Is Greed Good?

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Greed-is-GoodSome conservatives who believe in unrestrained capitalism might have difficulty with this question.

In the 1980 movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko gave a speech – a very interesting speech where he said,

I am not a destroyer of companies, I am a liberator of them! … The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all
of its forms. Greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed mark my words (will save
this company).

It is a great scene in a good movie that really does expose greed in its evilness. Some may over-extend the message to indict all of Wall Street and capitalism as evil.

However, before we get confused let’s look at the definition.

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

Greed is the EXCESSIVE desire for MORE than is needed.

Greed is NOT acting in reasonable self-interest. Reasonable self-interest is good.

Let’s look at Mark 12:31 which is the second of the great commandments. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Note this verse, does NOT say we should NOT love ourselves? NO! We are to love ourselves and we are to use that as a measure as to how we should love others.

Let’s relate this back to Greed. Greed does NOT consider others. It seeks unfair advantage for excessive gains for oneself. Hence,
greed is bad. Self-interest working hard for one’s family, one’s company and its employees so that a business can provide a valuable service to the public at a fair price is good. Good businesses are servants who seek self-interest but also seek to serve the public.

When we begin to act solely out of self-interest and do not seek the good of others, we start down the road of being greedy. When we
maximize self-interest and minimize the benefit to others, we are in the wrong. Sometimes we can deceive ourselves. But if we put
ourselves in the shoes of the other, the truth becomes apparent and greed, if exists, will manifest itself.

Scammers leverage greed. Those who would promote greed as good are scammers. In my book Modern Parables for Financial Freedom there is a story called Melvin’s Grand Deed, which tells a story of a husband who gets confused with serving himself and others. He discovers his greed in the midst of a grand and good deed.

2 thoughts on “Is Greed Good?”

  1. Thanks for another great read!
    Greed is really at the heart of a number of the ten commandments – timeless laws that continue to be guideposts to the good life .
    God gives us a pretty explicit warning about coveting what isn’t ours.
    Greed is interesting as it is not an overt action but a powerful desire there in our hearts – a seed that can grow into quite a monster that will lead us to bad decision making and actions: lying, stealing, adultery, and at its worst even murder.
    There’s an interesting show on TV called American Greed which tells the true stories of how passions for more than is needed has led some to incredibly destructive lives of crime that hurt both the perpetrator and his/her victims. Scamming, gambling, fraud, deceit, cheating and all sorts of creative swindling.
    But even the more subtle and quieter greed that exists in all of us can exact a cost if not kept in check.
    Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughts, Tannian.

  2. Enjoyed your insights Lisa. No doubt self-interest can turn to greed. Like you said an evil seed when we nourish it can turn into a monster. . As in many things there is a continuum. At some point along that line our hearts turn inward and sour. Thanks

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