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  • Don’t Be Preedy

    Posted by Shannon Love on April 13th, 2009 (All posts by )

    While linking to a Megan McArdle comment on a childish Matthew Yglesias post on bankers, Instapundit asks a question that reveals a void in our language and world-models:

    “DOES GREED MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON? What about greed for power, a trait exhibited by many of those who denounce greed for money? Which is worse?”

    Why does Instapundit have to use the cumbersome phrase “greed for power” to describe a very common human behavior? Why do we have to describe the lust for power in terms of the lust for money?

    Language can tell you a great deal about the world models held by those who speak the language. Specifically, if a language lacks a specific, neat word for a particular concept, it tells you that the people who speak the language don’t use the concept very often. 

    What does it tell us that English and every other Western language have a single word to describe the destructive lust for money but that they lack a single word to describe the destructive lust for political power?

    After all, it is not as if we lack any experience with the destructive effects of the single-minded pursuit of power. From the very worst such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot down to some jackass on the city council, most of us have seen individuals cause real harm to others just to increase their own political power. Why then do we not have a word for such destructive behavior? 

    I think the answer simple. Historically, people who lust for power will kill you quicker and more surely than will those who lust for money. 

    It has been noted correctly that the local dog catcher has more arbitrary authority over any citizen than does Bill Gates, currently the richest man in America. Bill Gates cannot set one foot on my property if I don’t wish him to but the dog catcher can do so against my will under the color of his authority. If I beat up Bill Gates for trespassing, he will go to jail not I. If I resist the dog catcher, it will trigger a chain of events which can lead to my death at the hands of a SWAT team. That can happen even if the dog catcher is not corrupt. If he is corrupt, things can go very badly, very quickly even for a law-abiding person. 

    All the power of the state for good or bad arises from the power of the state to kill. The lowest public official wields the power to initiate a string of events that will lead to the death of citizens who resist that power. This has always been the case throughout history. The “nobles” of pre-democratic western cultures were nothing but a caste of intermarried families of military specialists who maintained their position over the rest of society by killing. During this time, the clergy was often composed of the same family members and benefited materially from the killers’ extortion from the productive elements of society. Nobles and clergy survived and lived richly by stealing from the peasants, artisans and merchants. They needed propaganda to justify why people who could do nothing but kill had an inherent right to take from those who cultivated, created and distributed. For thousands of years, those who killed have held both their purse strings and their swords to the throats of the clergy, philosophers and artists who over the generations created our cultural narratives of good and bad behavior. Those narrative-creators who created stories that glorified the killers grew rich, stayed alive and had their works preserved throughout the ages. Those who did not ended up dead and their works erased from history. The killers wanted to take from peasants, so the word for peasant, villager, from the Latin villi meaning “farmhand”, became by the medieval age the word “villain”. To take from the artisan or merchant, they needed to cast the merchant’s accumulation of material wealth without violence as a sin, so we have the invention of the sin and word, “greed”. By contrast, the very name of the caste of killers, “noble” became a synonym for virtue and self-sacrifice. 

    This same dynamic played out with minor variations in every civilized human culture from meso-America to Asia.

    This veneration of killers and hatred of the productive remains with us long after the hereditary killers were replaced with classes of non-hereditary killers. Communism and fascism both draw their moral authority from the idea that those who control the violent power of the state are inherently more virtuous than those who produce and trade. The Nazis in particular exploited the idea that the Jews, who had for centuries been the commercial specialists of Europe, were morally corrupt because they dealt with money and trade instead of being virtuous killers. 

    (This is not to suggest that those who criticize greed are Nazis or communists but rather that both ideologies exploit a preexisting and unquestioned cultural narrative complete with its own historical iconography. )

    The God of Jews Is Gold

    Highly Typical Anti-Semitic Image, “The God of Jews Is Gold

    Hitler as a \

    Hitler as Member of the Caste of Killers, i.e., a “Noble” Knight

    Even in liberal democracies, leaders do not wish to remind people that they redistribute wealth, protect the environment or even catch criminals by using violence. 

    So, for thousands of years, the killers have fostered a cultural concept of “greed” to justify their own power and status while suppressing the concept of the destructive lust for violent power. Yes, we all understand that such destructive urges exist but we have never been allowed to create a neatly package and labeled concept for it. We must talk around it in circumlocutions and clumsy phrases. We can say that a banker that pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars is “greedy” but we have no such neat word to describe someone who spends their entire adult life in the single-minded pursuit of the power to coerce others by the violent power of the state. 

    I suggest we destroy this engineered cultural blind spot by creating a neat concept and label to describe the destructive urge to control others by violence. Let us pay homage to tradition and call the destructive pursuit of power, “power-greed” or more compactly, “preed”. 

    When someone says that someone needs to control the “greedy” people who produce all the material necessities and luxuries of life, remind them that it will be the “preedy” that will do the controlling and that eventually, the greedy and preedy will be the same individuals. Remind them that those who act out of preed have killed many times more people than have the most greedy. 

    We don’t need to forget that greed is dangerous but we do need to remember that preed is even more so and that when forced to choose between empowering the greedy or empowering the preedy we should empower the relatively harmless greedy.

    Spread the meme. Get a bumper sticker or T-Shirt, “Don’t be Preedy!”

    [I suppose I should open up the discussion for different candidate words. Feel free to suggest.]

     

     

    91 Responses to “Don’t Be Preedy”

    1. Bill Says:

      Nietzsche gave us “machtgelust.” It seems appropriate to me that we look to that author for our word: “my, isn’t Nancy being machtlusty today?”

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      bill,

      I don’t know. “Machtegelust” doesn’t quite sing in English does it? I kind of like “preedy” because it seems to automatically evoke “greedy” and “needy”. Dang, starting memes is hard.

    3. Rakir Says:

      What does it tell us that English and every other Western language have a single word to describe the destructive lust for money but that they lack a single word to describe the destructive lust for political power?

      I’m not sure this is true. According to Merriam-Webster the English greed derives from greedy, which has a broader meaning (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greedy). The German equivalent Gier can also describe any kind of lust, including for money as well as for power — so there might not be any single German word to describe either lust. Interestingly, it is not used in the despicable depiction of the Jew who sits on his money. The caption rather says that money is the Jew’s god. I’m not sure it makes a different to the point though.

      [edited to close italicization — Shannon]

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Rakir,

      I’m not sure this is true.

      In all deference to the dictionary, the word “greedy” in isolation means a lust for money. Used in a phrase you can turn it into a more generic desire e.g. “greedy for ‘X’.” It’s default meaning, which goes back to at least middle English means a lust for money. If someone says, “Bob is greedy,” people don’t ask, “Greedy for what?” Lust is the same way. By itself, it means sexual desire. In phrase you can convert it to a generic destructive desire.

      There is no word, which in isolation, means a destructive desire for political power.

      Interestingly, it is not used in the despicable depiction of the Jew who sits on his money.

      I just grabbed the illustration because it was typical of centuries long tradition of linking Jews to “greed”. There are literally thousands of similar examples. The linked Nazi children’s book from which the illustrations comes says:

      “Yes, my child, that’s the Jew! The God of the Jews is gold. There is no crime he would not commit to get it. He has no rest till he can sit on the top of a gold-sack. He has no rest till he has become King Money. And with this money he would make us all into slaves and destroy us. With this money he seeks to dominate the whole world

      Jews were hated primarily for being commercial people. The nobility and clergy used anti-Semitism to loot Jewish wealth over the centuries. Martin Luther called gentiles who engage in commerce “Christian Jews.” This pattern exist in all civilized pre-industrial cultures. Warriors and priest are venerated. Agricultural workers are stupid and impulsive. Merchants universally reviled. In almost all cultures, commercial and artisan classes belong to outsider ethnic groups.

