What's the noblest of human motivations? Some might be tempted to answer: charity, love of one's neighbor or, in modern, politically correct language: giving something back to the community. In my book, these are indeed noble motivations, but they pale in comparison to a much more potent motivation for human action. For me the noblest of human motivations is greed. I don't mean theft, fraud, tricks, or misrepresentation. By greed I mean people being only or mostly concerned with getting the most they can for themselves and not necessarily concerned about the welfare of others. Social consternation might cause one to cringe at the suggestion that greed might possibly be seen as a noble motivation. "Enlightened self-interest" might be a preferable term. I prefer greed since it is far more descriptive and less likely to be confused with other human motives.
That human greed is the greatest of human motivations should be obvious to all; however, a few examples will make it more concrete. Texas cattle ranchers make enormous sacrifices to husband and insure the safety and well-being of their herds: running down stray cattle in the snow to care for and feed them, hiring veterinarians to insure their health, taking them to feed yards in time to fatten them up prior to selling them to slaughter houses. The result of these sacrifices is that New Yorkers can enjoy having beef on their supermarket shelves. Idaho potato farmers arise early in the morning. They do backbreaking work in potato fields, with the sun beating down on them and maybe being eaten by bugs. Similarly, the result of their sacrifices is that New Yorkers can also enjoy having potatoes on their supermarket shelves.
Why do Texas cattl...
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...ng an endangered species. Such a decree reduces the private use-value of the land and hence weakens incentives to care for the land. Similarly, if there were high transfer taxes for land sales, it too would weaken incentives to care for the land. In fact, anything that weakens the owner's private property rights in the land weakens his incentives to do the socially responsible thing - conserve on society's scarce resources.
While human motivations such as charity, love, or concern for others are important and salutatory, they are nowhere nearly as important as people's desire to have more for themselves. We all know that but we pretend it is not. That unwillingness to acknowledge personal greed as vital to human welfare, and instead view it with disapproval, makes us easy prey to charlatans and quacks who'd take away our liberties in the name of combatting greed.
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