American Elephants

Let’s Hear it For “Greed.” by The Elephant's Child
January 10, 2010, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, History | Tags: , ,

Many inventions are created by small annoyances.  Papers were fastened together for around 600 years by cutting two parallel slits in the paper and threading a ribbon through the slits.

Playing around with a piece of wire may have created the idea.  The impulse to follow through with the idea, develop it until it is not only usable, but able to be produced in quantity and marketed simply doesn’t happen without a healthy dose of “greed.”

Many on the left are deeply suspicious of money and the acquisitive instincts that make the accumulation of wealth possible.  Roger Kimball quotes an observation of Anthony Trollope in his novel Can You Forgive Her? He gives it to Plantagenet Palliser who responds to a character who announces that he lacks “mercenary tendencies,” thusly:

There is no vulgar error so vulgar, — that is to say, common or erroneous, as that by which men have been taught to say that mercenary tendencies are bad.  A desire for wealth is the source of all progress.  Civilization comes from what men call greed.  Let your mercenary tendencies be combined with honesty and they cannot take you astray.

Ideas pop into your head.  Developing them and marketing them takes effort, time, money and persistence.  How many ideas have been carelessly tossed on the rubbish pile through the absence of persistence, effort and unwillingness to spend the time.  What makes the difference?  The potential of reward — greed.

Six hundred years of tying papers together with a ribbon, and  then a small invention makes life simpler, and its use spreads and spreads.

Actually, Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor, invented the paperclip in 1899.  He received a patent for his design from Germany in 1899 since Norway had no patent laws at that time.

It was a company called the Gem Manufacturing Ltd. of England who first designed the double oval-shaped standard-looking paperclip.  William Middlebrook of Waterbury, CT patented a machine for making paper clips of the Gem design in 1899.  The Gem paperclip was never patented, but the name stuck.

During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness or initials of their king on them.  To protest, they began wearing paperclips because paperclips were a Norwegian invention whose original function was to bind together.  This was a protest against the Nazi occupation, and wearing a paperclip could have meant arrest.


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