A Few Words About a Word: Greed

Caricature or Fact?

I think of all the words in the English language, the one we should live without for a while is the word “greed.” This word has so many vastly different meanings to so many people that it can mean anything and nothing, simultaneously.  It’s become much like the overuse of the term “Nazi” to describe anything and everything with which one might disagree in a moment of heated vehemence, and what it really serves to accomplish is to inject hyperbole and undue emotion into any argument.  Since there is no way to ban the use of a word(at least not in the US, yet,) I decided I might just as well give you my definition, so that on the rare occasion I toss it about, you will understand my usage.   Many consider the brand of “greed” as good as the mark of the beast, and properly defined, it might well be apt to view it in such light, but all too frequently, the word is used to smear something else, and frankly, I’m tired of it.

Greed is most commonly invoked at the thought of lust for money and wealth, but I submit to you that real greed is hardly confined to the gain of material riches.  I also submit to you that it is not merely the desire for riches that constitutes greed, but instead the desire for wealth in material or prestige to which one has no natural entitlement.   If you own a thing, and you came to own it by your own efforts, these are the fruits of your labors, and it was neither greed that gave them to you, nor greed that permits you to hold it.  It is your natural right to  your property that justifies your ownership, and no warrant of greed may be logically attached.

On the other hand, if you gain wealth by fraud or deception, or by theft most commonly of all, this along with your desire to keep it constitute actual greed.  A thief or an embezzler or a cheat is motivated by greed.  A person who demands the labors of others go to support him is motivated by greed.  In a civil society, this sort of greed is generally punished as crime, but no form of greed is greater than a society that collectively employs greed against a minority, however constituted.  Socialism, and indeed any form of statism is the greediest sort of system of all.  The notion that one is entitled to the fruits of a neighbor’s labors is abominable, and that there are laws to enforce it is the stuff of true greed.

Greed is commonly associated with the rich, but I tell you it is the manner in which wealth is gotten that answers the question as to whether there had been greed.  Was there coercion?  Was there monopoly or oligopoly?  Or was there merely the productive efforts of minds equal to the task of satisfying the wants of many people?

All too often, the word “greed” is substituted in place of another concept, precious to capitalism, called “rational self-interest.”  This is the motive power of capitalism, and it’s the reason most of you rise to work each day, toiling to earn your daily bread.  You do not work as a matter of charity to others.  You do not tote that barge or lift that bale in order to fill the bellies of your neighbors’ children, but your own.  The worst and most greedy amongst us are those who find one excuse after the other to lighten the burden of your wallet at the point of a gun in the interests of combating greed, and yet the truth is that none are greedier than these alleged agents of anti-greed.

You might well ask me what I had meant about those who seek an unearned prestige.  I will explain to you that these are the most dangerous of the lot, and none are more greedy than these parasites on human spirit.  These are the grand Utopians who claim not to want any reward for themselves, but instead seek your wealth as a matter of enriching their reputations as the doers of vast public good. If you wish to see a crowd of these in action, you need only tune in to C-SPAN when Congress is in session.  There, you will witness a freak-show of the greediest people on the planet, who hold in their hands the power to strip you of your wealth, all the while claiming the justification of some alleged “public interest.” Worst of all, as has recently come to light in such texts as “Throw Them All Out,” by Peter Schweizer, while they posture as the protectors of the downtrodden, they use the force of their legislation, and their inside knowledge about what it will do to markets in order to make profits they could not have made by any other means.  Who among you believes that most of these people so-engaged could make a fat nickel without the power over your purses and wallets, and the laws that govern your enterprises and corporations besides?

Of course, there are those who seek no immediate financial compensation for such efforts, but instead seek other forms of wealth, in the form of an undeserved prestige.  How many buildings, post offices, and lamp-posts in West Virginia bear the name of Robert Byrd?  He will have been in his grave one-hundred years, and still his name will curse the landscape of that state like a plague.  Sadly, some larger number of the people of that state afford him this prestige, because what he did to gain it was to redistribute money from others to their purposes and support.  Just as you can buy a good deal of welfare or votes, so too can you buy prestige in bulk with other peoples’ money.  The desire for that prestige is an insatiable greed that may stretch to the boundaries of one’s imagination, and more evil has been birthed by those seeking to build monuments to themselves in this fashion than by any pursuit of material wealth.

