailand, Laos, Cambodja etc...
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: netherland is a small country
[13:53] Celtos (firelight7): i live in greece,hehe
[13:53] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but a beautifull one..
[13:53] herman Bergson: I once had a graduate who got a job offered...
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: i think turkey was far enough, cant sit on a plane for eternity just to get somewheere
[13:53] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): But people from Cambodia don't take annual holidays in Europe
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: yesss:-))
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: and Turkey was nice for sure
[13:53] Bejiita Imako:
[13:53] herman Bergson: He didnt accept it because he was entitlted to a vacation first he said
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: <= loves cheese and maatjes :-))
[13:53] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): this country is so big it is like a foreign vacation to go to the west cppast
[13:54] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol Lizzy...cheese and maatjes..
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and costs as much
[13:54] Kime Babenco: A luxury problem ...
[13:54] herman Bergson: Well..I geuss we all are focused on greed now enough ^_^
[13:54] Debbie Dee (framdor): I want some more...
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: MORE AND MORE AND MORE
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:55] herman Bergson: So may I thank you for you for the nice discussion and your participation
[13:55] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): aren't we all greedy??look in the supermarket..what a choice wehave!
[13:55] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Should not the people of Cambodia, and Thailand not be entitles to the same?
[13:55] Bejiita Imako:
[13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:55] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): entitled
[13:55] herman Bergson: You'll get More indeed Bejiita
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: Thank youu!
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: thats good
[13:55] herman Bergson: Next lecture will be on Thomas More and his utopia
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: cause this is interesting
[13:55] Bejiita Imako:
[13:55] Debbie Dee (framdor): thanks herman....
[13:55] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:55] herman Bergson: thank you all
[13:56] Celtos (firelight7): Thank you! :)
[13:56] Fred123 Aiten: many thanks Herman
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: ok co soon again all
[13:56] Bejiita Imako:
[13:56] Kime Babenco: The only thing that nultiples when you share it is happiness
[13:56] Debbie Dee (framdor): that was stimulating...
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: thats true
[13:56] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): hmmm
[13:56] Bejiita Imako:
[13:56] Kime Babenco: multiplies*
[13:57] herman Bergson: smiles..
[13:57] herman Bergson: you expect more...??
[13:58] herman Bergson: OK..next Tuesday ^_^
[13:58] Kime Babenco: OK
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: cu then
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: hugs all
[13:58] Kime Babenco: Sure
[13:58] Fred123 Aiten: bye everyone
[13:58] Kime Babenco: Sorry I missed last Tuesday
[13:58] Debbie Dee (framdor): Bye kime
[13:58] herman Bergson: Can happenKime
[13:59] Lizzy Pleides: good byee everybody
[13:59] Kime Babenco: Bye everyone... until soon
[13:59] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy
[13:59] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Bye Lizzy
[13:59] Kime Babenco: again
[13:59] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman..it was very interesting:)
[13:59] herman Bergson: thank you Beertje
[14:00] herman Bergson: you're welcome
[14:00] Celtos (firelight7): bye everybody
[14:00] herman Bergson: Bye Celtos
[14:00] Debbie Dee (framdor): Bye Herman ;) Thank you for a great lecture
[14:00] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): bye everyon3e
[14:00] herman Bergson: Bye Debbie
[14:01] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Good bye Herman

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