Learning Economics Makes You Greedy

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Does knowledge of economics make you greedy? Here’s Wang and Murnighan, Economics and Greed:

Greed is a classic topic in human development (Balot, 2001; Robertson, 2001) and it inevitably affects many of our choices and decisions. Although greed is typically viewed as uniformly negative and reprehensible, we propose that people’s attitudes and opinions about greed are actually subject to change. In particular, studying economics may help legitimise and even beautify greed. Previous research shows that economics education might make people more self-interested because self-interest maximization is central to most economic models (Marwell & Ames, 1981; Frank, et al, 1993). Because greed and maximizing self-interest are sometimes difficult to separate, conceptually or empirically, we propose that studying economics may make people view greed as potentially positive and beneficial. Two complementary studies support our proposition. Study 1 shows that students who are pursuing economics view greed more positively than students who are pursuing other majors and taking other courses. Study 2 indicates that positively priming greed can significantly increase people’s positive attitudes and opinions about greed.

Of course, knowledge of economics helps you see the social benefits of business activity that society may prefer to characterise as greed. Maybe everybody should get this education.

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