      It’s easy to see how common the cultural sterotypes that the Nazi’s exploited remain by substituting “banker” for “jew” in the above sample.

      “Yes, my child, that’s the banker! The God of the banker is gold. There is no crime he would not commit to get it. He has no rest till he can sit on the top of a gold-sack. He has no rest till he has become King Money. And with this money he would make us all into slaves and destroy us. With this money he seeks to dominate the whole world

      Heck, Matthew Yglesias could have written that in a whimsical moment.

    5. setbit Says:

      Great post, Shannon.

      As a data point, I see that biblical Hebrew has two words that seem to express this concept. The noun chamac is variously translated as violence, cruelty, injustice, falseness, etc. It’s used to describe people who are willing or eager to use violence or other evil to gain power over others. It apparently rhymes with the word for “covet”, but has a different etymological root.

      The adjective `ariyts is rendered as oppressive, terrible, violent, fierce, tyrannical, etc. Tellingly, this word is rendered very differently in the different English translations, suggesting that the word doesn’t directly correspond to anything in our language.

      Even more interesting, I don’t see a word in the Old Testament that directly corresponds with the word greed. The word betsa` is most accurately rendered as “covetousness”, or “dishonest gain”, and represents not just the desire for gain, but a willingness to lie, cheat, and steal.

      On a tangential note, there is no word at all in the Hebrew Bible for “religion”, and the New Testament uses the term only about six times, almost always in a negative sense.

      Disclaimer: I have no formal education or experience with Hebrew, I’m just going by what I see in the online references (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm: references H2555, H2530, H6184, and H1215, respectively), plus my own limited understanding.

    6. setbit Says:

      Yikes! Sorry for the multiple posts! My comment didn’t show up at first, so I re-edited it to get past the spam filter.

      Please feel free to remove the duplicates (plus this one if you want). The second-to-last has the fewest typos.

    7. Dave A Says:

      I had thought that avarice is the specific lust for money, while greed was a more general term for wanting something inordinately. Checking with Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, I find that cupidity, avarice, and greed all mean roughly the same thing. I think that avarice is an underused word and greedy is overused.

      It is too bad that there isn’t a single word, like preedy to describe the inordinate pursuit of power over others. Ambition is a good word but needs additional qualifiers, like inordinate or excessive. Machiavellian applies in some cases. At least there are single words to call a preedy person once they reach the top: tyrant and despot. However there are as many (and I would guess more) terms to call someone who isn’t as generous as you would like them to be with their money: miserly, stingy, parsimonious, and niggardly. Should one find himself subject to attacks on account of his money, he would do well to remind others the dangers of coveting and of being an officious, meddling, busybody; there are plenty of ways to tell someone to mind his or her own business, which someone who lusts for power cannot abide.

      The English language is a moving target, shaped through years of (mis)use. It would be nice to know more about the origins of words to understand definitions before they became diluted in meaning.

      [edited to insert italics — Shannon]

    8. Dave A Says:

      Shannon,

      Would you please fix the HTML in my post? How do I get italics to work correctly in the future?

    9. setbit Says:

      I heartily agree that violent lust for power is important enough that there ought to be a concise term for it, a convenient verbal peg to hang the idea on. But I’m not sure “preedy” is an ugly enough term to do justice to the concept:

      “Preedy Communist governments murdered some 100 million of their own citizens in the 20th century.” Somehow that sentence just needs something with a little more snap.

    10. setbit Says:

      Dave A:

      How do I get italics to work correctly in the future?

      Use the greater-than less-than brackets, not square brackets. Examples here: http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_formatting.asp

      (Hope this helps; us clueless posters need to stick together) :-)

    11. Bill Says:

      I don’t want a word that “sings.” I guess I would settle on “power hungry” and convince myself that it was really one word with a space in the middle…

    12. John Says:

      What about megalomaniac?

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      Bill,

      I don’t want a word that “sings.”

      You do if you want to spread an idea. We’ve got to overcome thousands of years of cultural conditioning here.

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      John,

      What about megalomaniac?

      To grandiose. Megademicidal dictators are megalomaniacs, not that jackass on the city council. We want some concept that can be readily applied to political behavior both large and small the way that greed can to economic behavior large and small.

    15. david foster Says:

      People who have power have generally been able to turn it into money or money equivalent. The feudal lord could extract crops and labor services from his peasants. The Communist leaders might have had modest salaries, but drew extremely excellent “employee benefits” in the form of dachas, servants, special stores, etc. In our mixed economy, elected and appointed officials may also have modest salaries, but are accruing future financial benefits in the form of the value that they will have to the private sector once they leave office. And the more involved government becomes in the details of business, the higher the value that political experience will have in the marketplace.

      In America in general, though, the political classes did not become as wealthy as very successful members of the commercial classes. Members of the former class increasingly resent this disparity (see David Brooks, Attack from Ward Three), and much of the current class-warfare activity of the Democratic Party should really be viewed as horizontal class warfare (elite vs elite) rather than vertical class warfare (elite vs non-elite).

    16. Rakir Says:

      Shannon,

      Thanks for your answer. It’s just occurred to me that, in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, Pride would probably be the closest match for ‘greed for power’ (although Envy and Greed itself also come somewhat close) but this does not reflect present-day usage, I presume.

    17. setbit Says:

      Porting machtgelust to English gives powerlust which I think works well as a noun form. It emphasizes the fact that power seekers are naturally focused on their own gratification, and that any “service” they claim to offer is at best a secondary priority.

      I’m stumped for an adjective, though. Powerlustful seems like too much of a mouthful and a little on the silly side. Not as bad as powerlusty of course, which gives me the mental image of someone showing up at a city council meeting in a pirate outfit.

      Having a vulgar form could be useful, too. I can think of a couple people that I might describe as powerpr**cks in an unguarded moment.

    18. sol vason Says:

      It is generally accepted (and therefore certainly false) that the President of the USA has the most important job in the USA. If this is true, then he should have the highest paycheck of anyone in the US.
      Congressmen and Governors (and their assistants) are all grossly underpaid when one considers how important they are. Logically, they are entitled to right this wrong and to use their power to supplement their paychecks.

      Therefore, a politician can never be greedy or power mad because he is merely trying to fix a very obvious mistake. This is why you can’t find the word you want. It does not exist. Because there is always a good excuse for increasing power and income and voters prefer promise to reality.

    19. Shannon Love Says:

      Rakir,

      It’s just occurred to me that, in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, Pride would probably be the closest match for ‘greed for power’

      Back in classical Christianity (<800A.D.), before the marketing department got hold of them, there were 9 deadly sins one of which was vainglory, which comes close, as a desire, as a lust for power because in those days fame and renown were usually inseparable from political power. Today we would probably say it is more a lust for fame. Fame doesn’t automatically translate into an ability to dominate other people by force.

