Can Greed be Good?

The notion of “greed” mingles two opposite concepts. One is ambition — and I mean ambition in the widest sense, not solely for financial or career gain. “Ambition” in the widest sense means a zest for life, a commitment to continuing personal, intellectual and material growth throughout one’s life. Ambition is implied by self-esteem and, yes, rational self-interest. The other concept mingled in with the notion of “greed” is irrational, mindless pleasure-seeking, not only at others’ expense, but at one’s own expense as well, at least over the long-run. “Greed” in that sense means sacrificing any assessment of rationality and objectivity for the sake of what feels right in the moment. People can do this in any context of life, but for whatever reasons we tend to limit use of the label “greed” to the business or financial realm. I don’t like the word “greed” because of this dishonest intermingling of concepts. It’s dishonest and it distorts–and it fosters neurotic guilt.