Greed

When being raised I was taught this is a very malevolent characteristic some people have.  If you have it then you aren’t the very good, selfless person you ought to be striving to be.  Little discussion was made of the definition and, watching Scrooge McDuck cartoons as I did, I certainly believed all that was told me on this front.  I wanted to work for no money, a lawyer who would be champion of the poor so I could aptly demonstrate how much I truly cared about people, not myself and certainly not money.  The biggest question I never asked was, “Why is it bad to have lots of money?”  The second worst was regarding what I would live on.

I had firmly ingrained within me that it was the ultimate sign of my goodness to be anti-bourgeois; to resent and vilify the wealthy, the haves and to wear my “have not” status as a badge of integrity.  Greed is something that is forever lauded as the ultimate bad thing about those people who have.  The want of something “excessive” for living being considered not only a bad thing, but something that is morally WRONG.  To test this theory of mine, this newly burgeoning want of understanding words getting lobbed about in the popular media, I looked up the definition of greed online.  It was quite as I feared.  Here is the entirety of what I found at Merriam-Webster:

: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed

First question this brings to mind is this:  Who decides what is excessive and what is needed?  Is there some morality police with an accounting program setting up margins of savings over expense and debt that then says “You!  Over there with the excess money/pez dispensers!  You’re greedy!  Now gimme all that you won’t need for the rest of the week/month/year”?  Since I think we can all agree there is no such person I think it’s time we get in touch with our own greed and the very goodness it can symbolize.

Thus begins the Q & A portion of this program!

Do you want “more” than what you currently have?  This can be financially or materially.

Yes.  I absolutely do.

Why?

I want a pretty comfy life that has substantially less struggle in it regarding money than it currently does.  [Yes, that is the house from Practical Magic.  The only thing missing is a wonderful turret.  Hmmm…  turret.]

Do you want it in excessive amounts?

Yep.  I make no bones about the fact that I would love to live a life of luxury when it came to certain concerns not being relevant to me anymore.

Are you willing to work for it?

Yes.  Since money isn’t the end-all, be-all for me this must fit within the parameters of the things that matter more in my life than money.  Currently that’s raising my family.  A bountiful Christmas is wonderful, but if someone else is raising my kids the material gain does not even come close to the loss.

Do you consider this to be a selfish desire for excess?

Damn skippy.  I don’t act in anyone’s interest other than my own.

Corporate greed is nothing more than a company acting in it’s own selfish interest for “excessive” funds (we call these things profits).  Needless to say I have no qualm with this.  At all.  A company, and thus people who run them, are committed to that endeavor.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this.  Where the big issues in current American society comes from are entitlement and corporatism.

Let me explain.  Greed’s only defining motivation is in interest of the self.  The notion of “excess” is not defined thereby leaving it up to an unknown entity to decide what that is in order to give the finger of blame a sense of righteous morality.  To act in the interest of the self is not an issue all into it’s own.  It should be considered a no-brainer.  If we want to support those notions we believe in then we act in accordance with them.  Now, the issue of entitlement comes down to “deserving” something not earned while corporatism is an act of survival in the US political climate.  Both are bad and, in my opinion, malevolent forces.  While both can be lumped into the category of greed each speaks to a motivation that is very vital we discuss.  So, hang on to your hats!  The next few weeks I’ll be posting about Corporatism, Entitlement and (heaven help me) Power.

Hart mentioned Enron in a previous comment thread and, for now, I’m going to say that would begin a conversation about ethics.  While it’s fair to say the motivation could have been greed it strikes me as being far closer to covering one’s ass (lying) to show a business to be doing far better (now isn’t that an understatement) than it actually was.  As this denotes lying, not even necessarily a sense of entitlement, the issue here isn’t in the seeking of monetary gain.  I’m totally willing to (read: looking forward to) your opinions as it pertains to any of the above.

 

So, are you greedy?

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12 responses to “Greed

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  • martha drummond

    In this world , any one who can pay for thier basic needs, has a happy and healthy family, and who untothemself is happy and healthy; is a wealthy person. Beyond that, it is fine to have more than what is needed and for that matter abundant excess (yipee). It is obviously to the benefit of the rest of the world and mankind if one is lucky enough to have excess; that at some point, they are able to share some of that with someone else, whether it be in providing jobs, educationaly opportunity, health improvments, educational support or simple well being. The question that has to be answered is what is generosity; and what are the altruistic benefits it for society, to one’s self, and to one’s sense of a self directed, creative life. Also what are the bad sides of generosity (links to power). Luckily with the help of imagination, we can be self directed and creative, without the benefit of excess or even enough of money or assets in this life. Imagination may be what links us all to mechanisms for hope, achievements of goals, and positions of “excess.” Thank god ,or who ever gave us the capacity, the ability to imagine may be on the list of greatest gifts or assets that one can have…. and it doesn’t cost anything… unless it goes wasted. – Martha

    • martha drummond

      Hope you got my comments re. greed. It is timely in discussions I am having in Entrepreneur Class. Talk to you soon. Marth

    • kimberlyloomis

      I, too, love excess. Altruism, however, is not something in popular definition I can ever agree with. Benefit to society denotes the existence of society being separate from the individuals comprised within it. This only allows for consideration of groups of people which always leaves some screwed and some beneficent. The question that should be asked is then if the people getting short end of the stick were determined to warrant that result through due process of law and, if not, then why?

      Your views of imagination speak to me. What wonderfully eloquent sentiment you shared. Thank you, Martha.

