Since the financial crisis in September of ’08 we’ve heard a lot about greed being the underlying problem that brought it about. Financial institutions engaged in practices that were highly profitable but that were also fraught with risk, and eventually the risk of disaster became a reality.

Accusations of greed in our free market society are nothing new, of course. In the 2008 primary elections, for example, John Edwards made this the thrust of his campaign. There were “two Americas”, he had said in 2003. It was a classic “haves” and “have-nots” assessment: Some folks worked, other folks reaped the rewards. Some folks possessed wealth, others lived paycheck to paycheck. In the 2008 campaign, he promoted this sort of populism with particular vitriol. There are, he asserted, the very rich and powerful, and then there is everyone else. And they do not want anyone (like Edwards) to stand up for the interest of the oppressed have-nots. They want his message squelched and so they “try to kill the messenger”. Really?

To be sure, there was and is greed on Wall Street. There are greedy CEOs. There are indeed people whose self-interest leads to the demise of the interests of others. But even if one could conclude that it was greed, and only greed, that led to the financial crisis (a dubious proposition), and even if the situation in our society is as dire as Edwards has maintained, is the reaction to it that we have frequently seen really justified?

We hear much about the need for “social justice”. We hear much about “working families” who have many difficulties in life. These terms themselves imply things that aren’t necessarily true, or certainly aren’t true in every instance. Do you really think that, as a general rule, families that have wealth don’t work? Isn’t it possible that they possess wealth because they work, and that they work very hard?

And what is wealth? What does it mean to be “rich”? There are many upper middle class people that do not consider themselves to be “wealthy” or “rich” that would be perceived to be so by many others in a lower economic strata. President Obama’s quasi-definition of the rich being an annual income of $250,000.00 or more notwithstanding, the rich are deemed to be rich on a subjective basis that goes something like this: Do they have a lot more property than I do, and do they have a much greater income than I do? If so, they are probably rich.

Anger towards the rich (the haves, whoever they are) by everyone else (the have-nots) is, unfortunately, usually motivated by envy. That envy is fed by rhetoric like Edwards uses. It is fed by notions that suggest that simply because disparity exists, injustice must exist as well. Envy is at the heart of the class warfare that some are always attempting to foment. The greedy pursue things for themselves with little regard one way or the other for anyone else. The envious, however, want what someone else has, and, failing to get it, can be just as desirous that no one else should possess it either.

Envy is no more virtuous than greed. It may even be worse.

2 comments
  1. I must say that even during my worst ‘have-not’ times, I did not look at richer people’s homes and lives and think “I deserve some of that too!”. I knew that I did not enter into the same career they did, or perhaps did not have a string of luck that they found, or did not strive for more in the same way they did. I looked at the homes and wished I could live there, but did not think THEY should pay for one for me lol. Those are two different thoughts all together.

    I have also seen my fair share of ‘greed’ from low income families that I work with.For example, I see a single mom working full time at a decent job (but still not quite making enough to pay all bills easily), so she gets a daycare subsidy that pays nearly her entire monthly bill. Then I see her getting a monthly bonus from our govt (Canada) to be used towards childcare fees and guess what, it’s MORE than what she is required to pay after subsidy. Then guess what I see? I see her complaining that our fees went up $20 a month but she does NOT PAY FOR IT. We look after her child 20 full days a month and it doesn’t cost her a penny out of her own pocket, yet she complains. I don’t understand that at all. Is that not some form of greed? Getting everything handed to you on a platter but not appreciating it and wanting more on top?

    No, not everyone is like that. But far too many are. Meanwhile if a non-subsidized family has 2 kids in the center, they pay over $1000 a month and some of the lower income people just shrug their shoulders, thinking ‘they can handle it’. We actually had a single mom get angry when she found out that we were giving a deal to non-subsidized parents who had two kids at the center. She wanted the deal too – ummm hello miss, you don’t even actually PAY for this, so what do you care? My boss decided to take a small financial loss by trying to help out middle income families with a small deal and subsidized parents complained. ??????

    When I was receiving some aid years ago, I was well aware of the fact I should be grateful for all the tax-paying citizens that were helping me out. And I was also aware that this should only be a temporary thing, and I worked hard to get off of it. But so many do not. Why would they want to go out and make their own money when they are given thousands automatically each month for basically doing nothing? Is that not also some form of greed? My point is, it’s not just ultra rich who are greedy (and it’s also highly judgmental to assume because someone is rich, they must also be greedy).
    .-= Kez´s last blog ..Musical Interlude =-.

Comments are closed.

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

Be For Something

I recently finished listening to the audio version of Brother Andrew’s God’s…

Palin’s Legal Defense Fund Online (Updated 4/29/09)

In light of the latest in a series of frivolous ethics charges,…

Religious Liberty at Stake in Iowa, Barry Lynn Wants IRS to Silence Sioux City Church

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on Thursday called…

Ron Paul Condemns Obama’s Decision to Abandon DOMA

LAKE JACKSON, TX – Congressman Ron Paul issued the following statement in…