Greed is… Good?

“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good.

Greed is right.

Greed works.

Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. 

Greed, in all its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

– Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street (1987)

It’s time for physicians to start thinking like capitalists.

Real capitalists.

Not phony, crony capitalists that use politics, coercion, or backroom deals (3rd party legal (?!) kick backs) that harm others in a zero sum game.

Capitalism – real, free market capitalism – is the only economic system based entirely on free choice. It is, ultimately, the free exchange of ideas, goods, and services between two parties. It does not include the interference of a 3rd party.

One of the many great things about real capitalism is that it takes the selfishness of human nature and allows two separate parties – who are each seeking the best deal for themselves – to come to an agreement that each party is willing to accept.

Real Capitalism allows people – and physicians too – to compete based on competitive and comparative advantages. This is truly when people begin to benefit from capitalism.

It’s only when deals are made in the dark that “capitalism” is bad for society as a whole. This is the epitome of phone, crony capitalism that is rampant in medicine and healthcare today.

How does this apply to physicians?

It’s time for physician to get greedy.

“WHAT?!? Doctors are greedy; look at their huge incomes!” scream social activists, insurance executives, and hospital administrators.

OK…how about a mindset shift? What if we replaced the word “greed” with the phrase “self-interest?”

The beauty of looking through the prism of self-interests is that, if the market is free and open, you absolutely have to take care of others first. So, in order to benefit yourself, you must provide value in the lives of others first. It seems ironic or counterintuitive, but it works.

As a doctor, you need to start thinking this way.

If you don’t, you’re going to either slog away in the Matrix of Modern Medicine or burnout and leave the field. Either way, we now know what we’ve all believed before: provider burnout is tied to lower levels of patient safety and care.

The treatment: start thinking like a real capitalist.