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Forum Post: On Greed, and Externalities

Posted 11 years ago on Nov. 23, 2011, 7:19 a.m. EST by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT
This content is user submitted and not an official statement


Corporate greed produces terms like externality, terms designed to deny the very thing they define.

Externalities are costs of doing business. These are costs thought of as external. When PG&E poisoned their neighbors water, the costs associated with both prevention before the fact and remediation after meet this definition.

These are costs of doing business that are not counted as a cost of production, because of the mindset that possits they are external and therefore unrelated.

This is what greed does. It introduces a mindset that permits a state of denial surrounding actual costs of doing business, and do so in the name of profit.

Over time greed has had a corrosive effect on the availability and provision of customer service, reduced competition in the marketplace, and even skewed the perception on whether this is a good thing or not - not to mention having devised new and more intricate ways to pick the pocket of the American citizen.

I see that industry has become so engulfed in a morass of greed and that it is so rampant that there is no longer any need of its denial. It has become so rampant that, as a matter of principle, it has become embraced, as if it were a good thing and not a vice; yet there was a time when this was not so.

I say we Americans do not like to have our pockets picked.

I say we will break the hand that would pick our pocket.



– Greed, I say, Is NOT Good . . . . Nov. 24, 2011






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[-] 2 points by Dontwatchthis (174) 11 years ago

Greed is a by product of the current socio-economic system and without it the system would fail. It has to condition everyone to want everything to keep the cyclical consumption going. Infinite growth. You cannot get rid of greed in the monetary system.


[-] 1 points by Durandus (181) 10 years ago

Greed is a vice, and a case of Moral Depravity.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 10 years ago

Greed is a pathology.

It has a name. Pleonexia.

Those who suffer from it don't want to be diagnosed.

It's why they fight so hard against National Health Care.

Much easier to bribe their fellow pleonexians in the "industry".

[-] 1 points by Durandus (181) 10 years ago

Yeah...I can believe that...among all other obsessive vices that drive the brutally ambitious.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 10 years ago

You can look it up.

They exhibit all the symptoms.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago

I don't know if you can or not, remove greed from the monetary system.

I do know the possibilities of marketing are finite. The economy is finite. It cannot grow indefinitely, any more than the population of humanity can continue to grow indefinitely.

I also know that the accumulation of such vast wealth in such few hands has had deleterious affects on both the economy and the general public, that it is a result of a process of greed, and there are those who would, without shame, attempt its justification.

They shoot their own foot, and ours as well.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

most people don't seem greedy to me

[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

Its a human characteristic, one that stems from the urge or the need for security, one that in most people isn't so out of whack that they will steal from both friends and family.

I do think that most people, placed in the Wall Street environment, and trained in its processes, would find themselves overcome by the same attitudes, the same influences, that are so prevalent in that environment already.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

humans are adept at imitating each other

[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

there is that, and there is something else too - and that is that the worst of human behavior is in some ways contagious.

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

Corporate greed comes from the profit motive. The profit motive is necessary for capitalism.

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

Admittedly, I did not watch your link. That's a long one! Capitalism would fail without the profit motive. The profit motive can lead to greed. But I think that greed can and should be restrained with appropriate government policies and regulations. I wrote a little more on this above if interested.

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 10 years ago

greed is one of the seven deadly sins, how did it ever become such an accepted, and even desirable, facet of our economics in the first place. Makes no sense to me.

[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

It is insane - and now it is common place.

But I don't recall anyone defending it since I put this piece up.

I find that

. . . interesting . . .

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 10 years ago

I'm sure some Kardashian will be along soon enough....

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

Greed is a failure of morality. Most people are not greedy by nature. Most people strive for prosperity. Unrestrained capitalism encourages greed. Greed is harmful to society. And here we are. Capitalism needs to be restrained through government regulations.

[-] 1 points by fandango (241) 10 years ago

What do you call the desire , driven by ambition, drive and a work ethic, to succeed?

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

It depends on your definition of success. Success means different things to different people. I think it depends on why you do those things. Is it for money? Is it for fulfillment? Does it put you in a happy place regardless of money? Does the drive for money put you in an unhappy place?

I think most people strive for prosperity. Money is a necessity. But prosperity is a healthy balance of money, family, friends, religion, recreation, arts and music, etc.

[-] 1 points by Perspective (-243) 10 years ago

So you want "Big Brother" to control all aspects of your life?

