Greed is bad!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word greed as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.” Most of the major religions in this world indicate greed is bad and will lead to no good. For example, the following are some Bible passages that reference greed:
Prov. 11:6 – “the treacherous are caught by their own greed”
Lk. 12:15 – “be on guard against every form of greed; life is not in possessions”
Proverbs 15:37 He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.
(Phillipians 2:3)“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
The following are references to greed that can be found in the Koran:
“Let not those who hoard up that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty think that it is good for them – nay, it will be worse for them. The things that they hoard shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the day of Resurrection. And to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and God is Aware of everything you do.” (The Holy Qur’an, 3:180)
“God does not love such as are proud and boastful, who hoard their wealth and encourage greed in others, and hide that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty – for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom – nor those who spend their wealth to impress men, but who do not believe in God nor in the Last Day.” (The Holy Qur’an, 4:36-38)
In Buddhism greed is one of the Three Poisons that lead to evil (akusala) and that bind us to suffering (dukkha). It also is one of the Five Hindrances to enlightenment.
In the ancient Hindu epic “The Mahabharata,” Bhishma, son of the holy river Ganges and one of Hinduism’s great yogis, delivers Hinduism’s great treatise on greed, naming it for the faithful as the matrix out of which all other evil arises
Bhishma said: ‘Hear, O King, what the foundation is of sin. Covetousness alone is a great destroyer of merit and goodness. From covetousness proceeds sin. It is from this source that sin and irreligiousness flow, together with great misery. This covetousness is the spring also of all the cunning and hypocrisy in the world. It is covetousness that makes men sin….'”
Greed in Society
- The roots of greed are emotional ones. People want to feel safe, loved, valued, validated, and respected. In different ways, money promises all of those things, even though it often doesn’t deliver.
- We have a culture where greed is not only OK, but encouraged.
- The effects of how we use money are hidden.
- Most of the organizations that handle money in our society are set up to maximize profit.
- Laws and regulations about taxation, corporations, and commerce in some cases make greed the law.
This is probably why it is so hard to eliminate greed from our society. It has become embedded in people’s day to day lives, into our laws, and into the people who govern our country. Pick up any newspaper on any day and there will be at least one article that describes a circumstance where greed played a major role. The sad thing about this is that the whole topic of greed is not talked about. It is hidden. Is this because people themselves are scared of being judged? Or is the motivation if it is not discussed then it can continue?
Most recently we have seen some reactions to greed and it is a reaction of anger. This reaction may have developed as the economy became worse. It is mentioned in the Newsweek article “The Greater Greed”
That anger ebbs and flows along with economic cycles, says Robert Brent Toplin, a history professor at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. “In our culture, we are not that concerned about greed; it’s not usually on our radar screens.” When the economy turns sour, when there is the perception that people who are accumulating great sums are doing it dishonestly or at the expense of many who are suffering, “then we get angry,” he says.
Greed can affect society in different ways. With blatant greed it is obvious what the impact is. A person, or group of people, take advantage of people, which in the end gives them wealth. A good example is Bernie Madoff who stole $50 billion dollars from his clients.
Sending our jobs overseas
Greed can also come in the form of actions from companies. Examples of this are many these days. Big corporations are continuously laying off workers and sending those jobs to other countries. According to the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) the top companies in the world that are out sourcing work include companies such as: IBM,Hewlett-Packard, EDS, Citigroup, and General Electric. Outsourcing has become a dirty word to our American workers. Jobs are being shifted to other countries by corporations in order to cut costs. These include manufacturing jobs, software development, customer service, and administrative jobs. The countries that receive the outsourcing opportunities include the countries India, China, Philippines, and Mexico. Take a look at auto manufacturing. Thanks to NAFTA American auto makers have outsourced many jobs to Mexico. Meanwhile Americans have invested millions of dollars of tax money to keep these companies operating.
Empty campaign slogans
What happened to the days of “Buy American,” which was a slogan touted by Walmart or GM. Also what about the following campaign promises?
Rick Santorum: “Fighting to make America America again”
Rick Perry: “Getting America Working Again” or “Made in America”
Mitt Romney: “Keep America American”
Woodrow Wilson: “America First”
Michael Dukakis: “Good jobs at good wages”
Walter Mondale: “Jobs, Peace, Opportunity”
Bob Dole: “Buy American”
Barrack Obama: “Made In USA”
Presidential candidates or presidents can say these pledges or slogan all day long. We all acknowledge it is a problem. The key is how are we going to change it. If greed is so embedded in our society, how can we eliminate these activities. Changing laws? Adding laws? Providing tax benefits? Enforcing tax penalties? I am not sure what the answer is. All I do know is that it is going to take more than a slogan to fix this problem.
Another type of “greed activity” is this off-shoring of assets or tax shelters. Big corporations have the ability to reduce their taxes by shifting their assets off shore. Can a regular mainstream American do the same to reduce their taxes? No. It just doesn’t seem to be right.
Greed’s impact on decision making
Another question about greed that comes to mind is does greed affect decision making. Obviously the answer is yes, but what about decision making of countries themselves. Do you think countries will jump to action to help another country that has no monetizable assets? Did this happen in Darfur? Did it happen in Ruwanda or Sierra Leone? Is it happening in Somalia? What about our own New Orleans? What are critical factors that encourage counties to join the action? Available oil? What else?
Greed and government officials
Greed also seems to be at the heart of government. We hear stories of counties where government officials steal millions of dollars from the government. This happens all over the world and not just in countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. It happens in the United States to, but may be obtained in different form such as kick backs to pet projects. What about the power of lobbyists? Take a look at the farm subsidy programs. How can these “mega farms” get money from the taxes that we pay to subsidize their companies? This is not what subsidies was meant for. Do I have the opportunity to get a subsidy to keep my household operating? It’s time for these things to be changed.
It appears that greed tremendously affects our lawmakers. How about passing laws to limit lobbyists, or penalizing a government official from having a financial connection to a company associated with lobbyists? How about setting some term limits so that government officials can’t embed themselves in political office where they continue to siphon off kick-backs, becoming too cozy, and forgetting their purpose and forgetting the people they are supposed to represent?
I don’t have the answers, but I think greed is something we need to start working on. Even the littlest child is taught to share and that greed is bad. So what happens to us. This all changes as people enter into adult life. My goal is to just get a discussion going. We know what the problem is. Now we need to define the solutions. It is also a good idea that we think about this as we cast our votes for elected officials.