Monday, November 03, 2008

Greed vs Rational Self-Interest

OK, that title is a bit over-ambitious :) for what I've got for you here, but here's the seed for a more in-depth treatment, well, actually, this article, Black Swans, Butterflies, and the Economy is better than a seed:
The profit motive is a good thing when it operates in an environment where bad bets are punished with losses and good investments are rewarded. Only government can distort that healthy profit-and-loss system, giving people incentives to make bad decisions. And it's in this environment that greed is no good to anyone. It turns out, however, that greed -- or better, rational self-interest -- can help our economy stabilize faster than government ever could. As the lubricant of our economic system, self-interest will cause a million market actors to recalibrate and to direct resources to projects that create value in our society. We the people will temper our irrational urges and mitigate our risks if government restores the rules that let profit and loss bring discipline. But if government continues to change the rules to bias the market in favor of irrational behavior, rent-seeking, and corporatism, the chaotic aspects of the system will continue to wobble out of equilibrium. Black swans will become commonplace.

He explains "black swans" back in the second paragraph:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is famous for introducing us to black swans. Though these rare creatures have long been used among academic philosophers to explain the shortcomings of reasoning by induction ("Every swan I've ever seen has been white, therefore all swans are white."), Taleb uses the black swan as a stark metaphor for the inevitability of highly improbable events. In other words, black swans are rare, but one will eventually swim by, even if you have to go to Australia to see it.

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