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IPFS News Link • Philosophy: Capitalism

TGIF: Free Markets and Greed

• by Sheldon Richma

Ever since corporate raider Gordon Gekko, the lead character in Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987), made that declaration, left-wing opponents of the market economy have regarded that one-liner as the only rebuttal required to silence their libertarian adversaries. (Right-wingers like the national conservatives probably find Gekko's line useful too.)

But Gekko's scriptwriters, Stone and Stanley Weiser, neglected to have their creature define the word. How interesting, then, that Gekko says, "for lack of a better word." Is there no better word or phrase than greed for what he might have had in mind? "The peaceful pursuit of one's interest" or "the pursuit of happiness" works for me.

The lack of a definition, of course, has never stopped anyone from quoting Gekko. It's as though a real person had finally blown the whistle on the market economy. It's about greed, and we all know that greed is the worst thing! What more do we need to know?

Bear in mind that the economy that Gekko operated in was not free, especially in banking and corporate finance. The politicians' and bureaucrats' hands were and still are all over it.