Did I miss something?
Greed is a sin, right? Greed is wrong, right? We are all agreed (a-greed!) on that, aren’t we?
I’ve just been reading John McCain’s speech today…about Greed and The Greedy on Wall Street.
Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Times report:
“Sen. John McCain this morning said “greedy” Wall Street investors are partly to blame for what he said is probably an economic recession the nation is now suffering.
“There has to be a modification of the greedy behavior of some of these people,” he said, using the word “greedy” repeatedly in remarks to the Associated Press annual meeting at the Washington Convention Center today.
To me, it had an empty ring to it. Why, I wondered.
I thought I knew the meaning of the word “greed”, but decided I’d better look it up, just to be on the safe side.
Here’s one definition that I found:
GREED: A rapacious desire for more than one needs or deserves, as of food, wealth, or power; avarice.
GREEDY: Excessively desirous of acquiring or possessing something, especially in quantity; covetous; avaricious.
GREED is the excessive or uncontrolled desire for, or pursuit of money, wealth, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others. It is generally considered a vice, and is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.
You can see the problem straightaway: how much is too much? Aren’t profits supposed to be maximized? What’s wrong with that? (again the voice from the right: “Oh, more class envy. More resentment. More whining from the left!)
“Risk-averse” has become the big new term; the sub-prime mortgage crisis has metasticized across the entire world economy, and economic system because of the…what? can we say the “greedy” urges of…who? Who went too far? Did anybody go too far? And what’s wrong with “going too far” anyway?
And how about “going the extra mile”? Is that going too far?
And what’s that business about “moral hazards” that we’ve been hearing about. What “moral hazards”? Who has done ANYTHING wrong? Weren’t those Wall Street guys just doing their jobs? Have any shareholders complained about making too much money? Sent back their share?
The BBC had a report today about a study (a voice to my right scoffs: “A STUDY? The BBC? –Hah! you can throw that out straightaway!”) …yes, a study, of Wall Street trader types, or it could have been in The City, in London. On the days that profits were highest, they were found to have significantly higher testosterone levels.
I quote from the BBC website:
“The Cambridge study measured testosterone levels in a small group of male City of London traders at both 11am and 4pm, and matched these to the levels of profit or loss recorded for that day.
They found that daily testosterone levels were significantly higher on days when traders made more than their average profit.
They ascribe this to the “winner effect”, seen in sportsmen, in which success increases testosterone levels, which in turn increase feelings of confidence and ability to take risks, which then increase the chances of further profits.
However, if repeated too much, they say, the rising testosterone levels could eventually compromise their ability to make rational decisions, as the traders take bigger and bigger risks during so-called “bubbles”, where the market rises sharply.”
I sense that that may not be an unreasonable description of what has been going on, on Wall Street, and elsewhere. Those traders with the “high performances” earned huge multi-million dollar bonusses; the low-performers got pink slips and shown the door.
Our unregulated system both demands and rewards such “high performance”. The term “excessive” has no meaning. Avarice? (defined as “an extreme desire to amass wealth; cupidity.”) What’s wrong with avarice?
Answer: according to our system, our way of doing business, our “unbridled capitalism”, there is NOTHING WRONG with avarice, that extreme desire to to amass wealth.
What’s wrong with AN EXTREME DESIRE TO AMASS WEALTH? Isn’t that what this country is all about?
The subprime mess only became a mess when it failed to amass wealth. You mean somebody went too far?
By the way, I heard the Pope’s in town. Do you think there’ll even be a peep out of him about this greed, avarice, cupidity. (Maybe on the subject of excessive desire, but that’s different. Speaking of which, do you think they’ll leave those Viagra Ads up behind Home Plate when the Pontiff does his High Mass.
Benedict hits it out of the park!
But seriously: one would have thought that with so much “moral hazard” lying around, His Holiness would have something to say on the subject. (Especially since the economic successes, and excesses, and teeterings-on-the-brink seem now to be leading to inflation and food shortages, and food riots).
Unregulated multi-million dollar bonusses at one end, and breadlines at the other. Surely Jesus has something to say on the matter? The Sermon on the Mount? No?
I wonder about these pronouncements. I was heartened when both Popes had (apparently) strong words to say about the war in Iraq. But their failure to follow up? Sadly, as it turned out, that had a something of hollow ring to it.
“Talking must be done.” But not too much.
In the meantime, we still have that problem. In today’s world, in our default system, the following words have no meaning:
EXCESSIVE DESIRE TO AMASS WEALTH.
So –save it, pal. Spare us the posturing.