Everyone is throwing the words GREED and GREEDY around in these times of economic maelstrom (hey, define ‘maelstrom’) and financial meltdown –mostly, and this will be no surprise, to point the finger of blame. [NOTE: we have, by the way, a word “exculpation” meaning “to remove blame”, but no “culpation”!]
Who is responsible? Who can we blame? Who can we “eviscerate”….or should I use the new term, “field dress”.
John McCain –whose own relationship with GREED over his lifetime has been…let us say, ‘uneven’– went one better a couple of days ago: what he railed against was not “GREED”, but “UNBRIDLED GREED”.
No one seems to know what they are talking about. But John –with that use of “unbridled”– manages to make my point with that very word!
Let us go to the dictionary for a definition.
We immediately see what we are up against: we see the problem.
“Greed: A rapacious desire for more than one needs or deserves, as of food, wealth, or power; avarice.”
“Greedy: 1. Excessively desirous of acquiring or possessing something, especially in quantity; covetousness; avaricious….
Let’s just focus on that “excessively desirous of acquiring…”
Doesn’t that sound NOT like a condemnation, but more like a JOB DESCRIPTION for a young turk going to work at a Hedge Fund. Or any job on Wall Street. Or indeed –if we are to be realistic here, isn’t it the bottom line for any living and breathing company in our capitalist economy, just trying to get as much as it can….
Who says? Who WILL say?
What I might call “excessive”, you might call “just right” or “sufficient”. Or “simply not enough”.
(And –at this point in the discussion– let us factor in that current Indian/Chinese defense against applying their own proper green/ecological standards, in that we Americans, we in the West, have had a much longer run at despoiling the planet, and now we want to “spoil their gas-guzzling fun” in China and India.
I could go on about this for quite a bit longer (without being excessive, or at least ‘excessively excessive’).
But let us…agree on one thing. Or, let me rephrase that: let us…agree to discuss, explore, consider, weigh the situation that we find ourselves in –our broken financial system.
OUR BROKEN FINANCIAL SYSTEM.
If we are going to fully examine and analyse and solve the situation, shouldn’t we at least use language that we all agree on the meaning?
Or at least be aware of the difficulties? The in-exactitudes?
Should we change the structures so that –for example–:
a) Lehman simply doesn’t go out of business.
b) Lehman changes its behavior so it…doesn’t go out of business.
c) Lehman monitors itself so that it “isn’t excessively greedy.”
d) Lehman –and everyone else– is monitored by… somebody…so they don’t do things that are “excessive.” [In other words, “regulated greed”? As opposed to “unregulated” (“unbridled?”) greed.]
We quickly see that this is not going to be easy to fix; not going to be easy even to define. Who will write that bill?
But– let us agree on one thing:
IF THERE IS A HOLE IN THE BUCKET, SHOULDN’T WE FIRST JUST FIX THE HOLE and argue about it later?
Of course! Absolutely!
(Finally –we are AGREED!
What was that?: a-What! A-Greed? Oh, come on, Malachi, now you’re just being a smartass…)
BUT –just to go on a bit, not excessively, of course– the solution to that Hole In The Bucket problem, could be more complex…
It could call for different solutions, such as:
1. Fix the hole. Duct tape might work until we get one of those rivet pot-mender things.
2. Get another bucket –A new bucket at Walmart; Steal a bucket; Use a pot instead. Etc. etc.
3. Stop using water.
4. Use bottled water (can I force you to use only Non-Leaching Plastic? I mean of course –for your own good.)
5. Etc etc.
This is beginning to look like…Trouble in River City. Remember that movie?
Some thoughts on what approaches might work, do impinge:
“First, do no harm.” That’s always useful…
“Some are guilty, while ALL are responsible” A newly discovered construction for me, but I like how it puts some old truths together.
I just tracked it down: it was said by Rabbi Abraham Heschel (who famously put his money where his mouth was –he marched locked-arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma.)
And finally, a human impulse that might assert itself here, but one that doesn’t work well for us: I find it well summed up in this old favorite of mine, the Yiddish proverb that goes:
“Tell a fool to close the shutters, and he’ll close them all over town.”
[A footnote to John McCain:
John, since greed is by definition “excessive”, forgive me if I point out that your use of the adjective “unbridled” was…excessive.
As someone said earlier in our extended political season, “Words matter.”
For my money words do seem to matter a lot more to Barack Obama than to John McCain –in my terms, an OVERPOWERING while not being excessive reason to vote for him.
IN THE MEANTIME –WHAT DO YOU THINK?