    20. david foster Says:

      Although politicians generally do very well for themselves financially, and will do even better under the new dispensation, this is not usually their primary motivation. Elected & appointed officials, along with career civil servants, have a full panoply of human motivations, including the desire for power, adulation, security, and sense of accomplishment. Most likely, items #1 and #2 are particularly strong among candidates for elected office and item #3 is stronger than average in the typical civil service employee (though there are certainly individual civil servants for whom #4 is strong)

      “Progressives,” and even old-line liberals, often tend not to understand that politicians & officials are pursuing their own interests just as much as businesspeople do…they are not altruistic national parent-figures.

      I’m surprised no one has yet quoted Dr Johnson:

      “…there are indeed few ways in which a man can
      be more innocently employed than in making money.”

    21. K.J. Webb Says:

      This is, as usual, a provocative and thought-generating post…

      The reason we don’t have a good English pejorative for “lust for power” is that we’re shaped by the Renaissance ideal of “virtu”. You see this in Nietzsche, of course, but also in American democrats like Emerson and Whitman. All our spiritual leaders – most of them sprung from the middle class – think that we’re meant to exercise our human powers in seeking moral excellence, being leaders, creating art – anything but making a living or creating wealth. Shop-keeping has never been something anyone with a reputation for thought (except Adam Smith) has had much use for.

      I don’t expect this will change any time soon. Wasn’t it Schumpeter who held that capitalism’s biggest defect was its inability to inspire the progeny of those who most profited from it? If you claw yourself out of poverty you have some respect for the mechanisms that allowed you to do that. If you’re born in wealth, relatively speaking, you take wealth for granted and have the leisure and guilt to make you want to dream of other things.

      The seeming problem with the middle-class is that it never created the ideals that kingly and aristocratic classes created. It created widely held wealth, but the art it created – think of Dickens, Eliot or Twain – never celebrated middle-class types. The artists who sprang from that class mostly wanted to escape it – to epater le bourgeoisie and all that.

      The middle-class is a sort of default mode, reverted to by the cruder and more vital spirits who rise from below and don’t care much about higher thinking. It has no defenders except these interlopers. It is they who reinvent it, so that their children can abandon it, and new people can arise to replace them. This sounds like a bug, as Schumpeter thought, but it seems sort of like a feature to me.

    22. david foster Says:

      The Benjamin Franklin passage which I quoted a few passages down is very relevant here:

      “There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice–the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects.”

      The article or speech from which it comes is also worth reading. (a href=”http://www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=h&p=c&a=p&ID=28445″>link)

    23. David Foster Says:

      corrected lin for the Benjamin Franklin thing here.

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      K.J. Webb,

      The reason we don’t have a good English pejorative for “lust for power” is that we’re shaped by the Renaissance ideal of “virtu”.

      I would argue that even by the Renaissance the “killer good”/”producers bad” dichotomy had long been established. It shows up in classical times. The Phoenicians were often reviled for their reliance on trade instead of conquest.

      You really don’t see the idea that trade, industry and thrift are admirable things (beyond specific subcultures like Jews or Italian trading families) until roughly 1700 and then only on the northwest coast of Europe and then the American northeast. Even then, the concept was much in conflict the older idea of “nobility” which forever attempting to reassert itself.

      Personally, I think we are genetically programed to seek out alliances with and therefore admire the alpha male who in evolutionary history dominated by violence. Our genes tell us that the chief, the ring giver, the king is the true leader. People who spend their time off camera doing who knows what but ending up with more than we just seems genetically wrong.

    25. veryretired Says:

      Fascinating subject, and a very nice presentation of the problem.

      There is no doubt that these concepts, the nobility of anything non-commercial as opposed to the suspicion of anything commercial, is very old and very deep in human culture. I remember being startled when reading about Japanese culture that the merchant class was held as being little better than the untouchables, and the samurai attitude was remarkably similar to the disdain for trade shown by European aristocracy.

      Undoubtedly a characteristic shared by the “warrior culture” of those societies, as well as many others.

      Perhaps, in a certain sense, the very mundane nature of “trade”, in comparison with the adrenalin of combat or the total immersion of the truly artistic, is somewhat of a letdown, and therefore, less likely to inspire the poets in any culture.

      Certainly, the “Charge of the Light Brigade” is thrilling, while “Stocking the Shelves in Housewares” is not, but the former gives us death and destruction, while the other allows Joe Average to acquire the plumbing supplies he needs to put in that new bathroom for his growing family. I would submit that the latter is the more valuable enterprise, but, clearly, that is a minority opinion in any historical analysis of what human cultures value.

      Obviously, anyone familiar with me knows I could go on and on, so that is enough. Thank you for the thought provoking post. It is an example of why I stop here every day to check things out.

    26. Rakir Says:

      Shannon,

      […] there were 9 deadly sins one of which was vainglory […]

      Thanks. That’s interesting.

    27. david foster Says:

      “Certainly, the “Charge of the Light Brigade” is thrilling, while “Stocking the Shelves in Housewares” is not, but the former gives us death and destruction, while the other allows Joe Average to acquire the plumbing supplies he needs”…note, though, that our current self-defined elite–unlike almost all previous historical elites–does not have a high regard for military values…indeed, doesn’t have any more respect for “the charge of the light brigade” (or even for a less-disastrous affair like “the charge up San Juan hill”) than it does for “stocking the shelves.”

    28. K.J. Webb Says:

      Shannon, if memory serves, in a post from some weeks ago you expressed an ardent admiration for the thought of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes held that without a supreme power in a strong political state there is only the state of nature and the war of all against all. The rule of law comes before every other civilized activity. It is not created by shopkeepers or scribblers but by the hard and even ruthless men. Then come the smaller-scaled human activities – making things, growing things, trading things, talking about things. If that is so, isn’t it understandable that the more ambitious spirits – or more virtuous ones, in the Renaissance sense – would direct their energies to governing rather than getting and spending? Maybe that’s what our vocabulary is telling us.

    29. veryretired Says:

      I disagree as to the cause of the elites’ disdain, though, David. The tranzi elites hold military service in contempt specifically because, in our case, it is in the service of a middle class, capitalist country.

      Notice their fascination and deference to any number of dictators and terrorists, and their century-plus devotion to the naked aggressiveness of revolution, as long as it’s collectivist, and their fervent support for the constant increase in state power, even though, as noted in the original post, that power is founded on the use of force to compel obedience.

      As Shannon has pointed out, they dislike military options that preclude their status as the “literate elite” that should be allowed to devise solutions to all problems. And, as many observers have noted, the opposition to the military and violent action disappears as soon as their group is in power.

      I would assert that if some future President of the US announced the country was going on a world-wide military campaign to destroy capitalism and industrial plants that produced pollution and global warming, an astonishing number of these supposedly pacifist, non-violent elitists would be cheerleading like high school girls at the big football game.

    30. David Foster Says:

      Veryretired…interesting analysis. Several years ago, I saw a photo of a group of (female) Spanish protesters, all almost naked except for mock suicide vests like those used by terrorists. They were carrying signs that said “no war.” And I was reminded of some lines from Leonard Cohen:

      I know that you have suffered, lad
      But suffer this awhile:
      Whatever makes a soldier sad
      Will make a killer smile

    31. Brett_McS Says:

      It figures the Germans would have a word meaning ‘lust for political power’. “Those Germans have a word for everything.”

      Another (the ‘therapeutic’) approach would be to consider if lust for political power is actually a symptom of a more fundamental emotional/psychological problem, and describe the disease rather than the symptom. Those who lust for power over others seem to be ‘failed’ people in some sense or another.

