The fictional Gordon Gekko simply said “greed is good” and Western neo-liberalism has been linked with the promotion of greed. Victoria Moffatt has discussed the ethos of “private good, public bad.” However, the reality is that neo-liberal discourse has to avoid simple greed promotion if it is to prosper.
It is in this context that we can understand affluent entrepreneurs making philanthropic gestures. They might not want to pay their fair share of taxes, but they do not want to be remembered as greedy.
Nonetheless, it is in the sphere of politics that we can see the cleverest justifications for greed. Greed is an ugly word which clashes with the ideals of many people. Major religions have not always embraced greed. Hence the need for contemporary British politicians to use the language of aspiration. Ambition seems less reprehensible than greed. The dream of a meritocracy does not sound as unpleasant as the reality of class division. We can all dream of “doing better” and what could be greedy about that?