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

Not at all. I'm sorry you got that impression. What I am saying is - it is impossible to achieve pure capitalism, with absolutely no intervention by government. Even if it could be achieved - most people would probably not like the results. Our economy has always had some degree of government intervention. It is a matter of degrees. I think less intervention encourages more greed, ie deregulation, regressive taxation. More intervention, the right kind in the right measure, restrains greed. Thats the tricky part. Finding the right balance, maintaining that balance with changing circumstances, and making adjustments as necessary.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

and repelicans are intent on destroying every regulatory agency and proper function of government.

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

Nasty, naughty, good-for-nothing repelicans! Though it was Clinton who signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. What was he thinking? Is that when he was doing the nasty thing with Monica??

[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

Probably after it broke. I'm sure it became a huge distraction.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

That sounds like it would be painful. Is that what happens when it doesn't get used for a while??

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago


I'm sure his has had plenty of use.

You are aware, I am sure, I was referring to the monica-gate story, rather than the . . . um . . . allegedly offensive . . . appendage itself.

[-] 0 points by April (3196) 10 years ago

You did that on purpose!! Just reeled me right in, didn't you. Tricky-ZenDog. Now I'm gonna have to keep my eye on you..... : )

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

now who's reeling who?

; D

[-] 1 points by randart (498) 10 years ago

If you take away all the newer terminologies of what is going on and look at general human traits and history then the end result seems to always be the same. Great civilizations rise and fall and each time they seem to exhibit similar characteristics.

As a small few seize power with more greed then the end always seems near. Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Germany, and probably cultures in the Americas. Today we have a nearly global scaled civilization, still following the same course of all those that have failed in the past and we are doing the same thing they did just before they collapsed under their own weight.

Can it be changed in time? Doubtful. I really want to hold out hope that our intelligence and logic will avert the end that brings all great civilizations to their close, but it is hard to maintain any hope for this.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

Chinese dynasties have followed a similar pattern of rise and fall, though the causes behind each are not well documented, which itself illustrates the problem of hiding the facts on a national scale.

I do have a small hope, one that stems from the fact that the history is evident and undeniable, where we are in that historical process does seem clear enough.

If we can articulate that fact clearly enough, and loudly enough, perhaps sufficient numbers of us can find a way through . . .

nero fiddles . . .

rome burns . . .

[-] 1 points by HalRoberts (2) 11 years ago

Wall Streets 12000.00 DOW Less 20x Leverage = 600.00 DOW. The rest is False Profit Reality BITES

[-] 1 points by LSN45 (535) 11 years ago

Well said. I have no problem with people making lots and lots of money - as long as they don't subvert our democracy, disenfranchise the American voter, and destroy our environment in the process. For the sake our our children and future generations of Americans, we need to take back our democracy from the rich and powerful who are using their vast sums of money to "speak" as if they represent millions of Americans. They are twisting our laws and manipulating our policies in their favor at the expense of the average American. The $50 or $100 a normal American may give to a political campaign becomes meaningless when corporations or other special interests are handing our millions to buy political access to the decision making process. Here's my 2 cents on what we need to do:

For decades now the corporations and special interests have had our "representatives" bought and paid for (both on the right and the left). Don't get distracted by the symptoms - we need to address the root cause. Concentrating our efforts on getting the money out of our politics is the best way we can create an environment in which further reforms can be realized. Until we end the current system of legalized bribery (campaign donations) and paid lobbying our politicians will continue to be the LAP DOGS of the corporations and special interests. What we need first and foremost is real, loop-hole free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!!!! If the corruption is not dealt with first, the chance of any other meaningful reforms becoming a reality is almost zero - the special interests will just use their money to buy votes and put forward bills that create loop-holes or otherwise twist the law in their favor. If we want our children to live in a country where there vote matters, we need to get the money out of our politics, otherwise they will increasingly become the 21st century version of the "landless peasant." Spread the word - End the LEGALIZED BRIBERY!!! CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM needs to be THE main goal of the protests!!!

[-] 1 points by jomojo (562) 11 years ago

The experts, (buy their books), aren't able to sort it out for us. It's going to take a taste of poverty before most of the consumers get with the program. The complexity of past and present legislation is a perfect place to hide the ugly truth that laws are made for and by the wealthy.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago

I do hope you are wrong about the need for more poverty before the American public gets it.

I mean ultimately, why else would we be here?

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago

Greed is a disease.

This is why you treat it as you would a cancer. You cut out what you can, then you treat the remaining with Chemo-therapy.

The Justice Department should be the cutting scalpel.

Regulatory commissions should be the Chemo-therapy.

