September 10, 2016

There’s No Difference Between a Kind Capitalism and a Greedy Capitalism

By In C.Jay Engel

I’m responding specifically to sentiments I’ve seen expressed in the conservative Christian world as of recent. I’ve noticed there’s been a large injection lately of attempts to piously criticize a sort of “greedy” or “profit-oriented” capitalism. All of this is nonsense on stilts, built on the foundation of what Mises called the “Anti-capitalist mentality.” It is cautious toward pure and unfettered capitalism either because it does not understand capitalism, or it does not understand total depravity.

Capitalism is a social arrangement in which the means of production are privately owned; where the employment of said means is done according to the will of the consumers, as communicated via the price mechanism. Whether this employment of scarce capital is due to the capitalist being “kind” (and therefore doing as the consumer wants) or “greedy” (and therefore, in order greedily acquire a profit, doing as the consumer wants), it makes no difference. Perhaps we would want a man to be kind, and not greedy, but this has nothing to do with the existence of capitalism.

Man has an incalculable number of motivations for acting as he does, and no man, by praxeological definition, acts contrary to his own interests. In this sense, as Christians such as John Piper and Gordon Clark have observed, man is entirely self-interested. Indeed, we were created to be this way. But self-interest expresses itself in a capitalist system by enabling man to gain what he desires only if he first contributes to the gain of his fellow man. This is what economists have referred to as a “coincidence of wants.” A kind man does not automatically provide for his fellow man better than the greedy man.

Whether this is “greed” or not is too difficult to judge. In any case, the benefits of Capitalism don’t care whether a man is greedy or kind. Or whether a man is lustful or compassionate. Capitalism is the arrangement wherein each man acts according to his own mental state and results in a growth in prosperity and a betterment of the masses. As Mises writes:

Capitalism is essentially a system of mass production for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses. It pours a horn of plenty upon the common man. It has raised the average standard of living to a height never dreamed of in earlier ages. It has made accessible to millions of people enjoyments which a few gen- erations ago were only within the reach of a small élite.

Economic interventionism against greed, regulation which aims to “protect” consumers,  regresses this glorious trend and not only puts back on the path to serfdom, but it also hampers the opportunity that the masses and the impoverished would have had to participate in the rising standards of living. It is a roadblock, a detriment, to the common man.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to
  • Nice article. I think it’s worth defining “greed”. My definition is, “wanting more than you produce”. Using this definition a capitalist cannot be greedy.

    • Shatoyia Bradley

      But that’s using your definition. What does the bible say about greed? It says a lot more than “wanting more than you produce”.

      • Of course we should put not money or possessions above God. The Bible has plenty to say about wealth and how we should use it. However, the Bible doesn’t give a formal definition for “greed”. I’d say the definition I gave is the closest to Bible understanding of “greed” taking into account Prov 1 v 19, Prov 15 v 27, Prov 28 v 25, Jeremiah 6 v 13, Jeremiah 8 v 10, 1 Tim 3 v 8. All of these verses link “greed” with “unjust gain” or “dishonest gain”. Clearly in a Capitalist society where all legitimate (i.e. none fraudulent) transactions are voluntary, the gains are not “unjust” or “dishonest”.

        • Shatoyia Bradley

          The scriptures would disagree with you. The most biblically accurate definition of greed is “self-serving or self-seeking”. The problem is that capitalism may not consider selfish ambition as a sin but the bible does. You can pursue gains justly and it still be driven by selfish ambition and covetousness. The American Dream is predicated on the accumulation of possessions (the abundance of things) not for the glory of God but for the self-interests of depraved sinners.