Sunday, April 10, 2011


I often think about greed. What does it mean? Is it learned? Is it conditioned? Is it in our genes? Is it a survival instinct? What role did it play if any in the evolution of mankind? Where does it come from? What are the consequences and direct or indirect effects?

I see it as one of the causes of many social problems and a stumbling block for increased cooperation. Religions even consider it a sin. In the 21st century the social perception of greed does not seem to be very negative. Many of us have some of it in us, I certainly do have my share of it as well.

I was not aware of it, but by chance I stumbled across the US TV series "American Greed". One can watch some episodes here. Wow, I was astonished. The show is scary and entertaining at the same time. What lovely case studies of greed and human behavior surrounding greed. It was not surprising to see that most of the "case studies" shown on American Greed were people that were admired, filling cover pages in magazines and newspapers, awarded with business, social and even philanthropic awards, in shorted respected citizens. They rubbed shoulders with US presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Hollywood stars. Newsweek and Time Magazine presented them to us as role models, people to look up to and imitate, in short our heroes. And usually their fall was rapid, from high flying stardom to fall or prison often in a matter of days or a couple of weeks. Whenever I see an episode or read some similar story in the newspapers I have to think of Enron and WorldCom.

I have no answer to greed, but I do know that enough is enough. How many houses and palaces does one need? How many yachts can one use? How many Bentley's can one drive? For many of us, the term 'greed' should be food for thought and lead to some personal changes.

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