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Archive for August 15th, 2012

Greed, Then And Now

While many say that today’s emergence of an economic elite resembles something from the Middle Ages,  Sanford historian Laura Stokes says there is a world of difference in attitudes toward greed:

“…greed hasn’t always been popular in Western societies.

Stanford historian Laura Stokes is uncovering how attitudes toward “acceptable greed” have done a turnaround in the past 500 years. Self-serving behavior deemed necessary on Wall Street today might have been despised in medieval Europe. One might even have been murdered for using wealth as a justification for circumventing societal norms.

 While businessmen in the Middle Ages did amass personal fortunes, open greed was unacceptable to the community and could even lead to murder.

Capitalism, Stokes has found, managed to flourish in the intensely community-conscious culture of medieval times. Men of business successfully built financial empires based on trade and credit, even though unbridled greed was universally condemned.

The question that perplexes Stokes, an assistant professor of history, is how such men could be admired by their peers, when greed was frowned upon.

In short, blatantly selfish economic behavior was simply unacceptable. In describing the contradiction between present-day business attitudes and a medieval mindset, Stokes said, “A medieval businessman would surely be impressed by the successes of his modern descendants, but he would also despise them as men without honor or virtue.”
Read more at http://scienceblog.com/55947/greed-was-different-in-the-middle-ages/#7HMb1OvG6CdlBG42.99

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Worker Ownership Works

Mondragon, Spain

“Economic success stories are rare in recession-hit Spain these days but one can be found in the small northern Basque town of Arrasate, nestling in rolling green hills.Here lies the headquarters of Mondragon, reckoned to be the world’s largest worker co-operative. The name is the same as the town’s, when translated from Basque into Spanish.

The unemployment rate in the Basque Country is 15%, and lower in the province of Guipuzcoa, where Mondragon is based. The rate in Spain as a whole is now 25%.”

Read more here.

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Counterintuitive

If you have been listening to the rhetoric, anyway:

Read the story here.

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Paul Ryand

It has come to my attention that there are rumors floating around that I am a harsh critic of capitalism, a Catholic radical.

This is an urban legend, and nothing could be further from the truth. I am a disciple of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, not of Dorothy Day or G K Chesterton. I have long valued the free market and seen collectivism and false compassion as the enemy of my selfish desires, and note that when I say “selfish” I mean that as a noble thing.

What’s that you say? There is a long trail, on paper and online, to the contrary? As recently as yesterday?

Nope. Not true. Urban legend. La la la la.

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