    32. Shannon Love Says:

      K.J. Webb,

      Shannon, if memory serves, in a post from some weeks ago you expressed an ardent admiration for the thought of Thomas Hobbes.

      Not a big Hobbe’s fan. His work is largely read as a justification for the centralization of power which is not high on my list of good things. I occasionally snag a quote form him when I think he was target on this or that issue.

      The rule of law comes before every other civilized activity. It is not created by shopkeepers or scribblers but by the hard and even ruthless men. Then come the smaller-scaled human activities – making things, growing things, trading things, talking about things. If that is so, isn’t it understandable that the more ambitious spirits – or more virtuous ones, in the Renaissance sense – would direct their energies to governing rather than getting and spending? Maybe that’s what our vocabulary is telling us.

      Well, yes and no. Clearly, one cannot trade freely without removing violence from the equation. However, there are many different ways of doing that. The best way is to distribute the capacity for violence symmetrically throughout a society. In that condition, violence becomes unprofitable because no one can gain an advantage. This happened in little pockets such as golden age Greece the early Roman Republic, America and few other places.

      Most of our modern commercial and civil law arose out “merchant law” which was based on network of interlocking agreements enforced by non-violent refusal to trade further with violators. This flourished for nearly three centuries in northern Europe when the nobility largely ignored trade in favor of stealing land and its peasants from each other. Only when they noticed the money they could steal did they claim merchant law as their own domain.

      So, there really is no need to create a special caste in order to mete out justice. On the other hand, in reality, it is easier to steal than to create and people who end up with the wealth are respected and glorified. I think that is what the language tells us. Our ancestors who made it to the top did so with violence.

      I merely argue that the no longer have the need to emulate them anymore and that we should change the language to match our changed circumstances.

    33. Brett_McS Says:

      Shannon, the benefits of peaceful trade over time enable those who engage in it to out perform those who habitually go after the ‘short-term win’ of violence. This differential in wealth is the ultimate basis for the control of violence. Nazi Germany learnt this, to its cost, when America entered the war.

    34. Brett_McS Says:

      BTW if you are going to do any more posts on this line (which I would encourage) you should include Frederick Bastiat amoungst the photos at the top. This is a very Bastiat-like essay – and we definitely need more like him these days.

    35. Anonymous Says:

      One of the best arguments supporting the 2nd Amendment I have ever read!

    36. Chris A. Says:

      The word you are seeking is avaricious.

      It is greed for the “public purse”, which is inevitably power or control over others, and not simply shear power lust.

      When it comes to the public purse, control over others produces more goods. This is what oligarchs focus on because they convert the public purse into the emperor’s purse. Since they have the control over the whole thing, who is to argue?

      Of course, the whole game hinges on always having more brute force than the public at large, and at times things can go wrong.

      Lusting for brute force power is still accomplished avariciously because armies and weapons must be somehow gained, and whether they are purchased with money or plundered, as in annexation etc. it is still the same game.

    37. Dr. K Says:

      Just call it what it is:

      Corrupt.

      A perfectly good english word that basically means using a position of power to extract money.

      Or haven’t we heard that “Power corrupts; aboslute power corrupts absolutely”?

    38. ERF Says:

      Only rarely do I come across a blog post that leads me to see things in a more accurate and illuminating way. Yours is one. Thank you Shannon Love.

    39. Charlie Says:

      Rakir was right. “Greed” denotes a desire for more of anything… wealth, power or, originally, food. Reynolds was therefore precisely right to differentiate between the objects of greed.

      We have numerous words for which other languages have multiple different ones. Take “love.” When translating Greek, we have to resort to locutions such as “brotherly love” or “physical love.” The ancient Greeks even differentiated between types of house guests.

      My hat’s off to you if you want to address all these gaps with coinages of your own. For “greed for power,” you might try “power-mad.” I like that better than “preedy.”

    40. TW Says:

      Coining new words is NOT easy to do, and I don’t think this one will catch on. People aren’t going to use “preedy,” at least in the long term. It sounds too much like “pretty,” which is what people are going to think you’re saying when speaking. They’re just going to be confused when you write it, unless you explain it every time, for a long time.

      Someone suggested “powerlust” and I think that’s your best bet. You don’t have to explain it, and Google shows 66,000 hits for it already.

    41. Peter McCormick Says:

      This is an interesting discussion, but I think it misses the point.

      Yes, we must spend more time identifying and condemning power lust. The problem I have with this discussion, however, is that it smacks of the tit-for-tat, i.e., the Left condemns “greed for money,” so the Right must condemn greed for power. Shannon does a nice job of distinguishing between the two, but she and others here are still on their back heels.

      What is most needed is a moral defense of greed for money, or, more to the point, a moral defense of rational self-interest. (Btw, I’ve never known a person who was “greedy” for money, per se.) I’m greedy–very greedy–to make a better life for me and my family. Money is a tool, a means to an end.

      Ayn Rand’s defense of rational egoism is more needed now than it’s ever been.

    42. aretae Says:

      I think powerlust is best so far.
      Power-mad is also in the right space.
      Neither are catchy enough.
      If we were going to try to coin a word…I’d abbreviate.
      powerlust into plust.
      powermad into pomad.

      And of course you have to start by comparing the plust of Obama and Bush around Doctrines of Executive Power

      And if there is movement in that direction, some other careful word control might be useful.
      Statist might do to be pulled out as the normal term describing folks who wish the state to do things.

    43. GM Roper Says:

      Outstanding post. I’ve posted on this with reference back. But I thought we already had an acceptable word for greed for power… “Congressman”

    44. Anonymous Says:

      “English and every other Western language have a single word to describe the destructive lust for money but that they lack a single word to describe the destructive lust for political power?”

      English has such a word, and the founder of the nation were quite familiar with it: tyranny. It is practiced by the entire political class, which includes most of the academic set.

    45. vigilant Says:

      Does DICTATORIAL qualify?

    46. Roger Donway Says:

      New Testament Greek seems to have the word eristeia, which referred to an ambitiousness, particularly a political-social ambitiousness, that was corrupt in both its end and its means. Not sure it could be made into a powerful English word, though.

    47. Roger Donway Says:

      Sorry. The word was eritheia

    48. Bilwick1 Says:

      As David Friedman (Milton’s more radical son) wrote decades ago: “Greedy capitalists make lots of money. Virtuous ‘liberals’ steal it.” (Quote approximate.)

    49. Dave Hardy Says:

      Writing as a former GS-14:

      The most prevalent form of lust for power that I saw was not actually a lust for individual power. A bureaucrat identifies to an extraordinary degree with their agency. It is all good, its programs all good, its priorities the epitome of virtue, etc.. So a bureaucrat will constantly seek to expand its power even if it does not expand his own. Anyone who opposes expansion is presumptively stupid or perhaps selfishly evil. The big problems arise because you have countless agencies with personnel of this mindset.

    50. Wildmonk Says:

      Jane Jacobs dealt with the contrast between the lust for power (associated with human attachment to finite resources such as land) versus greed (associate with human’s ability to produce wealth by virtue of hard work) in a very well written book called “Systems of Survival.” She was essentially a Friedmanite anthropologist/geographer but, because she was more of an academic than a popularizer, her work never gained the attention that I thought it should. You can take a look on Amazon to learn more. Highly recommended.

