"Who's John Stossel?"
That was Virgil Rosanke's reaction when "20/20" interviewed him for one of my TV specials. Without Rosanke and others like him, I couldn't have a steak dinner tonight, but I and most of the people he makes dinners possible for are unknown to him. He makes our dinners possible anyway.
Is Virgil Rosanke a philanthropist? No. Is he a government worker? Not that either. He's just a guy who delivers propane to heat water for cattle to drink. Why does he do it? To make money.
If pursuing profit is greed, economist Walter Williams told me, then greed is good, because it drives us to do many good things. "Those areas where people are motivated the most by greed are the areas that we're the most satisfied with: supermarkets, computers, FedEx." By contrast, areas "where people say we're motivated by 'caring'" -- public education, public housing etc. -- "are the areas of disaster in our country. . . . How much would get done," Williams wondered, "if it all depended on human love and kindness?"
Greed gets people to cooperate. If you want to benefit from other greedy people, you have to make sure they benefit from you. Consider one of the wonders of our age, the supermarket. There are thousands of products on the shelves. How'd they get there?
When I posed that question about just one of those thousands of products -- a piece of beef I bought for my dinner -- I found a trail back to an Iowa farm. That's how I learned about Virgil Rosanke, and how he learned about me.
We taped David Wiese and his family, farmers in Manning, Iowa, as they put in 14-hour days fixing fences, digging ditches, harvesting hay, and feeding the cattle. They don't do it for me and my neighbors -- but I'm glad they do it.
"Do you think it's because they love people in New York?" Williams asked. "No, they love themselves. And by promoting their own self-interest, they make sure New Yorkers have beef."