I’m in the process of reading All the Devils are Here, and just got The Big Short for my birthday.

It would seem that the story of the financial crisis, the resulting economic slump, and the battles over how to fix it are stories of human greed, striving for self-interest and reckless (self-imposed) ignorance. Why?

Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.

The king said, “Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?”

Mencius replied, “Why must your Majesty use that word ‘profit?’ What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness, and these are my only topics.

“If your Majesty say, ‘What is to be done to profit my kingdom?’ the great officers will say, ‘What is to be done to profit our families?’ and the inferior officers and the common people will say, ‘What is to be done to profit our persons?’ Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other, and the kingdom will be endangered….

“Let your Majesty also say, ‘Benevolence and righteousness, and let these be your only themes.’ Why must you use that word — ‘profit’ ?”

Mencius, Book 1, part A, chapters 1-4, 6. Trans. James Legge.


(h/t Dan via James)


  1. #1 Financial Advisor
    April 14, 2011

    Why must you use that word “collective”?

  2. #2 Kevin
    April 14, 2011

    I mustn’t, and I didn’t.

  3. #3 Mike Olson
    April 15, 2011

    Nice reply. 😀 Not related to econ, but first couple of chapters seem very cool: “Biopunk.” Some of the folks are out in your neck of the woods.

  4. #4 Captain Patriot
    April 15, 2011

    Kevin is getting his correspondence course diploma in stupidology studying the signaling networks down stream of Troll-like Behavior(TLRs). He thinks the socialism is mostly useless in the face of humanity, which causes alot of unnecessary crap to pile up.

    One day, he would like to be a white professor perched high in the land of turds, but this dream is untenable since he’s genetically incapable of growing pubic hair except on his face.

    OOOPS! Sorry Kevin. I though this was Ed Brayton’s site. Oh well, tell the old pubic hair bearded twerp that Captain Patrot says hello from the gutter.

  5. #5 Mike Olson
    April 16, 2011

    Congrats, Kevin, you’ve attracted the attention of the idiocracy. A group that strongly pushes this theist towards atheism, and has forced him to realize, in middle age(I’m not slow, but tenaciously hopeful) that the debating skills possessed by most of the idiocracy is the equivalent of angry chimps hurling poo.

  6. #6 Kevin
    April 16, 2011

    @ Mike – it’s probably my fault for putting something in the “politics” feed. But hey, if I could get anything like Ed’s pageviews, it would be worth dealing with a few trolls.

  7. #7 Kaleberg
    April 19, 2011

    Financial Advisor: ‘Why must you use that word “collective”?’

    Yeah, I hate corporations too. State chartered for profit collectives cause real problems. Still, Mencius was talking about a kingdom, that’s a kind of collective too.

  8. #8 MacTurk
    April 20, 2011

    “OOPS! Sorry Kevin. I though this was Ed Brayton’s site. Oh well, tell the old pubic hair bearded twerp that Captain Patrot says hello from the gutter”.

    This is a man who truly knows himself.

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