Since man walked this earth, Greed has always been with us. It is a uniquely human characteristic as it causes us to act in ways that are harmful. We are familiar with the notion of a greedy “scrooge” who hordes money and resources beyond their ability to spend.
But is greed all that bad? Can greed be good? Being a little selfish can be a good thing and is probably a little engrained in our genes to gather a bit more for our family and friends. When times are scarce, something may kick in us that wants to gather a bit more for us and individuals or those in our immediate family. Such a force can be very motivating to get us up in the morning, to work harder, smarter, and longer than others.
But providing for loved ones isn't necessarily as selfish as it sounds - in fact, this takes us one step in the direction of compassion: provision for others. Think about it? How much of that money you make actually goes to you? Aren't you as a parent (for example) spending money to house, clothe, and feed others?
Perhaps, a little greed could be good in this regard, but can you go a little too far over the edge? Greed can consume you and drive you to take too much at the expense of others. Greed can destroy friendships, marriages, business partnerships.
It can also blind us to obvious “pitfalls” that could destroy our lives, families, and our reputation.
Greed can send endorphins and adrenaline through our blood stream and can lead to an addictive quality. In fact, greed can metamorphaize into actions like gambling. People can see easy dollars if they bet on just one more game. Greed can overtake someone like a powerful drug. Anything in excess, especially greed, can create mountains of problems.
Weekend at Bernie's
Let’s take a look at a recent example of Greed: Bernie Madoff, the infamous stock broker, who created a lavish lifestyle with an elaborate Ponzi scheme that racked in over 7 billion dollars. The money came from somewhere. He cheated thousands of families out of their life savings, retirement, and investments. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison. While justice was served, thousands of families and businesses – both big and small – went under.
It’s not just large corporations (i.e. Enron) that want to dominate the market. Is it greed or is it competition - or a combination of both? Perhaps, greed is a perversion of competition. We all like the idea of competition (when it’s fair), as the rewards in victory can be very appealing. But what if the playing field is unfair? What if a team throws a game to reap even higher rewards?
AIG and grubby, greedy hands
Take for instance, the insurance giant AIG. The public doesn’t mind giving bonuses to hard working people. But what if the bonuses are $20 million dollars each?
Every generation has its greedy monsters – some will end up caught and thrown in prison, some will end up being despised, and others we will never hear about. When we take the time to examine ourselves and stay focused on how our decisions affect other people – and make that the priority – then, and only then can we be sure to eradicate greed.
After all, greed is hardly sustainable. Look at Mr. Madoff – he had more money than he knew what to do with. But still it wasn’t enough for him. He needed more and more money to keep the lies going.
The funny thing is that he kept his machine going by inspiring others with their greed. He was promising and delivering (on paper) returns that people could get nowhere else. Hence, they kept on coming back to Madoff because they wanted more and more themselves.
There is a spirit of greed in human nature and we need to keep it at bay by teaching and understanding that money and “having more” at the cost of someone else isn’t as important as losing your soul.