Has The World Become Greedy?

Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard greed mentioned at least five times. In an interview with journalists on the radio, greed came up 3 times. At one of my jobs, a co-worker blamed the economic slump on greed. Finally, a comedian who spent time studying Buddhism blamed greed for all human suffering.

It sounds like this greed thing is a pretty big problem. Why haven’t I ever noticed before? Now I remember, it isn’t actually a problem.

I often get accused of looking at the world through rose colored glasses. In humanity, I see inherent goodness and overwhelming harmony. I assume the best about people and their motivations. Yes, there are occasional tragedies, but on the whole human beings get along surprisingly well.

So, in pondering this greed issue, I had to ask myself, do I have have a diverse enough sample set to even know what I’m talking about? Have I been around a varied enough collection of individuals? The answer is yes, I have.

In San Diego, CA I spent my first 11 or 12 years living in a predominantly black and Mexican populated neighborhood. My best friends were black guys and we played basketball all the time against Mexican guys. You can guess who won.

In high school I spent time with mostly white, upper middle class, students and teachers.

In college, my peers were mixed in terms of race and ethnicity but almost all were upper middle class or upper class.

I’ve worked for the Department of Defense where a huge percentage of the workforce is Filipino. I’ve worked for an internet start up, in which the founders were Stanford and Harvard graduates and my boss was a highly driven Jewish man.

My wife is Peruvian and I’ve lived in Peru for a total of about a year and a half. Our friends now are mostly Mexicans.

My mom is a Jewish actress and business woman and my Dad is a brilliant businessman from Fort Wayne, Indiana. My brother also has a Peruvian wife and lives in Peru with his spouse and their Peruvian daughter.

I’ve seen and known all types of people and I can tell you greed is not a problem.

First of all, lets take a look at the definition of the word greed.

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of greed: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.

Right off the bat we should note that the idea of “more of something than is needed” is completely subjective. Who can decide how much of something anybody needs?

Further, all human action is inherently selfish. Humans act in an effort to better their own lives. If that was not the case, humans wouldn’t act.

Acts of charity are carried out because humans feel a sense of unease about the condition of the world. In being charitable, we’re able to rectify problems and make the world a better place, thereby gaining peace of mind. In short, charitable acts make the giver as well as the receiver feel good.

When I hear the word greed, I automatically think of a person who is greedy for  money and material wealth. However, the definition of the word greed does not necessarily imply that. One can be greedy for time, or greedy for affection, or, as in my case, greedy for peace and liberty. Can we say that greed is bad when the thing desired is good? Can there be too much of a good thing? Can a mother love her son too much? Can there be too much health and prosperity in the world? Of course not!

But even when somebody is greedy for money, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing for the world at large. Under a free market system, without access to the government and its ability to tax the citizenry, business people could only make money from voluntarily agreed upon exchanges.

All voluntarily transactions are perceived by both parties as being beneficial, otherwise the transactions couldn’t take place. As long as fraud and misrepresentation are punished, greed could only be a good thing for the world in general.

Even though it is beneficial for humanity in general, greed for money can certainly be detrimental to the greedy individual. Why? Because it makes them to work so hard. They spend their entire life serving other people, trying to figure out what people need and want. They’ve got no time to enjoy anything else. But note, it is the greedy people themselves that suffer. That suffering is not born by anybody else. In a very real sense, these people sacrifice their own lives to the service of others because they have such a strong desire for money. Better them than me.

That being said, I know from my life experience that greed for money is very limited. Becoming a millionaire is actually a pretty simple process. Don’t get married, don’t have children, don’t go to college, drop out of high school and start working at age fifteen. Work 16 hours a day 6 days a week. Live in a studio apartment in a bad part of town. Never eat out. Don’t get cable. Don’t go into debt. Save all your money. In twenty years, at age 36, you’ll have a million bucks. You will also have spent your whole life in the service of others.

Why don’t more people do this? Because despite everything people might say about money, it isn’t actually that important to them. The vast majority of people that I’ve seen prefer leisure, laziness, and luxuries to austere, back breaking, money making.

To conclude, greed for money is not widespread. Even where it does exist, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. On the free market, greed for money has no other choice but to manifest itself in doing work for others. The one thing that can poison the well is government’s ability to give tax money and write special laws for greedy individuals. Greed for good things isn’t bad at all. Being greedy for world peace and liberty is perfectly legitimate.

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One Response to Has The World Become Greedy?

  1. gokulraman says:

    Hi Adam, I have to agree with you. Greed is really the base for capitalism. If no capitalism, most is us would be out of jobs.. greed by itself is not bad. But if that greed goes beyond a point, it shuts off people’s 6th sense. They stop distinguishing bad from good ways to satisfy their greed. Getting something done at any cost or at others expense is not good…

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