Is Greed Stupid?

by adamzerner 1 min read23rd Jun 201531 comments


I just finished reading a fantastic Wait But Why post: How Tesla Will Change The World. One of the things that was noted is that the people in the Auto and Oil industries are trying to delay the introduction of Electric Vehicles (EVs) so they could make more money.

The post also explains how important it is that we become less reliant on oil.

  1. Because we're going to run out relatively soon.
  2. Because it's causing global warming.
So, from the perspective of these moneybag guys, here is how I see the cost-benefit of delaying the introduction of EVs:
  • Make some more money, which gives them and their families a marginally more comfortable life.
  • Not get a sense of purpose out of your career.
  • Probably feel some sort of guilt about what you do.
  • Avoid the short-term discomfort of changing jobs/careers.
This probably makes my opinions pretty clear:
  • Because of diminishing marginal utility, I doubt that the extra money is making them much happier. I'm sure they're pretty well off to begin with. It could be the case that they're so used to their lifestyle that they really do need the extra money to be happy, but I doubt it.
  • Autonomy, mastery and purpose are three of the most important things to get out of your career. There seems to be a huge opportunity cost to not working somewhere that provides you with a sense of purpose.
  • To continue that thought, I'm sure they feel some sort of guilt for what they're doing. Or maybe not. But if they are, that seems like a relatively large cost.
  • I understand that there's probably a decent amount of social pressure on them to conform. I'm sure that they surround themselves with people who are pro-oil and anti-electric. I'm sure that their companies put pressure on them to perform. I'm sure that they have families and all of that and starting something new might be difficult. But these don't seem to be large enough costs to make their choices worthwhile. A big reason why I get this impression is because they are so short term.
I've been talking specifically about those in the auto and oil industries, but the same logic seems to apply to other greedy people (ex. in finance). I get the impression that greed is stupid. That it doesn't make you happy, and that it isn't instrumentally rational. But I'd like to get the opinions of others.