© Eric R. Pianka
Our current economic system is fatally flawed because it is based on the principle of a chain letter, i. e. a Ponzi scheme. Growth simply cannot continue indefinitely in a world of finite resources. Coupling such insane economics with runaway greed results in recessions and leads to economic depression. We need to overhaul our economic system if we ever hope to reach a stable sustainable state.
Competition is ubiquitous wherever resources are in short supply. Plants compete for light and water. Fungi and microbes compete for nutrients. Animals compete for food and space. Competition leads to greedy behaviors. Greed is a natural human instinct -- all of us are selfish and greedy at heart, and for sound evolutionary reasons. In times of scarcity, a greedy cave man was more likely to survive and reproduce than a generous one who shared his limited resources with the less fortunate. We have been programmed by natural selection to be selfish.
Money has allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor. A wise woman from a third world country once said at the UN "If the rich countries refuse to share their wealth with us, we will certainly share our poverty with them." We need a more egalitarian society with assured health care, shelter, food, and water for all. What's the point of having more than you can actually use? No one should own more than he/she could earn with his/her own effort and skill. How much money does one human being need? Runaway greed is obscene.
Humans, especially Americans, have institutionalized greed-- we allow, even encourage, runaway greed. Our political and economic systems are designed to facilitate greed. Greed is the underlying driving force for both capitalism and entrepreneurship. Our banking and insurance companies, coupled with the formation of limited liability corporations were designed to allow greed to explode. Greedy speculators have driven up food and fuel prices. Corporations control politicians, who pass legislation that allows tax evasion and assures obscene corporate profits. Runaway human greed threatens our future.
Bottom Line: Unfortunately, any attempt to control greed will be strenuously opposed, especially by the wealthy. It may be impossible to overcome such destructive human instinctive behaviors. Runaway greed could consume us all.
Pianka: Can Human Instincts Be Controlled?
Daly, H. E. 1991. Steady-State Economics. Island Press, Washington, D. C.
Daly, H. E. 1997. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Beacon Press
Mill, J. S. 1859. On Liberty. Ticknor and Fields, Boston.
Nadeau, R. 2008. The Economist has No Clothes. Scientific American, April 2008, p. 42.
Zency, Eric. 2009. Mr. Soddy's Ecological Economy. New York Times, April 12, 2009.
See also Economic Collapse