GREED

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GREED:

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Prologue:

Some years ago, they asked convicted bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. He answered simply, “Because that is where the money is!” I believe that in all too many cases; if you examined the motivation of many of the politicians for seeking public office, the answer might well be: “Because that is where the money is!” The IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal has put India’s cricket establishment in the dock and left fans wondering whether the sport will ever regain its lost image as a gentleman’s game. Many international cricketers have gone to jail for match/spot fixing and anything on cricket field can be orchestrated by bookies for whom the smell of money and more & more money is more fragrant than all the legendary scents. Robert and Edward Skidelsky, in their book, ‘How much is enough?’ hold the view that wealth is not an end in itself but a means to the achievement and maintenance of a “good life”. Observing the unfolding IPL spot-fixing scandal, and so many other scams being reported nearly every day, the Skidelskys’ thesis does not seem to hold water. The world of scams appears horrible to persons not involved in them. And for those of us who have no access to the booty from these swindles, the question that pops up is: “What will they do with so much money?” followed by the corollary, “How much is really enough?”  Many people think that greed is just an extension of the survival instinct. Like animals, people are concerned about having enough resources to survive times when those resources are scarce. The salient difference between greed in man and greed in animals is that man is the only animal which devours his own kind.  All kinds of explanations are offered to explain why more than enough to lead a “good life”, as the Skidelskys propound, is not really enough. The more some people have, the more they want and will go to any extent, match-fixing being only one of them, to get more. Besides money and material wealth, I observe that people have an inherent greed for other things: food, status, power, and pleasure (including sexual pleasure). And all these greeds are interconnected. For example, a cricketer involved in spot fixing for greed of money is also involved with many girl friends to satisfy greed of sex. Greed remains but the methods and objects of greed vary. So I thought why not discuss greed: 

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Shocking greed statistics:

What would you be willing to do for $10,000,000?

In their book, ‘The Day America Told the Truth’, James Patterson and Peter Kim reveal some shocking statistics about how far people in America are willing to go for ten million. Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following:
Would abandon their entire family (25%)
Would abandon their church (25%)
Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
Would give up their American citizenship (16%)
Would leave their spouses (16%)
Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
Would kill a stranger (7%)
Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

Interesting to note that the same Americans were offering me 10 million dollar as compensation for throwing me out of America after birth and they were shocked to know that I refused.

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Corruption cost to global business is equal to 5% of global GDP (2.6 trillion USD).

40% of all retail/manufacturing businesses admit to employee theft.

 BDO global statistics show that company fraud, theft and corruption cost the South African business community 100 Billion Rand per annum.

 30% of all bankruptcies in small business are due to employee theft.  

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The figure below shows interconnection of various vices:

As with the opposite chief feature of self-destruction, greed is a faulty approach to life. The person with greed is driven by a fundamental sense of deprivation, of something lacking within, and becomes fixated on seeking comfort by getting the one thing that will eliminate that feeling. That one thing could be money, power, sex, food, attention, knowledge … just about anything. But it will be the one thing on which their entire greed complex is fixated. The greedy person’s basic strategy is to dedicate himself or herself to acquiring as much as possible of that thing.

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As per Christianity, the seven deadly sins are:

-lust

-gluttony

-greed

-sloth

-wrath

-envy

-pride

As you can see, greed is considered one of the seven deadly sins.

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 Biological perspective of sin:

 Sin is about the most primitive emotional elements of survival and reproduction. If you look at the seven deadly sins, you see that each of them concerns a major component of fitness — how we survive, and how we succeed in courtship and reproduction.  So in that sense, there’s nothing biologically bad about any of the sins. All of them are necessary for survival and reproduction. The reproductive purpose of lust is obvious.  As far as greed is concerned, all organisms have to seek resources, and in our species this desire for energy leads to the sin of greed, because our awareness of selfishness lets us choose to be greedy or not. Competition for resources is also ancient, and with competition comes aversion, or anger, toward one’s competitors. Gluttony is just the inherited desire to eat when food is available, because it’s never certain when the next meal is going to show up. Sloth is simply the need to rest. These five sins are all in the limbic system — they’re primitive. The two remaining sins are envy and pride, the only so-called sins that are nearly uniquely human. They’re by far the most recent ones, located in the young neocortex, according to functional MRI scans. They require theory of mind — the capacity to understand that other people have minds — and they can only exist in highly social animals. Envy motivates a person to get more stuff, status, or sex. Pride is based on ego, which can be attractive to potential mates and friends. Then why do cultures try to control our sinful behavior if there’s nothing particularly wrong with it biologically? Everything changed with civilization. Instincts and impulses that were adaptive for an individual or a family have, when expressed on a large scale, become highly nonadaptive for the world, the climate, and even civilization as a whole. Anger, for instance, comes out of the need to compete and reproduce. But anger, when it’s magnified by civilization and war and the kinds of weapons we have now, destroys the planet. Also, excessive self-bias is harmful to the group, and we’re a social species. We all know that lust leads to rape and greed leads to murder. The efficient functioning of a social group requires a certain amount of self-control. It’s often believed, and quite often true, that religion is a way of limiting the harm people do to the group.  

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Quotable quotes on greed:

Stealing to eat ain’t criminal–stealing to be rich is.

Andrew Vachss

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Fraud is the daughter of greed.

Jonathan Gash

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Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything.

Publilius Syrus

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Nothing is enough to the [person] for whom enough is too little.

Epicurus

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We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small, increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.

Stephen Hawking

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I think one of the most pervasive evils in this world is greed and acquiring money for money’s sake. Once you have six houses and a plane, it’s just about a number. It’s never been anything I understood.

Kevin Bacon

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The writer’s greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody, in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all.

James A. Baldwin

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Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.

Mahatma Gandhi

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The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good: Greed is right, greed works.

“Wall Street”, screenplay by Stanley Weiser

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One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability to distinguish our needs from our greeds.

Don Robinson

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I introduce greed by narrating three classical examples:

1. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.

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2. Although death claimed Kenneth Lay before he served a day in prison, the convicted former CEO of the Enron Corporation will forever be an icon of unbridled greed. The son of a Baptist minister, Lay–who was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy charges in one of America’s biggest corporate scandals–maintained his innocence until he died. “We believe that God in fact is in control, and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord,” he said after the verdict. Despite Lay’s protestations of purity, evidence presented during his trial painted a picture of wretched material excess that included a $200,000 yacht for his wife’s birthday, as well as $100 million in personal debt, all of which Lay defended by saying “It was difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.”  Lay’s extravagance does fuel our collective outrage and our righteous indignation.

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3. Emperorships turned into lifelong adolescent sexual fantasies in some cultures, at least, with ridiculous numbers of “wives,” mistresses or concubines who probably had little choice or lousy alternatives to being one of the king’s women. The Chinese emperors of centuries past typically had 3,000 “wives,” which is mind-boggling. Obviously, these kings did not have much time to get to know all of these “wives,” and probably were never sexually intimate with many of them. Nonetheless, ordinary male workers in their compounds were turned into eunuchs in order to prevent them from being sexually intimate with any of the king’s 3,000 beautiful “brides.” This is a classical example of sexual greed.

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Here is a ‘Watch list’ of greedy people which you may find in your daily life:

The Hooligan:

The Hooligan is also the most easily identified as there is no mistaking the wickedness in his actions. He exacts his greed for unjust gain in the most explicit terms – from petty shoplifting and snatching to upscale theft and armed robbery. The hooligan is what every parent will want to keep their children away from, for he can be very physically – and unreasonably – violent, having no qualms of even killing the innocent just to take his unfair share of the loot.

The abusive employer:

Whereas the hooligan fails to conceal his greediness, the abusive employer can do so with such convincing ploy to the detriment of the unwary job hunter. He hires workers, promises them a hefty sum in exchange for their hard work, but only to delay or keep back the wages due of their labor. Where lies the greediness of this employer? In his audacity to take most if not all the profit to himself, without accounting for the very people who have helped him achieve it.

The corrupt official:
Also oozing with greediness is the corrupt official who takes bribes from crooks of all kind and covers up their crimes. He doesn’t care about the people who will suffer or get hurt along the way. He conveniently wields whatever power or influence he has to carry out dirty work for his evil comrades. He turns a blind eye to injustice and has no regard for the common good, for what matters most to him is making himself rich even if it means accepting money and gifts from filthy hands.

The profiteer:
Often hiding in the guise of a professional or legitimate businessman, the profiteer shows his true color in his unfair dealings with his clientele. He makes profits by cheating and mistreating his fellowmen with his mind-boggling schemes. He can be the lender who charges excessive interest or the scheming lendee who borrows money from lay people promising exorbitant interest, then goes in hiding, or the con artist who makes a living by suing and blackmailing just about anybody. He is known by many other aliases – Extortionist, Money-launderer, Swindler, etc.

The false believer:
Even within the religious circle, there are people whose primary motivation is greed. Among them is the False Believer who, on the outside, may seem sincere in his intention to serve God – what with his expressive singing of prayers with matching throw of hands in the air! Behind his charismatic facade, however, lies his screaming desire for material gain: There are plenty of people today who join religion in pursuit of a better job, suitable spouse, cure for illness, and other material profits. This makes them the easy preys of their fellow opportunists – the false prophets – whose aim is to make profit by capitalizing on people’s materialistic inclinations.

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It is curious to note that when we speak of greedy people, we immediately have images of pot-bellied politicians and industrialists with bikini-clad babes by their side. Never a film star who keeps working and working and working and working, making millions for every day of work. Or a sports-person who keeps playing and endorsing and playing and endorsing and endorsing and endorsing and still demanding tax exemptions for his gifts. This is where the confusion starts. We confuse greed with exploitation and corruption. Greed is seeking more than you need. Exploitation and corruption are simply means to get what you seek. Notice how every advertisement and every brand is hogged by just dozen or so superstars from Bollywood and cricket. Their combined income of these 12 people will be quite enough to feed several villages for several years. But we do not see this as greed, perhaps because some of them make programs about the poor and the dispossessed and the exploited, and often appear in charitable events, for a fee of course, to tell the world they should be socially responsible.  

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There is a law of Diminishing Marginal Utility (DMU). The law of DMU states that other things being equal, the marginal utility derived from successive units of a given item goes on decreasing. Hence, the more we have of a thing; the less we want of it, because every successive unit gives less and less satisfaction. However, there is an exception to this law for a particular thing i.e. money. For example, when a person is hungry, the first bite of food will give the most satisfaction, then the second. Thus, the hunger is satisfied by the last bite. However, it is reverse in case of money, with every increase in earnings, the greed to have more, increases. This concept of DMU is used in business, to increase the sale of products by fixing a lower price. Since consumers tend to buy more to equate their utility (i.e. value for money) with price, the manufacturer can expect a rise in sale and thus, increase its margin by increase in volume.  

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Origin of the word greed:

The word greed dates back to the 1200-1300’s, where in France it came from the word avarus meaning greedy which was a form of avere meaning to crave or long for. Coming from the word avarus was avaritia which meant just greed and from that word came avarice which meant greed or covetousness.  Covetousness is defined as an envious eagerness to possess something. Greed from the 1600’s to present is a back formation of the word greedy which has many routes and definitions. The West Saxon word graedig or the Anglican word gredig both meant voracious or covetous. Voracious is defined as wanting to devour great quantities or having a very eager approach to an activity. From the Proto-Germanic language were the words graedagaz and graeduz meaning greed and hunger; possibly from the Proto-Indo-European root gher- meaning to want or in Scotland grdh- to be greedy.  

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Definition of greed:

Greed is a selfish or excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions. Greed is the self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others. Greed is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. It is typically used to criticize those who seek excessive material wealth, although it may apply to the need to feel more excessively moral, social, or otherwise better than someone else.

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In other words, greed is when one would rip off, extort and even steal to get more money and wealth. It is especially concerned with the desire for more wealth than one deserves. Greed is caused by an insatiable desire to want more. It doesn’t really matter what the object is. It could be money, food, clothing, attention….it really doesn’t matter. Greed has become a sickness. Some people are so greedy, they want more than they can use. As long as can get their hands on it they want it. Greed is typically considered a major source of evil that is the root cause for stealing, hoarding, plundering, and treason, just to name a few sins. It is a reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth. Greed is not only limited to wealth accumulation. Hoarding, refusing to share, withholding information and not using your gifts for the betterment of society can all be deemed forms of greed. Greed in the arena of wealth often motivates criminal acts.  

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Greed is the self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, 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. A greedy person is one who values material acquisitions and possessions more than God. Less judgmentally, but in the same ballpark, Buddhists regard craving as a hindrance to enlightenment. Craving is a delusional state of seeking happiness through acquiring material things. It is a sin you most have to apologize for. Just ask British crime writer R.J. Ellory, who recently scripted a sorry to readers for pseudonymously writing positive reviews of his own books while slamming those of competing authors.

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary ‘greed’ is an, “Inordinate or insatiate longing, especially for wealth; avaricious or covetous desire,” in other words, constantly wanting more than what you have. Greed means avid desire for gain or wealth (unless some other application is indicated) and is usually uncomplimentary in implication: His greed drove him to exploit his workers. Greediness when unqualified, suggests a craving for food; it may, however, be applied to all avid desires, and need not be always uncomplimentary: greediness for knowledge, fame, and praise. The lack of an authentic spiritual foundation or lack of awareness of society beyond your own aspirations can prevent you from having compassion for others. Greed is a form of sickness because those who suffer from greed seem deprived of morality. Greed is about getting things. Greed doesn’t really care about enjoying the possessions acquired. A greedy person values things more than they value people or relationships.

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The kind of greed that psychoanalyst Melanie Klein described in her most important paper, Envy and Gratitude.  She wrote, “Greed is an impetuous and insatiable craving, exceeding what the subject needs and what the object is able and willing to give…  Its aim is destructive introjection.”

Greed is impetuous, meaning sudden and rash, hasty and headlong, thoughtless and even violent.

Greed is insatiable, meaning incapable of being satisfied, devouring, gorging, and acting as if there’s no such thing as enough.

Greed takes without giving, takes too much, takes more than what is needed, takes more than is healthy, wise, and sane for the object to give.

Greed takes advantage.

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It is important here to make a distinction between wealth and greed. There are many wealthy people who are not dominated by greed, who have a balance of concern for themselves and concern for others. It is also true that people who are not wealthy can be destructively motivated by greed. The problem is not the wealth, but what is done with it. A basic desire to increase one’s wealth is generally considered acceptable in Western culture, and simple want is not considered greed. Instead, most believe that there are varying degrees to the pursuit of material wealth, with greed being the most extreme form, with one desiring things simply for the purpose of having them. Greed may entail acquiring material possessions at the expense of another person’s welfare (for example, a father buying himself a new car rather than fix the roof of his family’s home) or otherwise reflect flawed priorities. When greed entails the covetousness of another person’s attributes, the term envy is used.

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The basis of greed is desire, which manifests itself in lust, aim, ambition, control, and goal. But the driving force is the same – power, fame and money. One of the outcomes of desire is possession. We feel a need to possess whatever we desire — a person, object or idea. Unfulfilled desires lead to frustration and a need to be more possessive. This leads to more control and greed and vicious greed cycle sets in.

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Variability of defining greed:

Is greed good? Or is greed the root of all evil? It depends on what you mean by greed.

Here are a few definitions of greed.

  1. A strong desire for more wealth/material goods.
  2. A desire for great wealth.
  3. A desire for additional wealth that trumps moral considerations.
  4. A desire for more wealth than one has rightfully earned.
  5. A desire for more wealth than others.
  6. A desire to hoard/use one’s wealth for purely selfish purposes.

These definitions are not equivalent! Ayn Rand celebrated greed as per Definitions 1 and 2 as heroic, while condemning greed as per definitions 3 and 4.  Unions exist in large part to increase the wealth of their memberships (Definition 1) and often employ borderline terroristic techniques to get it (Definition 3), yet few on the Left condemn Unions. You aspire to great wealth (greed Definition 2) in large part because you want to spend it for some good causes (opposite of greed Definition 6). Definition 5 of greed encompasses both the envious and the vandal — those who would pull others down in order to feel richer — and the simply competitive, those for whom money is “just a method of keeping score” [Larry Ellison].

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Behavior that might easily classify as “greed” or avarice also falls along a spectrum from mild to serious. Mild greed might be an unwillingness to donate one’s money to assist a socially important cause. On the more extreme level of greed are the many white-collar crimes of corporate executives skimming off millions for themselves at the expense of employees who suffer devastating reductions in their retirement savings and the prospect of serious financial problems as they get older. In many cases this is done with the contrived appearance of legitimacy; in others, money is confiscated or embezzled by those in a position of trust. Perhaps even more reprehensible is when greed goes beyond acquiring money and goods to involve the physical destruction of innocent people, as when the clerk in a convenience store is shot for a few dollars in the till.  

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Greed typically denotes the excessive urge to possess as a goal bringing satisfaction in itself, the desire to acquire material wealth and possessions beyond the need of the individual, especially when this accumulation of possession denies others legitimate needs or access to those or other resources. For example, amassing a large collection of coins would not in itself be considered greed, unless the needs of others were jeopardized in the process. Essential to the concept of greed is the awareness that the needs of others are denied, thus rivalrous goods exemplifies greed while non-rivalrous goods may not. Greed also often involves using wealth to gain power over others, sometimes by denying others wealth or power. Some desire to increase or maintain one’s wealth is more or less universal and acceptable in any culture, but this simple want is not enough to be considered greed. Greed is the far end of this desire, particularly where one desires things simply for the sake of owning them (such as the desire to have great amounts of money not to purchase objects, but where the possession of the money is an end unto itself). Greed typically entails acquiring material possessions at the expense of others’ welfare.

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We’re all greedy:

 It does seem that certain moneyed sectors of our society are continuing to get fatter at the expense of everyone else. And it’s all too easy to cry out ‘unfair!’ at the top creamy layer and to accuse them of rampant unchecked immoral greed – but we make a mistake when we accuse the lucky rich folk of being greedy, without realizing that greed is a universal human trait. The naked psychological truth is that most people, given half a chance, will tend to behave in greedy ways. The problem with greed isn’t that it infects the rich – the deeper problem is that greed reflects an ingrained human tendency to hoard during the good times, so we won’t suffer or even starve if bad times come. Almost everyone in today’s civilization shows traces, at least, of greed. The best the average person does is to veil it, or hide it behind exaggerated generosity, which amounts to nothing more than giving of alms, an attempt, through gestures of generosity, to bolster one’s self-esteem at the expense of others.

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Religion and greed:

The world’s religions almost unanimously contend that greed is wrong. Although not explicitly proscribed in the Ten Commandments, greed is implicated in their command not to covet one’s neighbor’s property or spouse. The Bible contends that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (Timothy 6:10). In the year 590, Pope Gregory declared greed to be one of the seven deadly sins, along with lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, envy, and wrath. Among the seven, greed is often considered one of the worst, if not the worst, mostly because greed can inspire many of the other sins. In almost every major religious tradition, greed is condemned unequivocally. The Quran states, “Anyone who is protected from his own stinginess, these are the successful ones.” (64:16) The Tao Te Ching states, “When there is no desire, all things are at peace” (Chapter 37). In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna declares, “There are three gates leading to this hell — lust, anger and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul” (16:21). Sulak Sivaraksa, a leading Buddhist writer, states that “Buddhism condemns greed, which can easily lead to aggression and hatred.”

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If money is, as it is often posited, the root of all evil, then where does that leave greed? Let’s do the math:

Greed takes up most of your time and most of your money, so therefore greed = time x money.

And, as we all know, time = money. So greed = money x money. So, if money is the square root of all evil, then we are forced to conclude that greed is evil as well, perhaps even more so, in that it forced us to do math. But when does the desire to simply possess something turn into unchecked greed? That’s easy: when the things that you possess start possessing you.

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Real-World examples of Greed:

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many examples of greed that exist including:

  • Dishonest banks who give people mortgages that the banks know they cannot afford just so the bank can make money and foreclosure on the house. 
  • Dishonest credit card companies that set up a system of changing payment dates without making it obvious to customers to encourage defaults so that very high interest rates can be charged. 
  • Dishonest companies that take government bailouts and then give multi-million dollar bonuses to executives that ran the company into the ground. 
  • Dishonest people  who set up pyramid schemes to steal money from investors. 
  • Dishonest banks that set up a scheme to cash larger checks first so that people bounce many smaller checks and are subject to large per check penalty fees as a result. 

These are some real-world examples of greedy companies and individuals that put their own desire for wealth and possessions ahead of the needs of others. 

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Greed without money:

Greed often has to do with wanting lots of money or material wealth, but it doesn’t necessarily only relate to money. Any time someone wants more than their fair share or has a strong desire to accumulate something, especially at the expense of others or if there is only so much to go around, this can be considered an example of greed. Some examples of greed that don’t include money are:

  • A person who takes all of the cookies in the house for himself, not sharing even though he know others will want some. 
  • A person at work who takes credit for the hard work of others and who takes a larger share of the bonus money or prize for sales, even if he didn’t actually do anything to earn it. 
  • An employee who takes lavish vacations at the expense of his employer by claiming that the vacations are business trips, even when they really aren’t. 
  • A person who signs up for government benefits like food stamps that he doesn’t deserve and didn’t earn and who then sells the food stamps on eBay to get cash. 
  • A person who steals the Christmas decorations that his neighbor put out because he wants them but doesn’t want to buy them for himself. 
  • A person who takes computers and supplies home from work because he wants to have them for himself, even though he isn’t supposed to and his behavior means that others cannot use the computer or supplies.
  • A person who sees a starving person and takes the bread right out of that person’s hands to eat for himself, even if he has enough money to buy his own food. 
  • A person who refuses to pay his income taxes that he is required by law to pay because he wants to keep more of the money he earned for himself, despite the cost to society as a whole.

These are all examples of greedy behavior. Any decision to take from others or to enrich yourself at the expense of others is an example of greed and is something that should be avoided at all costs.

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Greed in infant:

It’s important to clarify that a baby’s greedy hunger is innocent of motive. A baby desires nothing more than bodily satisfaction. An infant’s “greed” represents his life force. While it may appear ruthless, it is far too immature to be considered selfish. It does not reflect the classic definition of self-serving, malevolent greed. A hungry baby who aggressively bites his mother’s breast does not intend to hurt her. He is simply trying to ease uncomfortable hunger pangs. During infancy and early childhood, aggressiveness and greed are related to feeding.  An infant receiving food experiences his body’s gratification as love. A hungry baby is, therefore, grasping for food-love.  An utterly passive infant would be incapable of nursing, as vigorous sucking is required to survive.  Aggressive or “greedy” hunger is a vital necessity. Because an infant is emotionally undeveloped, he cannot distinguish between bodily needs for feeding, diaper changes or temperature adjustments from affection and love. Love and a clean diaper are experienced identically by a tiny infant.

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Components of greed: how greed develops since early childhood:

Greed involves the following components:

  1. Early negative experiences
  2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
  5. A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood

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1. Early Negative Experiences:

In the case of greed, the early negative experiences typically consist of insufficient or inadequate nurturing in early childhood. The situations causing such experiences could be natural and unavoidable, such as the death of a parent or living in a time of famine. Alternatively, the situation could be deliberately imposed on the child, such as willful neglect. Another example would be a mother who is too off her head on drugs to look after her child. Whatever the circumstances, the effect on the child is a sense of deprivation, of never having enough. All infants are born with a natural desire for love, nurture, care, attention and interaction. In some cases, however, the source of such things—notably the caregiver—may be absent or unavailable. Perhaps not all of the time, but enough for the infant to experience the lack. Enough for the child to become terrified of never getting enough of what he or she needs. Another factor in the origin of greed is the availability of substitutes. Perhaps the parent, out of guilt, perhaps, repeatedly provides gifts in the form of money, toys, chocolate, TV. In effect, the parent says “You cannot have me but you can have this instead.” Ultimately, the substitute is always inadequate. No amount of TV can make up for lack of human contact. No amount of chocolate can make up for lack of genuine love. But the child learns to make do with whatever is available.

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2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others:

From such experiences of deprivation and lack, the child comes to perceive life as being unreliable, limited, and containing the missing ingredient for happiness:

–My well-being depends on me getting all that I desire.

–I cannot truly be myself, a whole person, until I get what has always been missing.

–Life is limited. There isn’t enough for everyone. I miss out because other people are taking my share, getting what is rightfully mine.

–Once I have it all, I will never lack anything ever again.

Over time, the growing child might also become cynical about what life has to offer:

–All I ever get are unsatisfactory substitutes.

–I cannot trust anyone to give me what I need.

–If I am given a gift, there must be something wrong with it.

–Everything falls short of my requirements.

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3. Fear and sense of insecurity:

Based on the above misconceptions and early negative experiences, the child becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, the fear is of lack—of having to go without something essential as there may not be enough of it to go around. What exactly “it” is depends upon the individual’s own idea of what it is they really need, but it will be something specific like love, attention, power, fame, money, and so on. Because of this constant fear, the individual will obsessively crave the “needed” thing. They will also tend to envy those who have that thing.

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4. Maladaptive strategy to protect the self:

 The basic strategy for coping with this fear of lack is to acquire, possess and hoard the “needed” thing. Typically this involves:

•obsessively seeking the chosen substitute for the original lack;

•compulsively acquiring it;

•hoarding it;

•preventing others from acquiring it;

•criticizing what is available (in the hope of eliciting something better);

•blaming others for failing to provide enough.

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5. Persona to hide all of the above in adulthood:

Finally, emerging into adulthood, the chief feature of greed puts on a socially-acceptable mask which says to the world, “I am not selfish. I am not greedy. I am not doing this for me. See how generous I am. See how my possessions make other people happy.” In fact, the greedy person is never happy so long as the possibility of lack remains. The mask of greed also manifests as envy. The chief feature thinks to itself: If it isn’t socially acceptable to crave and grasp and hoard, I shall go around criticizing others who crave and grasp and hoard more obviously than me. That way, people won’t suspect how bad I really am. All people are capable of this kind of behavior. When it dominates the personality, however, one is said to have a chief feature of greed.

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Greed cultivated in child’s mind:

In many families, money and gifts are substituted when actual demonstrations of affection or love are lacking or withheld.  When this occurs, a child confuses money with love. Greed for affection is translated into greed for money.  Money withheld is experienced as love withheld.  Ironically, it is often the most affluent who feel they never have enough, always greedy for more. They are really greedy for love. Money is the substitute prop, but because it can’t satisfy the core hunger, desires are never satiated. So the consumption continues.

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Advertising promote greed in kids:

What do you want to do when you grow up? When asked that question a majority of children respond with, “I want to be an astronaut, a doctor, or maybe even a firefighter.” Well, that used to be the case before advertising started making such a huge impact on kids and their futures. Nowadays the response will most likely be “make money.” All children appear to do is spend, spend, and spend more in our crazy evolving market that directs a majority of their advertising towards a younger demographic. It’s no wonder why they are frugal with their cash.

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Types of greed:

There are really only 3 types of greed. People can be greedy for stuff they want more, stuff they have, and stuff they don’t have. Most people are only familiar with the first type.

