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Archive for Tuesday, November 9, 1999

GREEDVIRTUE?

November 9, 1999

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To the editor:

Friday's article on The Kansas University Economics Institute for Kansas Leaders raised the question of the true subject of the seminar. What we thought was about economics appears to have been about ethics, revisionist ethics at that, claiming greed not to be the vice it was always thought to be, but a virtue, indeed the key virtue of a prosperous society.

What is going on here? Are the sponsors of the seminar now recommending greed as a virtue for us all? Would the Kochs really want workers and their unions to be greedy? Or are they advocating a two-tier approach to morality, one in which the wealthy exercise the virtue of greed and workers are expected to make do with their hand-me-down virtues of thrift, hard work, and obedience?

I would suggest that the seminar was never meant to be about ethics. And for that matter it was not meant to be about economics either. Are we really to believe that busy legislators are going to develop a critical understanding of economics in a week of videos, lectures, and football, when the university measures its teaching effort on the subject in semesters and years?

Given the audience, clearly the seminar was about politics. What the Kochs are up to is familiar enough. Rent the prestige of a university and a research institute. Throw in room and board, free books, and a free sporting event. Invite the powerful and bill it all as education. Then pump your captive audience full of the political message that you want, no, insist, that they hear.

For the last 30 years, political conservatives have tried to use economics to justify their disdain for economic justice. Their advocacy of laissez-faire politics as economically wise ignores the suffering caused by poor distribution of wealth. I suspect that Mother Teresa, in her effort to relieve suffering, came more often into contact with economics in the root sense of that term than do our politicians and economists.

Greed for the wealthy a virtue? Mother Teresa, pray for us!

Paul Fairchild,

Lawrence.

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