When people use the term “greed,” I listen carefully for the context, and the reason is simple: All too often, the term “greed” is thrown about with casual indifference to the actual meaning of the word.  When I see a businessman who has made his money by honest pursuit, the fact that he wishes to keep it or earn more does not describe greed, but when I see a petty shop-lifter who stuffs a pack of gum into his pocket at the check-out line, I know I am seeing the material form of greed in progress.   When I see a woman enjoying her retirement by spending some of her life-long savings and investments into something purely for her own pleasure or amusement, I do not see greed.  When I see men demanding a benefit to which they have no natural entitlement, I know I am seeing greed on a vast scale. When I see politicians offering the wealth of some to the pockets of others, in the name of some benevolent purpose he claims will be in the interests of all the people, I look at the ruined lives of the people from whom they will take the necessary cash, and know that I have witnessed a greedy monster.

When you hear the word “greed” you would do well to listen intently to discover the context and meaning of the speaker, so that you can discern his actual intent.  If what is being offered is really nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on property rights, you should run for the hills.  Statists love to use the word greed, because while many people have a sense of the word, few have spent much time considering its meaning.  A statist will argue that if you will not surrender your whole wealth and property and person to the state, it is because you are greedy, and the more wealth you obtain by natural rights, the louder their denouncements of your greed will become. Nobody is greedier than these, and the motive of their attack is to convince you to submit to their claims on your person.  These parasites know the difference between greed and rational self-interest, but they hope you do not.

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markamerica


  • Hank

    Now try to explain this to the Al Sharptons, Ed Schultzs, and the rest of the bobble heads of the world on MSNBC. How do we get beyond the choir and outside the church? Education; to the point where the "educated" finally understanding the sermon but the intentional dumb-ING down of America will not allow that. The liberal media and Hollywood will not allow it. Regarding Hollywood; look how long it took to make the first part of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged into a movie. Regarding the media; it is nothing more than a slobbering love affair with the left…to borrow Jonah Goldberg's book title.

    • fred johnson

      Have any of you noticed how none of the debates, or anyone of the so called PEPUBLICAN runners except Perry have had to say about climet change? They all give themselfs an out. Now don;t think for one min Anyone of them in the front running even Paul won;t be jumping on the band wagon once this election is over. This will have more major impact on our country. then anything else that has been done so far. We will turn over our monetary system to the UN as writen in agenda 21 and backed by George S. Obumma Bill Clinton Al gore Nancy P and all the rest of the GREED IDIOTS. Including the RNC. It's all part of the plan and we know it. But yet we all keep our mouths shut about it. NOT a good thing to talk about! Now you know why Perry took a noise dive. Romney nows it's getting warmer. The only warming going on are the idiots rubbing there hands togather ( thats causeing some warming)

  • just-a-guy

    Are you one of those 'eyes shut -can't see people' that refuses to watch the whole infomercial? Or, perhaps, one that can watch it and then insist that the feeling of discomfort they get in the pits of their stomach comes from an attack on their closely held belief in something rare called 'pure capitalism'?

    I for one can see that the pain of the experience these people is real, and I pray for these people that people really understand why what happened to them in these United States was allowed to pass- I have to ask WHY before I can give Romney a pass on his involvement.

    These were people who worked for companies (note: not corporations).
    The companies played by the rules, supported their employees who in turn were loyal and supported the companies – the relationship was pure capitalism. Pure capitalism is synergistic for the communities and the companies – it is healthy.

    What Bain did was not. What Bain did was form a large pool of capital,
    and then they went around the country looking for weaker companies (note: I am not falling into the word trap where Bain's revisionist history gets to call them 'poorly run' companies).