1. Positive Greed – (Classical Greed):

This is not to say that this type of greed is a positive human attribute, only that what you are desiring is for more than you have. This is also known as Classical Greed as it is the most commonly observed type. In this form someone wants something more than they want to be a good human being and thus either steal it, cheat for it, scheme for it, or otherwise hurt someone else for it. In this scenario, for them it is definitely a zero-sum game.  Positive Greed is what drives many politicians and shady businesses to hurt the people they are supposed to serve while using them to enhance their own lives. It is the reason behind slavery, the central banking system, over-taxation and more. Solving Classical Greed usually takes a person finally finding their moral compass and changing. This rarely happens however and often the only solution is to keep these people from being able to action their greed against others via prison or other legal processes.

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2. Neutrality Greed – (Status Quo Greed):

This is a very common form of greed. It usually manifests itself as loss aversion (fear of loss) in that they will often suffer through un-ideal situations for years rather than try to change them out of fear that they will lose whatever it is that they want. The classic saying is “Better the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don’t.”  This is just a cop out to prevent you from going after what you want. People who don’t start a business out of fear that they will lose their house. People who stay at a crappy job out of fear that the new job will be worse. People who avoid problems out of fear that it will push people away and they will lose friends. These are all examples of Neutrality Greed, the seeking to maintain the status quo. Solving Neutrality Greed can be a mix of protecting your assets and conditioning yourself to be more risk tolerant.  Making smart decisions usually avoids any of the feared and perceived consequences.

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3. Negative Greed:

This form of greed is similar to Neutrality Greed in that it is the fear of loss. The difference here is that it is the fear of losing something you don’t have yet. People fear asking someone out in the wrong way because they don’t want to lose them, but they don’t have them yet. People are afraid of starting a business and putting themselves out there out of fear that someone will “steal their idea.” People who don’t buy a house and rather rent out of fear that the government will take it all through eminent domain. This is the fear of doing something out of fear that someone might take it later. This term was first coined by Jack Spirko on his podcast. People can’t steal from you however if you don’t have success, so you already have to be successful before you can lose anything from your fears in negative greed. The solution to Negative Greed is wanting success more than you want to keep success from others.  In the end, even if they do “steal your idea” or whatever it is, you will still be better off for having gained success yourself.

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Greed at various levels:

Individual greed:

Every choice you make has an impact. If you choose to purchase a shirt, you may be helping the economy and all the people involved in manufacturing the shirt. If you purchase every single shirt available at a store, leaving nothing for someone else, your actions are considered greedy. People wonder why you need that many shirts. Or why you don’t want someone else to have them. Some would assume you are living from fear of not having enough. That deep fear prevents you from recognizing other people exist. Same applies to food, tools, autos, equipment, technology, energy, and so forth. Gross consumption on one end leaves little available on the other. Beyond the economic level, hoarding your possessions or never contributing to society is indicative of a “hole” in your own sense of self; theoretically, you need to keep filling it. Because the hole is only a belief, you may possibly never have enough.

Family greed:

Within family units, simple examples of greed may occur. At dinner, you heap gross amounts of food onto your plate, but when your sister returns from work, nothing is left. She just has to fend for herself. When families are hurting financially, tensions arise and stress builds. Values evaporate. This can catapult members into dysfunctional behaviors, or even toward crimes of theft and murder. Perhaps a family is exceedingly well off. Its members all thrive at all levels of society. Some share their wealth. Others hoard. The group may choose to give to charity, or it may continue accumulating just to have more and more. To some families, this is a form of power, class distinction or status. Compassionate families contribute to their communities through monetary gifts, volunteering, and using their talents.

Institution greed:

Every person and family has the right to basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and education. Some institutions provide grants for schooling, shelters and community assistance at a number of levels. Others, however, care only about their own success. Stingy organizations exist across the globe, some in guises concealing fraud. Courting donors, fabricating records, or representing the institution falsely solely for gain can lead to worse criminal acts. These institutions do not care about the well being of the majority, rather only concern themselves with profit and status. Those in charge of such institutions often have ties to corporations involved in fraud and greed.

Corporate greed (vide infra):

In the award-winning film “Inside Job,” the debacle of Wall Street and America’s banking institutions is vividly revealed. A very small group of individuals amass fortunes while millions are paying the price. Corporations focused solely on the bottom line ignore human suffering. The impact on society at large is enormous when corporations steal, lie or participate in fraud. Governments may bail them out, but consumers and tax-payers pay the cost of such greed. Some corporations seem to feel they are above the law. Few, if any, of their members go to jail. People like Bernie Madoff and similar Ponzi schemers cause thousands of people great suffering through scams. The few corporations that participate fairly or that contribute to the betterment of the planet are often overlooked when such serious crimes take precedence. The majority of the hungry world remains ignored.

Government greed:

Those who are always accusing people in the private sector of “greed” almost never accuse government of greed, no matter what it does. Indeed, the question of whether the government is greedy almost never comes up, so most of us probably never think about it. Escheat laws are just one of the ways governments seize money. Income tax rates had been as high as 90 percent in the top brackets. Even after you have paid the taxes on your income and saved or invested part of what is left, the government comes back to take more of that same money, after you die, with estate taxes. Perhaps one of the most unconscionable acts of greed by government is confiscating people’s homes, in order to turn this property over to other people, who are expected to build things that will pay more taxes. The Constitution allows the government to take private property for its own use, provided “just compensation” is paid. That way the government can build reservoirs, bridges, or highways, for example, even if that requires displacing some people. But judges over the years have expanded this power to include taking private property just to turn it over to some other private individual or business. There are various ways in which the money actually paid to homeowners can be less than the market value of their homes. Moreover, since these homeowners had not chosen to sell their homes in the market, the value that they put on their homes obviously exceeded the market value. Destroying a neighborhood is more than destroying the physical structures there. Valuable personal, professional and business relationships, built up over a period of years, are also destroyed when the people are scattered to the winds. Seldom, if ever, are the people whose homes are destroyed, and whose lives are disrupted, among the affluent or rich. The biggest beneficiaries are the politicians who get a larger amount of tax money to spend in ways that will increase their prospects of getting re-elected. In India, we have another type of government greed where government take money from hard working taxpaying middle class to help poor under banner of subsidies rather than give work to poor to earn money, so that poor vote for them in elections. 

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What is greed and what is not greed but resemble greed:

Greed for the consumption of food or drink for pleasure, combined with excessive indulgence in them, is called gluttony. Similarly, excessive greed for and indulgence in sex may be called lust although this term no longer carries as negative connotations as it once did.

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The figure below shows pathway from desire to greed to avarice and covetousness:

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Greed and avarice:

Avarice and greed are often used as interchangeable synonyms, with greed having the higher frequency of use and avarice appearing only rarely. However, if you look at the finer distinctions in their connotations and their etymology, you will find that they describe completely different mindsets. Avarice is insatiable greed for riches. Avarice is the inordinate love for riches. Its special malice, broadly speaking, lies in that it makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like, a purpose in itself to live for. It does not see that these things are valuable only as instruments for the conduct of a rational and harmonious life, due regard being paid of course to the special social condition in which one is placed. Avarice is a very strong desire to hold on to what is already yours, even to the point of living in a state resembling poverty when you have plenty of money saved away. Greed refers to the extremely strong desire to acquire more, even to the point of taking it unlawfully from others.  

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Greed and happiness:

Buddhists believe greed is based on incorrectly connecting material wealth with happiness. This is caused by a view that exaggerates the positive aspects of an object; that is, acquiring material objects has less impact than we imagine on our feelings of happiness. This view has been corroborated by studies in the field of happiness economics, which confirm that beyond the provision of a basic level of material comfort, more wealth does not create greater happiness.

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Greed and idolatry:

Greed is a form of idolatry, according to the Bible (Colossians 3:5). While some who have had difficulty understanding this connection, the most common explanation is that the greedy person values money or possessions more than God. This may also be connected with worship of the golden calf. Another understanding is that greed serves to bring as many things that the greedy person considers valuables to that person, making him the center of his efforts, the one he aims to please, converting him into his own god, and creating pride with great concentration on the ego.

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Greed and envy:

Greed is closely related to envy, and the two are usually found together. We do not mean the form of greed that expresses itself in the hoarding of money. There is another, more general form that expresses itself chiefly in a reluctance to give pleasure to other people. Such people are avaricious in their attitude toward society and toward every other individual. The avaricious person builds a wall about himself to keep his treasures of safe. Envy means the possession of a strong desire for what another has; does not get the attention that its close relation “greed” gets. Greed is not always destructive, while envy is. Greed is the desire to have more and, depending how that desire is acted upon, can be beneficial or detrimental. The profit motive has made the United States the most prosperous nation in history; but, conversely, the abuse of that motive was greatly responsible for the September 2008 financial collapse. When envy, on the other hand, is acted upon, there is no good, only bad. At its worst, it leads to mass theft and murder. But envy does not have to be acted upon to be harmful. Its very nature produces resentment and enmity. Thus, even dormant, the coveting of one’s neighbor’s belongings is destructive. Additionally, envy is often disguised as righteous indignation against some perceived iniquity.  Lately, that iniquity is most often the putative greed of others. Thus, it is not envy that animates the outrage targeted at “the rich”; it is the moral certitude of seeking “fairness.”  Thinking that at a certain point your neighbor has made enough money and that he must pay his “fair share” just makes things more equal because it “spreads the wealth around.”  Disguised envy has been the motivation for many a road paved with good intentions. Envy also undergirds the twin pathologies of victimhood and helplessness. Blame of the other is easier than confronting one’s own mistakes and bad choices. Blaming the other because his success was supposedly at your expense makes it personal. When it is always someone else’s fault, control of one’s life is ceded, thereby relegating one to a passive spectator. On a personal level, envy usurps any chance at a fulfilling and happy life because one can never be grateful. Life is a constant comparison to others who always appear “better off,” with little motivation or desire to better oneself.  On a corporate level, when envy infects a significant percentage of the populace, the results can be catastrophic.  

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Greed and ambition:

Ambition is the desire for personal achievement. It provides the motivation and determination necessary to help give direction to life. Ambition can be described as the drive and desire to succeed, and is usually thought of as a positive personality trait. Ambition is a sought-after quality in the business world and the professional world in general. Ambitious people seek to be the best at what they choose to do for attainment, power, or superiority…. greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. One man’s actions could be seen as greedy while that same man can be looked upon by another as ambitious. Is there a difference between the two or is just that ultimately to be ambitious means to also be greedy? Ambition is wishing to achieve something as per one’s potential. Greed is the desire to achieve irrespective of potential and/or morality. Ambition sets a goal and is satisfied when that worthy goal is achieved through focused work, study, and effort. Greed is wanting money no matter how you get it. Ambition is to live life to the fullest…be all that you have the potential to be. Greed is just getting all the goodies you can accumulate.

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Ambition is a constructive force. It is part of what defines “greatness”. It builds companies, expands the economy, creates jobs, and increases wealth for others as well as the ambitious. It is the pursuit of an idea, and is driven by the imagination. The success or failure of the ambitious lies mainly in their own energy, strength and ingenuity. Greed is the pursuit of wealth without vision, without imagination. Greed is a destructive force. Greed in a family can rip it apart. Greed in a corporation drives it into ruin. Greed in leadership can turn democracy into tyranny. The success of the greedy depends on the indecencies they are willing to commit. How readily they cheat and steal, and how little they are willing to leave for others. Greed is quick and savage and does not consider the future, and therefore has little need of the ethics required to build relationships and institutions. In fact, greed almost never builds anything, but it can fail spectacularly. Greed denotes desire to acquire wealth or possessions beyond the needs of the individual, especially when this accumulation of possession denies others legitimate needs or access to those or other resources. For example, amassing a large collection would not be considered greed, unless in doing so, the needs of others were jeopardized.  However, a person who is overly ambitious can become greedy for the reason that they are never satisfied and constantly need more.

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Need and greed:

How to make the distinction between need and greed? Economists explain the distinction between the two in terms of ‘needs’ and ‘preferences’ or ‘desire satisfaction’. The distinction between ‘preference’ and ‘need’ is that the former is intentional and the latter is extensional. The need, for example, is to quench our thirst; the preference is whether we use bottled water or drink straight from the tap. The need of a person is something which depends on his factual material, mental, physical and social condition. It also depends upon the available objects which are perceived as possessing the capacities to contribute to his survival and well-being. Whether a person prefers one object to another depends upon the nature of the person’s beliefs about the objects. While the concept of need is a threshold concept, the concept of preference is not. Need is a threshold concept because having more or less than one’s needs would harm one’s survival. Need is that without which the individual cannot survive. For example, a person needs a certain amount of water, food or shelter to lead his life and maintain social relations. Moreover, while the objects required for ‘preference’ or ‘desire satisfaction’ may have several alternative substitutes, needs are objective and specific and do not admit any substitute. For example, it is admitted by everyone that there is no substitute for good health, good friends and good environment. They are specific to the needs for the well-being of all individuals. Desires and preferences can be artificial or superfluous. For example, the desires for accessories are artificial. They are market-governed and even market-determined.

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Alexander was greatly struck by the austerity of life and majesty of the Indian thinker. The Indian told Alexander that natural desires are quenched easily: thirst by water, hunger by food. But the craving for possession is an artificial one; it goes on unceasingly and is never fully satisfied. The sage explained the criterion for making a distinction between a natural or real and a non-natural or contrived desire. A natural desire is fulfilled the moment you get what you sought. For example “If you drink the water you thirst for, your desire ceases. Similarly, if you are feeling hungry, you receive the food you seek; your hunger comes to an end. If, then, man’s appetite for gold were on the same natural level, no doubt his cupidity would cease as soon as he obtained what he wished for. But this is not the case. On the contrary, it always comes back, a passion is never satiated, and the craving remains because it does not proceed from an inclination implanted by nature.” The criterion of distinction between need and greed is: Natural desires are our needs; therefore they are those which come to an end or are satiated when one fulfils them. Artificial desires are greed, as they are those which can never be satiated.

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What will happen when greed overtakes need?

The world is hitting global limits in its use of resources. We are feeling the shocks each day in catastrophic floods, droughts, and storms – and in the resulting surge in prices in the marketplace. Our fate now depends on whether we cooperate or fall victim to self-defeating greed. The limits to the global economy are new, resulting from the unprecedented size of the world’s population and the unprecedented spread of economic growth to nearly the entire world. There are now seven billion people on the planet compared to just three billion a half-century ago. Today, average per capita income is $10,000, with the rich world averaging around $40,000 and the developing world around $4,000. That means that the world economy is now producing around $70 trillion in total annual output, compared to around $10 trillion in 1960. Rapid economic growth in developing countries is helping to alleviate poverty. In China, for example, extreme poverty has been cut from well over half of the population 30 years ago to around 10% or less today. Yet there is another side to the global growth story that we must understand clearly. With the world economy growing at 4-5% per year, it will be on a path to double in size in less than 20 years. Today’s $70 trillion world economy will be at $140 trillion before 2030 and $280 trillion before 2050 if we extrapolate from today’s growth rate. Our planet will not physically support this exponential economic growth if we let greed take the upper hand. Even today, the weight of the world economy is already crushing nature, rapidly depleting the supplies of fossil-fuel energy resources that nature created over millions of years, while the resulting climate change has led to massive instabilities in terms of rainfall, temperature, and extreme storms. We see these pressures every day in the marketplace. Oil prices have surged to more than $100 per barrel, as China, India, and other oil-importing countries join the United States in a massive scramble to buy up supplies, especially from the Middle East. Food prices, too, are at historical highs, contributing to poverty and political unrest. On the one hand, there are more mouths to feed, and with greater purchasing power on average. On the other hand, heat waves, droughts, floods, and other disasters induced by climate change are destroying crops and reducing the supplies of grains on world markets. In recent months, massive droughts have struck the grain-producing regions of Russia and Ukraine, and enormous floods have hit Brazil and Australia; now, another drought is menacing northern China’s grain belt. If our societies are run according to the greed principle, with the rich doing everything to get richer, the growing resource crisis will lead to a widening divide between the rich and the poor – and quite possibly to an increasingly violent struggle for survival. The rich will try to use their power to commandeer more land, more water, and more energy for themselves, and many will support violent means to do so, if necessary. If greed dominates, the engine of economic growth will deplete our resources, push the poor aside, and drive us into a deep social, political, and economic crisis.

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Enlightened self-interest, greed and altruism:

Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest. In contrast to enlightened self-interest is simple greed or the concept of “unenlightened self-interest,” in which it is argued that when most or all persons act according to their own myopic selfishness, that the group suffers loss as a result of conflict, decreased efficiency and productivity because of lack of cooperation, and the increased expense each individual pays for the protection of their own interests. Enlightened self-interest is also different from altruism, which calls for people to act in the interest of others often at the expense of their own interests and with no expectation of benefit for themselves in the future. 

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Greed and capitalism:

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Nobel laureate Milton Friedman famously argued that the single social responsibility of business is to increase profits as long as “it stays within the rules of the game.” The problem is, when greed for profits is the bottom line, the rules may fall by the wayside. In other words, ambition and competition are healthy in a capitalist system when everyone is following the rules. But when people focus only on getting ahead, they tend to break rules.

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 Any system that involves the incentive of increasing ones wealth will ultimately lead to greed. Capitalism in the right hands allows investors to bring us products that improve our quality of life. If Capitalism was free to do its job then these people will invest more time & money into providing better quality products at a cheaper price due to less tax regulations and taking money that can be used to invest away from taxes. Proponents of Capitalism sometimes argue that greed should not be considered a negative trait and should instead be embraced, as they claim that greed is a profoundly benevolent force in human affairs, as well as a necessary foundation for the capitalist system. Critics have argued this definition confuses greed with self-interest which can be benign. 

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Capitalism liberates our minds so that we can use and become all that we possibly can be. The creative mind needs motivation to in order to reach its full potential. Rewards are the inevitable results of that creativity whether or not we like it. In a capitalist country where the rewards of creativity and hard work are so evident, the greedy begin to look for ways to innovate too. And the goodness with innovation is that, we all have the potential for it. Those who wish exploit it and reap the benefits for benefits sake and make it a way of life thus becoming greedy. On the other hand, the creative person is driven by a desire to help, make a difference and birth new things. The mere process of creating gives them more joy than the money that could easily come with it. People who are naturally creative are not driven by greed; it is those who make creativity a business who are the greedy ones. So, capitalism cannot in itself breed greed, people do.

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Greed is universal regardless of the economic system that is in place. In communist countries greed is directed at the acquisition of power and earning money in black markets. We must distinguish greed from determination and ambition. There is nothing wrong with pursuing wealth by productive means that reverberate through the economy to create jobs and opportunities for others. Greed is the pursuit of wealth through nefarious means. Capitalism is simply economic freedom. Anything else is economic tyranny and the antithesis of Liberty.

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Greed is a selfish desire for more than one need or deserves. Greed can make honest men murderers. It has made countries with rich valuable resources into the poorest countries in the world. We are taught it is bad and not to practice it. But consider a world without greed, where everyone is as sharing as Mother Theresa was. The progress of humankind would be at a standstill. Greed has given our society faster travel, better service, more convenience, and most importantly, progress. Greed has created thousands of billionaires and millions of millionaires. But why is greed associated with evil? In their day, most capitalists like Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller were depicted as pure evil. Vanderbilt stole from the poor. Rockefeller was a snake. But the name-calling did not come from the consumers; it was the competing businesses that complained. The newspapers expanded on these comments, calling them “robber barons.” These are inaccurate terms for these businessmen. They were not barons because they all started penniless and they were not robbers because they did not take it from anyone else. Vanderbilt got rich by making travel and shipping faster, cheaper, and more luxurious. He built bigger, faster, and more efficient ships. He served food on his ships, which the customers liked and he lowered his costs. He lowered the New York to Hartford fare from $8 to $1. Rockefeller made his fortunes selling oil. He also lowered his costs, making fuel affordable for the working-class people. The working-class people, who use to go to bed after sunset, could now afford fuel for their lanterns. The people, who worked an average 10-12 hours a day, could now have a private and social life. The consumers were happy, the workers were happy, and they were happy. Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corporation is another example of a greedy person. He is one of the richest man in the world with about $40 billion and he continues to pursue more wealth. Just because he has $40 billion does not mean the rest of the world lost $40 billion, he created more wealth for the rest of the world. His software created new ways of saving time and money and created thousands of new jobs. Bill Gates got rich by persuading people to buy his product. His motive may have been greed, but to achieve that, he had to give us what we wanted. Both parties benefited from the transaction and everybody wins.

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Greed, self interest and capitalism:

In almost every other race of animals each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature. But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. We primarily want to survive and since we are not of the animal kingdom, it is impossible for us to survive on our own. We need other people to help us to survive and increasingly more people if we want to survive with abundance. In order to secure the assistance of numerous people we will have to appeal to their own self interest.

Self Interest is different from Greed, which has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed”. Self Interest on the other hand is defined as follows:

1. A concern for one’s own advantage and well-being; one’s own interest or advantage. – Merriam-Webster

2. Acting in the way that is most personally beneficial. – Investopedia

3. Regard for one’s own interest or advantage, especially with disregard for others; personal interest or advantage. – Dictionary.com

Most sources define this as a neutral trait or the normal response of human beings, the desire to do what is of benefit to themselves. The clear difference between Greed and Self-Interest is the willingness to actually do something of value for other human beings to secure the things that benefit themselves. Capitalism is a system that recognizes human nature and capitalizes on that to create a society that prospers based on self-interest.

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Indeed, not a day goes by when someone does not employ the word ‘greed’ to describe capitalism. They say that if envy is the sin of socialism, greed is the sin of capitalism. Capitalism is sometimes called a ‘system of greed’. To equate ‘capitalism’ with ‘greed’ is a mistake. We tend to confuse self-interest in the marketplace with selfishness or greed. At the heart of capitalism is the idea of exchange between ordinary, self-interested human beings, who seek to advance their interests peacefully in the marketplace. Adam Smith called this ‘rational self-interest’. It is the same motive that gets one to jump out of bed in the morning or makes one carry an umbrella if it rains, nothing selfish about that. To be human is to be self-interested, and this is what exchange in the market place entails. Greed or selfishness, on the other hand, is an excess of self interest and often transgresses on the rights of others. It is present in all of us, but we find it easier to see it in others and difficult to see it in ourselves. Greed can motivate theft, entail himself and hurting another.  But the other side of greed is ambition, a positive thing, and when rightly directed, is life-affirming. Herein lies the conundrum of human existence: that the same inner forces that result in a vice can just as easily become virtues that can motivate the well-being of our species. Friedrich Hayek, the Noble laureate, called the market a spontaneous order: it is natural for human beings to exchange goods and services, and this is how every society evolved money, laws, conventions and morals to guide behavior in the marketplace. These are natural products of human endeavor. Although the market is neither moral nor immoral, human self-interest usually brings about good behavior in the marketplace. A seller who does not treat his customers with fairness and civility will lose market share. A company that markets defective products will lose customers. A firm that does not promote the most deserving employees will lose talent to its competitors. A buyer who does not respect the market price will not survive. Lying and cheating will ruin a firm’s image, making it untouchable to creditors and suppliers. Hence, free markets offer powerful incentives for ethical conduct, but they must be backed by state institutions that enforce contracts and punish criminal behavior.

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The socialist mantra goes “Capitalism equals greed”, “Capitalism is based on greed”, or “Capitalism is inherently greedy”. Now, where did this belief come from? Capitalism has been a defined economic system since 1776, when Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations”.  In the book, Adam Smith puts forth that in the pursuit of our own self-interest, we build a much more prosperous society.  Even though that isn’t our intent, that is what takes place. It wasn’t until Karl Marx began the Communist revolution that Capitalism became tarred and feathered. Karl Marx invented the term Capitalism as a smear. Now, how do you convince someone to go against their own self interest, which is what Capitalism is by definition. Well, you need to play on people’s emotions, distort the truth, and play on their morals. More recently, the movie “Wall Street” used a ruthless character named Gordon Gekko that said “Greed is good”. For some reason, this is what people associate with Capitalism. First, greed has to do with morality. Capitalism has nothing to do with morality. You can be an altruistic capitalist, you can be a greedy capitalist, or you can be a regular capitalist. Notice, that you could just as easily substitute the word person with capitalist. That is because greed is an adjective to describe an object, in this case capitalist. The adjective isn’t the object. Still a system based on everyone pursuing their self interest sounds really selfish. That is only if you are assuming that everyone’s self interest is the same, and that self interest is detrimental to the well being of others. First, not all our self interest is the same. If everyone’s self interest was becoming rich and famous, we’d have no stay-at-home moms, school teachers, soldiers, etc. Everyone pursues their best interest by going after their dreams or what makes them happy. If you think money will make you happy, you may pursue wealth. You may also decide to stay at home with your kids and give up financial wealth for the emotional wealth of raising your family. As you can see, self interest is not interchangeable with money, wealth, or greed. The second part of this selfish stigma has to do with people assuming that Capitalism is a zero-sum game, in which one person gains while the other loses. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This is actually what takes place in other economic systems, such as Socialism or Communism. Let’s walk through an example. Under Capitalism, I have a need. Let’s say I have the need for a laptop. This is what I currently want to make me happy (self interest). Now, the Dell Corp, by pursuing their self interest of building wealth, has decided to sell laptop. I walk into the local Dell retailer, and we exchange my cash for their product, laptop. Now, as you can see, this was not a zero-sum transaction. I got what I wanted, and the Dell got what it wanted. We both valued the transaction at the exact same value without any outside force. You cannot create wealth and become rich without serving your fellow man. Capitalism makes no claims that participants are angels. We all know we are all fallible. In order to protect each other from each other’s fallibility, we pass laws. Many of these laws are passed in order to prevent fraud, which is lying in order to take financial advantage of another. In both the case of Enron and Madoff, you had enterprises ran by criminals. This criminality has nothing to do with Capitalism. You would have criminals under any other economic system, because all systems are made up of men. Capitalism will eventually expose the fraud, because you have to continually produce economic value. Fraud does not produce value. Under competing systems, such as Socialism, these criminals can maintain their fraud much longer because Socialism isn’t concerned with economic value. The fraud could be propped by taking resources from another activity that does produce value.

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 Enlightened self-interest to reduce greed:

Markets always operate within some framework of laws and enforcement, and the claim that greed is good implicitly assumes that the legal framework is essentially perfect. To the extent that laws are suboptimal and enforcement is imperfect, greed can easily enrich some market participants at the expense of total surplus. A “greedy” market participant that seeks to gain at the expense of others can usually find some way to do so. This might be done within the legal framework, or it might involve a violation of the law that is difficult to enforce. Since the legal system does not generally guarantee that markets can function efficiently, there is a role for other institutions to foster a more enlightened self-interest as a social norm and thus improve efficiency. Enlightened self-interest plays a crucial role in a healthy economy, but greed carries with it the potential for immense destruction of value. In order for greed to contribute to the economy positively, it is necessary not only to have rule of law but to have an ideal system of laws and enforcement. Given imperfections and uncertainties in the legal system, economic value and general well-being would be greater without greed. The government or other social institutions may be able to increase well-being by reducing greed.