    51. Troll Feeder Says:

      Anonymous Says:
      April 14th, 2009 at 7:13 am

      “English has such a word, and the founder of the nation were quite familiar with it: tyranny.”

      Beat me to it. Tyrannical, to make it the same part of speech as greedy.

      Power-lust and power-mad work just as well for me and do not necessarily imply the violence I’ve always associated with tyranny.

      All of them work better — no offense intended — than preedy, I think. Preedy sounds like a silly (again, no offense intended) made up word; power-lust, power-mad, and tyrannical all connote bad.

    52. SteveM Says:

      Greed for power and greed for money are the same greed. Money IS power, and power IS money. This is all becoming very clear as recent events unfold. The “greedy money men” on Wall Street and the “greedy power men” in Washington turn out to be scatching each others backs with great enthusiasm. See for instance Sen Dodd and his assorted cronies in the business world.

      “We don’t need to forget that greed is dangerous ..”

      The average libertarian is under the impression that greed is a positive good. You might need to spend a little time working on those people.

      “eventually, the greedy and preedy will be the same individuals ”

      We’re there now, judging by what’s happening in DC. And they will always try to seek each other out. Vigilant citiens would be on their guard against both. Instead we see the greedy worshiped by the right and the preedy by the left.

    53. SteveM Says:

      “As David Friedman (Milton’s more radical son) wrote decades ago: “Greedy capitalists make lots of money.”

      David Friedman is an ignorant jackass, and a spirtual grandfather of the emerging tyranny.

    54. Charlie Says:

      Peter McCormick said:

      “What is most needed is a moral defense of greed for money, or, more to the point, a moral defense of rational self-interest.”

      It’s hard to improve upon Smith, but Hayek, Friedman and many others did. Perhaps the best cluster of explications is at http://www.friesian.com/econ.htm.

    55. Charlie Says:

      SteveM, you’re sounding a bit like Caesar: “With money we can get men and with men we can get money.” But a moment’s reflection shows you wrong. Many hermits horde money. Some ascetics seek power.

      Plus, nobody sees greed as a positive good (though speakers for effect may phrase it in that fanciful way). More accurately, progressives are apt to label as greed what should perhaps more properly be called rational self-interest.

      Finally, it is very difficult for me to imagine any touch-points at all between David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism and the emerging tyranny.

    56. PaulG Says:

      Great article…

      I think the new word that is really needed is one that differentiates greed (as in the vice, deadly sin, prone to do bad things to get money, etc.) from the admirable desire to better ones lot for self, family, and others.

    57. Gary Vincent Says:

      Came here via Instapundit. Very interesting discussion. One thing I would add about the translation of ‘machtgelust’ into ‘powerlust’. Based on my rudimentary knowledge of German, ‘macht’ comes from ‘machen’ – ‘to make’ (or compel). So machtgelust connotes someone who is not merely in love with power, but with the actual act of compelling others to do things (‘making-people-do-things-lust’). Someone can have a lust for power, but not feel a need to use it at every opportunity – they just want to *be* powerful, to be #1. Machgelust implies a busybody who wants power just so they can use it to interfere in The Lives of Others.

      Oh, and one of the reasons Germans have a word for everything is that they love compound words. The core German vocabulary is relatively small – they just stack words together until it expresses what they want. People generally translate ‘Panzer’ to mean ‘tank’ when in fact it just means ‘armor’. A tank in German is more properly called a Panzerkampfwagen (armored battle wagon), or even a Schutzengrabenvernichtungpanzerkraftwagen, which I think directly translates as ‘armored thing with treads which drives down the road spreading panic and has a guy with a funny accent on top’.

    58. Bilwick1 Says:

      I quoted David Friedman, and SteveM replied:

      “David Friedman is an ignorant jackass, and a spirtual grandfather of the emerging tyranny.”

      That is as it may be, Steve, although to quote a person does not necessarily mean giving an imprimatur to his entire life’s work. The quote was from a book (I think it was called THE MACHiNER OF FREEDOM) published, I think, in the early Seventies, which is when I read it. When you call him “a spiritual grandfather of the emerging tyranny,” what do you mean? After he wrote the book, did he sell out and become just another State-shtupper?

    59. Dusty Says:

      How about using the word politician? It’s not perfect since it doesn’t cover all those you wish to credit for this inherently “life if you mind, death if you don’t” power grabbing characteristic, so, there is also the word bureaucrat, which describes a politician’s minion.

      If one needs to describe their cruelty as being above the norm, I’d suggest using effective as an adjective.

      Serious cynicism aside, preedy would do as a generality. On first seeing it, it conveyed to me a wormtonguish aspect, one who acts tough knowing he needn’t act on untowards and unruly himself, but relies on the never-sleeping power of the system to correct, remove, or eliminate. It doesn’t quite describe, say, a Murtha, whose long elected license to wield power is now used in ever more blunt and open fashion even on his colleagues.

      But there are words which connote various apsects of a preedy ‘servant of the people’ and the versatility of our language lends itself quite well to colorful and emotional characterizations of politicians who eschew the hardscrabble pursuit of newly carved individual happiness guaranteed to the Happy Mediocrity* in favor of gaining an already built seat of governmentally sanctioned privilege and social rule-making. How about pauperer, subjugator, usurper, impoverisher, perfider of liberty, despot, tyrant, benevolent tyrant, compassionate absolutist, engineer of conformity, pleaser, rulemaking ruffian, top churl and chief cur of our state, impunious rex, Hell’s franchisee for the 5th District of ___, torturer of common law, enslaver of natural rights … the guy who lives in the last house on the left but works in DC.

      Okay, okay. Preedy will do.

      * a characterization by B Franklin of American society in a pamphlet to Europeans curious about life in this new country.

    60. Ken Hahn Says:

      There is only one basic difference between greed for money and greed for power. Money is a form of power and can be used to obtain whatever the holder wants, to a degree. Power is used, not spent. Therefore the greedy for money will give up some of what they have to get what they want while the greedy for power will take what they want and give up nothing. I much prefer those who want money.

    61. Shannon Love Says:

      Gary Vincent,

      The core German vocabulary is relatively small – they just stack words together until it expresses what they want.

      When my son took German, I joked with him that German didn’t have words, they just had sentences with the spaces took out.

    62. Michael Kranitz Says:

      I like the concept of your post. I don’t like this leap of faith in your argument, however:

      “The lowest public official wields the power to initiate a string of events that will lead to the death of citizens who resist that power.”

      It would take a somewhat foreseeable but highly unlikely chain of events to go from a low official to a citizen’s death these days. The proximate cause of such a death would result from the ineptitude of the law enforcement branch so making the claim that the power of the dog catcher will result in the death of the citizen if the dog catcher is avaricious, is a bit tenuous.

      Finally, why have only one word to describe power lust (plust)? I like two words, especially in these days of truncation with text messages! : )

    63. Luke Says:

      As someone else noted, the word already exists: Ambition.

    64. Shannon Love Says:

      SteveM,

      Money IS power, and power IS money.

      No. Power is the ability to reduce the preexisting choices of other people. With power you can force people to make what they consider to be the worse possible choice, such as dying. With money, you can only induce people to make what they consider to be the best possible choice for them. You really can’t pay someone to die. Bill Gates, with all his billions, cannot compel me to take a single action I do not wish to. The local dog catcher and thousands of other government officials can and do so on a regular basis.