    In the beginning (read this as the Staples-Era of Bain Investments) Bain was venture capital doing what venture capital is supposed to do-
    looking for Small/start up companies, and providing capital to develope and expand the idea ( This was pure capitalism at its finest)

    Unfortunately that 'model' was surrendered rather quickly. As Bain ammassed a large Pool of expanding capital under this model, it was unacceptable because the largest portion of expansion happened after Bain was no longer affiliated with the Start Up – after the Start Up had succeeded and paid back the reasonable debt owed to Bain.

    So Bain/ Romney reinvented the strategy – there was more 'quick and sure' returns in being a Corporate Raider than there was in being a Venture Capital creature. Having a track record as Venture Capitalists gave them the funds, prestige, and networked money connections to make the switch pratically invisible.

    Bain's new targets were Older, established companies that were sitting on large assets that they couldnt legally tap for operations: like Employee Pension Funds, and Physical Plants that were not expendable if continued operations were the goal of the underlying company.

    Bains new 'partners' were no longer individual investors. They were 'corporate', just like Bain, and nearly unaccountable. The new partners like Leihman Bros had the wall street connections to contract the Capital available to target companies – to shrink the credit lines available for operations these smaller companies were dependent upon. Bain could 'front' the desperate companies a rather small risk,
    (small upfront) in exchange for growing control in the companies, and then redirect the companies into self destructive behaviors like borrowing money for expansion that just never materialized for some reason – the banksters played along because their eyes were on the
    ASSETS.

    Vulture, crony Capitalist, and liars and thieves are all words appropo to Bain, Romney and this whole 'Destructive Capitalism' motif.

    Dont be fooled

    mchill/tampa fla

    • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

      Maybe you meant this for another post.

      • http://twitter.com/BDWatcher bdwatcher (@BDWatche

        But, a very good post.

    • Hank

      I do believe Mark's remarks were directed towards the word "greed" and not towards any named individual. My response had two named individuals in it as a point of reference or perhaps association.
      Your use of the the word "banksters" is soooooo Ed Schultz…
      Like Mark, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you responded to the wrong post.

    • just-a-guy

      no, I picked where I wanted it, Mark

      It gives flesh to an article that reflects an unfinished progression in a more complete understanding of where the 'establishment' republicans[sic] are taking this country.

      GREED is not good, at best it is amoral, and it hinders and does not help Capitalism. At its worst it is imoral, and the accompanying sin is not covetousness, as is a common popular arguement against it.

      The reason the covetousness arguement fails is that it is demonstrably successful (in the short run), surely if it were a sin to be covetous there would be a penalty involved and it is not apparant. The penalty for coveting is heaped upon the sinner, and therefore in our 'free market system' this should be allowed, Right?

      But greed isnt about coveting your neighbors wealth, it is about collecting your own, without regard for your neighbor, so GREED is more correctly aligned with GLUTTONY, which is consuming in excess. As with Covetousness, the instant penalties for gluttony appear to be affecting the Sinner, and if true that would make it permissable in the 'free market'.

      The trouble with being amoral is that penalties accrue to the sinner, and such 'choices' should be available to free people.
      The trouble with being imoral is that it accesses the right to be amoral, and expands it to a new level that affects the society, and therefore society should have a voice in setting limits to contain amorality and prevent imorality. It IS societies obligation in the free market to protect the rights of all who follow the rules to exist and prosper with equal opportunity.

      GLUTTONY to extreme the individual gets to eat all the food, share none, eat the children, and destroy the next generation.

      Bain started out amoral, but shifted into the imorral zone. Establishment politicians, Wall Street, and central bankers have enabled this, not
      only by making it legal, but actually picking winners and losers.

      Sarah Pain is calling for a 'true' accounting of the jobs Romney claims to have created…asking "How many are jobs created in the United States?"

      There are a lot of other unanswered questions-

      How much has the government paid out for Bain/Romey manipulations?

      Who cut these companies off from credit to make them vulnerable to obiously 'hostile' takeovers

      mc hill/tampa fl