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Greed in capitalism:

There are two forms of greed that are largely responsible for damaging the fabric of our society: “Financial Greed” and “Special Interest Greed.”

1. Financial Greed (Obsession with Profit)

Financial Greed takes two main forms:

a) Profiteering: Getting people to use a product or service no matter how this damages them — or, better yet, get them addicted to needing that product or service.

b) Debtism: Counting on an uncertain future to pay for obsessive growth in the present.

Financial Greed is driven by deep distortions about what creates fulfilment. Profiteering maintains that profitability justifies damaging people or the planet. Debtism places the responsibility on future generations to foot the bill for present excesses. Both are profoundly dysfunctional and unsustainable distortions of true capitalism. Our massive distortions about what creates life fulfilment are what has made it possible for Debtism to poison our economic system by replacing healthy capitalism.

2. Special Interest Greed (Narcissism)

Special Interest Greed is wanting what I want regardless of its impact on the collectives of which I am a part (families, communities, businesses, countries and the global community). This includes everything from congressional lobbying to individuals expecting to be taken care of rather than being self-responsible, or feeling entitled to benefits without putting out the work to earn them. Another word for Special Interest Greed is “Narcissism.”

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Free market and development:

The statist left says it’s government’s job to protect consumers and help poor people. But greed — more precisely, the pursuit of self-interest in the free market — would work better. The market (if not corrupted by corporate welfare and bailouts) harmonizes the interests of diverse people who don’t even know each other and might not even like each other. It motivates them to work hard to serve customers. When markets are free (alas, ours is not; in America today, too often people “partner” with politicians and get rich through government), those who charge too much, or skimp on quality or service, lose money to competitors who serve people better. What could be more humane? Nothing has done more than markets to lift people out of the mud and misery of primitive life. Some say government is needed to assure equality, just as parents make sure a cake is not unfairly divided among family members. Inequality is a product of freedom. When people are free, some will acquire much more than others. However, letting the wealthy indulge their greed protects consumers and helps poor people much more than government programs do. Just keep them away from government power. The pursuit of self-interest — greed, if you will — benefits everyone. We should free the market and enjoy the prosperity.

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So called greedy capitalist system vs. communist/socialist system:

Market economy operating under rules that maintain competition – and with appropriate mechanisms to deal with public goods and relevant externalities – co-ordinates the selfish decisions of households and businesses extremely efficiently. Entrepreneurs, seeking private rewards through market process, elicit information on preferences and products from the price mechanism. On this basis, they calculate profitable ventures thus managing the market’s process of discovery.  In this way, a market economy enables endless experimentation – some successful, many not. The successes are emulated while the unsuccessful are quickly abandoned. Centralized economies cannot emulate this entrepreneurial function for a variety of reasons. Repressive leaders fear the independence that emanates from successful profit-seeking. They rely instead on corrupt underlings to relay relevant signals from the controlled market-place. The great leader tends to hear what he wants to hear, rather than the truth about the non-market economy that he oversees. Sixty years of division of the Korean peninsula has created two states with very different standards of living in one country.  The Korean example is pathological. The division of Germany resulted in two states, both functional in economic terms, but one far richer. The less noticed comparison between the modern histories of Finland and Estonia had the same outcome.  There are few controlled experiments in economics, but these are as close as we get, and the results were clear. Our intuitions about scale and centralization are generally wrong. They were also unexpected. Hard though it is to believe today, in the 1960s many serious commentators on left and right believed that Russian economic progress threatened western hegemony. Those on the left were naively credulous and those on the right victims of paranoid fantasies. So called selfishness (self-interest) is far superior to so called altruism (charity), and greed is far superior to ascetism; in a properly ordered market economy. Greed, within the context of market constraints, is in truth the life-blood of economic progress and the wealth of a nation. But not all greed is created equal. The greed that nearly brought the world economy to a screeching halt in 2008 is disgusting. The greed that led to millions of hardworking people around the world losing their jobs is not “good greed.” You can (and must!) be greedy without exploiting others. So we must differentiate between good greed and bad greed. Good greed is pursuing self-interest in free market economy by playing by rules while bad greed is pursuing selfishness in free market economy by breaking rules.

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Greed is the reason behind the meltdown of the corporate bond market. To stimulate the financial markets after the shock of the terrorist attack on the United States in September 2001, the Federal Reserve began a series of interest rate reductions. This stimulated the bond market, as the cost to borrow money dropped. At the same time, the mortgage industry sold adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) which were packaged into bonds, to eager investors. ARMs are mortgages that begin with below market rates for the first few years, after which the rates are adjusted to the market, the mortgage payment can increase dramatically. The pre-supposition behind the ARMs was that by the time the interest rate adjustment occurred, the mortgages would be either refinanced or the homeowners would be able to make the increased payments. In many cases, neither of these became a reality. As a result, many homeowners were burdened with higher mortgage payments than they could afford, which caused the default rate to dramatically increase. Lenders were lenient in their lending criteria and therefore made loans to many people whose credit worthiness (A person’s ability and willingness to pay his or her obligations) was suspect. Hence, there were many borrowers who lacked the trustworthiness to maintain a mortgage in good standing. The greed of the borrowers who sought to use the ARMs as an opportunity to buy more house than they could afford, greed of the loan originators who possessed an insatiable appetite for more business and, the greed of bond investors who overlooked the lax lending criteria of the loan originators and failed to consider the pre-suppositions behind the ARMs, cause bond investors to be hit with losses as well as lose interest in investing in the bond market. The cost of corporate borrowing increased also amplify the cost of borrowed capital, which serve as a brake to slow down the economy due to the consequences of greed.

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Corporate Greed (discussed earlier):

The flavors of corporate greed are many, from flat salaries, outsourced jobs, and reduced benefits, to increased medical insurance premiums and reduced education and recognition budgets. It all boils down to the same outcome, taking money out of the pockets of middle class, and putting it directly into the pockets of the corporate officers. The millionaires who are never satisfied, never have enough, and will do anything, however unethical, to stuff more millions into their bank accounts. The middle class engine that drives our economy is sputtering on fumes and the greedy millionaires are driving by in their luxury vehicles. Corporations are responsible to the stock holders. But let’s think about who the stockholders really are … isn’t most of the stock held by the very same class of people that are responsible for the policies of greed? What you have here is the rich feeding the rich. The average middle class worker can no longer afford to purchase any significant amount of stock because they are too busy trying to scrape up enough money for their last grocery and fuel bill, or to pay for their last hospital visit. Corporate greed cost thousands of workers their jobs and retirement funds. One columnist has written that unrestrained corporate greed is a greater threat than terrorism.

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 Gift economy and greed economy:

A gift economy is a mode of exchange where valuables are given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. In contrast to a barter economy or a market economy, social norms and custom govern gift exchange, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity.  Gift exchange is frequently “embedded” in political, kin, or religious institutions, and therefore does not constitute an “economic” system per se. Today, we are all familiar with the “greed economy.” It is governed by the competitive principle that more for you is less for me. It prioritizes luxuries for the few over necessities of the many. It is exclusive to those who don’t have money, relegating them to search for subsistence from the garbage of others. It is not only degrading, disgusting, and immoral, it is totally and completely unsustainable. A gift economy actually decays greed. It widens the family circle to include the entire community. It is governed by the cooperative principle that more for you is more for me too. It prioritizes matching gifts with needs. It is inclusive of everyone, including those who have little to give but a warm smile or their gratitude. It is not something that is imposed on people. Rather, it is something that people volunteer to be a part of because they recognize the inherent joy that comes from giving to others. In a world of limited resources, it becomes imperative that any economic system that plans on allowing the human species to sustainably live on this planet maximize the efficient use of resources. This means we must cease our incessant desire to own the world, realize that owning more things will never be enough to compensate for the wound of separation inside us, and understand that we can only really improve our quality of life by reducing the suffering of others. Greed can be a positive motive force for creating economic wealth, but becomes negative and self defeating if it is not complemented by a fiscal system which encourages “giving back” in economic activity. The giving back activity could also be applied to individual tax returns of philanthropic individuals.  In talking about greed we are dealing with an emotive aspect of morality. It is not useful to tell people not to be greedy; much more useful to let them demonstrate how they use or give back the gains of their economic activity, In that way greed can perhaps become generosity.

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Greed as an advertising tool:

Greed, no matter what anybody says, is a part of the human psychological make-up. Everybody wants more. Thus, as an advertising tool, greed, (or acquisition of property, to make it sound better), works well. If an ad can make a product, or more usually a service, appear that it will help the individual get a bigger piece of the pie, then it will attract attention and generate sales. Bank, financial service and broker, franchiser, magazine subscription service, state lottery, etc. ads, and memory improvement, grade improvement, and “make a fortune in real estate” infomercials all depend on convincing people that what they sell will make possible the purchaser getting more. How does advertising convince people that they can get more if the customer buys the product? By making vague promises. Please note that the ads never state unequivocally that the purchase of the product or service will result in an increase in material goods. What the ad promises is a chance, a possibility. The most common approach is the testimonial. In this type of ad, someone who has purchased the product or service tells the audience how rich they have gotten. They will often explain how they were in dead end or low paying jobs (the better to relate to the target audience of these products). They then give paeans of praise for the product or service that showed them how to get out of their ruts and into their Rolls Royces. Other ads, such as those for business machines, computers, and phone systems, show how their products provide greater speed, convenience, and/or savings than their competitors’ products. Although these ads have a reduced emphasis on the individual amassing property, they still show the possible effects on the individual who doesn’t take advantage of the offers. The so-called “slice of death” commercials use this approach: they show how a person may possibly be demoted or even lose her job if she chooses the wrong product — that produced by a competitor of the commercial’s sponsor.  

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Greed and fear vis-à-vis free market economy:

Greed is often referenced as one of the main contributors to trading loss. Greed mangles the mind by distracting the trader from what matters most in the trade, which is quite frankly to protect your capital by prudent planning and following rules. It also distorts your judgment regarding high probability strategies and effective follow-through.  Additionally, it is the other side of the fear coin; that is, greed can arguably be thought of as a fear of not having “enough.”  Of course, having enough is a purely subjective notion, but for the reasonable person, someone who wants more, more, more as in getting every cent in a move, or wanting more than one’s share, is considered “greedy.”  Whether we’re talking about the fear of loss or the fear of not having enough, either way it is a very difficult emotional challenge to getting the trading results that you want.  Now, the question is what do you do about those bouts with fear/greed that takes your trading effectiveness south?  The important thing of course, is to manage your fear/greed one trade and one incident at a time.

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Fear and greed are said to be the two most powerful motivations for investors. Greed and fear are supposed to be the main emotional motivators of stock markets and business behavior, and one of the cause of bull markets, bear markets and business cycles. Unfortunately, investors tend to alternate between these potentially destructive emotions. Collectively, investor greed and fear helps accentuate the up and down cycles of markets, and individually, otherwise sensible people can make irrational decisions based on these emotions. But if you can recognize some of the ways people tend to fall victim to fear or greed, it can help you avoid being influenced by these emotions. The phrase, traditionally used by traders and market commentators, has become a topic of economic research about investor irrationalities (cognitive and emotional biases). Its effects on market prices and returns contradict, or at least moderate, the efficient market hypothesis.

Here are two examples of approaches:

1. How those two alternating emotions work for traders, and how they can distort their decision process, has been the subject of neuroeconomics studies. More generally, those researches show some primacy of emotion over cognition in decision making.

2.According to Hersh Shefrin, one of the key researchers in Behavioral economics, the phrase hope and fear, although less colloquially used, would describe better those alternating excessive expectations by market players.

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Greed-fear cycle:

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Everybody agrees that the financial crisis was rooted in human nature. It is a cliché to say that financial markets are driven not by reason, but by fear and greed. Most of us make the same mistake with our money over and over again: We buy high out of greed and sell low out of fear, despite knowing on an intellectual level that it is a very bad idea. The easiest way to see this behavior in action is to watch money flow in and out of mutual funds. It’s the age-old imbalance between optimism and pessimism, or credulity and skepticism, and it’s very hard to maintain the right balance.

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Good greed vs. bad greed (discussed earlier):

Greed can be good and bad. Greed is the desire for a human to want something. Greed can make someone determine to go to school to make more money. Then on the bad side, greed can make someone rob a store. I’m of the opinion that when greed motivates people to attain new heights it is good. But if it motivates you to steal from others to have at your disposal more than you need or is necessary for your existence, then of course it is harmful. To have desire is not bad but to fulfil that desire with immoral and illegal means at the cost of third party is bad. But sadly this is the angle to greed that a lot of us possess and prefer to nurture. Greed as they have said can be good and can be bad at the same time. It all depends on the intention and the application. But in all, I would say it is not an attribute that one should possess and be proud to have. I say because the more one gets successful from being greedy, the more it becomes a norm. In no time, he will not be able tell the difference from right or wrong. Greed is something we should watch out for carefully so that it does not get the better of us.

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Positive and Negative Poles of greed:

In the case of greed, the positive pole is a state which may be referred to as desire, egoism or appetite; while the negative pole is one of voracity or gluttony as seen in the figure below:

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Egoism (not to be confused with egotism) is state of self-centered acquisitiveness: I will have what I want and need. It is the opposite of altruism. Why is this a positive pole? Because in moderation, satisfying one’s own needs and desires is part of what life is about. We are not all here to be self-sacrificing saints. We are here to make choices, and most of our choices will be driven by our own needs and desires. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a “healthy appetite”. In fact, it is healthier to be driven by one’s desires rather than one’s fears. Voracity or gluttony is a state of excessive egoism, unjustified acquisitiveness. Not only does it cause one to acquire more than is ever going to be necessary, it can also lead to others being deprived of the same thing. Moreover, once the negative pole of greed takes control of the personality, it does not care who it hurts in the process of getting what it “needs”. All things are secondary to the fear of lack. This is why, of all the chief features, greed is the hardest on others in one’s life.

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The good greed!

People were content with what they had during the dark ages; it was a philosophy called traditionalism, and it lead to feudalism. Greed is not a bad thing. It indirectly causes people to want to do things for the world. Nearly all innovations today are made for the sake of money, which is only sought due to greed. Greed results in competition, and innovation; both of which make it easier for everyone, even the people who don’t want to work, to live a happier life. That is not to say that all greed is good, however most honest hardworking people are greedy (they work hard for money, and strive to work harder for more money), and that type of greed is good for the world in general. When people say they are ambitious and encourage others to be like that, what do you think is the underlying drive or factor for such?  It is greed. Greed is something good because it motivates and pushes you to achieve more than you ordinarily would. In your drive to want more, greed enables you to aim for the impossible and perfection in the process. Agreed that sometimes it can be taken too far and caution brakes need to be applied, in general it has many, many positive outcomes

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Ivan Boesky famously defended greed in a May 18, 1986, commencement address at the UC Berkeley’s School of Business Administration, in which he said, “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”. This speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street, which features the famous line “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

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In recent decades, more people have become comfortable with greed and have begun to believe that unregulated greed is good and that unbridled competition and the accumulation of wealth are necessary for human progress. A steady diet of powerful messages communicated, for example, by corporate-controlled media has served to internalize these messages. Financial markets that have been deregulated due to the pressures of structural greed have also led to a situation in which money and financial markets take on a life of their own, with the creation of an endless variety of new financial instruments for making quick, hyper profits. More than just a medium of exchange, money has become a commodity from which ever larger profits are promised and expected.

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Greed is good, because it is the most important incentive for people to work hard, get a good education, start a business or invest in a company. This makes people productive and contributing members of society. In return, people are paid a salary, become more educated, and build wealth so that they can live a prosperous, more comfortable life. Greed is inevitable and a powerful motivator. Left as the prime motivator, without laws or regulations, greed overwhelms markets and ultimately, the greedy themselves. But when greed is regulated, when greed is focused, it can achieve good despite itself. Society makes it clear the greedy can achieve their dreams of unlimited wealth only by doing something useful. The materialistic world we live in is a very harsh place and without greed, nothing can survive. It is greed that prevents us from becoming push-overs. Greed boost self-confidence (you overcome yourself) and helps a person move up in life and as a person desires to obtain more and more, it makes a person successful. If we were all complacent and not greedy, there would be no hope for people to do better or to do their best. People would eventually get monotonous.

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It is true that necessity is the mother of all inventions. It is this necessity that brought early man to prepare food, clothing and shelter, to enable him to survive his harsh environment and keep him from extinction. It was this necessity fueled with greed that compelled him to make appliances that made his life easier. With the use of money, there came the need of accumulating money, once again the need to make life easier. The complexity and the ease of life are the products of greed. If we stuck to necessity or to fulfilling our survival needs, we would have been extinct long ago. There have been many creatures on this world, none of them had enough intellect and greed, as a result many of them are facing extinction. Our greed enabled us to survive and we will survive, despite the damage done to the earth for many centuries to come.

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Greed can improve failing public schools. Economist Walter Williams say, in areas where people are motivated the most by greed are the area that wins the most satisfaction, like Supermarkets, Computers, FedEx. While those areas where people are motivated by caring are areas of disasters in the country such as education, the post office, city garbage collection and police services.

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Is Greed good from utilitarian perspective?

The word greed has negative connotations because it implies taking more than your fair share. The idea was that by doing something personally bad you can do a public good. This type of utilitarian argument has been around for centuries and has long been discredited.  While some, most notably Nobel laureate Gary Becker, have tried to argue that you can completely divorce markets from morality, the reality is that you can’t. Markets are more than equations; they operate in the real world with real people. Philosophers tend to use extreme examples like “if killing one child in a thousand would make everybody else better off…” but there’s no reason to go that far. We have an innate sense of fairness and tend to be repulsed when we feel someone is taking advantage. We will storm out of the store, write nasty comments online and even organize boycotts. We will even reject greed when it benefits us, just to spite the greedy.  In the real world people will most likely reject a beneficial arrangement they regard as being unfair, even in a corporate setting when there are billions of dollars at stake. It’s tough to see how greed can work when nobody seems to want it around.

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Is it best to be Greedy in tough economic times?

There’s a certain logic to the idea that greed is good when resources are scarce: when there’s not a lot to go around, what could be better than hogging the goods for oneself to ensure one’s survival? If this logic were to hold true, one would expect natural selection to have favored self-interested behavior as a response to a lack of resources. In fact, however, new research seems to suggest just the opposite. Researchers at Berkeley (Piff, Kraus, Cote, Cheng, and Keltner, 2010) have found that across many indexes of self-interest, those with fewer resources choose a strategy of sharing their limited resources with others. In one striking example, the researchers had upper- and lower-class individuals play a simple economic game, in which generosity could be measured directly by the amount of money that participants decided to give to an anonymous game partner at their own expense. Lower class participants allocated more of their money to their anonymous partners than did upper class individuals, who kept more for themselves. These data are in line with national survey data showing that, relative to their income, lower-class individuals give more to charitable causes relative to their high class counterparts. This is a striking finding, particularly because in an experimental study in which participants were induced to compare themselves to people higher versus lower than them in social class, the researchers found greater support for charitable causes among participants who had been induced to compare themselves to those higher in social class than they. Thus, something about being “lower on the ladder” seems to draw out a motivation to share, rather than hog. What is it about a lack of resources that reduces self-interest and greed? The logic of the researchers is as follows: when people have few resources, they are in a position of being more vulnerable to the whims of the context or the environment. Thus, when resources are not secure, people may actually be more motivated to strengthen their social connections, fostering a host of psychological processes that include trust, compassion, and empathy. By contrast, when one is relatively resource-rich, one has the luxury of focusing on oneself, and feeling that others don’t matter as much. Psychologically, this focus on the self reduces attention to the needs and even the emotions of others. Paradoxically, then, greater resources may make self-interested and even greedy behavior more likely.

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Is Greed the Great Motivator?

Some philosophers have said that greed is the motivation behind everything we do, and this includes cheating. There are times when we should be satisfied with what we have, but there is always the possibility of more. Greed is what compels people to commit crimes like robbing banks or evading taxes, and on a smaller scale can lead to relationship cheating as well. The fact is, we live in a world where there is always something better right under our noses. If the right opportunity presents itself, we will do almost anything that can get us more.

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Greed motivates people to produce unique things because they have a potential to earn more money because of them. Nearly all technological advances were caused because people wanted money. What’s the point of creating the light bulb, if you aren’t going to make any money of it? As with productivity, money motivates people to produce new and innovative goods. If money was not a motivation factor, many great inventions may have perhaps never have happened. Perhaps we would still get around using horses and carriages. While many consider it a bad thing, greed can be a huge motivator. One’s desire for fame and recognition can drive him to do great things, such as inventing something, discovering something unknown to mankind, creating a new philosophy, etc. Without greed and trying to fulfill one’s desires, there is little advancement for the human race. There would be no reason for Henry Ford to invent the Model T if he wouldn’t have made any money. Greed caused him to become one of the richest industrialists of all time. In conclusion, greed is the greatest motivating factor in the world. It creates new technologies, increases productivity, and creates better societies. A perfect society with no greed would never exist because man is not perfect. Unlike common conception, greed is not a “force of the devil” or an evil force. It enlightens and empowers us to greater achievements. That said, something like stealing could be considered a bad part of greed, but overall, greed is a wonderful thing when used correctly.

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Is money the biggest motivator?

I would first like to point out how important money is for our world. Our entire economy, society, and world revolve around the concept of money. Not only is it important, but it “makes the whole world keep turning”. Without money, we would descend into anarchy. Money is by far one of the biggest motivators in the world. According to James Houran, President of 20 20 Skills Employee Assessment, “monetary incentives improved task performance by 23%, social recognition improved task performance by 17% and feedback elicited a 10% improvement. Simultaneously combining all three types of reinforcements improved performance by 45%.” Money motivation is what makes Capitalism the most successful economic system in the history of the world. It gives people an incentive to try harder because of their greed. As a result of this greed, performance is increased by a whopping 45%. Now let us look at the opposite end of spectrum. Motivation is the problem with communism. Everybody has and will have the same amount of money. I cannot gather any concrete evidence on work performance in a communistic society. Although there is lack of physical evidence, behavior patterns would conclude that since there is no motivation, there is no incentive for the person to work. Therefore, a communist worker can produce 2 toys and have the same pay as the capitalist worker who produced 20 toys. Since there is no greed in a communist society, it fails. While the greedy society keeps on producing and gaining.  

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Some studies showing money as motivator:

A) In a survey of over 1500 compensation and productivity professionals by the American Compensation Association and the American Productivity Center various types of compensation or rewards systems that they utilized were rated as having a “Positive” or “Very Positive” impact on performance in 66% to 89% of the companies where the companies used specific techniques such as gain sharing, small group incentives, profit sharing, individual incentives, and lump sum bonuses.

 

B) In a national survey of 1200 randomly selected U.S. employees across many different types and sizes of companies 54% of employees rated direct financial compensation as “very important” or “extremely important” to motivation.

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C) In a national survey of 2500 employees, 84% of those who understood their organization’s reward/ performance link believe they can help make a difference. If they also believe that the company will share its success when the strategy is achieved, 91% say they are motivated to help the company succeed.

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D) In a study of 663 companies with performance reward compensation plans covering 1.3 million employees and a broad section of the workforce of each company (not just managers and salespeople) by the American Compensation Association, they found that at the median, organizations earned $2.34 for every dollar they spent on payouts; thus a close approximation of the net return on plan investment is 134%

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Is it intrinsic motivations that works and not greed?

Some say that the real issue is with human nature. We all have greedy impulses, so why not just be pragmatic, accept that fact and design society to push those impulses in positive ways?  In that sense, the concept of “greed is good” doesn’t necessarily advocate our baser natures, rather, it simply puts them to good use. Again, the problem here is that the rhetoric doesn’t fit the fact pattern. There is a large body of evidence that shows that money isn’t always an effective incentive because it devalues intrinsic motivations. We are often more likely to do things for free out of consideration for others than we would if there is money involved. In one highly cited case parents who were fined for picking kids up late from day care did so with greater frequency, not less. In Predictably Irrational, behavioral economist Dan Ariely reports that lawyers are more willing to work pro bono than for a reduced fee. A particularly telling case is an economic experiment called the ultimatum game, in which people from a variety of cultures reject bargains they see as unfair, even if they lose money in the process. Daniel Pink’s bestselling book Drive cites a number of studies which show that, even in the workplace, intrinsic motivation is far more important than monetary incentives.  He argues that providing employees autonomy, mastery and purpose is far more effective than compensation schemes.  

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When does Greed become Too Much?
In 2008, employees within a failing firm on Wall Street were given $16 billion in bonuses. That seems outrageous, doesn’t it? Anger was the response of the American people indefinitely. However, if they had done further research they would have realized that the $16 billion in bonuses was merely half of what the company gave out in bonuses during good times. Many of the reporters telling the story discussed the issue of rewarding the greed of the employees with taxpayer money. Which brings us to the question, what exactly is greed? If they would have earned more before, they are expecting the amount that is coming. It is not greed if every year before that the money had been guaranteed, is it? 

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The bad greed! Misdeeds of greed:

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Greed for money isn’t doing any good for society, actually it’s just making discord and hate between people. When you feel greed for money, you will do anything to get it, and that anything’ can actually be something dangerous for other people and you. You might kill people for money, or even start selling drugs and ruin somebody’s life.  But not just for that, it’s more for your social status. Greed for money made big changes in our everyday life. Many people don’t want to be friends or be in relationship with people that don’t have much money and wealth. And automatically bunch of good people stay alone because of that. However, that’s not the only problem made by greed for money. When you feeling greed for it, you are missing the good things in life, like laughing with friends and family, or anything that makes you relaxed. You can’t be relaxed when you are feeling greed for anything, but most for money. You become obsessed about it, and you then become obsessed about your social status too, so you can start to feel depressed if you constantly think about money, and that can ruin your health. The stress that is developed as a result of greed can cause such illnesses as cancer, autoimmune diseases, ulcers, neurological imbalances and a host of other ailments. Truth is that stress is considered one of the major factors in most illnesses. Given this fact the stress from greed affects not only the individual’s health on a personal level but also the world as each country’s government must fund it’s health organizations leading to costs that must well exceed trillions of dollars.  If your health is ruined then you will die younger. And greed for money can make you jealous of people that have amount of money you want, so you can become asocial and unpleasant for people in your environment which can make you problematic in neighborhood, job, family, friendships etc. I think of greed as never being satisfied with what you have, particularly concerning wealth. I understand that it is the drive behind motivation, but constantly wanting more is like not acknowledging your success. Never being pleased with what one has means never being happy or, if you think outside of the box, un-fulfillment would lead to the feeling of failure, for it’s a vicious cycle. As long as you want more, you will always feel deprived of something. Especially seeing as how so many people don’t have their basic needs met like food and shelter, wanting more of let’s say money is absurd.

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Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed. Such misdeeds can include simony, where one profits from soliciting goods within the actual confines of a church. Greed is contagious and can go out of control. It brings out the devil in man. To acquire wealth, man will do unethical, immoral, and illegal things in the pursuit of more money like murder, bribe and loot others. Excessive greed can even cause a person to pay up his life in exchange. A well-known example of greed is the Pirate Hendrick Lucifer, who fought for hours to acquire Cuban gold, becoming mortally wounded in the process. He died of his wounds hours after having transferred the booty to his ship.