  • Jan

    I think excess is in the mind and eye of the beholder. The truth is, when people have more that they are in control of, they can (can being the operative word here) use it to benefit others. There are many people I know of who do this–some with other people’s money, ie. “civic funds” (I do not think that is right because taxes should only be used to pay for necessary services) and then there are others who in helping themselves, have brought up the rest of the world. I just heard about a woman in Hartford who transformed her neighborhood because she didn’t like the fence around her house, tore it down and learned to garden. This inspired her neighbors and by teaching them what she knew, together they transformed the neighborhood. She is now acting as a consultant to others.
    When you talk about how you earn money (with integrity or by lying) that is the crux of the matter. And the question of ethics is raised.
    I have a problem with the ethics of mega corporations. Why is this so? Because a corporation is considered a legal entity but it isn’t the corporation per se that does good or bad things–it is the people in the corporation and they need to be responsible and held accountable for what they do.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jan – Totally agree with you. On all fronts. As I mentioned in my response to Martha the issue in considering groups of people and not the individuals is, in addition to the problem of villain and victim, is the lack of culpability. That alone leads to many risky decisions while hiding behind a group entity – in your example the corporation.

  • Hart

    I think you nailed it with the definition of ‘excessive’. I want MORE, but honestly, what I want is just not to have to WORRY about money all the time. I want ENOUGH. But ENOUGH is a moving target. Here in Michigan there is a former Mayor of Detroit who has been indicted for fraud. He claimed he couldn’t make his payments because he couldn’t live on what was left (some $200,000 a year or more after the payments). I’d venture to say someone who thinks they can’t live on $200,000 a year is indeed greedy. People’s beliefs in how they deserve to live MORPH and when one person thinks $200,000 is too little, but expects someone else to get by on $12,480 (minimum wage for full time work for a year) they need to be thunked in the head. HARD.

    I GET that people don’t want to give charity for people who aren’t trying, but someone working full time should be able to have ENOUGH to get by, even at minimum wage. COMPANIES don’t DESERVE to get to take advantage like they do. Yes, goods are cheaper so more people can have them, so the business grows if they do this. But wouldn’t the goods ALSO be cheaper if the VP made $150,000 instead of half a million?

    Greed to ME is about the haves and have nots, and while I WANT to be a HAVE in a lot of ways, I NEVER want to take MORE from the have NOTS to get it. That is where I see greed coming in.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Hart – What people do with their money is their business unless it subverts a law. I don’t believe in government limitations on salaries, nor do I have an issue with disparity in salaries EXCEPT when it comes to issues of government intervention and the subsequent involuntary funding by taxpayers to make a company solvent. That’s going to be in a post on corporatism as it’s a vital topic to discuss and understand. In that post I’ll address what I view as the motivating factor in it.

      Enough is, indeed, a moving target and subsequently one of the reasons why it becomes vital we hold our subjective judgments inward and realize those definitions are different to other people. In a free society a person may do whatever they want with their money within the confines of the law. Every person can be happier with a different amount and it is not up to anyone else to dictate such a thing other than the person whose life it is. How they decide to live, on what they decide to live it, must be wholly up to them. That is not public fodder lest we all become subject to someone else’s notions of how we should live. Personally, I’m not comfortable with anyone else making that decision for me or my family.

      The issue of corruption and entitlement our political structure is rife with is just that and not to be confused with the simple notion of greed.

      Issues of taking from have nots requires a few definitions like who are the have nots and what do you consider to qualify as taking from them? Unearned salaries? Excruciating taxation?

      Expectations, shoulds, moral judgments are all things that need to be limited to the people whose lives they involve.

      The anger in these instances seems to be founded upon a few stubborn issues that can not be separated from talks of politics and taxes. Some of that will be in the entitlement post I have scheduled for next week. 🙂

  • laurelrainsnow

    I could relate to what all of you have said…I think that having enough is important, and if having more than enough means stomping on the have-nots (who are trying), than that is unconscionable behavior.

    I would definitely like to have enough to survive without worrying, and extra, so that I could enjoy a few things along with the way. When I have a little extra, though, I tend to share it with my grown kids (when they’re struggling), and then I’m sometimes left without the extras…sigh.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laurel – I agree with you completely about the stomping of the have nots. That isn’t greed so much as a lack of ethics. Many notions feed into what people will or won’t do to get their “enough” or “more” but it then becomes an issue of the motivation, not the simple selfish want. Too often this word begins to entail some moral judgment of the “why” someone wants “more” when its definition is so much simpler. Guess I should start reading “Ethics” again. 😉

      It’s wonderful that you can and want to help your children like that. Sometimes being able to do things like that is worth going without the extras.

  • Arlee Bird

    I guess some would consider me “greedy”. But it’s really pretty relative.
    I want enough to provide comfort and security for me and my family. I would like to be able to provide for myself until I die and not be dependant on anyone. I would also be able to have enough to give to my community and the causes that I care about.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

  • litlove

    Very interesting! I’d rather think about greed in terms of food – and the need for food is basically the need for love and comfort (as soon as you’ve got beyond the satisfaction of basic hunger). So when we think about greed we have to think about what we’re making up for in terms of insufficient love and comfort, either stemming from an earlier time or in our present situation. I really think that excess of all kinds indicates emotional imbalances, the desire for more and more to shore up crumbling self-esteem or to ward off sadness. If we are content in ourselves, then just enough is just right, and any extra can be given with a free heart to others in need.

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