      Only by using money to bribe the political system to use violence on your behalf can you convert money to power. Even then, it is not a sure thing. The millions of “rich” people who were murdered as class and racial enemies during the 20th century attests to that.

      The average libertarian is under the impression that greed is a positive good. You might need to spend a little time working on those people.

      No, the average libertarian recognizes that greed is a human universal that must be harnessed for good. To that end, we should construct social, political and economic systems based on the premise that people are bastards. Once you build such a system, “greed” becomes a positive force in most circumstance. It is somewhat akin to recognizing that gravity effects all buildings and using gravity to increase the stability of structures even though it is the force that unplanned for will pull the building down.

      Leftist by contrast believe in the existence of a non-greedy, altruistic elite and believe that we should build or systems around having these enlightened individuals in control to suppress their morally inferior lessors. By analogy, they build structures in which special key components are presumed to be immune from gravity.

      The simple truth is that greed separated from the ability to inflict violence on people isn’t that destructive. The only non-violent way to get rich is to trade with people on a voluntary basis. A freemarket system in which action and consequence are tightly bound, punishes reckless behavior. Our current crisis originated when politicians sought to use government power to separate the reward of making residential mortgages from the risk of doing so.

    65. Shannon Love Says:

      Michael Kranitz,

      It would take a somewhat foreseeable but highly unlikely chain of events to go from a low official to a citizen’s death these days.

      It is the fact that the chain of events is foreseeable that makes it unlikely. Everyone knows what ultimately happens if they resist the least command of the state. The vast majority of people won’t bother to resist when they known that it will only inevitably end in their death. Every once in a while, though, some cantankerous or mentally ill person will refuse to comply with some trivial edict which sets off a chain of events which ends with them dead. More telling, in circumstances in which people believe the state power will not be brought to bear, they often break laws they don’t morally agree with.

      It’s important philosophically to remember that all the power of government devolves from the States ability to kill. That is the only way the state has power. When you argue that, “there are to be a law to keep people form doing ‘x’,” you’re stating that, “if people won’t stop doing ‘x’ we should kill them.” The only difference between liberal and autocratic governments is how they make the decisions about what to threaten to kill people over.

      People in commerce don’t have the power to set off a lethal chain of events. If I refuse to by Microsoft products it doesn’t in any conceivable way set off a chain of events that leads to my inevitable death.

    66. SteveM Says:

      “With power you can force people to make what they consider to be the worse possible choice, such as dying. With money, you can only induce people to make what they consider to be the best possible choice for them.”

      This isn’t true.

      “You really can’t pay someone to die.”

      No. But you can have the police and military work for you and kill or imprison people on your behalf. And in fact that is what normally happens. As you admit yourself, the distinction between “power” and “money” is a meaningless one. The two always tend to overap with each other. Those with the money have the power and vice versa.

      That’s where your historical analogy breaks down. The supposed power-worhipping nobility never put up any real resistance against the “merchants”. Alas, perhaps, since Adam Smith seems to have expected them to play a counter-acting checks-and-balances role against the the business interests, which he saw as otherwise oppressing the public.

      And there was no reason the nobility to do so, since power worshippers will always take whatever tool is at hand and money is at least as useful a tool as a sword.

      I highly recommend you read up on the history of the East India Company and the growth of the British Empire. Where the traders go the soldiers soon follow, and at the behest of the traders.

    67. SteveM Says:

      “People in commerce don’t have the power to set off a lethal chain of events.”

      The victims of the Great Famine in Ireland in the 19th century would beg to differ, to pick just one example. And that is a purely commerce driven event. There is no shortage of instances of business interests directly causing wars. Because, although you seem oddly blind on this point, the busines interests usually enjoy overwhelming political power.

      Where you get the noton that there are “the merchants” on the one side and the “the lusters after political power” on the other hand is anyones guess. Sounds like warmed-over Marxism but with the merchants on a pedestal instead of in a jail. The lusters after politcal power and the wealthy capitalists are usually the same people. Just look at the list of Americas billonaires and corporations who lined up behind Obama.

    68. Jack Diederich Says:

      Isn’t the word you are looking for rapacious?

    69. Shannon Love Says:

      SteveM,

      The victims of the Great Famine in Ireland in the 19th century would beg to differ, to pick just one example. And that is a purely commerce driven event.

      No, it wasn’t. British law did not allow for the free trade of agricultural products in and out of Ireland. Indeed, British law didn’t really allow free trade of any kind in Ireland. That was why Ireland was so poor to begin with. The British were using there power of state violence to exploit the people. Beside, the primary problem was a fungus blight. One might argue that in theory the free market could not respond efficiently to such a black swan event as a poor region struck a massive disaster but you can’t argue that the Great Famine was a market phenomenon of any kind.

      Where you get the noton that there are “the merchants” on the one side and the “the lusters after political power” on the other hand is anyones guess.

      In the social hierarchy of pre-industrial cultures there is a sharp social distinction between the nobility and the mercantile classes. As a general rule, the nobility, the killers, would rather starve than stoop to commerce. Those engaged in commerce could never hold positions of government power. Look at the fuss made Louis XIV made the commoner Colbert his finance minister.

      The lusters after politcal power and the wealthy capitalists are usually the same people

      They can be but the quickest way to mix money and politics is to mix politics and money. Once legislatures control buying and spending the first thing to be bought and sold is legislators.

      My major argument is that there is a cultural presumption that people who engage in commerce are inherently bad were as people who engage in politics are inherently good. We even have a neat word to describe the bad behavior of people in commerce but not the bad behavior of people in politics.

    70. ken in sc Says:

      Killers good. Producers bad. I don’t think it was seen that way. Rather it was seen as defenders good ane selfish traders bad. Traders were wrongly thought of in my opinion; howere, to be fair, you should recognize that the true claim of nobility to nobility was not their willingness to kill, but rather their willingness to risk their own lives. As corrupted as it became, the beginning of European Feudalism was based on those who were willing and able to fight against the barbarians and anarchy—the nobles—and those who were not—the ignobles (peasants). It is a human trait to admire those who are willing to risk their lives, even for an unworthy cause. This is why many who would never rob a bank admired Jesse James and Bonny and Clyde. Even more do people admire those who are willing to risk their lives for a worthy cause, such as preventing the Vikings from raping and plundering Europe. So let’s be fair. Killing is not the basis of Nobility. Willingness to be killed is.

    71. Cornfed Says:

      The major dictatorships of the 20th century, and most of the smaller ones as well, suffered under monomaniacal leaders.

      Although the definition of “monomaniac” does not preclude its application to other areas, I have never seen the word used to describe anything but political leaders.

    72. colorless.blue.ideas Says:

      Perhaps combine the two:

      POWER-GREEDY

      It (1) makes the point; (2) is easily understood; and (3) preserves the appropriate connotations.

      Use the term and reuse it, until the concept becomes well known. Only then, perhaps, look for a shorter, more pithy, word–or don’t be surprized if such a replacement just takes root itself.

    73. Bilwick1 Says:

      “People in commerce” set off the potato famine? What did they do–go around at night injecting the blight bug into growing spuds so that they would come out blackened and inedible? What was the profit in that? Were they unusually prescient ship owners hoping to make a killing transporting the “famine Irish” to America in the “coffin ships”? The clever fiends!

      I always get a laugh out of people who posit Ireland under the Brits as some kind of libertarian society. If only.