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Greed has caused more damage to the relationships of families and friends. Families are losing their homes which they have lived in for years. It is not unusual today to see empty homes with “bank owned” signs posted in the windows. Neighborhoods are experiencing a foreclosure crisis never seen before, as families are thrown out into the streets. This is truly a display of greed where inordinate things are more valuable than people. The economic depression has caused parents to lose their jobs, therefore unable to pay their mortgages. Young children along with their parents are now homeless. This source of greed truly demonstrates that our society cherishes things more than people or relationships. The price of greed has also destroyed friendships. People utilize scams against their friends sometimes without knowledge or intention. For example, there are numerous scams today developed for the sole purpose of greed. Whether the scam involves debt relief, home modification, credit score or travel scams, it is detrimental to its victims. Their neighbor or friend may get introduced to the swindler, thinking that the scam is an opportunity to make fast money. The pyramid scam is then introduced where, all your friends and neighbors are invited to become a part of this tremendous money making deal. You then bring your friend in as you explain what, “a wonderful, make money while you sleep,” plan this is. Your friends then become involved and decide to invest hundreds of dollars. In the end, the only person making money is the greedy swindler who started the pyramid scam. Their friendship is now affected or completely damaged forever. For centuries, this has been the price and face of greed.

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Greed ruins marriages, destroys friendships, and divides families all in the selfish pursuit of gratifying one’s self. Greed is the opposite of charity, generosity and love. Greed disregards all others and puts falsely high importance on the self: it is a form of self-worship. The greedy have no qualms about depriving others of what they need. These greedy people consider themselves so important they do not mind harming and trampling all over others to get what they desire.

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Why is greed bad?

Greed is bad because it undermines society, eventually destroying it. Society, in this case, is all life, human or otherwise. When you are greedy, i.e. taking more than you need or hoarding your supplies, you prohibit your brothers from having what they need. If your brother is unable to satisfy his physical and mental needs, he suffers. Ecosystems really are only as strong as the weakest link. When one member of society suffers, he places a strain on the rest of society (disease, poor productivity, over-production causing poor health and fatigue, nominal education, increased propensity to breed, unattractive, and monetary drain), which unfairly taxes everyone (because of your greed). To try and compensate for your hoarding of a resource, people then overproduce,  which causes an influx in the value of the commodity. The value, initially high, drops because people force abundance on this thing. The overpopulation either leaches from the environment (over-farming) or exhausts a natural resource (trees, copper), which strains environmental and interpersonal relationships. If you, instead of being greedy and taking more than you need, share with your brother, you each meet your basic needs. Chances are he has a surplus of something you need, and when you both share, you both benefit. When people’s basic physical needs are met, they are able to pursue higher needs such as education and spirituality/philosophy, which improves a society’s abilities to function. Moreover, since people policies of self control and regulation, they do not over-burden the plants, animals, soil, water, etc, leading to a healthier planet and people. People who practice greed hurt everyone, especially their progeny, as greed is horribly short-sighted.

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Greed creates conflict (war, debates, fights)
Greed causes crimes (robberies, muggings)
Greed is a sin (religious point of view on greed)
Greed ruins people (greedy person has no time for their family)
Greed creates famine (instead of sharing wealth with 3rd world countries west hog it)
Greed creates selfishness (richest people are the cheapest)
Greed ends productivity (people make money faster through unethical means rather than working hard)
Greed drives people to do unethical, immoral, and illegal things in the pursuit of more money.

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Greed promotes crime:

More crimes have been committed due to greed than any other vice. Greed drives people to steal, lie, betray others and even kill in order to acquire more money and worldly possessions. Greed makes us stamp upon fairness and justice when we want what rightfully belongs to another, to the point of doing anything to get it, even when we don’t need it. In doing this greed does not just feed our wants, it also tramples upon others needs. Normally, greed can explain why there have always been cases of theft. Since some greedy people are always not satisfied with what they have, they are thinking of an easier way to get more wealth, which is theft. A research in China has shown that more than 90% of theft cases are due to criminals’ desire of pelf. These people cannot control their own desire of possessing more and more wealth, hence stealing from others, which causes the loss of others and bad social ethos.

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Mafia greed:

What is the difference between the ways the Mafia make money and the same type of greed and corruption that is occurring in the political administrations and the police forces of the time? Why is the Mafia so much worse?  We have a fair point. There’s a continuum of immorality. You cross the line when you start killing people on a regular basis in order to make your money and satisfy your greed.

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Some examples of murders committed for greed of money: When greed turns deadly: 

The photo below is of Stella Nickell:

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Stella Nickell was sentenced to 90 years in prison on five counts of product tampering in the two June 1986 deaths. Prosecutors said she poisoned her husband, Bruce, 52, with cyanide-filled extra-strength Excedrin capsules to collect $176,000 in life insurance, and later put bottles of poisoned capsules on store shelves to create the impression of a random killer.

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The photos below are of Lyle and Erik Menendez:

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 Lyle and Erik Menendez were sentenced to life in prison in July 1996, for killing their wealthy parents in a salvo of shotgun blasts in 1989. Prosecutors said the brothers murdered their parents to inherit the family’s $14 million fortune.

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Greed is their Creed [White collar crime due to greed]:

For criminologists, white-collar crime is very diverse and complex. White-collar crime pertains to a list of criminal offenses and violations including, but not limited to, bribery, embezzlement, forgery, tax law violations, corporate malfeasance such as insider trading, political and administrative corruption, environmental pollution, and violations of job safety standards. There is also a plethora of specific offenses under the term fraud such as: auto-repair fraud, computer fraud, charity and land sales fraud, identity theft, and promotional and telemarketing scams. White-collar crime in more recent history has been expanded to include crimes committed in cyberspace and on the internet. There are also anti-trust crimes and various rip-off schemes by con artists, violations of public health statutes, price-fixing and price-gouging, violation of food standards and quality, adulteration of drugs and illegal drug diversion by pharmacists, drug salesmen, and health care providers.  Most people tend to conceive of white-collar crime as “sophisticated theft.” Few people understand that the consequences of some white-collar crime are serious injury and death. Each year thousands of people die from the long term effects of illegal toxic waste dumping. The great irony in criminology is, despite the fact that white-collar crime results in greater death, injury and monetary loss than street crime, the political establishment, the public, and criminologists in general continue to view “crime in the streets” as a more significant social problem than “crime in the suites.” Ironic or not, there is the growing realization by a small cadre of astute criminologists that white-collar crime is a very serious, if not the most serious,  crime problem of all whose priority has yet to be set at the national level.

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Greed and chit fund:

A Chit fund is a kind of savings scheme practiced in India. In simple terms, a chit fund is an arrangement that a group of people arrive at to contribute money in a defined manner at periodic intervals into a pool or a kitty. During the process of collection, any member can draw a lump sum through various ways like a lucky draw, an auction or a member can even fix a payout date based on a known expenditure. These schemes are very popular in tier II and III towns in India and even in rural India, thanks to under-penetration of banking services, as they are a way of raising quick money or catering for sudden liquidity needs or even a planned expenditure.  Also, banks haven’t recognized the fact that the common man with a small income finds it very difficult to undergo the entire procedure of getting a loan, adjusting to bank working hours and other demands. Interest paid by banks range between 7.5-9.5% and is dependent on government regulation. A chit on the other hand can help an investor by paying him an interest rate between 12-16%.  Chit Funds are often misused by its promoters and there are many instances of the founders running what is basically a Ponzi scheme and absconding with their money. Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to keep the scheme going. Greed by the promoters lead to a scam and greed by lay investors who want 15 % interest when banks are giving only 9 % interest lead to flourishing of chit fund scheme.    

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Consumerism and materialism:

We live in an increasingly materialistic culture; this is manifested in the rise of consumer culture. It could be argued that consumerism, the social and economic creed that encourages us to aspire to even more than that share, regardless of the consequences, is just avarice and greed writ large.

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Human Civilization will collapse unless culture of Greedy Consumerism is stopped:

Infinite ‘Growth’ and unfettered consumption is unsustainable on a finite planet. Despite this obvious and basic fact, many civilizations before ours have tried and failed with this toxic economic model as will ours if we don’t make fundamental changes to our cultures now. The stakes are incalculably higher now as our seemingly incurable strain of virulent capitalism has spread across the globe to most all dominant cultures; even those that have thrived for thousands of years like China & India have adopted a view of greed as success. We are exhausting our planet’s resources much faster than it can replenish them, and its finite resources disappearing ever faster. The world’s population is burning through the planet’s resources at such a reckless rate – about 28 per cent more in 2009 – it will eventually cause environmental havoc, said the Worldwatch Institute, a US think-tank. In its annual State of the World 2010 report, it warned any gains from government action on climate change could be wiped out by the cult of consumption and greed unless changes in our lifestyle were made. Consumerism had become a “powerful driver” for increasing demand for resources and consequent production of waste, with governments  too readily wanting to promoted it as necessary for job creation and economic well-being. More than £2.8 trillion of stimulus packages had been poured into economies to pull the world out of the global recession, it found, with only a small amount into green measures. But the think tank warned that without a “wholesale transformation” of cultural patterns the world would not be able to “prevent the collapse of human civilization”. The think tank found that over the past decade consumption of goods and services had risen by 28 per cent to $30.5 trillion (£19bn) – with the world digging up the equivalent of 112 Empire State Buildings of material every day. Without action, humans faced problems including changing climates, obesity epidemics, declines in wildlife, loss of agricultural land and more production of hazardous waste. At current consumption rates, 200 square meters of solar panels a second and 24 wind turbines every hour were needed to be built to satisfy energy levels. The think tank said it was not just the United States that was guilty of a culture of excess but other developing countries such as Brazil, India and China adopting greed as a success symbol. China, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emissions producers, recently overtook the US as the world’s top car market. “More than 6.8 billion human beings are now demanding ever greater quantities of material resources, decimating the world’s richest ecosystems, and dumping billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere each year,” the report said. This number will only increase as people in the developing world aspire towards a Western-styled consumer lifestyle. Until we recognize that our environmental problems, from climate change to deforestation to species loss, are driven by unsustainable habits, we will not be able to solve the ecological crises that threaten to wash over civilization.   

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Greed causes poverty:

Consumerist lifestyle that emphasized on materialism and exploitation of nature was bound to create problems for the modernist agenda of growth and development, Psychology Professor at the Delhi University Prof Girishwar Misra said while he was addressing the national conference on “Positive Behaviour: Perspectives and Applications” organized by the Department of Applied Psychology, Pondicherry University.  Prof Misra also noted that the greed for possessions and control of resources was leading to poverty and corruption. Also, if the rich weren’t greedy and shared their surplus, there would be no poor! There is plenty to go around if people were satisfied with having it good for everyone. The super-rich make the poor…super-poor. What is unbelievable is that 365 of the world’s richest people have as much money as 2.6 billion of the poorest. 

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Greed as cause of inflation:

Apart from government policies, hoarding by middle men and other capitalistic forces are among other major causes for inflation. When there is a demand for commodity, traders hoard the commodity without releasing the same for open trade. This leads to major multiplication of deficit in the demand supply chain and thus pushing up the price. In general prices of goods skyrocket because of a combination of– government economic policies, or flooding of bad money due to excess release of notes into system and hoarding by the traders. The root cause of these malpractices and no proper vision is greed. Greed on the part of people at the helm of the government to remain in power at any cost and greed on the part of capitalists to make money at any cost. Thus problem of inflation can only be solved if the traders and politicians are trained to control their greed.

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Greed is causing global warming:

The scientific evidence that we humans are heating up the planet by the non-stop burning of fossil fuels is undeniable. Heavy industries pollute the environment with billowing smoke and belching gases that create a seal around the planet and prevents the escape of heat into space. We have turned the planet into a greenhouse, temperatures continue rising causing heat waves, forest fires, droughts, desertification, violent storms, rising sea levels, freezing winters, blistering summers, flash floods and melting ice caps. We are facing a catastrophe. We can reduce asthma and lung disease, toxic poisoning, food contamination and water pollution by caring more about people than profit. Global warming is driven more by greed than need. 

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Greed and corruption:

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Corruption, greed and state:

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There was much more peace and harmony in the world before the system of money started. With money came greed. Greed of wealth brings about the downfall of man, as it led to corrupted bureaucracy and corrupt practices like bribing. An example is how slums keep expanding. People bribe officials and then build slums. The living conditions of slum dwellers are unhygienic. They spoil the surroundings and they don’t pay taxes, thus affecting the rest of the population. Greed makes these officials richer and the country poorer. This is also not sustainable. Grand corruption involves political leaders and multi-national firms. Here, corporate interests, that in other circumstances emphasize the value of the free market, characteristically invoke local cultural practices as an excuse for making payoffs. The pervasive corruption undermines the competence, fairness, and democratic legitimacy of the modern state. It substitutes the criteria of willingness-to-pay for criteria based on desert, need, efficiency, and other values. One example is that there is an average of 10 provincial officials under investigation every year in China because of bribery. Since these officials are bribed, they will work for those people who bribe them, which is normally on the expense of the public right. Therefore, greed brings harm to both individuals and the society.

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How greed cause corruption:

I define corruption as human actions that stem from the lack of ethics and undermine human institutions and human relations. Corruption can take as many forms as there are types of human institutions and human relations. Acts such as bribery, fraud, extortion, falsehood, nepotism, deceit, vote rigging, calculated neglect, abuse, and cheating are some examples. These acts are used to extort unethical gain for some at the expense of others. In this process, power is abused or discharged inappropriately. Greed as the source of corruption sounds right to the casual observer. However greed is a catalyst for corruption but not the cause. Greed cannot produce corruption in the absence of power but the power can produce corruption in the absence of greed. For example, suppose that a person devoid of greed was in charge of an organization that looked after young children. The person entrusted his competent staff to run the daily affairs. However, some of his staff turned out to be unethical and used their power and privilege to inflict emotional or sexual abuse on the children. This situation corrupted the institution and human relations without the person in charge having bad intentions. If the person provided proper supervision and intervention, the corruption may not have flourished in the organization. This shows that a desirable virtue like trust can also give rise to corruption in certain circumstances. Therefore, having a “clean mind” in the helm may not lead to a reduction in institutional corruption. A clean mind can, in fact, be a cause of corruption due to incompetence and irresponsibility as easily as a corrupt mind can. In the example of equally dividing meat among villagers, if the man taking charge was too incompetent in discharging his duties, it could have led to unfair distribution of meat, thereby corrupting the system. It teaches us that even an innocent action can indirectly cause severe corruption.

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The factors that are responsible for the survival-and-growth of corruption are depicted in the above diagram. It shows that power is a common denominator among three sets of human and institutional qualities, which are referred to as Hunger, Intoxication, and Neutralizer sets. The greed for food, material wealth, pleasure, status and power is what makes a person vulnerable to corruption. Therefore, these factors are placed in the hunger set (greed). Once people acquire power and status they become intoxicated and become corrupt. And the intoxication is intensified by privacy and anonymity. Corruption also grows when neutralizing factors are not present in the system. There are four neutralizing features in human institutions: competing power (as in consumers being not deprived of choice), ethics, competence, and checks and balances (control). Among the neutralizing factors, competing power is a tricky one because it must be used as tool to eliminate monopoly in some cases, as a tool to optimize resource utilization in other cases, and as a tool for both in the rest. In the hunger set, greed is responsible for the growth in member elements.  

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Need versus Greed Corruption:

In the paper ‘Why Pay Bribes? Collective Action and Anti-Corruption Efforts’ by Monika Bauhr & Naghmeh Nasiritousi, makes an important contribution to the literature on corruption by drawing a new distinction between different kinds of corruption: need and greed. While most existing typologies and measures of corruption focus on the scale of corruption, this paper emphasizes its character, and in particular, the basic motivations for engaging in corruption in the first place. Need corruption occurs when citizens pay a bribe for services they are legally entitled to, like health services. Greed corruption is about bribes that confer personal advantages which the citizen is not legally entitled to, such as paying an official for a government contract. The former entails extortion, as it involves an extra-legal premium on citizens’ entitlements. The latter takes the form of collusion, as a number of actors work together for their mutual benefit.

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Money cues can trigger Unethical Behavior:

The empirical tests—the first of their kind—go deeper than the notion of overt greed, showing a link between money and corruption. The researchers found that participants “primed” with money-related activities, including being asked to unscramble phrases and view images associated with money, were more likely to be unethical compared to control group participants who were not exposed to the concept of money. Researchers found that this mere exposure to the concept of money triggered in participants a “business decision frame,” causing them to think narrowly in terms of cost-benefit calculations and pursuing their own interests to the exclusion of moral considerations. The study also hints at how easily this unethical, money-induced mind-set can be triggered. You will be surprised to know how readily these money “primes” led to unethical outcomes, as they were as simple as reading money-related words or looking at a picture of currency. As society strives to counteract unethical decision-making in business, the studies’ findings have the potential to shape the way business ethics is being taught in universities. While traditional business ethics courses include normative philosophy and case studies, authors say that a contemporary approach to business ethics education includes behavioral ethics as well, addressing questions of what human nature is and how the brain functions.  

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Greed and corruption in World Bank:

The World Bank was constructed to lend money to the developing countries of the world.  It was designed to help put an end to world poverty.  A whistleblower by the name of Karen Hudes, former Chief Council for the World Bank for 12 years, claims the organization is filled with corruption, deceit, and greed. Ms. Hudes says that the World Bank, in collusion with major banking institutions all over the world, is funneling the money to unscrupulous individuals, as well as to the executives of the bank itself. The bulk of funds never reaches the people for which it is intended. Ms. Hudes claimed the money was ‘going everywhere,’ because when anyone reported the misappropriation of funds, they were fired.  She cited one instance when 900 million dollars was supposed to go to the poor in the Philippines, and instead it was diverted to a man by the name of “Lucio Tonn,” who was behind on his loan payments. The Philippine National Bank, which never received the money, eventually went bankrupt, and a 500 million dollar bailout ensued.  

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Human greed worsens natural disasters:

In natural disasters, the firefighters and rescue workers arrive first — and, not soon after, the looters, usually a step or two ahead of the relief workers. Sometimes the looting is casual and opportunistic. Thieves explore through areas where the destruction is only partial, looking for jewelry and undamaged electronics. After a few days, better-organized looters began arriving, often from great distances.  It is particularly cruel that people who have lost almost everything in a natural disaster must be subjected to a plague of thieves who descend on their ruined home to steal what little might be left.

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 Man’s greed triggered tragedy: North India rain fury:

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Meteorological department had forecast massive rains in the area between June 15 and 17. On the face of it, the floods seem like a calamity that was unpreventable. The Indian meteorological department reported a record rainfall of 385 mm during the first few weeks of June, which is 440 per cent over the usual rainfall. But green groups say that while a cloudburst may have been the immediate cause of floods, the region has been slowly eroded by rampant development. Too many roads, hotels and buildings have caused the valley to collapse like a stack of dominoes. The massive calamity in Kedarnath and Rambara area of Uttarakhand on June 15-16, 2013 was only magnified by illegal construction, deforestation and encroachments. Indeed. Never-ending greed, illegal mining, deforestation, illegal (and, rarely, legal) constructions, use of non-quality materials to construct roads and bridges, criminal pollution, throwing all norms to the winds ~ and then, blame nature. The natural flow of water in Kedarnath was blocked by huge construction in recent years. Choked by rampant construction and bullied to change their course in the name of development, rivers of Uttarakhand left behind massive devastation in the rain-swept days. The houses built on river banks fell like a pack of cards. Thousands are dead due to floods in Uttarakhand and thousands are missing. Those who survived the rain-fury and flood that ravaged Uttarakhand are limping back home with harrowing tales of spending four days without food and water, being forced to pay Rs.200 for a Rs.5 biscuit packet. And there is nothing they could do, said one survivor who paid Rs.5,000 for one-time meal for herself and her group of five; as some locals were fleecing the trapped pilgrims and tourists in the wake of shortages of food supply, shelter, medicines and drinking water. Some miscreants thrashed the Kedarnath pilgrims, looted their stuffs and even tried raping the women in the group. So greed for material wealth was accompanied by greed for sex even in a colossal human tragedy. In other words, it was human greed and corruption that caused tragedy rather than the weather.

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Greed not good for economy:

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As the above graph clearly shows the American economy has done far worse since 1980, when Americans decided that greed was good. Financial deregulation and the intense financial engineering that came with it has failed to provide any real evidence that it delivers any results. The main effect seems to be an abrupt drop in the savings rate. So other than 3 major market crashes, declining savings and investment (for the economy as a whole, savings equals investment), stagnating incomes, lower productivity and growing inequality, it’s tough to see what greed has done for them. It should be clear by now that greed does not work. It has been, in fact, a disaster. Economist Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times, the theory that “greed is good” for society may contain a fatal flaw: “A system that lavishly rewards executives for success tempts those executives, who control much of the information available to outsiders, to fabricate the appearance of success. Aggressive accounting, fictitious transactions that inflate sales, whatever it takes.”

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How Greed makes for Bad Doctors:

Having lived in India for decades, I exactly know how greed motivates doctors to do following in India:

Admit the patient in hospital when not required medically.

Not to discharge patient even when he is well.

Doing surgery when not indicated medically.

Performing illegal prenatal sex testing.

Asking for unnecessary tests/scans/x-rays etc to collect money from service providers.

Asking patient to buy medicines form a particular pharmacy and a particular brand.

Issuing wrong medical certificates.

Exaggerating bills when medical insurance is to be claimed.

Authenticate bogus clinical trials for pharmaceutical industry.

I know of a case when a dead person was admitted in a private hospital for ICU ventilator management for three days just to collect money. 

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According to the United States General Accounting Office and health insurance industry sources, between 3% and 10% of any state’s Medicaid budget is lost due to fraud and abuse. The federal Office of the Inspector General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit convicted 1,226 individuals in Fiscal Year 2006 and recovered more than $1.1 billion in court-ordered restitution, fines, civil settlements and penalties. Additionally, due to health insurance fraud, 3,425 practitioners were excluded from participation in the Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs. Then there is the kind of greed involving physicians who receive kickbacks from laboratories or entities selling medical devices. Or there is the physician who performs one level of service but bills for a much higher level. There is “unbundling,” where the physician bills for a number of services, individually, when the services are customarily billed as one global service. There are physicians who perform unnecessary procedures. A particularly egregious recent case involved an interventional cardiologist whose fraudulent test interpretations caused patients to undergo coronary bypass procedures. There are physicians who employ staff to travel around large cities to pick up indigent “patients.” These folks are driven to a doctor’s office where numerous unnecessary tests are run and unneeded medical services are provided and billed to Medicare or Medi-Cal. The patient is provided a meal, or a fruit basket, or $20. Hopefully they’re returned to the same place from where they were extracted, but sometimes we receive complaints that they were abandoned and had to find their way back home. There are drug cases that straddle greed – the physician who charges a fee for a prescription. Never mind the appropriate prior examination or medical indication: if you’ve got $50, you can have a prescription for #30 Vicodin. Mix greed with vanity and you might have an explanation for the cosmetic and Lasik surgery booms. Physicians who were trained in other specialties see the quick money in Lasik surgery or an untapped market in bariatrics. Many cosmetic surgeons and hair transplant physicians hire “counselors” or “assistants” to screen prospective patients with strong-armed sales techniques reminiscent of the stereotypical used car salesman. Mix greed with sloth and a dash of insanity, and you might understand the motivation for the three doctors who were successfully prosecuted because they substituted saline for flu vaccinations. Or the ones disciplined for using non-pharmaceutical grade Botox to save a buck or two. Or the ones disciplined for disposing of hazardous waste in conventional trash bins; or of throwing away patients’ records because proper disposal costs too much money. Physicians have fabricated clinical study records in pharmaceutical trials. Mix greed with dishonesty, and you might discover someone like this physician — the one engaged as an expert witness who will say whatever the hiring attorney wants if the price is right. Within the last year, at least one physician was disciplined for dishonesty in testifying as an expert.  Mix greed with naivete or financial desperation and you might happen upon a disturbing trend we’ve been seeing the past five years or so. A large number of newly licensed physicians and elderly physicians are being hired to “front” clinics that are actually owned and operated by lay people. Some of this involves sophisticated organized crime rings, and physicians become unwitting victims when they align with a shrewd lay person who promises a steady and generous paycheck, an office, and a source of patients. These lay people masquerade as business managers, but physicians constructively become the layperson’s employee, which translates into the unlicensed practice of corporate medicine. The layperson utilizes the physician’s license to commit fraud. Often, once the physician realizes what’s happening, and tries to exert control, they are locked out of the practice, or left fearing for their safety when they realize the gravity of what is happening with their license and want to get out of the situation. It seems newly licensed physicians are especially vulnerable to this scheme because of oppressive student loans and business naivete. Elderly physicians who really should have retired from the practice, but have not properly planned for retirement, are also easy marks for this form of fraud.

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Greed for free medicines:

A study was conducted in Saudi Arabia where authors went to homes of lower and middle class people taking free treatment from government hospitals. They found that almost all homes have amassed plenty of medicines.  People hoard medicines rather than utilizing them after collecting from government hospital free of cost. I found the same thing in India. People do hoard medicines especially cough syrup, antacids, pain killers and ointments at home. The irony is that all these medicines have expiry date as opposed to money & ornaments, so hoarding is illogical but greed is beyond logic. 

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Greed: the cause of conflict and war:

Conflicts are generally caused by the unfair confiscation or destruction of property, motivated by greed. Greed can occur at an individual level, community level, or state and national level. At the national level, confiscation is typically driven by the desire to have more land. Land is taken to house a growing population, to create a new nation to house people with common interests, or to control the natural resources of another nation.  National conflicts are typically orchestrated by a subset of the population, one that has influence over the politicians who control a nation. These people use deceptive PR campaigns to justify or cover their acts of greed. When one understands the real truth behind what is going on, the greed is obvious. However, getting to the truth may be very difficult. PR campaigns also cover up or justify the confiscation of property. One of the most popular (and successful) approaches is rewriting history. Another is claiming the right to property based upon beliefs that cannot be proven, e.g., the divine right of kings, where religious beliefs are used to cover up the underlying forces of greed. If property can be taken by force, then the rightful owners are displaced from their land, left without housing, and a means to acquire the food, clothing, and shelter to survive. Most often they cannot achieve a lifestyle that comes close to what they had prior to confiscation of their property. Those who have lost their property typically remain in a small minority of people aware of the lies and PR campaign that conceals both the greed and the true history of the situation. Inevitably, the combination of confiscation and deceptive cover up generates hatred on the part of those who have lost property, particularly when they have to watch loved ones suffer. Pushing more and more people off their property creates a ground swell of hatred, just what the greedy are ready to take advantage of. Those who have been unfairly treated have only one alternative to watching the tragedy and listening to the lies and deception. This is retaliation, which leads to conflict. In a deceptive environment, any form of retaliation opens the door for more PR and deception on the part of the greedy. It allows them to point fingers at those who lost their property, as if they started the conflict. The PR campaigns are then used to cover up more property confiscation and destruction. This usually continues unabated while the two sides fight openly to cover and uncover the truth about “Who fired the first shot?”  When politicians of other nations come to the aid of those whose property has been confiscated, they face severe PR campaigns that appeal to their own citizens. The last thing that a greedy entity wants is a fair adjudication of the conflict. The last thing that a politician wants is a smear campaign in front of constituents.  The only way to convene a fair adjudication is to have an independent nation or organization seek the truth about the cause of the conflict. This requires seeking the true history, and filtering out what has been rewritten as part of a deceptive PR campaign. However, any nation or organization that acts as a fair referee must have sufficient strength and credibility to face the lies and deception that will be used to deface their own position. This leads to the philosophy “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It groups those willing to support the lies and deception against two basic principles required to avoid conflicts and war: truth and consideration. As said by Boake Carter: “In time of war the first casualty is truth.”    

