Every major corporation in the world has been targeted in anti-trust probes for unfair market practices. Many of the same corporations have had to pay out huge amounts in settlements to governments around the world. The growth of enterprise appears to come with a fair amount of greed and desperate attempts at crushing of all seeming competitors.

These trends popularize greed and its outcomes. They lay waste to our model of doing all things with a good conscience. A young entrepreneur would ask:

· What use is a conscience outside of religion?

· What use does it offer in the market place?

· Why does capital require greed to grow?

· Will greed destroy the world or has it destroyed the world already?

· Do we prioritise other people’s needs or do we exploit those needs?

an anti-capitalist at the March for Life
Photo by Maria Oswalt

What is Capitalism without Greed?

Social capitalism or moral capitalism was intended as the remedy to unregulated capital. According to Marcus Marktanner (Economics Professor at Kennesaw State University), social capitalism (or the social market economy) refers to the provision of equal opportunity and the protection of those unable to enter the free market labour force because of limitations. This includes those limited by old-age, disability, or current unemployment. Beginning in Germany just after World War 2, policymakers thought of a way to ensure that the vulnerable had a chance at a decent life while enabling a free market economy. This model is supported by high taxes and tariffs which governments make available to the needy.

Some will argue that it can survive on its own.

In an ideal capitalistic economy, there will also be a re-balancing when resources are running low. Capitalists must invent a way to keep the party going. It is in the interest of the powerful to ensure that they regulate their greed when it is most critical. A classic example is the Corsair Compact, a negotiated settlement to ensure that major railroad competitors slow down expansion before they destroy the industry. The capitalist greed of a few industrialists was leading to a less sustainable rail industry and they needed to pause. They gathered to negotiate the terms of such a settlement under the leadership of J. P. Morgan in 1885 and it remains an example of how capitalists will fix things when they need to. They agreed to reduce their greed to preserve a sector.

A self-regulated capitalist world may just save itself. Just maybe.

Can the Corsair Compact agreement of 1885 be relied on as a pattern for future self-regulated practices by “greedy” capitalists? Can it be repeated by today’s greedy corporations? Can we rely on a robust free market to save itself from itself? What if capitalists fail to pull the breaks when most needed? What if the capitalist, while chasing their greed, just let the earth burn.

Photo by Edward Howell

If innovation thrives in capitalism then maybe Capitalism will always have a chance to reinvent itself and repair any issue it has create. Proponents believe that the cycle of reinvention by capitalism will always usher-in another season of recovery and an opportunity for new greed to thrive. To trust or not to trust?

Can we trust the greedy to think and plan for the good of all?