Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Now, this might be what we used to call a BFO, a Blinding Flash of the Obvious, but we are living in a society powered by greed. Not just a little bit of greed. Not just some of society. No, if you stop and think about it, greed permeates every part of American society. And that realization may explain some of the otherwise unexplainable aspects of our lives.

For example, the health care reform debate. People who have health insurance provided to them by an employer seem unwilling to allow the government to help out people without health insurance. They can offer all manner of reasons, but deep down isn't it just that they don't want someone else to get for free (or cheap) what they now have? Greed.

Keeping to health care reform, we also see that the right wing in American politics looks at any government intervention as a failure in advance because "government is the problem." But why is this so? I'll grant that government run programs are, generally, inefficient and wasteful. How does greed enter into the picture? Well, one of the main reasons for inefficiency and waste is that all government programs are designed to try and prevent theft. Whole forests of paperwork are needed to try and make sure that the recipient of a government provided benefit is deserving of the benefit. The assumption is that people will cheat the system. Greed again.

It's everywhere you look. Even the one government program the right seems to always want to increase, the military, is rife with tales of $800 hammers and other procurement messes. Again, paperwork, inspections and reviews written into every procurement contract intended to prevent theft of our tax dollars. Greed.

And it's not just government. Banks that make billions of dollars from overdraft fees. Credit card companies charging 30% or more interest. Airlines charging for checked luggage. Oil companies making record profits from consumers when they had to pay $140 per barrel. It's just about greed.

Please understand, I'm no left wing communist. Having been a business owner for 40 years puts me smack dab in the category of capitalist, but the world we now inhabit seems to me to be awash in greed far in excess of the capitalism of 40 years ago. I've touched on some of this before, here and here. When good old Mom and Pop owned the general store they knew that it was in their self interest to allow the Widow Jones to buy groceries on credit every now and then. Their altruism, based on self interest, could be viewed as greed, but at least it was altruistic toward the Widow Jones. She benefited and that benefit was spread to her children and grandchildren. The benefit out weighed the self interest. Today that general store is owned by General Store Corp., Inc. and the stockholders would not take kindly to letting that old woman get out without paying.

It seems to me that the only real charity in America comes either from the very, very rich (Bill Gates and his wife) or from the poor helping each other in time of need. Every other group and institution in society, when you look under the rocks, is based on greed. 

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