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By an extremely broad definition of “greed”, you could say that it is the reason/cause of all wars. As our culture has expanded from the Fertile Crescent into Europe/Asia and eventually into the American Continents, war has been on the edge of every border. As population expanded so did the need for more resources and land, the more land and resources that were available the more the population grew. Historically a growing need for a growing civilization, greed for the resources to sustain life, was the initial cause for wars. The political/social evolution of our civilization has led to wars that don’t at first seem to be initiated by greed, World War 1 and 2, for example. Though, perhaps under further scrutiny, a definition of political “greed” may explain how those wars started. It’s been posited that apart from Hitler’s fanaticism, the German nation had a need (a greed) to re-establish its national identity in Europe after World War 1. Those people/nations who begin wars have their own motivations to do so and those motivations can be viewed as individual/national “greed” so that the more likely cause of war is greed. The problem is not just that people want more money, but they want more land and raw materials. A book called The causes of war: economic, industrial, racial, religious, scientific, and political takes an in-depth view on the economic cause of war. It states several economic/government related causes for war, some of which are:  Commercial Policy, Population Problems, and Raw Material. Greed causes an unfair taking away or destruction of another’s property.  This can occur at all levels, from an individual, to an entire nation.  The desire to have more land is what we see at the national level of greed. A growing population, desire to create a new nation, or the aspiration for control over natural resources are reasons for conflict over land.  This greed in the hearts of the aggressors is what leads to conflict. They feel that they need more land/resources to advance the growth of their nation; therefore, they must take it by force.  In the end, they believe, their nation will benefit from the conflict.  Many times this is a false belief, but greed fuels it.  Not only is greed involved at a national level when it comes to war, but greed also affects the way politics approach war. Saddam Hussein’s primary reason for invading Kuwait was to seize their gold reserves and oil wells. It was one of the biggest bank heists in history, and done purely for greed. His army stripped the country of everything that was not nailed down and shipped it back to Iraq.

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Grievance vs. greed: a cause for civil war:

The phrase “greed versus grievance” or “greed and grievance” refer to the two baseline arguments put forward by scholars of armed conflict on the causes of civil war, though the argument has been extended to other forms of war. “Greed” is shorthand for the argument that combatants in armed conflicts are motivated by a desire to better their situation, and perform an informal cost-benefit analysis in examining if the rewards of joining a rebellion are greater than not joining. “Grievance” stands for the argument that people rebel over issues of identity, e.g. ethnicity, religion, social class, etc., rather than over economics. In practice, even proponents of strong versions of these arguments admit that the opposing argument has some influence in the development of a conflict. Civil war affects many of the world’s poorest countries. It is now far more common than international conflict: of the 27 major armed conflicts listed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 1999, all but two were internal. Civil wars are now far more common than interstate wars.

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In a study, authors investigate the causes of civil war using a global data set including nations at war as well as peaceful countries. According to popular perceptions grievances are often seen as the main causes of rebellion. However, authors suggest that those factors which determine the financial and military viability of a rebellion are more important than objective grounds for grievance. In order to create and maintain a rebel organization the rebels have to be paid and military equipment has to be purchased. To test these alternative hypotheses they construct two competing models: a ‘grievance’ and a ‘greed’ model. The ‘grievance’ model examines inequality, political oppression, and ethnic & religious divisions as causes of conflict, while the ‘greed’ model focuses on the sources of finance of civil war. They investigate the causes of civil war, using a new data set of wars from 1960 till 1999. They test a `greed’ theory focusing on the ability to finance rebellion, against a `grievance’ theory focusing on ethnic and religious divisions, political repression and inequality. They find that greed considerably outperforms grievance. Empirically, many rebellions appear to be linked to the capture of resources (such as diamonds in Angola and Sierra Leone, drugs in Columbia, and timber in Cambodia). Consistent with the greed theory, both dependence upon primary commodity exports and a large diaspora substantially increase the risk of conflict. Inconsistent with the grievance theory, greater ethnic and religious diversity reduce the risk of conflict. Overall, these results are consistent with economic models of conflict risk in which the critical parameters are the financial opportunities for rebels, the social and geographic constraints which they face, and the financial capability of the government to provide defense and other public services. They are harder to reconcile with accounts of conflict which stress ethnic, religious, political or economic grievances. Some countries return to conflict repeatedly. Are they conflict-prone or is there a feedback effect whereby conflict generates grievance, which in turn generates further conflict? The authors show why such a feedback effect might be present in both greed-motivated and grievance rebellions. The authors’ results contrast with conventional beliefs about the causes of conflict. A stylized version of conventional beliefs would be that grievance begets conflict, which begets grievance, which begets further conflict. With such a model, the only point at which to intervene is to reduce the level of objective grievance. Author’s model suggests that what actually happens is that opportunities for predation (controlling primary commodity exports) cause conflict and the grievances this generates induce diasporas to finance further conflict. The point of policy intervention here is to reduce the absolute and relative attraction of primary commodity predation and to reduce the ability of diasporas to fund rebel movements.

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Critiques of greed theory:

There are many works that rebut the idea of greed vs. grievance. Authors set up alternative ideas that need to be introduced and explored. Even the staunchest proponents of the Greed vs. Grievance theory believe that other outside forces (beyond the greed and/or grievance) can have an effect on conflict, which makes the critiques all the more vital in understanding the theory itself. One of the most prevalent authors in rebutting greed vs. grievance is author David Keen, in his book, Complex Emergencies. In his book, Keen goes into several different conflict scenarios, such as ‘war’, ‘famine’, and ‘information’, and then sets up an argument against the idea of greed. He believes that although a conflict, whether it be the ‘War on Terror’ or the conflict in Sierra Leone, may be centered around some concept of greed or grievance, this can never solely explain a conflict. Although seemingly obvious, Keen looks to demonstrate that, “the aims in a war are complex”. He does not believe that greed and grievance can be examined separately, but rather that they are partner terms that must be implemented in a complementary way. For example, when Keen discusses the conflict in Sudan, he says, “ the grievances of northern pastoralists were useful for a government trying to get its hands on oil in areas that famine and militia attacks helped to depopulate; meanwhile, the ‘greed’ of the Arab militias themselves (for labor, cattle and land) was itself intimately linked to their grievances”. He makes it clear that it is necessary to first spend ample time defining the type of conflict at hand because the differences between genocide and a civil war are substantial, so it is necessary to diagnose the incentives and solutions for the conflict with a mix of multiple theories. His ideas look into the specifics of complex emergencies, which is a term officially defined by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) as: “A multifaceted humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is a total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires a multi-sectoral, international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing UN country program. Such emergencies have, in particular, a devastating effect on children and women and call for a complex range of responses.”  Keen discusses how a conflict can never be simply a greed scenario. His definition of a “complex emergency” demonstrates this broader term and all of its various implications.

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Responsible transparent governance can reduce war despite greed factor:

A resource curse is the argument that when a country is resource rich, they are more susceptible to conflict and civil war. This has been seen in oil, diamonds, and now minerals used in your cell phones. There is a correlation between resource richness and susceptibility to civil war and conflict. Paul Collier in his writing Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy, states that when a country has 26% of their exports from one natural resource, they are more at risk of civil war. It appears that resources, especially lootable ones, offer financial means to continue fighting. The money from natural resources funds rebel armies who could not continue fighting without it. Sierra Leone had a vicious decade-long civil war from which the term blood diamond became known. Botswana on the other hand has used its diamond wealth to grow its economy. When looking at Sierra Leone and the apparent resource curse there, it is easy to find evidence that supports greed as a key factor. Its civil war broke out in 1991 and lasted for ten years. The rebel faction, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) used the diamond reserves to fund their civil war. It was the natural resources that escalated the war and allowed for the fighting to continue. However, resources do not necessarily guarantee that civil war will erupt, as the case is for Botswana. Botswana, like Sierra Leone, possesses a vast amount of diamonds, which are the backbone of the economy. The mining sector in total accounts for 50% of the country’s GDP (this includes diamonds, copper, and other extractable resources) and these account for 80% of Botswana’s exports. These numbers seem to point to a high-risk situation for civil war yet Botswana has had peaceful elections since its independence in 1966. The relative good governance, transparency and accountability in the country have allowed it to avoid the resource curse thus far. Botswana provides an exception to the rule of the resource curse and greed in general. In comparison, Sierra Leone suffered government corruption. It appears that resources are only cursed when the government in place is not able to withstand the responsibility that accompanies a great deal of natural resources.

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Overcome greed:

Greed is a strong desire in each and every one of us that is extremely difficult to overcome. Only through continuously contributing and donating to society can we find true awards that are far greater than the illusion that greed provides. Paul told Timothy that the way to overcome greed is to flee from it and to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness”(1 Timothy 6:11). And those “who are rich in this present age,” who have more than is needed, should be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share”(vv.17-18). Contentment and generosity are the opposite of greed (vv.6-8).

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Greed is manifested at both the individual and social levels, as well as structurally through political, economic and media power. Each level requires transformation and needs a variety of strategies to be effective. Strategies for addressing greed at the personal and social levels include promoting generosity and cultivating compassion for others. Counteracting the structural greed embodied in political and economic power structures requires different strategies. They include instituting anti-greed measures, such as the development and enforcement of adequate regulation of financial transactions and policies that promote the equitable distribution of wealth.

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You can control greed by consciously telling our mind to understand the difference between need and greed, e.g.–trying hard to earn money and have a provision for education, health, and recreation is a need. Reading books written by philanthropists intently have a profound influence on our psyche. Keep company of honest people. Stay away from dishonest, manipulative people. Otherwise their vibrations will influence you. Consciously give up the habit of analysis and comparison. This will never make you feel small before others with regard to your gains. Have philosophical outlook towards life. All of us are going to die one day. So nobody is a winner or a loser. The death does not discriminate anybody on the basis of wealth and position. Death which is the only certainty in life gives uniform treatment to all.

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How to combat greed in children:

Have you noticed that we seem to have a lot of greedy kids these days? If so, you’re not alone. The general public agrees and feels that increased numbers of today’s youth are self-centered, spoiled, greedy and materialistic. Instead of being appreciative of what they have, these critters only seem to want more, more, and more. Kids’ ravenous, never-satisfied manner certainly drains a checkbook, but even more dangerous: greediness vaporizes their hearts and souls. Think about it: if you incessantly prioritize your own wants and desires and put others’ needs and feelings on hold, your life outlook is inevitably affected. More often than not, the message learned is that relationships are far less valuable than self and material possessions acquired. The steady dosages of greediness are shattering to our kids’ character. So if your child appears to have a case of the “gimmes”, always puts himself first, and isn’t appreciative of what he has, it’s time for a serious makeover. Start today by beginning a long-term commitment to inspire frugality, altruism, and generosity. As adults, we can (and should) serve as better examples to the younger generation. So how can we teach our kids not to be greedy in a culture where whoever has the most toys wins?  It’s not easy and it takes some initiative on your part, but its well worth it to teach your children to value compassion over materialism, and to care for their fellow human beings. We hardly ever think about gratitude, and how teaching our children to feel gratitude may actually be the best and most long lasting gift we could give them. When kids are taught to appreciate the people and things around them, they learn to be delighted, excited, and loved by even the smallest of gestures.  Conversely, kids raised on a steady diet of the latest hit, can slowly become fueled by greed, and oftentimes become materially and emotionally hard to satisfy.

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Although the holidays highlight the need to control materialism, families can work to set good habits all year round. Here are some methods parents have found useful to combat greed in kids:

Get the wish-list habit.

 Holidays are a perfect time to start. Explain that your child won’t be able to have everything on the list, so sorting them in order of priority is helpful. When children have to choose among alternatives, they have to consider what’s important to them. You can help them do some of this thinking aloud.

Encourage saving.

Children who get everything they want without having to wait lose the joy that comes with saving their own money to get some of what they want. Some children are ready by the age of 4 or 5 to begin saving for a special item on their list.

Introduce hobbies that last.

 Collecting is fine, but encourage free and inexpensive possibilities, too, such as the bookmarks given away in bookstores, leaves, stones or shells. Postcards are inexpensive, and your child can write something about where she bought it on the back of each one. The best hobbies are those that encourage creative or inventive or persistent activity, not continuous buying.

Opt for real experiences.

Some families overplay the importance and value of things by making shopping a family event, a substitute for adventure. Stubben advises teaching children to think “beyond what the rest of the world has produced and to make something for themselves.” The good feelings that come from surmounting a challenge, learning something new, producing something creative or helping someone often last longer than the temporary boost derived from buying something new.

Prioritize spending.

Not all material things are necessarily equal. Books, for example, are one of the better “things,” whether you buy them new or used, trade them with friends or borrow them from the library. Expose your child to good music, well-written stories and quality playthings that develop skills and imagination. And while appreciating that finer things can be good – quality of stuff over sheer quantity – beware that such an appreciation doesn’t turn into snobbishness. That’s only another kind of materialism.

Be creative.

Taking your child on picnics and hikes can be a wonderfully grounding balance to shopping and other more artificial entertainment. One evening, turn out all the lights, give everyone flashlights and camp out on a blanket in the living room. Challenge your child to help you find ways to keep busy and entertain yourselves without any high-tech distractions.

Be charitable.

The holidays – but really anytime – are good for introducing the idea of charity. Even a preschool child can benefit from having a little “giving box” into which you and your child put change to be given to a charity. Consider hosting a party for which guests are asked to bring a donation for a charity instead of a gift (you and the grandparents can still get your child a nice gift). Take your child with you when you make donations and explain why you’re doing it.

Teach media savvy.

 Confront media influences with your child. Whenever you see commercials together, talk about how the company is trying to convince you that you need it when you probably don’t. When your child says, “Buy me that,” help him weigh the pros and cons of each potential purchase. Is it less exciting than it looks? Will it last? You won’t always convince your child, but you’ll open his eyes to the way we can easily be swayed by bright colors, sounds or seemingly overjoyed paid child models playing with some trendy toy.

Give your child a broader context.

By the age of 6, children can begin to understand the perspectives of other people. As your child grows, try to share with her a broader view. Point out that much of the world’s population has never even made a telephone call, much less played the latest computer games. Many millions of people walk wherever they have to go, with only an occasional donkey, bicycle or bus ride. There’s probably a neighborhood not too far from your home where you can show your child a glimpse of how little some other people have.

Understand and combat peer pressure.

School-age children want to look like their peers and own what their peers own. They need to learn that you’re not a soft touch for this, that they can spend their own money on such extras. They’ll be much more discerning if they see how hard it is to stretch an allowance or baby-sitting money to cover brand name clothes.

Finally, look to yourself.

Do you have multiples of every piece of sports, kitchen or high-tech equipment? Do you make negative remarks in your child’s presence about how people dress or how their homes or cars look? Do you ever buy goods for your child because you are bored or because you’ve been short of patience with her lately? If the answer is yes, perhaps you and your child can work on curbing your materialism together.

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Combat greed in wealthy:

The wealth, both newly acquired and passed down across generations, can be psychologically risky in many ways, the sticky tendrils of greed being just one risk. It breeds entitlement, alienation, and depression; cross-generational combat in which the younger generation found self-esteem and control only by insuring their own failure; substance-abuse and more substance-abuse: relationship failures when the challenges of love get replaced by the certainties of purchasing power; and, of course, the perennial dissatisfaction of greed. And in terms of the wealth-greed link, if you have wealth of any size you might want to take steps to inoculate yourself against the risks of greed by looking towards kindness: practicing it, noticing it in others, and appreciating the kindness you receive.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness:

Nothing brightens a day and protects against greed better than practicing random acts of kindness; doing something just because you know it will make someone else feel better or give them some help they need. Random acts of kindness can take many, many forms from those requiring minimal effort to truly heroic acts. Here are some examples (and these are just some illustrations, kindness is infinite): text an old friend or relative an expression of affection; do a chore, like walk the dog or clean the dishes, typically done by someone else; when you notice a tax payment, make a point to also notice all the good your money does; however small, contribute something to a group doing what you consider to be good work; say good morning and smile when you buy the newspaper. You see, you really don’t have to donate a kidney to a stranger to practice kindness.

Notice the Kindness of Strangers:

When you start to pay attention you will notice a tremendous amount of kindness floating around, so much so that kindness is kind of a “dog bites man” story. As a result, routine kindness rarely makes it into a news cycle; unless it’s a dramatic inspirational feel-good story, like, for example, anonymous kidney donors. But if you go looking you’ll find kindness all over the place. There is even a foundation with a helpful website, Random Acts of Kindness Foundation with a mission of “Inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on to others.”

Appreciate the Kindness You Receive:

From a simple thank you for a kind word from a stranger or shopkeeper to the deeper recognition that you would not have the wealth you do have without others’ kindness, cultivating an appreciation for the kindness you receive will protect you from a risky slide into greedy dissatisfaction greased by having some wealth. Plus, if you take a moment for gratitude for the kindnesses you have received, you will probably brighten your mood as well as protect yourself against greed.

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To avoid Greed avoid temptation:

Individuals regularly succumb to greed, lust and self-destructive behaviors. New research from the Kellogg School of Management examines why this is the case, and demonstrates that individuals believe they have more restraint than they actually possess – ultimately leading to poor decision-making. The study examined how an individual’s belief in his/her ability to control impulses such as greed, drug craving and sexual arousal influenced responses to temptation. The research found the sample, on average, displayed a “restraint bias,” causing individuals to miscalculate the amount of temptation they could truly handle, in turn leading to a greater likelihood of indulging impulsive or addictive behavior. People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation. The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower.

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Biology of greed:

Any form of life must gather resources that allow it to survive and reproduce. The resources may be food, water, sunlight, minerals, vitamins, shelter. Without these things, the organism dies. Since the two most basic purposes of life are to live and to reproduce, it should do everything it can to avoid dying through a lack of resources. Greed is one organism getting a larger piece of the pie, more of the necessary resources, than other organisms. For example, in the Amazonian rain forest, an occasional tree dies and falls. This leaves an opening to the sun in the continuous canopy of foliage. Plants and trees race each other to grow into that opening. The winners in the race fill the hole; the losers die through lack of sunlight.  The greed for sunlight means life. Again, as for self-preservation and sex, greed is an instinctive reaction. When presented with resources, the instinct is to grab them, use them, and take advantage of them. This isn’t a conscious decision. An animal, when starving, wants more food; when thirsty, more water. If it means taking it from another animal, that’s what it does if it can. You may ask, what about those animals who feed their offspring, though they’re starving themselves? Remember that the second purpose of life is to reproduce. This requires not only producing the young. Once it’s born it must be kept alive until it’s self-sufficient. If it dies, then all the time, effort and energy to produce it must be repeated to produce another one. However, once it reaches self-sufficiency the parent’s genes will, most likely, be passed on to another generation. Keeping the offspring alive, even at the expense of the parent dying, is of paramount importance. Thus, a parent caring for its young at its own expense is not an act of selflessness; it’s an act of genetic selfishness. In humans, we have seen plenty of cases where parents gather wealth for their children. On the other hand, being greedy is something that is scorned, something to be ashamed of. This is because we have a conscious mind that influences our biological instincts as opposed to animals.  That said primates (not just humans) and some mammals clearly display altruistic behaviors that benefit the “herd” rather than themselves (vide infra).   

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Greed in animals:

The Oxford English dictionary defines greed as an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.  Animals, inherently, do not display the social trait of greed but they do display the biological trait of greed especially regarding food, shelter and mating. Some of the larger sharks are known to attack other animals without provocation and then leave the carcass behind. Apes have been known to take things away from others. All animals are struggling for survival and need to take what they can get to continue life. Squirrels hoard nuts for the winter. However, animals in the wild cooperate in hunting prey. The kill is then eaten by members of the pack in order of group hierarchy. While the pack leaders get the choice pieces, the entire group eventually gets their fill. Only when the natural order is disrupted (i.e. being fed by humans in captivity), do we see competitive behavior that we interpret as greed. In reality it is the animal’s fear that it will not get enough.

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The figure below shows greed in snake:

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Do you know how people catch monkeys on the islands of the Indian Ocean? After drilling a small hole into a coconut, they empty it out and stuff some of the monkeys’ favorite food inside. Later, attracted by the smell of food, a monkey squeezes its hand through the hole, grabs the food, and then discovers it cannot pull its enlarged fist out of the hole. Why doesn’t it just drop the food and try again? The greedy monkey doesn’t want to let go of the food! While the bewildered monkey is trying to figure out how to remove the coconut from its hand, it is quickly captured with a net. The monkey has become prisoners of his own greed.

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Greed and human brain:

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 Money and brain:

The New Scientist article reviews a slew of research that looks at the effect of money on your brain. And, guess what? It turns out that money really does mess with our thinking.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Simply thinking about words associated with money can make us more self-reliant and less inclined to help others.
  • The very act of handling cash can diminish physical pain and social rejection.
  • Money affects some brains the same way drugs affect addicts (vide infra).
  • Subjects who heard words associated with commerce were slower to ask for help

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Evolutionary neuroscience & psychology of greed:

 Christopher Boehm’s uses large anthropological samples, evolutionary research and geological evidence to suggest a compelling case for how morality, altruism and the mechanisms to control greed and selfishness would have evolved in our evolutionary history.  At the centre of the book is the selfish-selfless conflict which is so firmly rooted in our evolutionary inheritance and he makes the case for how via group level and social selection more altruistic traits would have become advantageous, creating a gene-pool in which they became stronger and able to effectively counterbalance and control our more competitive, selfish and domination-oriented ape-like traits. He makes a compelling case for how for at least 45,000 years and maybe twice as long, social life was organised in small groups in which it was essential that no-one became too powerful. Sometime after our ancestors had split from the line that we shared with chimps we began to become the hypersocial species we are now, and created social organisations which encouraged joining, sharing, empathy as well as altruism, albeit built on our earlier chimp like dominance and competitive traits. Sharing and fairness was necessary for group survival, selfish behaviour did not prosper as everyone knew how much they needed and depended on each other. While there have always been dominance hierarchies, all hunter gatherer communities have evolved systems whereby greed, selfishness and the lack of socially oriented behaviour was penalised, and he has found the same mechanisms in all the hunter-gatherer communities which are most similar to those in the Pleistocene, before settled pastoral or urban life began about 10,00 years ago. Mechanisms such as being mercilessly pilloried or teased are seen in each culture, as well as formal punishments, ostracism and after the most extreme acts it was reasonably common, for antisocial culprits to even lose their lives. He suggests that selfishness would have become a less and less favoured trait and that altruism and selflessness rather than selfishness would be the trait more likely to lead to reproductive success as the ‘fitness’ of the selfish would be compromised by social sanctions and ostracism.

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Many researchers and commentators have drawn attention to other evolved mechanisms which might have gone into overdrive in the current climate. For example the study by Weaver and colleagues is but one of many showing how males, particularly young males, when together in competitive situations tend to act unscrupulously and more recklessly, especially if there is any threat to their masculinity. Power makes things worse. Joris Lammers from Holland has undertaken much research on this matter and found that when you induce powerful feelings in people they become less sensitive to others and more hypocritical. Dacher keltner in Berkeley similarly found that people with higher social positions were more likely to cheat and were less altruistic and Debora Gruenfeld and colleagues have published other compelling research about how power corrupts, and also, worrying, having more power not only makes people less virtuous, it also makes people less likely to believe in the virtue and kindness of others, and more likely to interpret such acts as self-interested. Of course these lessons are not new, we only have to look at Shakespeare or the bible for examples, but what maybe is new are the clear research findings, and the fact that society seems to have changed so dramatically so that it is much easier for the powerful to get away with corrupt and exploitative acts and not be noticed. Thankfully we have some recent counter-examples such as in the response to recent scandals about banking, tax evasion and phone-hacking and according to researchers such as Boehm and indeed also the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, we do have selfless as well as selfish genes to call on.

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Altruism evolution:

In 2011, a team of Swiss researchers announced that they’ve used robots to simulate biological evolution. The simple, mobile robots — each a little larger than a sugar cube — began their lives directionless, meandering aimlessly into walls. But after a few generations of natural selection, their computer programs evolved so that they became efficient foragers, purposefully collecting disks that represent food. What is noteworthy is that many of these robots eventually evolved to help one another, sacrificing personal success to aid other robots in their group. Such altruistic behaviors — which we observe in all sorts of organisms, from humans to slime molds — are a topic of debate among evolutionary biologists, and these big-hearted robots are allowing scientists to test ideas about how such behaviors evolve. In evolutionary terms, altruistic behaviors are those that decrease the fitness of the individual performing the behavior (e.g., a meerkat that sounds the alarm about an approaching jackal, putting herself at a higher risk of attack) and increase the fitness of one or more other individuals (e.g., other meerkats in the colony that are able to escape the jackal attack). We’ve observed many examples of such selfless behavior across the natural world. The question for evolutionary biologists is, how do altruistic behaviors evolve to become common in populations? After all, natural selection decreases the frequency of gene versions that hinder their carrier’s ability to survive and reproduce. Any meerkat that happens to have a gene that causes it to risk its own life for the life of its colony mates should be less likely to survive to reproduce and less likely to pass that altruistic gene on to the next generation. Based on this line of reasoning, natural selection should drive altruistic behaviors out of populations! Biologists have considered many different hypotheses to explain the evolution of altruism. One of the most important is based on kinship. The basic idea is that if self-sacrificing behaviors help the altruist’s relatives survive and reproduce, altruistic genes can spread in a population because they are likely to be passed on to future generations through the relatives, although not through the altruist him or herself. The hypothesis simply suggests that altruistic behaviors that happen to have the effect of promoting the fitness of relatives can spread — and specifically, that this is more likely to happen the more closely related the altruist and the recipient are, the less the altruist has to sacrifice to help the other, and the bigger the benefit the recipient gets. This makes intuitive sense. Closer relatives are likely to share more of their genes.

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Altruism a biological evolutionary advantage and not greed:

Greed may breed financial fitness, but evolution allows unselfishness to survive. There is substantial biological science support for the evolutionary advantage of development of altruism in individuals. Communities with clean water, soil, and air are healthier. Communities with higher rates of immunizations against infectious disease are healthier. Communities with access to scientific evidence based medical treatment have the opportunity to treat members of those communities with infectious diseases that left untreated would put others in the community at risk. For example, according to an article in Science News 3/16/2002; studies of Coxsackie virus showed that more virulent strains of the virus have a survival advantage in mice with a selenium deficiency. Because of an increased survival of more virulent strains that evolve in the deficient mouse the strains of virus from these selenium deficient mice will later cause a more serious illness, if used to infect a new group of mice that are not deficient in selenium, than the strains of virus from non-deficient mice, though all the mice in the original group were initially infected with the same strain. A community of altruistic mice, who made sure that the less fortunate mice were not malnourished, would have a survival advantage. Greedy person’s children would have a better chance of survival and reproduction if they lived in a more altruistic society where others had access to immunizations, and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis. The potential of the tragedy of the commons is a biological factor that gives altruism an evolutionary advantage.    

