Greed, and Self-Interest

It is said that a half-truth taken as the whole truth becomes an untruth. Recent protest signs
saying, “Capitalism is Greed” perfectly illustrate this saying. The half-truth is that capitalists can be
greedy. But are all capitalists always and everywhere greedy? Certainly not. There are greedy socialists,
Marxists, Democrats, Republicans, rich people, and poor people. Greed is an equal opportunity
employer. We are all capable of being greedy. But is there something in capitalism that intrinsically
makes greed more likely? Is greed encouraged? Adam Smith famously said that our dinner comes not
from the butcher or baker’s benevolence but from their own self-interest (“self-love” or “interest”).

Is pursuing our self-interest necessarily selfish or greedy? Can you have self-interest without selfishness?
C. S. Lewis wrote much about selfishness, greed and self-interest. Perhaps he can help us clarify
our understanding on these issues. We will look at Lewis on selfishness and greed, then Lewis on selfinterest, and finally, come back to this charge that “Capitalism is Greed” with (hopefully) renewed clarity


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