    74. Anne R. Abler Says:

      Face it:

      All anyone ever wants is just a bit of an unfair advantage.

      “Shine, Perishing Republic” (You can look it up.)

    75. Linda Seebach Says:

      Shannon said,
      “Language can tell you a great deal about the world models held by those who speak the language. Specifically, if a language lacks a specific, neat word for a particular concept, it tells you that the people who speak the language don’t use the concept very often.”

      No, it tells you nothing of the sort; this is the kind of arrant nonsense about linguistics spouted by people who know nothing about the subject. Languages don’t need a “specific, neat word” for a concept for which they already have a familiar and serviceable phrase, or several as English self-evidently does in this case.

      For insight into how linguists think about this version of what’s usually called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, see http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1081 at the lingistics blog language log.

    76. Micha Elyi Says:

      Linda Seebach claimed, “Languages don’t need a ‘specific, neat word’ for a concept for which they already have a familiar and serviceable phrase, or several as English self-evidently does in this case.”

      Care to explain how contractions evolve from “familiar and servicable phrase(s)”? Uh huh, they tend to evolve and be taken into common use when the concept expressed is more often used in discourse than other, less often used concepts.

      The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has nothing to do with this phenomenon.

    77. cbunix23 Says:

      I suggest “Power Pervert” I’ve used that term in the past and it always got the point across.

    78. K.J. Webb Says:

      Ken in Sc, you’re on to something. In order to be a killer in that old-fashioned aristocratic way you have to sign up to be killed. You’re also killing for something bigger than yourself – for the values of civilization. The knight is the apotheosis of that tradition. Sure, you can deconstruct the knightly ideal. Everyone has done it. But it still has force and is perennial. When I was growing up in Texas I absorbed the thought – without anyone exactly stating it – that a real man didn’t use his fists for any purpose except to defend someone too weak to defend himself. I saw that happen on several occasions. We honor soldiers for a similar reason – not because they wield weapons but because they expose themselves to weapons, and do it for a reason bigger than themselves.

    79. Shannon Love Says:

      Linda Seebach,

      For insight into how linguists think about this version of what’s usually called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,

      I’m not making an argument based on Sapir-Whorf. Sapir-Whorf holds that words are concepts and the lack of words indicates a lack of concept and inability to think about a subject.

      I am saying that the existence of specialized words indicates how much time or energy a culture expends on a subject. If the culture has a neat word that indicates that culture uses the attached concept often. It’s like the common presence of screwdrivers suggest that manipulating screws is a common task.

      For example, 30 years ago, the common language had very few terms related computers but today it does. If you knew nothing about the history of the last 30 except that many new words describing computer related matters had been created and that they were in wide usage, form that fact alone you could deduce that computers were much more common today than in the past.

      The lack of specific word to describe the destructive pursuit of power indicates that culturally we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the idea.

    80. veryretired Says:

      Some of the contributors to this discussion have missed the main point—that the value of using force to achieve one’s goals has been vastly over-inflated, while the value of a desire for making money has been unreasonably stigmatized—and are arguing right past the issue.

      Yes, Shannon used this “greedy/preedy” term business as a hook upon which to hang the post. But it is not, as the linguist above remarks, about formal linguistics.

      It is about values. Specifically, the odd valuations assigned to productive commerce as opposed to state action, which, by definition, rests on the threat and/or actual use of force.

      For most of our history, all belonged to the sovereign, and any property or wealth could be disposed of, confiscated, monopolized, subsidized, etc. as the ruling entities desired.

      Only in fairly recent history has a countervailing argument, the rights of individuals to be secure in their homes and property, among the several rights slowly established in the evolving doctrines of human rights that culminated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, been professed.

      Needless to say, the forces of statist and collectivist theory, both intellectual and moral, quickly realized that such barriers were intolerable if one’s purpose was to control the lives and resources of one’s fellows. Thus, in the 19th and 20th centuries, theory after theory was articulated justifying the diminution of individual rights, and the demonization of unregulated, uncontrolled economic activity.

      Whether expressed as aristocratic disdain, or marxist/socialist theory, or fascist doctrine, or the ancient theory of divine right, the one concept that is relentlessly and invariably condemned is the idea that individuals have a right to independent economic self-actualizing activity.

      Instead, from classroom, pulpit, political venues, entertainment media, and nearly every other source of public moral expression, the unrelenting message is, “unregulated commerce dangerous and bad; noble public servants attempting to protect society admirable and good”.

      Now, once again, we are witnessing a political crisis largely inspired by political actions, which are being expressed as an economic collapse, being blamed on the “evil, greedy bankers” while far more culpable political types not only blank out their own massively corrupt responsibility for the problems, but claim the right to sit in judgement over, and devise solutions for, the enormous problems their own ignorance and corruption brought about.

      It is long past time to reconsider the conventional wisdom, cited several times in comments above, that money corrupts politics. It is time to ask what possible good is produced by allowing ignorant, fallible, and power-lusting politicians such inordinate power over the activities of individual citizens and their means of livlihood.

      The anti-semitism of a past age has been transferred, by a form of intellectual and moral slight of hand, onto a group of people in our society whose crime is to engage in productive economic activity for personal fulfillment and enrichment, i.e., business people.

      Of course there are scoundrels and crooks in business. As Shannon has repeatedly pointed out, any realistic theory of society recognizes and allows for greed which may extend to criminal and fraudulent behavior.

      What is not being recognized or dealt with realistically is the immensely greater danger posed by those whose lust is for power and control over the lives and activities of their fellow citizens, based on force and the use of the apparatus of the state.

      This is the issue, not whether “preedy” is the best term, or does some utterly imaginary “right” believe in this sterotype, or an equally imaginary “left” believe thus and so.

      We are, once again, facing that never-ending question which Lincoln so eloquently describes at Gettysburg. Government “of…by…and for the people” demands limited government, and maximized individual liberty. Maximized government inevitably requires the minimization of human freedom.

      We must choose. We can’t have both.

    81. Gabriel Hanna Says:

      According to OED “greed” comes from an Old English word for “hungry”. Even in Victorian times it was common to see “greedy” used to mean “gluttonous”.

      Glenn Reynolds is right.

      As Macchiavelli noted, gold can buy the service of iron, but iron never has trouble acquiring gold. A businessman or corporation has no more power over me than I let them have. If I don’t work for them or buy their product what can they do? The government, however, can use its monopoly of force to make me buy their product, or to take their product away from them and give it away free.

      It makes no sense to expect people with guns to be more trustworthy and less oppressive than people with money. Businessmen in Nazi Germany were shaken down for money by Nazi officials, the worst being Goering, and the Adolf Hitler’s personal fortune came from the government paying him for his portrait on stamps and money. And what happened to rich white farmers in Zimbabwe over the last ten years? What happened to the rich in Cuba in the 1950’s and in Russia in the 1920’s?

    82. Anonymous Says:

      david foster Says:
      April 13th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

      note, though, that our current self-defined elite–unlike almost all previous historical elites–does not have a high regard for military values…indeed, doesn’t have any more respect for “the charge of the light brigade” (or even for a less-disastrous affair like “the charge up San Juan hill”) than it does for “stocking the shelves.”

      No, they’re more the “brown shirts” types than “black shirts”.