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Another hypothesis on how altruism evolved:

The report in the journal Evolution proposes that altruism — society’s protection of resources and the collective good by punishing “cheaters” — did not develop as a reaction to avarice. Instead, communal disavowal of greed originated when competing selfish individuals sought to control and cancel out one another. Over time, the direct efforts of the dominant fat cats to contain a few competitors evolved into a community-wide desire to guard its own well-being. The study authors propose that a system of greed dominating greed was simply easier for our human ancestors to manage. In this way, this study challenges dominant theories that selfish and altruistic social arrangements formed independently — instead the two structures stand as evolutionary phases of group interaction, the researchers write. Social orders maintained by those who bend the rules play out in nature and human history, the authors note: Tree wasps that police hives to make sure that no member other than the queen lays eggs will often lay illicit eggs themselves. Cancer cells will prevent other tumors from forming. Medieval knights would pillage the same civilians they readily defended from invaders, while neighborhoods ruled by the Italian Mafia traditionally had the lowest levels of crime. What comes from these arrangements, the researchers conclude, is a sense of order and equality that the group eventually takes upon itself to enforce, thus giving rise to altruism. 

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Psychology of greed:

Greed, materialism and personality:

Greed is one of seven basic character flaws or negative personality traits. We all have the potential for greedy tendencies, but if they become an enduring, dominant pattern then one is said to have a “chief feature of greed”. So, are there any personality effects? It would seem so. A lot of evidence suggests that those with a greater disposition to be affected by their emotions – so, high Neuroticism scorers – display greater levels of materialism than those who are more emotionally stable. As always, Neuroticism seems detrimental then, though let’s not forget that materialism can have positive consequences, particularly if care about material things! The fact that personality, especially the biologically-based trait of Neuroticism, affects materialism, suggests that materialism may have a genetic or hereditary basis, but are some just destined to become more materialistic? Perhaps not. Think of the stereotypical “rich kids” and you will find mostly spoiled brats but sometimes the differences between siblings, even identical twins, can be remarkable. Furthermore, research suggests that it is those who grew up in an environment of economic hardship who end up being more materialistic. The explanation is quite simple: those who grew up with whatever they wanted never really develop a passion for what they would want to, but cannot, have. Alas, it does seem that no-one can really doubt the more negative effects of materialism, at least when it comes to subjective-well being or happiness. Indeed, there is plenty of research to suggest that a materialistic disposition has a negative effect on personal well-being in general. This can be manifested as lower levels of satisfaction with work, with materialistic individuals seemingly less satisfied with their jobs. Some research has also suggested that this leads to strife with the family, as they’re seen to get in the way of their precious work time, which is the number one way for them to acquire the means to get their hands on those material possessions – ironically, often with the means of providing for the family. Recent research suggests that many of the associations between personality and materialism are dependent on people’s level of job and life control, or what, in broader terms; we could refer to as self-efficacy. But correlations are generally weak and there are many unexplained aspects of materialism, even when you factor in more than personality variables.

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Greed and Self-Esteem:

A breakthrough in understanding human motivation came by way of the Terror Management Theory (TMT) which proposes that humans, by virtue of our superior intellect, are uniquely capable of understanding our mortality. This fact directly opposes our survival instinct and sense of self-preservation to the extent that it causes subconscious terror. Terror is defined as an unresolvable conflict that causes anxiety. Psychologists have evolved the Terror Management Theory to include what they call the Anxiety Buffer. This buffer mediates the terror of mortality by cultivating self-esteem. The devastation of being a temporary being, with all of its ramifications of worth and purpose, is mediated by our sense of being a meaningful part of the world we live in — our world view. This theory has been well tested by subjecting people to subtle reminders of their mortality, then measuring such things as their propensity for greed and their increased need to feel part of some larger culture that perpetuates a world view in which our mortality is insignificant. Our self-esteem is measured by the degree to which we conform to this cultural world view. Experimental research has revealed that this desire for self-esteem has wide-ranging effects on cognition, emotion, and behavior. Terror management theory explains that this desire for self-esteem results from a fundamental need for psychological security, which is engendered by humans’ awareness of their own vulnerability and mortality. A large body of evidence has supported this explanation. Specifically, substantial lines of research have shown that self-esteem buffers anxiety and reduces defenses against death and that reminders of mortality increase efforts to defend and bolster self-esteem. It has been argued that our present culture places a high value on greed, materialism and wealth (Greenburg 1990). It is only natural then that, when we are reminded of our mortality, we should unconsciously strive to achieve the goals of this culture. So potent is the terror of our mortality that we are blinded to the detrimental effects of our greed on others. All of this happens as a function of our Anxiety Buffer which minimizes death anxiety before it reaches consciousness.

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Greed as low self esteem:

Greed is just a general word for addiction which generally stems from a bad self-esteem; as all addictions are about getting more of what they are after, be it money, power, love or sex; which is sought after to make one feel better emotionally. Greed (or a bad self-esteem) is probably the biggest pandemic ever known to man and the most understated! Mostly everybody falls victim to greed at some time in their lives; until or if, we finally decide that the one thing we thought was so important is not the thing we need. Remember also that greed is usually a by-product of something else we are seeking. An alcoholic drinks too much in order to forget how badly he feels about himself, a gambler gambles to win in order to make him feel successful. “Too Much” is reasonably an overcompensation for something else that is “Too Little” and that something “Too Little” tends to be a diminished self-image. In the end, greed is a psychologically imbalanced emotional state for which the victim fails to feel valued or successful resulting in an unfavorable self-image with a frantic intense impulse to improve it and is a disorder that all mankind suffers to different degrees.

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Greed as security-based neurosis:

Greed is in effect a (usually mild) form of neurosis. One of our more basic needs is that of feeling safe and secure (this is above purely physical needs in Maslow’s scale, but more basic than socialization). At an abstract level, one way to feel secure is to know you have not only enough food for now, but also food for tomorrow. The same goes for shelter, clothing, etc. Generalizing this, we have developed markers — status symbols — to show others and convince ourselves that we are materially secure; that we have enough and to spare. This shows up in various forms of conspicuous consumption (in effect, “I am so materially secure that I can afford this ridiculous car and useless jewelry”). When an individual has a deep-set unmet need for feeling safe and secure in their person and possessions, they may try to fill it with “more things.” The act of acquiring something becomes deeply satisfying, but only for a little while. Unfortunately, as with all neuroses, the repetitive feeding of the symptom does not fix or fill the underlying anxiety — so having more is never enough. Only by figuring out and facing what caused the perceived need can the individual ever free themselves of the greed spiral. It’s worth noting that such a greed neurosis might stem from an early childhood event or lack — feeling unsafe or  unable to control one’s surroundings — or from something more pervasive but less dramatic, such as being assaulted day after day and year after year with messages that you’re not good enough, secure enough, loved enough, etc., unless you by a certain product (e.g., “buying this beer will make you loved by beautiful women” or “buying this peanut butter will make your husband and children love and appreciate you”). In that sense, some advertisers sell to us by engendering the need for their product, the feeling of insecurity and incompleteness that only their product can fill.  To the extent we buy into this, we become willing participants in creating our own materialistic security-based neuroses.

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Greed as mental illness:

Hoarding:

It so happens that a few common psychiatric disorders can compel a person to be overly concerned about material possessions, at the expense of other human concerns. Hoarding behavior has little to do with accumulating monetary wealth. This affliction, which can trouble rich and poor alike, arises not so much from a drive to acquire more stuff but from a painful inability to part with any belongings whatsoever. This miserly compulsion to hold onto one’s possessions replaces one’s more tender concerns about being with and helping other people. Hoarding is usually only associated with socially isolated people who never throw anything away, resulting in extremely cluttered and unsanitary living conditions.

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Sociopathy: Antisocial personality disorder:

Greed can also be associated with a certain variety of ruthlessness and disregard for the pain this compulsion inflicts on others—while wealth is usually accumulated by hook or by crook.  In the psychiatric world, this heedlessness of others is called sociopathy. Sociopathic people, since they lack empathy, are able to exploit their lack of guilt or sensitivity to others by taking advantage of almost anyone they happen to meet. One of the best known of the personality disorders is Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is a disorder of lack of conscience. People who have it tend to behave atrociously, manipulating others for their own benefit, without conscience, and often breaking the law in the process. It is easy to see how such a personality would lead to greedy behavior. Sociopaths who run afoul of the law tend to wind up in prison, not in a therapist’s office.

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The Narcissist’s Voracious Greed:

Narcissism is a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe a person characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness. Most Narcissists are greedy. They are constantly planning and scheming (even in their sleep) how to expand their power base and increase their material largesse. There is no end to greed. The narcissist hungers for everything in and out of reach: money, property, power, adulation, fame, dominance over the lives of others. Narcissistic greed is ultimately driven by an unconscious bottomless pit of psychological emptiness. In some narcissists the greed grows so strongly that these individuals destroy others’ lives to get what they want. There is no end; there are no brakes, no laws or judgments that will stop the drive of narcissistic greed. When narcissists give (a few are generous) they make sure that this is done with high honors and public fanfare.

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Narcissistic personality disorder:

There is another personality disorder which can easily be confused with Antisocial Personality Disorder, called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There are differences between the two disorders in terms of the world views of those who have them, their goals, and their life experiences. People who have Antisocial Personality have a world view that life is rotten and the world is corrupt, and a life history of a troubled family life, including most likely financial difficulties. They often wind up in jail, as con-persons, and in the worst cases, perhaps serial killers, and they live their lives with a lack of foresight, only focusing on getting through one day at a time. Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, on the other hand, view the “world as their oyster.” They tend to be children of privilege, people who “were born with a golden spoon in their mouths.” They think that life should be great for themselves, and is great for the most part, but should be a life of hardship for the un-anointed masses. They make lots of ambitious plans, political and economic — all of a greedy and power-grabbing or power-keeping nature. If this description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder reminds you of many of our current politicians, it should. Of the two types of greed-producing disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the more dangerous one, because it leads to massive accumulation of resources, money, and power in the hands of a few unethical persons. While it is true that some people with Antisocial Personality Disorder end up becoming inordinately wealthy and/or powerful, it is far more common for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be born, or become that way. They are generally born of a social position which makes enormous wealth and power far more likely. Also, they are more forward looking, and likely to make plans and efforts toward the acquisition of wealth and power. Furthermore, they are in a position, unlike the typical antisocial person, to do so legally, through knowledge of and manipulation of the law.

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 The psychologists are using the term ‘pleonexia’ (an ancient Greek word meaning ‘greediness’)  to diagnose a pathological greed that can contribute to a host of ills, including stress, burnout, gambling addictions, compulsive shopping, ‘affluenza’ and loss of moral grounding. The clinical psychologist Madeline Levine speaks of “a shift away from values of community, spirituality, and integrity, and toward competition, materialism and disconnection.”

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Greed gene:

Freud argued that greed was a natural instinct of the unconscious-that had to be socialized. Evolutionary psychologists believe the source of greed lies even deeper than the psyche-it’s in the very DNA that defines us. Another school of thought explains, societal and environmental experience triggers greed. Greed is sometimes explained away as the basic human need to sur­vive or to excel in comparison with others. And that is where the pitfalls lie. Does one want to ex­cel in life using ethical means? Or does one just give in to the instinct of “survival” at any co­st?

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Concept of greed gene and natural selection:

Creature A and Creature B live in a world of limited resources. Creature A has a gene mutation that makes him pretty content with what he has; Creature B has a mutation that makes his desire really strong, prompting him to grab more and more.  Creature A has one advantage over Creature B: he doesn’t have to expend as much energy, since he doesn’t need to constantly grasp. But Creature B has a lot of advantages over Creature A. In lean times, he has a storehouse of resources to draw on. And he has more to trade. He has more stuff with which to impress and feed mates. After a harsh winter, he will probably be okay (because he can draw on his reserves) while Creature A will have died. So Creature B will have more chances to mate and will have more children, populating his world with offspring that have his greedy gene.

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Gene research suggests that a region on chromosome 14 may be linked with compulsive hoarding in families with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) val/val genotype was found in 77% of the hoarding group versus only 60% of the non-hoarding OCD group.

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Behavioral geneticists will tell you that intelligence and personality are highly heritable. But at least for economists, intelligence and personality are mainly interesting insofar as they predict that variable that “really” counts – income.  How heritable is that?  The 2002 paper by Bowles and Gintis reports that identical twins’ incomes have a correlation of 0.56, versus 0.36 for fraternal twins. Using standard formulae, this implies that genes explain 40% of the variance of income, family environment 16%, and non-shared environment 44%.  A recent working paper by David Cesarini gets income correlations of 0.545 for identical versus 0.266 for fraternal, implying that genes explain 56% of the variance, shared environment 1%, and non-shared environment 45%. It’s easy at this point to say, “Of course!  Intelligence has a large effect on income and is highly heritable, so it follows that income will be highly heritable, too.”  But Bowles and Gintis show that the heritability of income is far larger than the IQ effect can explain. What if you add in personality measures?  David Cesarini does just this – and finds that measures of IQ and personality explain a bit more than one-third of the heritability of income.  That’s a lot more than B&G got, but the glass is still two-thirds empty. So where are the other two-thirds of the income heritability coming from?  Here’s a hypothesis that seems promising:

1. Standard personality tests largely neglect the personality trait of greediness (i.e. Orientation toward money, materialism…)

2. Greediness is moderately-strongly heritable.

3. Greediness strongly predicts income, all else equal.

For decades scientists have argued the nature versus nurture argument concerning how much of that we become is a direct result of heredity and how much is a result of our environment. In Bryan Caplan’s blog he applies this argument to one’s income and wealth, suggesting that greed is an inherited trait and greedy people will attain a higher level of income.

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Is greed human nature?

It is important to define exactly what we mean by “human nature.” We are not merely talking about people’s tastes in clothes or their choice of a job. We are talking about nothing less than that which is fundamental to being human, that which is always at the core of everything we do, starting with our basic drives (nourishment, sexuality, security, play, etc), our biological needs and our cognitive biases. While we humans express these drives in all sorts of complex ways, they exist in most social species. There is nothing that can compel an individual to do anything without the need, drive or bias already being present within him. This is why human nature is so important and why people seek to understand it. “Human nature” is basically the capacity to be molded and adapt to one’s environment and to be reasonable most of the time. We are born with a set of instincts and desires shaped by natural selection. We seek to mate, we seeks to get the food before the other male. We want other people to think highly of us so we can gain status in the tribe. Men sleep around and women marry supportive men but are more attracted to bold men. We are basically animals and thus we have built in behaviors like other animals.

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Selfishness is natural. It’s a part of being human. It is what makes the world we know and, for the most part, enjoy living in. So why try and change something that’s been around for the ages? “Even in selfless acts, humans are still full of personal gain because they gain a satisfaction of knowing they did something good.” This argument was made in support of our capitalist economy, but also proves a point many people choose to avoid: Selfishness is what motivates us all. Let me present an example concerning primitive tribes and their motivation for survival. They stayed alive because it’s human instinct to want to live. While some may think that tribes act to protect the whole, the act of protecting the whole actually is a survival technique that promotes the survival of the individual. They act to protect the whole because they know there’s safety in numbers. It’s human nature. You can’t change it. Some say that greed is the reason that people pray, hug their children, give to charity, or defend their country in wartime. It is easy and convenient to condemn the selfish greed we see all around us. We live in a society that worships success, celebrity and money. One must recognize that we all have greed for something. That is human nature. Recognize it and what it says about oneself and one’s life rather than righteously rejecting or denying it. Greed is about being selfish, but in the wrong way.

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People are never satisfied with what they have; they always want something more or something different. We can take human basic need for food as a typical example. When a man is hungry, his greatest desire is to have something to eat. After this basic desire has been satisfied, and he no longer worries about his next meals, he will feel that his food is short of quality. Done. Subsequently, he may talk to himself that his meal lacks a variety of savour. He wants better and better meals that keep changing and changing. Never can his desire be pleased. And, all are reflexed in an old saying “Nothing crave, nothing have”. Other human lusts follow the same pattern. We almost never want to wear the same clothes all the time, and we want more and more comfortable accommodations. Soon after we have bought a color TV set to replace the quite new black and white one, we do wish to have a bigger and better color TV set. Of course, not all human beings speak the same voice. They disclose these insatiable passions in different ways. For instance, some people try to climb up socially or politically all the time. They never feel satiated even though others feel that they have succeeded. It is just like man’s temptation for money, which can never stop. Good or bad, this human trait of attempt has been the impetus to the development of human society. Markets have flourished because we want more and better goods. The progression of science and technology has never stopped because of our desire to discover more and more. And, social and political organizations have been improved constantly owing to our endless demand for a better place to live in. If man has been easily satisfied, the human society would still be at the pristine stage. Greed will always be with us, so the argument goes, therefore establishing a society that goes against greed is utopian. People will always want to compete and accumulate power. Any attempt at an egalitarian society is doomed to failure. In fact, this argument is so widespread that it has led its supporters to reject any concept of human nature outright.

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Greed brain connections:

As it happens, a very interesting paper appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, which had studied this very problem. Using a relatively simple and clever design, the authors show that the impulse to immediate gratification – in which the reward parts of the sub-cortex of the brain play an important role – is “censored” or modulated by the frontal cortex. In situations where immediate gratification takes precedence over long term gains in the behavior of individuals, there is a relaxation of the strength of activity between the frontal cortex – which might be thought of as censoring the sub-cortical nuclei – and the sub-cortical nuclei involved (the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area). This of course raises the question of what factor inhibits these connections. The greed de-activates the frontal cortex in the brains of those who manage financial affairs thereby the reward center is uncensored or unmodulated resulting in hoarding money and wealth.  

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What role does your brain play in the pursuit and handling of money?

Your brain wants you to be safe and alive, so it makes you go after basic human needs like food, shelter, love and the safety of a social group, i.e., family. But when you want to make money—which often involves risk taking and calculating probabilities—your brain doesn’t necessarily feel safe. Our brains are cravers: chocolate, ice cream and even alcohol. The brain doesn’t want to bother with futuristic, “maybe” rewards. But the wise and smart parts of our brain will say: “Hold on, wait a minute, let’s reassess” before we make a decision. This momentary, alternative thinking helps us resist making impulsive financial choices that feel good during a shopping spree, but not in the long term. Brian Knutson, a neuroscientist, studies the brain as it relates to money. Knutson uses special fMRI images in his experiments while people are handling money. One thing he’s found is that when cash is offered to someone, dopamine is released in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that is involved in reward and addiction. So, money can make you happy quickly. But Knutson’s research—published in Neuron in 2007—also showed that losing cash can cause pain. When people were in the midst of deciding to purchase some items, the emotional parts of the brain were activated. When the product was anticipated and desired, the nucleus accumbens (involving dopamine release) was activated. But when the thought of financial loss was entertained (because of excessive prices), a part of the brain called the insula was activated. The insula typically “lights up” in people who feel or anticipate pain. What is fascinating is that these areas have anticipatory effects that precede the decision to purchase. Consider this thought: “If I buy this lovely yet pricey perfume bottle, what would I have to give up in the future because of the money I am about to spend and lose?” Such thinking makes you go through imaginary checks and balances, pleasures and pains, before you open your wallet to the world. What Knutson’s research means for people in practical terms is that competing parts of your brain are at play when you make purchasing decisions. There’s the pleasure-seeking part, and the part that wants to avoid pain. If you can take a moment to contemplate the pain of being parted with your money, you might be less inclined to take risks or make big purchases. The findings suggest a connection between activity in “pleasure center” areas of the brain and the action of making a profitable stock sale and even risk-taking behavior in anticipation or hope of gain, such as gambling. (Brain areas considered pleasure centers have been linked to activities such as sexual orgasm and cocaine use.) In the experiments, losses and fear of loss activated a different area of the brain— one that has been associated with painful experiences. The researchers believe their findings may help explain why investors, like gamblers, often take irrational risks in the same way that people will often carry out what they know is risky and even dangerous behavior for a pleasurable high from sex or drugs. The Bloomberg business editor commented: “At a neurological level, our species’ desire for money may resemble our desire for sex…” and “our brains lust after money, just like they crave sex.” The scientific finding that greed (under current social conditions) can stimulate feelings of pleasure similar to sex or drugs does help explain why capitalists seem to actually lust after profit and power, and why this lust will lead them to seek short-term gratification even if the long-term results of their action may be disastrous. The experiments by Knutson offer one explanation for corporate opposition to environmental controls, as the tycoons of oil industry and other capitalists risk global warming and the long-term destruction of human life on earth rather than give up even a portion of their current profits. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is a biological part of human nature. Greedy person naturally fear running out of goods and so keep hoarding it. But seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are not uniquely human. This behavior is shared by all living things that can experience the sensations of pain and pleasure.  Fear and peer pressure also play a part in how people invest their money. During stock market crashes, for example, many investors have reacted by selling off their shares—a reaction based on fear rather than a thought-out choice based on long-term planning. Deep in our brain sit two amygdalae, a tiny collection of cells that get activated when we’re afraid. This can presumably keep you safe, giving you a momentary rush of panic that alerts you to run from an approaching tiger. But it can also prompt you to dump your investments in a panic. Peer pressure also plays a role. When all the investors are selling, there is peer pressure to sell—even though the decision might not be wisest. Gregory Burns, a neuroscientist, found that “standing alone” versus “conformity to the group” triggered the brain’s amygdalae and caudate, areas typically activated during physical or emotional pain. So, it is less painful to go along with the herd and be part of a group of investors. Humans find comfort in making group decisions rather than on-my-own type decisions. Mirror neurons help humans learn by watching others—an enormously useful ability that enables human social interaction. Even more importantly, these cells may be the biological basis of human empathy, of the ability to experience someone else’s emotions, including pain or pleasure, as if the emotions were one’s own. Human language and other social and cultural tools appear to depend on these neurons. Greed involves synergy and synchrony of various brain areas including dopamine driven pleasure/reward center nucleus accumbens (part also involved in addiction), insula related to pain, amygdala related to fear, mirror neurons related to empathy and pre-frontal cortex related to cognition.

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Dopamine pathways:

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An important central structure, the ventral tegmental area (VTA), is made up of neurons that specialize in the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It stretches out into other brain areas, lining them and waiting for a queue to act. By releasing dopamine, this structure can intensify brain activity in those areas, acting as a sort of throttle. And what’s controlling the throttle? Reward. These rewards are the same sorts of delicious rewards given in Skinner’s Behaviorist research, as well as other things we’re wired up to like. (Social status, pleasant noises, sex, explosions, epic loot, etc.) These things trigger the signals dopamine neurons are carefully monitoring, and each expects a precise level of expected reward. When a surprising reward occurs, a flood of dopamine is released. That flood is like adding fuel to a fire, and the brain activity is intensified along the dopaminergic pathways. While that’s happening, new memories are being formed, too, encoding the current input from the senses as a stimulus. It’s the pattern of whatever the brain was sensing and thinking while that new reward was experienced. From now on the link is made, and whenever this pattern (this stimulus) is present, the memory of the reward is activated. This happens even before the reward itself is consumed. It’s what behaviorists call conditioning.  All of these experiences and choices are new processes in your brain, and all of them are receiving a novel link to the reward. That’s keeping the dopamine flowing, and making it all feel good. As long as a reward can be predicted by a new stimulus, the dopamine system will keep causing the excitation needed to record it, and the whole experience carries a compelling feeling and expectation of the reward. It is not the reward itself, but the fresh process of learning to get it and the motivational feeling of wanting the reward.

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Correlation of dopamine, opioids and endocannabinoid system in brain reward processes:

Food, drugs and brain stimulation can serve as strong rewarding stimuli and are all believed to activate common brain circuits that evolved in mammals to favor fitness and survival. For decades, endogenous dopaminergic and opioid systems have been considered the most important systems in mediating brain reward processes. A growing body of evidence indicates that there are functional interactions between cannabinoid and opioid systems in several physiological processes, including the regulation of the activity of the mesolimbic dopamine system. Recent evidence suggests that the endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) system has an important role in signaling of rewarding events. First, CB1 receptors are found in brain areas involved in reward processes, such as the dopaminergic mesolimbic system. Second, activation of CB1 receptors by plant-derived, synthetic or endogenous CB1 receptor agonists stimulates dopaminergic neurotransmission, produces rewarding effects and increases rewarding effects of abused drugs and food. Third, pharmacological or genetic blockade of CB1 receptors prevents activation of dopaminergic neurotransmission by several addictive drugs and reduces rewarding effects of food and these drugs. Fourth, brain levels of the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are altered by activation of reward processes. However, the intrinsic activity of the endocannabinoid system does not appear to play a facilitatory role in brain stimulation reward and some evidence suggests it may even oppose it. The influence of the endocannabinoid system on brain reward processes may depend on the degree of activation of the different brain areas involved and might represent a mechanism for fine-tuning dopaminergic activity. Although involvement of the various components of the endocannabinoid system may differ depending on the type of rewarding event investigated, this system appears to play a major role in modulating reward processes.

The brain’s reward circuitry consists of an “in series” circuit of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (Acb), and that portion of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) which links the VTA and Acb. Drugs which enhance brain reward (and have derivative addictive potential) have common actions on this core DA reward system and on animal behaviors relating to its function. Such drugs enhance electrical brain-stimulation reward in this reward system; enhance neural firing and DA tone within it; produce conditioned place preference (CPP), a behavioral model of incentive motivation; are self-administered; and trigger reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior in animals extinguished from drug self-administration. Cannabinoids were long considered different from other reward-enhancing drugs in reward efficacy and in underlying neurobiological substrates activated. However, it is now clear that cannabinoids activate these brain reward processes and reward-related behaviors in similar fashion to other reward-enhancing drugs.

