Is “Greed” Always Irrational?

Some say, ‘Money is the root of all evil.’

Is it better to say, ‘Greed is the root of all evil’?


Either way you say it, both are wrong.

Greed is an emotion. It’s a zest for something, a highly motivated attitude for something — money or whatever.

There’s nothing wrong with the emotion itself. Like any emotion, it can be used for good or evil.

Money is, as Ayn Rand wrote in ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the frozen form of a person’s productive energy. If the money is the result of honest productive effort, then it’s actually a reflection of a person at his or her best.

To condemn money is to wipe out (as evil) all the instances in which money is gained through productive effort; the way most money is actually gained.

The only way money isn’t earned is when it’s stolen or obtained under false pretenses. This isn’t the fault of money. It’s the fault of the people engaging in theft or pretense.

As with the phrase, ‘Shoot the messenger,’ it’s as if money is the ‘messenger,’ and it gets blamed for what some people do with it.

The unspoken reason why so many people hate money is envy. It isn’t that ‘Money is bad’; it’s ‘You have money that I wish I had, and I hate you for it.’ Instead of openly hating you for the money you earned, envious others deplore the money itself.

It applies to greed as well. Just because someone has a zest for life, or a highly motivated spirit, doesn’t automatically or necessarily mean it’s in pursuit of something questionable.

Most people claim that they want economic growth and productivity. But whenever somebody produces goods or services that lead them to make huge sums of money, they’re labeled ‘greedy’ and therefore bad. If ‘greed’ refers to the focused productivity that leads to economic growth, jobs and all the rest — even if the greed was motivated by the desire to make a huge profit — then why is it bad?

Why do we praise the end result of economic productivity while condemning the motivation that most often creates it?

Why do we blur our definitions to smear all with the sins of some? We say all self-interest is bad, only because a small number view self-interest as criminal force or fraud. What about
the great majority pursuing self-interest based on the desire to produce and make an honest million?

Why is profit inherently bad while nearly everyone is motivated by profit of some sort? Doesn’t profit really mean success and achievement? Aren’t there many ways to succeed and achieve, of which money is one?

Why is it always right to succeed and achieve while not making money, while it’s always wrong to succeed and achieve when making money?

These questions are never asked and therefore never answered. But their relevance is overwhelming.

We’ve got to stop attacking greed, money and self-interest, as rationally defined. As long as we keep doing so, we’ll be attacking the very best of human nature and the human spirit.


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