The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

Both capitalists and anti-capitalists frequently accuse capitalism of being a system driven by selfishness and greed. Capitalism’s defenders sometimes say: “By nature, man is selfish, which is why socialism will never work. Capitalism better reflects the fundamental characteristics of human nature.” Anti-capitalists claim that capitalism promotes the worst characteristics in man, especially greed.

But are greed and unbridled selfishness really the driving forces of capitalism? Human self-interest is one—not the only—driving force of all human action. But this has nothing to do with a particular economic system. Rather, it is an anthropological constant. In capitalism, however, this self-interest is curbed by the fact that only the entrepreneur who prioritizes other people’s needs can be successful.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that empathy, rather than greed, is the true driving force of capitalism. Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s feelings and motives, and this is the most important characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.

Take Steve Jobs as an example. He came up with the iPhone and other products because he understood modern consumers’ needs and desires better than anyone else. Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers.

The same applies to Mark Zuckerberg, today one of the world’s richest people. He created Facebook because he knew better than other entrepreneurs what people wanted. Like all successful entrepreneurs, it was consumers who made Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg so rich.For many years, the Albrecht brothers were the richest people in Germany. They earned their fortunes from the food discounter Aldi, which was founded on the principle of offering good quality products at very reasonable prices. This was the same recipe for success followed by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, who was consistently one of the richest people in the United States.

Consumers’ purchasing decisions confirm that Jobs, Zuckerberg, the Albrecht brothers, and Sam Walton had correctly understood their customers’ desires, needs, and emotions.

Of course, under the capitalist system, there are also examples of companies that have acted selfishly and lost sight of the wants and needs of consumers.

One example is Deutsche Bank, which has faced thousands of lawsuits. Such companies are punished under capitalism, not only by the law but far more so by the market. Deutsche Bank lost its position as one of the world’s leading banks because it put the interests of its investment bankers above those of its customers and shareholders.

Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever.

A company’s most important asset is its image, and companies that behave like Deutsche Bank end up incurring massive damage to their images and reputations; their customers lose confidence and flock to their competitors.

In socialist systems, on the other hand, consumers are powerless and at the mercy of state-owned companies. If a state enterprise acts with no regard for the needs of consumers, they have no alternative under socialism because there is no competition.

Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers. Every day, customers vote on the company with their wallets—by buying its products or not.

Monopolies under capitalism are a temporary phenomenon. Even companies that appear omnipotent will eventually be ousted by new competitors as soon as they overreach their power and lose sight of their customers’ needs.

Ever since capitalism has existed, anti-capitalists have criticized the system’s inherent tendency to create monopolies. Lenin wrote over 100 years ago that imperialism and monopoly capitalism are the last stages of capitalism. But the monopolies he criticized at the time no longer exist. Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever. Other companies and ambitious young entrepreneurs will seize the opportunity as soon as Google or Facebook starts to act too selfishly.

What is strange is that socialists who criticize capitalism for its tendency to form monopolies are in favor of state-owned companies. After all, the state is the most powerful monopolist of all, with the ability to brutally trample on the needs and wishes of its citizens through its means of coercion and because there are no alternatives for the customer.

The fact that people and companies pursue their own interests is the same in every society. This is not a specific feature of capitalism.

Under capitalism, though, only those entrepreneurs and companies who prioritize their customers’ interests rather than their own self-interest will achieve success in the long-term. Companies that fail to understand and respect what consumers want will lose market share and may even disappear entirely as they are driven out by other companies that better meet their customers’ needs.

Empathy, the ability to recognize the desires and needs of others, is the true basis of capitalism—not unbridled greed and selfishness.

Source: The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

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Workplace diversity creates a business better suited to meet its goals. Through Eudaimonia and acceptance of differences, empathy is a path to business success. Matthew Gonnering is the CEO of Widen, a marketing technology company founded in 1948. Blessed to work with highly intelligent, playful, self-starting Wideneers, Matthew has reshaped his role into “Chief Eudaimonia Officer.” His mission is to create happiness, health and prosperity for his colleagues, customers and community. Matthew joined Widen in 2000 and became CEO in 2009. His team solves marketing and creative problems with digital asset management (DAM) software. Under Matthew’s leadership, Widen has become a WorldBlu Freedom-Centered Workplace™ and a Madison Magazine Best Place to Work. His ongoing commitment to faith, family, education, and nonprofit work shape his desire to ground organizational culture in humanity. Matthew and his beautiful wife Sarah have five energetic children and reside in the Madison area. He lives a eudaimonious life and encourages others to do the same. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Self Empathy is Becoming Aware of Our Own Feelings First Than Others – BW Online Bureau


There  is important element in the craft of conversation is Self Empathy. Over the past two decades a growing number of thinkers  have suggested that extending empathy towards other people, particularly in conversations, requires a degree of self empathy. If we cannot empathise with ourselves they believe, we will lack the psychological foundations necessary to contact with others.

Advocates of self empathy typically describe it as becoming aware of our own feelings and needs, and not constantly beating ourselves up and judging ourselves too harshly (e.g. not blaming ourselves, feeling guilty, or being consumed by a sense of failure). In some fundamental way, self empathy is about being good to yourself and liking who you are.

Despite its increasing popularity, I am skeptical about the notion of self empathy. One reason is that it strikes me as conceptually flawed. The central meaning of empathy for more than a century, has been about breaking out of the boundaries of the self, and comprehending the feelings and perspectives of other people.  It is about looking through their eyes rather then staring into your inner self – that is, empathy concerns outrospection rather than introspection.

A second reason is that it makes the meaning of empathy too broad and indistinct. Once empathy becomes associated with the whole gamut of ways in which we think about our own self worth and internal emotional landscape, there is a danger that it looses its analytical byte and potential as a clear guiding concept for individual and social transformation.

Just as we believe the word empathy should not be simply equated with acts of kindness and every day generosity, and it should also not be watered down to cover the various aspects of what has been described as self empathy.

But this is not to say that how we feel about ourselves is unimportant for our ability to bond emphatically with others. It is just that we need another word. What are the contenders? One is self compassion a term that like self empathy has emerged since the 1990 as a product of our individualist culture, but that may have firmer conceptual foundations.

Drying on Buddhist notion of compassion, psychologist Kristin Neff defines self compassion as having three components; self kindness – being kind and understanding towards oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self critical; common humanity – perceiving once experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating; and  mindfulness – holding painful thoughts and feeling in balanced awareness rather than over identifying with them.

As with self empathy, however, we find self compassion a some what confusing idea, because the linguist origin of compassion is to share in the suffering of another person. The second component of Neff’s definition touches on other people suffering but not the first or third.

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