Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

By Tomas Sedlacek | Go to book overview

8
Need for Greed
The History of Want

We wanted to find love,
We wanted success,
Until nothing was enough
Until my middle name was excess
.
P. J. Harvey, “We Float”

Whenever Pandora’s box opens, there tends to be a lot of trouble. But who was Pandora and what exactly was in the box? In this chapter we will study the very advent of human desire, or in economic terms, the birth of want, or demand for things that are not necessary (for survival). This is the point where the utility that comes from external goods which we “don’t need,” began. As economics puts so much emphasis on the concept of satisfying needs (desires), this should be of interest.

According to Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman (something of a counterpart to Eve in the Old Testament), but she (as opposed to Eve, who was created to be Adam’s “suitable helper”) came into the world as a form of the gods’ revenge on man. She carried a box (or more precisely a jar) with her that stored every possible suffering and evil, things which had not existed on Earth before this. After she opens it out of curiosity, evil, sickness, and (what now interests us the most) the curse of labor entered into the world. Labor, which before this had been pleasant, now became hard and tiring work. Pandora quickly closed her box, but it was too late.


THE CURSE OF THE GODS: THAT HIDEOUS DEMAND

We can read something similar in the story of Eve and Adam (Adam plays such a passive role in the story of the Garden of Eden that I have a tendency to put him in second place). Eve, after the intellectual clash with the serpent (which Adam completely avoided), tasted the forbidden fruit (also out of curiosity?), and the result was banishment from paradise and at the same time the entrance of evil into the world. After banishment from paradise, Adam relates a single curse expresis verbis: The Curse

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