      Think of 3 ways to influence men:
      1) Use money, ‘stored energy’, to buy their efforts and/or loyalty.
      2) Use guns, including the political power that grows from the barrels thereof, to enforce compliance and inspire obedience and admiration.
      3) Control thoughts and goals, as the clergy has for considerable periods of history, and use Holy Roman Emperors and the like as pawns, while controlling the masses with fear of eternal agony for disobedience.

      I put it to you that the current progressives’ regime is functioning mainly in mode 3. Programming through propagandized media and shaping of education (far beyond the early years, ’till age 7′ which was all the Jesuits claimed to need), the progs have elevated themselves to the status of sole arbiters of virtue, worthiness, and truth.

      The 3 modes are in competition usually, but mode 3 can sometimes take over 2 & 1, as the temporal Church in pre-Renaissance times did, e.g., and as Islam currently is trying to do globally. It is perhaps in this “shared” set of priorities that the otherwise puzzling alliance of progressives and Islamists can be understood. Progressives leverage the pre-maturity hyperactivity of the frontal lobes to shape young minds, who later themselves follow careers pulling the levers of mass manipulation, while Islam prefers years of swaying, chanting memorization classes in madrassas, followed by multi-modal efforts to subdue infidels everywhere. The progressives consider the Islamists primitives who will be absorbed in due course, while the Islamists regard the progressives as useful idiots whose delusory ambitions will end badly.

      So: Again with the two-word phrases: “control freaks” is the colloquial. Taking the power to kill to enforce into account, how about “policidal” as an adjective? (‘Populace slaughtering’). It is interesting, btw, that the conspiracy theorists report that One-Worlders and Bilderbergers et al envisage a garden world of vassals with a much reduced population, perhaps 20% of current levels, with a heavy-handed transitional period of culling to get there.

      Just sayin’.

    83. Brian H Says:

      P.S. to the 4/14:6:49 comment: I do like the original suggestion despite its peculiar sound-vallue though, as it fits in with the eternal warning, “Preed comes before a fall!”

      ;)

    84. Brian H Says:

      Edit/erratum: “sound value”, of course, not “sound vallue”. {blush}

    85. Chad Says:

      Wasn’t “preedy” a character in the movie “V for Vendetta”? Just pointing out that there has to be a better word for the concept, as “preedy” just sounds too wimpy to be as ominous as the concept should be. Tyrannical, despot, dictator, those words have some oomph. Needs more gutturals, less vowel sounds. I know, the post is about the concept not the word, but every idea a person could have on the subject is already posted. Just my .02 on the word. If you want to start a meme you need a good word. I guarantee military guys aren’t going to stand around and talk about Sgt. Soandso being “preedy”. might as well get out the thongs and chest wax, maybe get a nice pedicure.

    86. Ginny Says:

      Shannon, I appreciate your ability (consistently) to think outside the box.

      Nonetheless, it seems to me that greed for money is not often the subject of tragedy as a hubris that comes from a desire for power. Greed for money is evil in rather vulgar terms – those of materialism.

      Certainly, it is criticized in the Bible. But few tragic heroes are as obsessed by money as they are by power – for the quite good reason that we all strain toward immortality to lesser or greater degrees and merely having money is less likely to gain us either fame or increased bed partners than is power. Do we for a moment think that Saddam longed for his golden toilets as much as he longed for his statue on every corner? Opulent and easy may be the lives of dictators, but isn’t their greatest desire the ability to dominate the thinking over their subjects, get into their minds, get into their history? Creon is happy with the money that comes from his position in relation to Oedipus; it is Oeidpus that willingly and pridefully takes risks – we see that as heroic, perhaps, but he is also likely to fall. Oedipus relishes power. Of course, when Creon gets it, he becomes a martinet – unsure of his role, falling into a quite legalistic form of power, a quite authoritarian definition of leader.

      Greed for power is not an uncommon construction; hubris, pride, the madness of power – we use those words. Fot bureaucrats we use such words as turf builder, martinet, power-hungry. It is true I, too, have trouble thinking of a single word that opposes greed, but that is partially because my experience has been that greed and avarice are as often associated with power as money. And, in my rare take as a contrarian, I suspect the lack of one word is not the sign of our lack of emphasis on that great and threatening flaw in human nature but in our sense that it is complex and takes many forms. Heart of Darkness alone demonstrates that the lust for ivory is not nearly as destructive as the lust for power – modern critics who insist upon discussing it in terms of the imperialist desire for the dark continent’s treasure simplify a book that is profoundly about civilization and its uses, especially its relation to our innate desire for power over others. But the madness of Kurz (and his desire to bring “light” to the dark continent which changes to his desire to exterminate the brutes) is contrasted with the less idealistic greed for money and power of those who oppose Kurtz for less than honorable reasons. It seems to me that it is more often less powerful (and less rich and less, well, good) literature that concerns itself with the love of money (think of Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis and John Steinbeck). Less honorable perhaps than the idealist who longs for power – but ultimately also less destructive.

    87. Brian H Says:

      Tycoons and tyrants ultimately share a common problem, related to another “desire” they have: the “now what?” question. Having obtained wealth or power, extension and immortality are dependent on future recognition or heirs. The recognition illusion may be sustained for a while, but most are at least peripherally aware of the ‘Ozymandius’ factor. Time is unkind to monuments to self-importance.

      That heirs are frequently unreliable vessels of fortune or sovereignty is attested to by innumerable historical instances of inheritors who are incompetent, infertile, or just flat-out uninterested in being the living vessels of a dead ancestor’s claim to fame.

      Clerics who mix spiritual and temporal power may feel content that they will have some carry-forward after death, but there is always the worry of the arbitrary nature of divine justice. What if the first really will be last?

      In scientific/engineering terminology, power is capacity to cause change. It’s a desirable and necessary part of life, essential to survival and any kind of achievement. Purposes and amount of power available determine how many others are affected by its use, and in what way. The arbitrary Red Queen who lops off heads for the slightest infraction is far different from a Petraeus killing and capturing guerrilla forces trying to prevent the development of civil and legal authority in a young state.

      Pure or dedicated idealists wish power to force the world into a mold they have decided will be perfect for others to live within. If they take the small extra step of considering that opponents are inherently evil, they become the worst of power-hungry abusers. Beware the aspiring leader whose eyes gleam and whose gaze and focus are fixed on far horizons! Given the means, he will mow opponents or recalcitrants down like grass if they happen to occupy the right-of-way.

      Is Oboorma a ruthless visionary? Or just a power waldo manipulated by others?

    88. David Says:

      “Preedy” is good but sounds too pretty and too much like “pretty” and “preen.” We need a word that sounds as bad as the person it describes. I recommend shortening “megalomaniacal” to “megmaniacal.” Kinda long, for sure, but sounds awful. Or, perhaps, “meggy,” which sounds disgusting and wormy when you say it.

    89. Jerry J Says:

      Lust = Covet. I think there is a prohibition somewhere.

    90. LS Says:

      Slightly off topic, but:
      panzer :
      1940, shortened form of Ger. Panzerdivision “armored unit,” from Panzer “tank,” lit. “armor,” from M.H.G. panzier, from Old French panciere “armor for the belly,” from pance “belly,” from Latin pantex (gen. panticis) “belly” (see paunch).

    91. Peter McCormick Says:

      From Atlas Shrugged:

      “To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money–and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being–the self-made man–the American industrialist.

      “If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity–to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.

      “Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters’ continents. Now the looters’ credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide– as, I think, he will.

      “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.”