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Dopamine reward system and greed:

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Neuroscience has shown that fear and its emotional response are intimately linked to decision making in the human brain. But what about the more positive emotions, such as happiness, joy, a sense of accomplishment, or pleasure? As with most things involving the brain, however, it was more complicated than it first appeared. Instead of a pleasure center, the brain seems to have a reward system. The term “reward” may be a little confusing to the reader with an economics background; in psychology, a “reward” is anything positive which makes a behavior more likely. Reward or reinforcement is an objective way to describe the positive value an individual ascribes to an object, behavioral act or an internal physical state. Primary rewards include those that are necessary for the survival of species, such as food, sexual contact, or successful aggression. Secondary rewards derive their value from primary rewards. Money is a good example. They can be produced experimentally by pairing a neutral stimulus with a known reward. Rewards are generally considered more desirable than punishment in modifying behavior. A reward is an appetitive stimulus given to a human or some other animal to alter its behavior. Rewards typically serve as reinforcers. A reinforcer is something that, when presented after a behavior, causes the probability of that behavior’s occurrence to increase. Note that just because something is labeled as a reward it does not necessarily imply that it is a reinforcer. A reward can only be defined as reinforcer if its delivery increases the probability of a behavior. Rewards can be as basic and fundamental as food, or as abstract and intangible as intellectual satisfaction. Surprisingly, all these different rewards—food, sex, love, money, music, beauty—appear to use the same neurological system. Certain neural structures, called the reward system, are critically involved in mediating the effects of reinforcement. Moreover, the pathways of this system all transmit the same chemical signal: dopamine. One peculiarity of patients treated with L-DOPA (it is converted into dopamine in brain) was that they often became addicted to gambling. This was one of the first clues that dopamine was involved in the brain’s reward system. Other researchers discovered that addictive drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine flooded the brain with dopamine through the mesolimbic pathway, releasing it into the nucleus accumbens. Neuroanatomists have now discovered eight separate dopamine pathways in the brain, including ones associated with attention and learning. The implications for financial crisis is clear: an imbalance in an individual’s dopamine system can easily lead to greater risk-taking, and if risk-taking activities are, on average, associated with financial gain, a potentially destructive positive-feedback loop can easily emerge from a period of lucky draws. In another fascinating study of the brain’s reward system, a team led by Hans Breiter at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and including the participation of psychologist Daniel Kahneman, used fMRI to determine which areas of the brain were activated when an individual experienced monetary gains and losses. As the monetary rewards increased, so did the activation in: the nucleus accumbens, part of the reward system; the sublenticular extended amygdala, associated with emotional reaction; the hypothalamus, a part of the brain closely linked to the endocrine hormonal system; and the ventral tegmental area, which releases dopamine into the reward system. This was a direct neurological correlate to monetary reward. Even more intriguing, the pattern of activations in the monetary reward process looked extremely familiar to Breiter. In fact, it was the same pattern he had found a few years before in another study he conducted with cocaine addicts and first-time morphine users! In the human brain, monetary gain stimulates the same reward circuitry as cocaine—in both cases, dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens, reinforcing the behavior. In the case of cocaine, we call this addiction. In the case of monetary gain, we call this greed. In other words, our most fundamental reactions to monetary gain are hardwired into human physiology.

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Moderate risk behavior best to be a successful trader in Wall Street: it could be genetic predisposition:

A study shows combination of Dopamine Genes predicts success by professional Wall Street Traders:

What determines success on Wall Street? This study examined if genes affecting dopamine levels of professional traders were associated with their career tenure. Sixty professional Wall Street traders were genotyped and compared to a control group who did not trade stocks. Researchers found that distinct alleles of the dopamine receptor 4 promoter (DRD4P) and catecholamine-O-methyltransferase (COMT) that affect synaptic dopamine were predominant in traders. These alleles are associated with moderate, rather than very high or very low, levels of synaptic dopamine. The activity of these alleles correlated positively with years spent trading stocks on Wall Street. Differences in personality and trading behavior were also correlated with allelic variants. This evidence suggests there may be a genetic basis for the traits that make one a successful trader. So, what makes a professional trader successful? Combining the personality analyses and genetic findings from the present study, reveals that the sample of traders are analytical, integrative, and can delay gratification. They have a genetic profile associated with balanced levels of dopamine, and also linked to moderate but not high risk-taking behavior. Thus, successful traders do not appear to take extraordinary risks and also appear to take a longer-term perspective. Researchers’ analyses indicate that these traits may have a genetic predisposition.

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Greed as addiction mediated by dopamine:

Greed is about never being satisfied with what one has, always wanting and expecting more. It is an insatiable hunger. Greed is a form of addiction. Addicts always want more of what gets them high, gives them pleasure, enables escape from anxiety, suffering, themselves. They greedily crave that which their substance or rituals of choice provide, be it drugs, sex, gambling, food, pornography, internet, television, fame, power or money. We all have our personal addictions: workaholism, rationalism, shopaholism, perfectionism etc. What connects the various addictions is that enough is never enough – not for long anyway. As addicts progress (or rather, regress) into their addiction, to derive sufficient gratification they must constantly seek more and more of their drug of choice. For “more” is the keyword of addiction. It doesn’t matter whether they’re addicted to a substance, relationship, or activity – the “ante” for getting enough of the object of their craving must continually be raised.  But of all the things one might be addicted to, nothing tops the greed-laden pursuit of wealth in its audacity, manipulativeness, and gross insensitivity to the needs and feelings of others. Not to mention its extreme, short-sighted, irresponsible covetousness. Ask a multi-millionaire or billionaire so afflicted (if you can find one willing to talk to you!), and you’ll discover that their “mega-fortune quest” really has no end point. They won’t be able to name the definitive “millionth” or “billionth” that, finally, will do it for them. They can’t because the means by which they reap their riches has itself become the end.  Chasing every financial opportunity – and, it cannot be overemphasized, to the detriment of virtually everything else in their life – has become their be-all and end-all. For that, frankly, is where the dopamine is: the master molecule of pleasure and motivation. And the “end” for them is simply the high (or dopamine release) they receive each time they do a deal, turn a profit, or make a “killing.” And just like other addicts, over time (because of the related phenomena of tolerance and dependency) they’ll need to make bigger and bigger “killings” to get the ego gratification they require in order to feel good about themselves. In general, their “money high” has to do not just with feelings of fiscal elation but with a kind of self-inoculation. What perpetual wealth production inoculates them against are underlying, and barely recognized, feelings of distress – such as depression, anxiety, guilt or shame – which stem from a belief that deep, deep down they may not be good enough at all. So greater and greater financial success is required to help them sustain their cherished illusion that they really are superior – in economic terms, vastly superior – to others: a most convenient narcissistic “fix” for whatever subterranean doubts they may yet harbor about themselves. On an ethical level, the worst thing about their pursuits is that their mercenary, ego-driven achievements frequently do considerable damage to others and their prospects. Not always but typically those who might be called “greed addicts” aren’t in the professions or creative Arts, but in business: entrepreneurs, investors, speculators, lenders, CEOs. And most often their successes contribute little or nothing to society. Rather, their undertakings are cunningly contrived to transfer money out of the pockets of others and into their own. Exceedingly competitive and aggressive, they’ll take ruthless advantage of every opportunity to turn a profit – and not shy away from turning against others in the process.  It’s been said that “you never get enough of what you don’t really want.” With people addicted to pursuing wealth, their overwhelming, insatiable passion isn’t about getting rich—but richer…and still richer. And it’s unquestionable that this is not a virtuous cycle but a markedly vicious one. Contrasted with spending addicts (a compulsion that drives such over-the-top consumers—or shopaholics—into unmanageable debt), greed or wealth addicts are hardly focused on depleting or disbursing their fortune but on acquiring and maintaining it. Unconsciously linking their fundamental human value to their financial worth, what drives their behavior is accumulating as much wealth as possible—and then using it to acquire still more wealth. Ultimately, their heart’s desire—tragically unknown to them—isn’t for wealth at all, but for love, emotional intimacy, unconditional acceptance (and self-acceptance), and “rich,” satisfying relationships. Regardless of how obscenely wealthy they may become, these are all things that, alas, cannot be purchased with money. The final debacle of their pursuit isn’t simply that their monetary accomplishments can’t ever bring them the lasting happiness and peace of mind they secretly crave. It’s that their futile quest generally causes all sorts of misfortune to others…As well as to our environment (which they blithely ignore), and to our nation—whose misregulated capitalistic system regrettably supports their ceaseless avaricious ventures.

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Similarity between cocaine addiction and greed:


The figure above shows brain images showing decreased dopamine (D2) receptors in the brain of a person addicted to cocaine versus a nondrug user. The dopamine system is important for conditioning and motivation, and alterations such as this are likely responsible, in part, for the diminished sensitivity to natural rewards that develops with addiction. The dopamine system is important for conditioning and motivation, and alterations such as this are likely responsible, in part, for the diminished sensitivity to natural rewards that develops with addiction. With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers and to the drug itself. Tolerance may develop—this means that higher doses and/or more frequent use of cocaine is needed to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. The same thing about greed. As person becomes greedy and hoards wealth, the reward pathway becomes less sensitive and person does not get satisfaction with accumulated wealth and hence keeps on accumulating more and more wealth even at the cost of violating laws, violating social and cultural ethos.

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Dopamine and serotonin relationship vis-à-vis greed and addiction:

Dopamine regulates muscle movement, motivation and the sensation of pleasure. Serotonin primarily affects mood, impulsiveness and social behaviors. In their book The Craving Brain, Ruden and Byalick explain that in the normal survival systems some “trigger” causes an increase in the neurochemical dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This rise in dopamine “turns-on” the neural networks for hunger, anxiety, or longing which signals that a “need” has been identified. The increase in dopamine causes a sense of urgency to satisfy the need…so a rise in dopamine is the “on switch”. When the need is met (satiated) then there is an increase in the neurochemical serotonin. So they suggest a rise in serotonin levels is the “off switch” for the networks for hunger, anxiety, or longing — the need disappears. When the need is not met, there is a decrease in serotonin with a continuing rise in dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens causing the craving to grow stronger until we are compelled to meet the need. There is no “off switch” (rise in serotonin) until the need is satisfied. This is how these systems are supposed to work. During addiction for cocaine and greed for money, as the intense addictive behavior is repeated, the neural network for it gets cross-wired directly into the reward pathway right alongside the normal survival systems of “Eat”, “Don’t Get Eaten”, and “Reproduce”. However, this cross-wiring of neural circuits is abnormal — the rise in dopamine “turns on the switch” for the addiction neural network, but there is no rise in serotonin meaning there is no “off switch” for the addiction network — which explains the loss-of-control and the other signs of addiction.  Ruden and Byalick go on to explain that any attempts to refrain from drinking, eating chocolate, gambling, browsing porn, etc. causes a further rise in dopamine levels and a decrease in serotonin, which creates a craving that becomes so strong it must be satisfied — in just the same way as these survival systems compelling us to satisfy our hunger or thirst by eating a piece of crusty, moldy bread or drinking dirty, stagnant water if that’s all that is available at the time. So greed becomes so strong that it must be satisfied by whatever means available including illegal, immoral and antisocial methods. In my view, the serotonin ‘off switch’ is modulated by cortex and therefore cortical influences (learning through family values, cultural ethos) limit greed. 

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Evolutionary development of frontal lobe and limbic system giving rise to very high stake war of dominance between frontal intelligence and limbic greed:

The mammalian brain includes the limbic system, a set of structures ringing the inner surface of the cerebral cortex and surrounding the brain stem. The thinking, planning neocortex of our frontal lobes richly interconnects with these limbic sub-cortical structures. Frontal intellect tells us how to satisfy our emotions. Limbic emotions tell intellect what feels good or right, ultimately then, what to do. We think we decide rationally, but in the end it is the limbic system that decides what seems the rational answer. Our frontal lobes brought us from our hunter-gatherer ancestors to space travel. It all worked reasonably well, but now the older parts of our brains have caught up with us, dooming the human race. Over evolutionary time, we evolved much larger frontal lobes than anything our primate relatives had. Those frontal lobes enabled us to delay actions. During the delay, we could plan out actions of far greater complexity and sequence and effectiveness than other species, primate and otherwise, could create. But over historical time, our frontal lobes spread us all over the planet and vastly increased our capacities for destruction. Not only could we build magnificent bridges, skyscrapers, ocean liners, or supercomputers, but we could create governments claiming thousands of square miles, nuclear bombs, biological weapons, and environmentally destructive activities on a colossal scale. Our limbic systems continue to function to guide frontal lobe intellect. But now our limbic systems have more and more occasion to direct negative desires like greed toward the other humans and other groups pressing in on us as our presence spreads. We come to the situation we face today, where the greed of a hedge fund manager on Wall Street dooms a farmer in Mali to starvation. The frontal lobe created financial instruments so ingenious only a computer (also created by frontal lobe intellection) can master them. But the limbic system harnessed that ingenuity to an insatiable greed. And we find ourselves in the pickle we are in today with financial systems crumbling, nuclear weapons proliferating, the environment being pillaged, and religious fanatics unleashing terror on us all. On the positive, adaptive side, the evolution of our huge frontal intelligences made us the most successful, widespread, and populous species among the already quite successful primates. But on the negative, maladaptive side, the emotions that provide the guidance system for the deploying of intelligence doom us to using that magnificent capacity to self-destruct. It is time we train and inculcate out frontal intelligence to dominate over our limbic greed to save the planet.  

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The Sociological Basis of Greed:

Greed has a strong biological basis. However, it has an even stronger social basis. This sets it somewhat apart from self-preservation and reproduction. To examine greed and how it fits into human sociology, we need to start from the beginning. The definition of greed is an extreme or excessive desire for resources, especially for property such as money, real estate, or other symbols of wealth. Here we run into two problems: defining excessive and defining wealth, especially in terms of human psychology.  In basic terms, “excessive” is possessing something to such a degree it’s harmful. For example, excessive drinking leads to falling down a lot and hating yourself in the morning. Excessive eating leads to bellyaches and obesity. Excessive speed leads to cliff edges and telephone poles. These are aspects that most people would agree are harmful. However, all these things are harmful only to the individual. How could a desire for wealth be harmful? Every person needs a degree of wealth to survive: you need to buy food, pay the rent, get clothing, transportation, haircuts, cable TV. Without money (a symbol of wealth, or rather a transportable symbol of resources necessary to survival) you could starve or freeze to death, something that is definitely harmful. In addition, the more wealth you have, the better the quantity and/or quality of the things it brings you can get. Again, how could a desire for wealth, and thus the things it gets you, be harmful? The answer lies in the fact that humans are social and cultural animals, not just individuals. Although for the individual greed (a strong desire for wealth) is good, the social group that individual belongs to may think greed is bad for him — not necessarily bad for the society or the culture or the group, but for him. Why then, if greed is not only biologically desirable but socially and societally desirable as well, does greed have such a bad name? It goes back to the fact that humans are social and cultural animals, not just individuals. Remember that greed is a valuable trait for the individual. It makes him fight for a larger piece of the pie, a good idea from a biological point of view. However, since humans are social creatures, and greed says that an individual should take more than his own share, greed creates social conflict, as those who lose out resent those who win more than an even share. Those that are particularly greedy (particularly good at getting larger pieces of pies) are particularly resented. Recall Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley: many people cheered their downfalls. After all, who did they think they were? Besides successful, rich, competent, and capable; they were also manipulative, vain, egotistical and arrogant. However, how many people would, if they were honest, have changed places with them in a second, at least while the Donald and Leona were at their peak? Why are lotteries and sweepstakes so successful? Why do Reno and Las Vegas attract millions of people to their casinos? Because, no matter how much it is decried, people are greedy: they all want more than they have, the more the better. The thing to bear in mind is that “greed is good.” That is, it’s good for the individual, but perhaps not for the society in which that individual lives. Unrestrained greed in an individual can lead to callousness, arrogance, and even megalomania. A person dominated by greed will often ignore the harm their actions can cause others. Sweat shops, unsafe working conditions and destruction of livelihoods are all consequences of people whose personal greed overcame their social consciences. However, even a society that bans individual greed can suffer. It is greed that makes people want to do things, since they will be rewarded for their efforts. Remove that reward, and you remove the incentive to work. The former Soviet Union provides an example of this: the collective farms provided no individual incentive to strive, and thus produced an insufficient supply of food. The individually owned and run truck farms, however, with the possibility of selling the produce and keeping the proceeds, grew a far greater harvest per acre than the collective farms. The “greed” of American farmers has allowed them to grow food for the world, since the more they produce the more money they make. Nonetheless, however you regard it, unrestrained greed is detrimental to society; unrestrained disapproval of greed is detrimental to society. People attempt to find a balance between biological imperative and social necessity.

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Although there is a strong biological basis for human behavior, humans are the most social creatures on earth. The societies and cultures we create have a major effect on our behavior, mollifying and modifying our biological reactions.  Self-preservation extends beyond the personal to the public, involving family, friends, and even strangers. What may help our personal survival may help others, who may help us in turn. Humans, reproducing sexually, have all the biological urges that other animals have. However, our complex societies and cultures have altered our reproductive strategies. Social factors, in particular women’s, have become so important that they are a guiding rather than an ancillary consideration in mate selection. Strength and fighting skill in men have taken second place to power, money, and status. Although the former may be necessary to success in the biological world, the latter are necessary to success in human society. And in the last several thousand years, society rather than biology has become the driving force of human life. Equally, human social life has radically altered the need to gather resources to live and reproduce. The need for food, water or shelter is biological — a lack results in death. However, human society has changed how and why resources are gathered. The biological necessity is the same: humans need to eat, drink, sleep and stay out of the rain. But society has developed a way to transport current resources into the future for use in that future — money. Thus, humans seek money. Appeals to the human psyche must take not only biology but society into account. Society is the driving force behind much of human behavior.

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Do you hate greed in others and rationalize it yourself?

A striking example is “the ultimatum game.” I have $10 that I can share with you in any way I choose. If you accept my offer then we both keep my proposed shares. If you reject my offer, neither of us sees any of the money. What would you do if I offer to give you $9 and keep only $1? Naturally you will accept the offer. Smart; we are now both better off. What would you do if I offer you only $1 and propose to keep the balance $9? Studies suggest that you would reject my offer to penalize me for my stinginess. What happened to your rational and self-serving self? A greedy robot would leave no dollar on the table. The conclusion is that while greed may influence behavior, it is constantly kept in check by other forces. In the ultimatum game, it is injustice that faces off with greed. Psychologists flaunt the ultimatum game as evidence of the human urge for fairness, implicitly saying that it’s fair to punish others because they have what you want. Why does this definition of “fairness” go unchallenged?  Because it makes us feel good. We like to see ourselves in a positive light. When we see self-interest in others, we don’t like it. We imagine ourselves above that. But we inevitably stumble on our own self-interest because the brain evolved to promote itself. So we condemn self-interest in people who are safely removed from our social circles, while making allowances for the self-interest of our friends, relatives, allies, and selves. Sigmund Freud introduced the term “projection” for the habit of perceiving negative traits in others when you can’t accept those traits in yourself. Projection is everywhere because the human cortex has trouble understanding the mammal brain it’s attached to. The mammal brain produces neurochemical ups and downs, but has no language to explain why. When something promotes your interests, your mammal brain releases feel-good neurochemicals (dopamine). Your cortex then looks for evidence of goodness to explain the good feeling. You have good reason to seek the one-up position. You are only trying to survive. But when other people do that, your sense of relative deprivation triggers neurochemical alarm bells. Equality is an abstraction, and the mammal brain does not process abstractions. It strives to feel good. You feel good when you see yourself as an equality-loving person because you feel superior to all those greedy people you imagine. You get to feel superior without having to acknowledge your own urge to feel superior. The urge to be special is always there because the dopamine feels good. When something threatens your self-interest, your mammal brain releases a bad feeling (cortisol), and your cortex finds evidence to explain it. Other people’s reward-seeking leaves you feeling bad while your own reward-seeking leaves you feeling good. Your cortex finds a way to make sense of this. I am not saying greed is good. I am saying your brain is self-seeking, and when you don’t understand this you build an exaggerated sense of deprivation. You notice other people’s self-seeking and not your own, so you end up frustrated.

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A Princeton neuroscientist Jonathan Cohen had subjects play the ‘ultimatum game’ while the respondent — you in our game — was being scanned using functional MRI (fMRI) technology that shows dynamic brain activity. He found that when given stingy offers, the anterior insula that is associated with negative emotions was active. Rationally, greed would ensure no money is left on the table. This study demonstrates, however, that greed is only part of the puzzle. It can be trumped by other emotions such as injustice that was observed in Cohen’s study. This gives us hope. A quick buck or a thrill of the pursuit typifies greed. In the case of the sub-prime crisis, potential homeowners were offered adjustable-rate-mortgages. The mortgages had attractive introductory rates, but could increase over time. Rationally, you would reject these mortgages given their long-term risk and uncertainty. However, greed drives you to value immediate benefits to an extent that you ignore potential future costs. A Harvard economist, David Laibson, has coined the term “hyperbolic discounting” to explain this trait. Laibson and colleagues performed fMRI brain imaging of subjects who could choose an average offer with immediate benefits or a better offer with delayed returns. Those who chose the offer with immediate benefits showed increased activity of their emotional areas of the brain. Greed is fuelled by dopamine, a busy hormone. Apart from keeping greed in business, dopamine’s influence extends from voluntary movement to your involuntary sex life. The anticipation of a reward shoots off dopamine that makes you feel good. In fact, it makes you feel so good that often if you actually win the award, you feel a letdown. The big lessons from neuroscience are that while there is a biochemistry of greed, decisions are not made simply on account of greed. The timing of the reward, notions of injustice, and apathy that sets in when the race is over, work to influence greedy behaviors. Understanding these further may bring greater balance to Wall Street and levers to control its Gekkos.  

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Neuroeconomics of greed: Zweig’s experiment:

The new science of neuroeconomics is a combination of neuroscience (study of the molecular and cellular levels of the nervous system), economics and psychology. Zweig explores answers to such questions as: What makes investors overconfident? Why does emotion overrule reason? Zweig gamely offers his own brain as a guinea pig and heads to laboratories operated by leading neuroeconomists at Stanford, Emory, Duke and other universities. He undergoes MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) to monitor his brain activity while he plays investing video games. The scanner pinpoints changes in the level of oxygen as blood ebbs and flows within the brain, enabling researchers to map the regions engaged by a particular task, he explains.  And here’s the rub. There is a battle between the “reflexive brain” (emotion-driven biological circuits that make us crave rewards) and the “reflective brain” (analytical circuits). Your brain becomes intensely aroused when you anticipate a financial gain: Your brain treats potential investing (or gambling) profits as a broad class of basic rewards, like food, drink, shelter, safety, sex or drugs.  That hot state of anticipation cools down as soon as you earn the money, yielding a lukewarm satisfaction in the reflective brain. As evidence, there are images of Zweig’s brain when he’s feeling greedy after getting a chance to win $5, compared with the milder satisfaction when he wins $5. “Making money feels good, all right; it just doesn’t feel as good as expecting to make money. In a cruel irony that has enormous implications for financial behavior, your investing brain comes equipped with a biological mechanism that is more aroused when you anticipate a profit than when you actually get one,” he writes. And that, readers, sets you up for chronic disappointment. The most powerful and reassuring lesson from new research into happiness is that you don’t have to be rich to be happy, concludes Zweig. When it comes to increasing your sense of well-being, managing your emotions and expectations is at least as important as managing your money. There are many small steps you can take, and a few big ones, to get the maximum happiness out of your money with a minimum of effort,” he writes. One way: Make your own luck. That’s what Zweig did.

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Greed: innate plus learned:

Unfortunately, when it comes to greed, there are no brain studies to provide us with all answers. The mechanics of greed may be more complicated. Gluttony and lust – if anything could be influenced by biological predispositions, they are. We know for instance, there are neurochemicals that increase or decrease your libido. But there are some things that are universal, which aren’t necessarily innate, and greed may be one of those things. There could be an innate basis for greed, but because it seems to be more complex, it is probably more likely to be shaped by learning. I conclude from discussion in earlier paragraphs that greed is both innate and learned. Various biological innate systems for greed include dopamine reward system, pain avoiding system and fear system; all these are modulated by learning of mirror neurons and cognition by pre-frontal cortex.

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Sex greed link:

The link between sex and greed goes back hundreds of thousands of years, to men’s evolutionary role as provider or resource gatherer to attract women. Scientists find sex-greed link in brain. A new brain-scan study may help explain what is going through the minds of financial titans when they take risky monetary gambles: sex. When young men were shown erotic pictures, they were more likely to make larger financial gambles than if they were shown a picture of something scary, such as a snake, or something neutral, such as a stapler, university researchers reported. The arousing pictures lit up the same part of the brain that lights up when financial risks are taken. A lead author of the study says it is all about the power of emotion & arousal and financial decisions. The trigger does not have to be sex – it could be chocolate or a winning lottery ticket. It didn’t matter if the sexy woman didn’t tell you anything about the odds of winning a roulette game. What really matters is that the sexy woman is having an emotional impact. That bleeds over into your financial decisions.  The same link could hold true for women, but researchers did not test it because it is more difficult to find an erotic image that would appeal to many different heterosexual women compared to heterosexual men. An earlier study by the same team found that the brain’s reward area lit up at about the same time as risky decision-making. The erotic pictures experiment was designed to find which was the cause and which was the effect. The answer: Lighting up the reward area, in this case with soft-core pictures, caused the risk-taking. The more activation there you have, the more prone you are to taking more risk. It could be a feedback loop. The flip side was that the photos of snakes and spiders activated the portion of the brain often associated with pain, fear and anger. And those people were more likely to bet low. 

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Another study conforms with recent research that indicates men shown a pornographic movie were more likely to make riskier sexual decisions. Another suggests straight men think less about their financial future after being shown pictures of pretty women. One still-to-be-published study at Harvard University found a link between higher testosterone levels and financial risk-taking.

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Greed, lust and addiction to drugs: same circuit:

Greed is a natural characteristic of being human which is deeply seated in our mind at birth. Our prime motive, at our core, is to stay alive and that means having everything we believe we need. In the deep recesses of our mind we don’t differentiate between enough and everything. Basically this survival instinct over-rides our cultural desires to be respected and not seen as a swindler. The gambler runs on this greed. Its power over us which can easily overcome the social norms which seek to control or limit the tendency towards greed. Also, interestingly enough, when we satisfy this desire for greed by making large sums of money by taking foolish risks we also stimulate those same areas of the brain that are stimulated by sex, or drug use. This was verified through MRI studies involved with greed as the subject. The scientific finding that greed in our current culture can stimulate feelings of pleasure similar to sex or drugs explains why capitalists seem so drawn to lust after profit and power. This lust leads them to seek short-term gratification even if the long-term results of their action may be disastrous.

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Greed and gender: is woman greedier than man?

When it comes to materialism, research shows that men are significantly more materialistic than their female counterparts because they have to generate sufficient wealth to attract women! On the other hand, by nature woman are the ones who have long since created the “Nest” for the family. Though this does not constitute greed, their ability to do this could be viewed by some (men) that they require more objects or things. In terms of the fundamental desire to accumulate mass and surplus which carry monetary and social value, men tend toward pure greed. Mass and surplus provide men with a higher level of independence and autonomy, which they generally seek. Women tend toward possession of social networks, which have their own social value, but not necessarily monetary value. Networks provide a means to secure mates, jobs, extended family, support and aid when she cannot meet her needs alone. Women recognize the reality and value of human interdependence. In today’s society, we have moved away from the stereotype that men are stoic and self-reliant toward more egalitarian practices. Men accumulate social networks as well for the same reason that women do (mates, support, jobs, etc.), and women, because they are now half the work-force, have been inculcated into the capitalistic philosophy of mass leading to greater independence. With longer life spans, fewer permanent relationships and migratory professional roles, both men and women recognize the need and value of interdependence as well as the importance of accumulating mass and/or surplus to sustain a long life.

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Who is greedier: rich or poor?

Contrary to popular perception, rich are greedier than poor:

Please read various studies and arguments below which does prove that rich are greedier than poor.

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Does being wealthy make you unethical? New research suggests it does:

While stereotypes suggest that poor people are more likely to lie and steal, new research finds that it’s actually the wealthy who tend to behave unethically.

“Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior.”

This paper describes the results of seven studies—two field studies and five experimental tests—that sought to explore how socioeconomic status (SES) correlates with behavior that most of us would consider ethical: The findings announced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come at a moment when historical tensions over wealth and class have reached a fever pitch:

Is greed good and extreme wealth a sign of virtue?

Does wealth corrupt, and should a society strive to be egalitarian in income as well as principles?

The first two studies looked at whether SES could predict driving behavior, using the make, age, and appearance of vehicles as a marker for SES. (In other words, shiny new BMWs were assumed to be driven by high-status individuals.) The first looked at whether SES affected a driver’s tendency to cut off other vehicles at a busy four-way stop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even when controlled for time of day, the driver’s perceived sex and age, and traffic, high SES individuals were significantly more likely to cut off other drivers.  The same effect was apparent when they looked at if SES affected whether a driver was more likely to cut off pedestrians at a crosswalk. Higher SES individuals were significantly more likely to do so. Next, the researchers turned to controlled experiments. Participants were asked to read different scenarios of people unrightfully benefiting or taking something. Then they were asked how likely they would be to do the same thing. High SES participants were significantly more likely to report that they would engage in these unethical behaviors.  Another study involved participants rating themselves on the SES scale to heighten their perception of status; they were then answered a number of questions relating to unethical behavior. At the end of the experiment, they were presented with a jar of individually wrapped candy and told that, although it was for children in a nearby lab, they could take some if they wanted. At this point you might be able to guess what the results were. High SES participants took more candy. Attitudes toward greed were also examined. Study participants role-played a salary negotiation, acting as the employer. They were told before the negotiation that the job in question would actually be eliminated in the near future. High SES participants were significantly less likely to be truthful about job stability, and significantly more likely to have favorable attitudes towards greed even when controlled for age, sex, ethnicity, religiosity, and political orientation. The next study gave its participants the chance to cheat. The researchers let them play a computer game of chance (five rolls of a six-sided die), and asked them to report the results. Players were told them that they had an increased chance of a cash prize if they had higher scores, even though the game was actually fixed such that the total scores would always add up to 12. High SES positively predicted cheating, even when controlled in the same ways as the previous study. The final test looked at whether encouraging positive attitudes towards greed would increase unethical tendencies in lower SES participants. These subjects were either neutrally primed by being asked to list three things about their day, or were positively primed by being asked to list three benefits of greed. Next, their attitude towards greed was assessed, and they were also questioned about their tendency to engage in unethical behavior at work (stealing, accepting bribes, and overcharging). They found that poor participants were just as likely as rich ones — if they were primed to think greed was good — to support bribery or to cheat unsuspecting customers. In the neutral prime, rich participants were more likely to support unethical behavior. By this point, you’ll almost certainly surmise that positive priming for greed significantly increased favorable attitudes towards it, as well as unethical work behavior. Additionally, the higher a participant’s SES, the more positive their attitudes were towards greed, and the greater chance they engaged in unethical behavior. When they put it all together, along with a review of the literature, the researchers concluded that “relative to lower-class individuals, individuals from upper-class backgrounds behaved more unethically in both naturalistic and laboratory settings.” The researchers argue that “the pursuit of self-interest is a more fundamental motive among society’s elite, and the increased want associated with greater wealth and status can promote wrongdoing.” Of course, there are so many people who act counter to this trend across the entire income distribution as to not need comment. This is a trend, a group average that points to something going on, something that might be worth some attention. It does not say any one individual is or is not greedy because of where they fall in the distribution of resources. Also researchers point out that their findings aren’t absolute, and that philanthropic efforts such as those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet buck the observed trend, as does research which has shown a relationship between poverty and violent crime. And while the article speculates about many reasons why the wealthy have elevated levels of unethical greed, they do not discuss either the suffering greed brings to the wealthy or what can be done about it.

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The figure above shows the relationship between social class and propensity for unethical behavior, moderated by the greed-is-good prime (from study 7 discussed above).

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Why the Rich are less ethical: They see greed as good: They do not need other’s help:

The reason why upper class are less ethical was not necessarily their class, but the fact they agreed with Wall Street‘s Gordon Gekko that greed is good. When the researchers examined the connection between beliefs about greed and unethical behavior, they found that class was no longer a significant variable. In other words, rich people tended to take advantage of others primarily because they saw selfish and greedy behavior as acceptable, not just because they had more money or higher social status. Also, above studies suggest that the rich don’t feel that they need to depend on others, so they have no problem burning them. If you think you’ll never need any help from anyone else, why should you help, or even care, about them? There is a strong notion that when people don’t have much, they’re really looking out for themselves and they might act unethically. But actually, it’s the upper-class people that are less likely to see that people around them need help — and therefore act unethically. Previous research found that poor people are more altruistic and compassionate than the wealthy. Whereas lower-class individuals may give more of their resources away, upper-class individuals may tend to preserve and hold onto their wealth. This differential pattern of giving versus saving among upper- and lower-class people could serve to exacerbate economic inequality in society.

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Rich people have less compassion, Psychology research suggests:

Related set of studies published by Keltner and his colleagues looked at how social class influences feelings of compassion towards people who are suffering. In one study, they found that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis. For example, they are more likely to agree with statements such as, “I often notice people who need help,” and “It’s important to take care of people who are vulnerable.” This was true even after controlling for other factors that we know affect compassionate feelings, such as gender, ethnicity, and spiritual beliefs. In a second study, participants were asked to watch two videos while having their heart rate monitored. One video showed somebody explaining how to build a patio. The other showed children who were suffering from cancer. After watching the videos, participants indicated how much compassion they felt while watching either video. Social class was measured by asking participants questions about their family’s level of income and education. The results of the study showed that participants on the lower end of the spectrum, with less income and education, were more likely to report feeling compassion while watching the video of the cancer patients. In addition, their heart rates slowed down while watching the cancer video—a response that is associated with paying greater attention to the feelings and motivations of others. These findings build upon previous research showing how upper class individuals are worse at recognizing the emotions of others and less likely to pay attention to people they are interacting with (e.g. by checking their cell phones or doodling). But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused. Another reason has to do with our attitudes towards greed.

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Greed trumps trust:

For more than fifteen years psychologist Julian Edney has visited college campuses across the nation to study the effects of greed in a society where over $100 billion in new wealth accumulates each year. On each of his stays, he would play a game with randomly selected students where 10 metal nuts in a bowl represented ‘extra credit’. The students would then take the nuts for a single extra credit point. In this, he promised to double the amount of nuts left in the bowl every 10 seconds. Hypothetically, the game could last forever yielding limitless rewards as the students took turns taking a nut from the bowl. However Dr. Edney determined that 65 percent of the groups couldn’t get pass the first 10 second round, and the others could only make it a few more cycles until modest students turned into rambunctious maniacs scrounging for that last nut. Edney’s conclusion: Greed trumps trust.

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Human greed against collective good:

In the 1980s several experiments were specifically designed to evaluate why people do not cooperate for the collective good. Is it because of selfish greed or, like animals, because they fear they will not get enough through the cooperation?  Subjects were given an identical number of coins and separated in groups of six. They were told that they could contribute or remove coins from a common pool. After every trial the number of coins in the pool would be multiplied by 1.25 and at the end of the experiment the number of coins in the pool would be divided equally among the subjects. Naturally, it should benefit each subject to make the pool as large as possible since the experimenters would multiply and contribute to its size. False feedback was provided indicating that in some phases the size of the pool was increasing, decreasing or remaining constant. This was a clue to each subject about what other contributors to the pool were doing. If the size of the pool decreased, it could be implied that other participants were selfishly taking coins while an increase in the pool would imply that other participants were trying to increase the final shared portion. Subjects contributed significantly less to the common pool when it increased than when it decreased. This showed that greed and not fear of not getting enough or being gypped was the major motivation behind not contributing to the common pool. 

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Greed may be more powerful human emotion than generosity:

Paying it forward — a popular expression for extending generosity to others after someone has been generous to you — is a heartwarming concept, but it is less common than repaying greed with greed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. The idea of paying it forward is this cascade of goodwill will turn into a utopia with everyone helping everyone, said lead researcher Kurt Gray, PhD. Unfortunately, greed or looking out for ourselves is more powerful than true acts of generosity. The study is the first systematic investigation of paying forward generosity, equality or greed, authors said. “The bulk of the scientific research on this concept has focused on good behavior, and we wondered what would happen when you looked at the entire gamut of human behaviors,” said Gray. In five experiments involving money or work, participants who received an act of generosity did not pay generosity forward any more than those who had been treated equally. But participants who had been the victims of greed were more likely to pay greed forward to a future recipient, creating a negative chain reaction. Women and men showed the same levels of generosity and greed in the study.  In one experiment, researchers recruited 100 people to play an economic game. They told participants that someone had split $ 6 with them and then gave them an envelope that contained the entire $ 6 for a generous split, $ 3 for an equal split, or nothing for a greedy split. The participants then received an additional $ 6 that they could split in another envelope with a future recipient, essentially paying it forward. Receiving a generous split did not prompt any greater generosity than receiving equal treatment, but people who received nothing in the first envelope were more likely to put little or nothing in the second envelope, depriving future recipients because of the greed they had experienced. The results confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that greed would prevail because negative stimuli have more powerful effects on thoughts and actions than positive stimuli. People are more likely to look out for themselves when it comes to work or money, adding that chances of people ‘paying forward’ generosity are grim. “Focusing on the negative may cause unhappiness, but it makes sense as an evolutionary survival skill,” said lead researcher, Kurt Gray.  “If there is a tiger nearby, you really have to take notice or you’ll get eaten. If there is a beautiful sunset or delicious food, it’s not a life-or-death situation,” he added. “The idea of paying it forward is this cascade of goodwill will turn into a utopia with everyone helping everyone. Unfortunately, greed or looking out for ourselves is more powerful than true acts of generosity,” Gray said. Gray believes that perhaps people are fearful of being shortchanged, or they feel angered by the acts perpetrated on them and react by passing on that aggression or anger in the form of greed. Regardless of the reasons behind the acts, Gray’s study shows that true acts of generosity occur far less often than acts of greed, and he believes that these results are significant to the field of social psychology.   

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Greed is no longer good, study finds: Source of the wealth does matter according to this study:

Greed is no longer good, research suggests, as scientists find people view ill-gotten money as tainted and worth less. Most people now look on unethical money as tainted, research has suggested, in a reversal of the stereotypical 1980s theory that “greed was good”. The study showed that this stems from fear of ‘moral contagion’ and suggests that the source of wealth really does matter. When people think of money as ill gotten gains – such as that earned from unfair work practices or unfair trading – they attached less value and purchasing power to it. This could explain why there have been so many recent trends for both socially responsible investing and the boycotting of sweatshops, scientists from the University of California Berkeley have claimed. Writing in journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, doctoral student Jennifer Stellar said: “Our work suggests morality is an important force shaping economic decision-making.” Though we often think $50 is $50, these results demonstrate that when money takes on negative moral associations, its value is diminished.”  The findings could also shed light on why companies go to great lengths to avoid the perception that they are accepting money from corrupt investors or are themselves profiting from illegal or unethical practices, said Professor Robb Willer. He said: “People possess powerful motivations to view themselves as fundamentally good and moral. We find this motivation is so great that it can even lead people to disassociate themselves from money that has acquired negative moral associations.”  In an experiment, 59 college-age participants were told they could enter a raffle for a $50 cash prize sponsored by one of two corporations. They were then split into an “immoral money” group and a “neutral money” group. The neutral money group was told that the raffle prize money was provided by a major supermarket. Meanwhile, the “immoral money” group was told that the source of the prize money was another supermarket said to engage in unfair labor practices – and it was suggested the prize money might be linked to those practices. Those in the second group entered less raffle tickets than those in the first. They were then asked to estimate how many items they could buy from each store with the $50. Those in the immoral group estimated they could buy fewer items with the money. “Money is often believed to separate individuals from their moral values,” Prof Willer said. “However, our results suggest that, for most people, morality is a powerful force that shapes economic decisions and even alters how we perceive the value of money itself.” I humbly disagree with this study. My experience in India shows that money itself is morality, greater the wealth you possess, more respect you get. Poor man’s beautiful wife is looked down upon by society as whore while rich man’s beautiful wife is respected as deity.  

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 Cooperation vs. Competition: Greed is good — but only a moderate amount:

Relationships between cooperation, competition, and society have long been pondered by psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, philosophers, and mathematicians. While (as might be expected) a range of conclusions have been reached, one factor that appears to be essential in achieving and maintaining an equitable distribution of human well-being is social cohesion – that is, a societal infrastructure characterized by high levels of cooperation and a large number of social ties between members of the population. At the same time, however, individual self-interest appears to be inversely related to – and indeed often leads to a breakdown of – social cohesion. As researchers in Switzerland have recently found, however, a moderate level of greed can actually establish a framework in which cooperation and agglomeration (grouping) flourish and societal cohesion prevails.

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Greedy algorithms:

A game like chess can be won only by thinking ahead: a player who is focused entirely on immediate advantage is easy to defeat. But in many other games, such as Scrabble, it is possible to do quite well by simply making whichever move seems best at the moment and not worrying too much about future consequences. This sort of myopic behavior is easy and convenient, making it an attractive algorithmic strategy. Greedy algorithms build up a solution piece by piece, always choosing the next piece that offers the most obvious and immediate benefit. Although such an approach can be disastrous for some computational tasks, there are many for which it is optimal. An algorithm is a step-by-step recipe for solving a problem. A greedy algorithm might also be called a “single-minded” algorithm or an algorithm that gobbles up all of its favorites first. The idea behind a greedy algorithm is to perform a single procedure in the recipe over and over again until it can’t be done any more and see what kind of results it will produce. It may not completely solve the problem, or, if it produces a solution, it may not be the very best one, but it is one way of approaching the problem and sometimes yields very good (or even the best possible) results. A greedy algorithm is an algorithm that follows the problem solving heuristic of making the locally optimal choice at each stage with the hope of finding a global optimum. In many problems, a greedy strategy does not in general produce an optimal solution, but nonetheless a greedy heuristic may yield locally optimal solutions that approximate a global optimal solution in a reasonable time. For example, a greedy strategy for the traveling salesman problem (which is of a high computational complexity) is the following heuristic: “At each stage visit an unvisited city nearest to the current city”. This heuristic need not find a best solution but terminates in a reasonable number of steps; finding an optimal solution typically requires unreasonably many steps. In mathematical optimization, greedy algorithms solve combinatorial problems having the properties of matroids.

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Examples of greedy algorithms:

Map Coloring:

There is no algorithm that will produce a minimal coloring (a coloring using the fewest number of colors) for every single map, but often you can get good results by choosing one color, and coloring as many regions as possible with that color before going on to another color. You proceed with the next color in the same way, not going to a third color until there are no regions that can be colored with the second color.

A greedy algorithm for aligning DNA sequences:

For aligning DNA sequences that differ only by sequencing errors, or by equivalent errors from other sources, a greedy algorithm can be much faster than traditional dynamic programming approaches and yet produce an alignment that is guaranteed to be theoretically optimal. Researchers introduce a new greedy alignment algorithm with particularly good performance and show that it computes the same alignment as does a certain dynamic programming algorithm, while executing over 10 times faster on appropriate data. An implementation of this algorithm is currently used in a program that assembles the UniGene database at the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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Failure of greedy algorithms:

For many other problems, greedy algorithms fail to produce the optimal solution, and may even produce the unique worst possible solution. One example is the traveling salesman problem mentioned above: for each number of cities there is an assignment of distances between the cities for which the nearest neighbor heuristic produces the unique worst possible tour. The choice made by a greedy algorithm may depend on choices made so far but not on future choices or all the solutions to the subproblem. It iteratively makes one greedy choice after another, reducing each given problem into a smaller one. In other words, a greedy algorithm never reconsiders its choices. This is the main difference from dynamic programming, which is exhaustive and is guaranteed to find the solution. After every stage, dynamic programming makes decisions based on all the decisions made in the previous stage, and may reconsider the previous stage’s algorithmic path to solution.

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Popular perception that people are conned because of their greed may not be the case.

Want to know how you were conned?  Not greed but niceness: Not dopamine but oxytocin:

A British study finds it’s the neurochemistry of niceness that helps con artists rip you off. Strangely, they found it was the neurochemistry not of greed, but of niceness that helped tricksters rip you off. The scientists sent people around train stations to ask commuters to answer 10 questions in exchange for a pen. The questions included their credit card pin, email passwords and other personal information – which most people handed over, because they found it too awkward to refuse once they had started answering the researchers’ questions. According to neuroscientists, oxytocin – the molecule which regulates social interaction and causes people to be cooperative – can cause even the smartest people to get taken in. It’s the same molecule that has been credited for causing attraction between lovers and bonding parents to children. It’s released during cooperative social interactions, and it makes us want to reciprocate the friendliness and trust that we’ve been shown. The more trust we are shown; the more we want to prove ourselves worthy of it. Majority of people are worried about the other person’s feelings, or making trouble for them. And it’s this reluctance to be untrustworthy oneself that bigger scams rely on. A victim’s reluctance to break the script, to question or accuse the con artists isn’t naivety or stupidity. Smart people are taken in all the time. It isn’t even greed. Its oxytocin, the little molecule the zooms around the pre-frontal cortex regulating social interaction.

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Science for Need not Greed: 

Science means ‘knowledge’. A scientist is someone who acquires more knowledge using the scientific method. The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating the world around us, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge, based on empirical and measurable evidence that is subject to specific principles of reasoning. Today, ignorance is widespread and even scientists appear to show little interest in the truth, instead coveting fame and riches over principled dedication to solving the mysteries of reality. Today science is controlled through selective funding, a ‘peer review process’ that is anything but objective, and the devastating consequences – for society and planet – of science in the hands of a Scientific Establishment whose narrow-minded brand of scientific materialism has hardened into religious orthodoxy.  The list of abuses and illogical uses of science today is a long one; there’s the global market for privately collected fossils which are inaccessible to the rest of humanity, pharmaceutical companies which prioritize developing drugs that need repeat prescriptions over complete cures for diseases like AIDS because they are more profitable, Agricultural Biotechnology Corporations developing infertile seeds so that farmers depend on re-buying them, car production and road construction prioritized over solar power, not to mention the role big oil companies, car manufacturers, and the US government had in sabotaging their own research into electric cars because they would have been easier to maintain and less profitable… and so on. On the other hand, there has been a lot of hype over genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) being dangerous, but this is not fueled by the science behind it; it is fueled by greed, greed of anti-GMO activists to come in spotlight & publicity. GMOs can provide healthier options for us to eat, and provide third-world countries a chance at food they can afford.

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Public health officials state that vaccines are safe and effective, but the truth is far more complicated. Vaccination is a serious medical intervention that always carries the potential to injure and cause death as well as to prevent disease. Coercive vaccination policies deprive people of free and informed consent—the hallmark of ethical medicine. Vaccine epidemic shows how corporate greed, biased science, and coercive government threaten our human rights, our health, and our children. 
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Some of the world’s leading names in science and ethics – including two Nobel Prize winners – have challenged society to rethink attitudes to the commercialization of scientific knowledge. They say that “profit should not override the needs of the public despite it being currently the primary reward for research and development. It shocks many people when they realize that even our genes fall under intellectual property law. Genes are naturally occurring things, not inventions, and part of humanity’s rich heritage. We cannot restrict essential research into diseases such as cancer to only those who can afford to pay. The current method of managing innovation and intellectual property has an adverse effect on many impoverished people- especially in the developing world. The system is wrong: powerful states have huge influence in the way the rules are created and tailor them to their own advantage. We also ask for a strong commitment from Western Governments to increase assistance to the developing world to build capacity for their own scientific research.”  Science and technology, in revolutionary society, should be at the service of permanent liberation, of humanization and science must not be allowed to become greed oriented. Look at my website. Lots of innovative ideas are published free of cost to the browser on subjects right from cyclone to dengue. 

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The moral of the story:

1. Greed is a selfish or excessive insatiable desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or one deserves or one works for or one is entitled for; especially of money, wealth, food, power, pleasure or other possessions; especially when this denies the same goods to others or in fact steal from others or at the cost of others or otherwise reflect flawed priorities. There is a great degree of variability in defining greed; it depends on what you mean by greed.  

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2. Capitalism is not synonymous with greedy system. Capitalism does promote self-interest and profiting but not at the cost of society but in fact serving self-interest of society. When capitalism is played by rules by all parties concerned, everybody benefits which is not greed. It is only when selfishness overwhelms self-interest by breaking rules that capitalism becomes greed. Good greed is pursuing self-interest in free market economy by playing by rules while bad greed is pursuing selfishness in free market economy by breaking rules.  Rules include not only laws but also well established & fair business practices and social norms.

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3. Most honest hardworking people are greedy (they work hard for money, and strive to work harder for more money), and that type of greed is good for the world in general. To have desire is not bad but to fulfill that desire with immoral and illegal means at the cost of others is bad. In truth, we’ve come to think of greed as an ambiguous quality–sometimes good, sometimes bad.

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 4. More than just a medium of exchange, money has become a commodity from which ever larger profits are promised and expected. If money was not a motivation factor, many great inventions may perhaps never have happened. Perhaps we would still get around using horses and carriages. Money gives people an incentive to try harder because of their greed. On the other hand, a large body of evidence shows that money isn’t always an effective incentive because it devalues intrinsic motivations. Also, greed ends productivity as people make money faster and bigger through unethical means rather than working hard. Studies have found that mere indication or hint of money can trigger unethical behavior.  This inherent contradiction can be resolved by differentiating between good greed and bad greed.    

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5. Ill effects of [bad] greed are plenty right from crime to poverty to inflation to corruption to war to global warming. If greed dominates over need, the engine of economic growth will deplete our resources, push the poor aside, and drive us into a deep social, political, and economic crisis.

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6. Greed cannot produce corruption in the absence of power but the power can produce corruption in the absence of greed. The classical example is Indian PM Manmohan Singh who is a world renowned economist, a non-greedy non-corrupt individual, but corruption skyrocked in India under his rule as he was incompetent in discharging his duties.

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7. Research studies show that relative to their income, lower-class individuals give more to charitable causes relative to their high class counterparts.  When people have few resources, they are in a position of being more vulnerable to the whims of the context or the environment. Thus, when resources are not secure, people may actually be more motivated to strengthen their social connections, fostering a host of psychological processes that include trust, compassion, and empathy. By contrast, when one is relatively resource-rich, one has the luxury of focusing on oneself, and feeling that others don’t matter as much. Psychologically, this focus on the self reduces attention to the needs and even the emotions of others. Paradoxically, then, greater resources may make self-interested and even greedy behavior more likely. Also, rich people tended to take advantage of others because they saw selfish and greedy behavior as acceptable, not just because they had more money or higher social status. In other words, it is actually the wealthy rather than the poor who tend to behave unethically. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule on either side but the paradigm remains same. 

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8. Greed involves activation of various brain areas including dopamine driven reward center nucleus accumbens (also involved in addiction / sexual pleasure), insula related to pain, amygdala related to fear, mirror neurons related to empathy & learning and pre-frontal cortex related to cognition.

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9. In the human brain, monetary gain stimulates the same reward circuitry as cocaine—in both cases, dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens, reinforcing the behavior. In the case of cocaine, we call this addiction. In the case of monetary gain, we call this greed. Repeated reinforcement of greed desire makes it greed addiction. Greed is an addiction formed through constant repetition by will but later on it becomes so strong that it overcomes will. With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive the drug itself which means that higher doses and/or more frequent use of cocaine is needed to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. Greed follows the same pattern. In other words, our most fundamental reactions to monetary gain are hardwired into human physiology. Greed for money, lust for sex and addiction to drugs are all governed by the same areas of brain; namely dopamine reward system. However decisions are not made simply on account of greed. The timing of the reward, notions of injustice, and apathy that sets in when the race is over, work to influence greedy behaviors.

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10. Your investing brain comes equipped with a biological mechanism that is more aroused when you anticipate a profit than when you actually get one. This is because of a battle between the “reflexive brain” (emotion-driven biological circuits that make us crave rewards) and the “reflective brain” (analytical circuits). Emotion-driven reward seeking biological circuits (sub-cortical areas) are innate while analytical circuits (neo-cortex) are learned. Greed is a powerful desire, both innate plus learned. Dopamine reward system is a basic survival mechanism (sex desire for reproduction, hunger for food, accumulate wealth for future hardship etc) which over-rides our cultural desires to be respected and not seen as a swindler. The gambler runs on this greed. It overcomes the social norms which seek to control or limit the tendency towards greed. If you have learned & inculcated strong cultural/social attitudes in your cortex, you can override greed. Various biological innate systems for greed include dopamine reward system, pain avoiding system and fear system; all these are modulated by learning of mirror neurons and cognition by pre-frontal cortex. The limitations on greed by society, culture and laws have to be learned to modulate innate dopamine reward system involved in greed. However, when you live in a country like India where majority are corrupt, the biological greed circuit is reinforced by corrupt culture and hence you become greedier and greedier.   

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11. Research studies indicate that evolutionary biologically, altruism is preferred over greed in humans as natural selection because even though greed promotes survival at individual level, altruism promotes survival at group/community level. On the other hand, another research study found that people repay greed with greed but not pay forward generosity (altruism) because according to researcher negative stimuli have more powerful effects on thoughts and actions than positive stimuli as focusing on the negative makes sense as an evolutionary survival skill. So there is a visible contradiction between different greed studies at the logic level.

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12. Not only unrestrained greed is detrimental to society; but also unrestrained disapproval of greed is detrimental to society. We have to find a balance between biological imperative and social necessity.

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13. We hate greed in others and rationalize it in ourselves. Other people’s reward-seeking leaves you feeling bad while your own reward-seeking leaves you feeling good. When something promotes your interests, your brain releases feel-good neurochemicals but when other people do that, your sense of relative deprivation triggers feel-bad neurochemicals.

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14. The popular perception that people are conned because of their greed may not be true. Research study shows that it is social bonding and nicety due to release of oxytocin that is responsible for being conned and not greed.

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15. We must harness science and develop scientific technologies for the need of humans and not for the greed of humans.

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Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD.

July 1, 2013

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Postscript:

A famous quote on ‘greed and prostitution’: 

“The women who take husbands not out of love but out of greed, to get their bills paid, to get a fine house and clothes and jewels; the women who marry to get out of a tiresome job, or to get away from disagreeable relatives, or to avoid being called an old maid — these are whores in everything but name. The only difference between them and my girls is that my girls gave a man his money’s worth.” — Polly Adler

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Another quote on ‘greed and morality’ which is going to become famous soon:

“My experience in India shows that money itself is morality, greater the wealth you hoard, more respect you get. Poor man’s beautiful wife is subjected to indecent proposals while rich man’s beautiful wife is respected as deity.” —Rajiv Desai    

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