[-] -1 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

If what you mean by greed is desire for unearned wealth, then I agree that greed is bad. But that is not what I mean when I use the word and I don't think that it's what most people mean when they say it. What I mean when I use the word is the desire to earn more. In order to earn more, one must produce more (than one needs). This production facilitates trade. Trade facilitates advanced societies based on the division of labor.

The only thing that makes it possible for one to accumulate more than one has earned or produced directly is the use of force. Ordinarily, one who employs the use of force against another is branded as a criminal. When our government does it in the name of "economic redistribution" or "the common good", why should it be any different?

[-] 2 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 10 years ago

The desire to earn more and get ahead is ambition.

Merriam Webster dictionary site says: Greed: an intense selfish desire for wealth or possessions <don't let greed for riches control you> Synonyms acquisitiveness, avarice, avariciousness, avidity, avidness, covetousness, cupidity, graspingness, greediness, mercenariness, rapaciousness, rapacity

Key word is selfish.

[-] -1 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

for whom should one desire wealth if not for oneself?

[-] 2 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 10 years ago

Altruism. Look it up.

[-] 0 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

yes, I have... Altruism is the moral doctrine which preaches that one should work for the benefit of others rather than for oneself. I like the second definition provided by google's definition service: "Behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense." It is championed most... assertively... by Immanuel Kant. Kant argued that an action was without moral import if not done 'from duty'.

From Wikipedia: "Duty (from "due" meaning "that which is owing"; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence "debt") is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment to someone or something. The moral commitment is the sort that results in action"

This concept of duty assumes that one man has a debt to every other man who can "rightfully" claim that one has a duty to perform some action for his benefit.

Of course, a champion of Altruism might say: "It is a man's duty to provide for himself only as much as he needs to survive, and the rest should go to others." to which I would ask: Who is to decide what the man who is to work needs? And who is to decide how much that man should work for the benefit of others once he has satisfied the requirements of his body (not to mention his mind)?

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 10 years ago

Ah, rhetorical questions. Always a good way to shut down any discussion.

[-] 0 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

Only if one's opponent cannot refute the answer (or prove that the question is fallacious) and has no more points in favor of their argument :)

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 10 years ago

Setting up what I "might say" but didn't is the old straw man debate trick. You said it, so it's your to refute.

[-] 0 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

You're right. And I did. That question was the only semi-rational defense of altruism left after my initial attack. If you are not prepared to defend the principle of Altruism then don't bring it up.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

Greed n. An excessive desire for more than one needs or deserves.

................................ The American Heritage Dictionary

A simple desire to earn more, an aspiration, is not greed, when it is not excessive.

Greed does not facilitate trade, it stifles it. It stifles it by removing excessive amounts of capital from the economy and concentrating it in one place.

You have just demonstrated what I was saying - and that is that greed has become so common place that we have begun to redefine what it means and thus secure the position of those who practice greed.

[-] 0 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

How is it to be decided whether or not something is excessive?

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

when you have to lie, cheat, or steal, you have obviously crossed the line.

When you have to redefine common English terms to justify your behavior, then it becomes clear too many of you have crossed the line.

It is said: When someone who drinks begins to wonder about excessive consumption, they have already consumed to excess.

[-] 0 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

"when you have to lie, cheat, or steal, you have obviously crossed the line." agreed. But this has nothing to do with greed. These are violations of the rights of others.

I have neither lied, cheated, nor stolen to obtain what I have. My understanding of the word greed was not a re-definition, but what I understand it to mean through the way I have heard people use it. I have an intense and selfish desire for the things I have obtained and plan to obtain, but I do not intend to obtain things for which I have no use, nor do I wish to obtain them simply to deprive others of their use.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

I should have quantified the when of my earlier statement -

"when you have to lie, cheat, or steal, you have obviously crossed the line."

If you are not starving, if you are not freezing, when your basic needs for security are met, and then you find yourself lying, cheating, stealing, to get more, this is clearly excessive. As such it qualifies as greed.

Were I, for example, to proclaim, out on any street corner, that I lust and I hold forth on all of the goodness, the rightness, the justness, that is my lust -

and If I did not quantify whether my urge ran toward

  • pleasure of the flesh, or

  • pleasure of possessions -

how do you suppose people would react?

Would quantification really matter?

Is too much simply too much?

Or is it simply a question of decency?

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago

I think you meant qualify? I do not understand the purpose of your question but I will answer anyway. Lust is a strong (sexual) desire for something. I think people would pay you no attention and avoid you if you were shouting about your lust on a street corner.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

lust 1. Intense, excessive, or unrestrained sexual desire. 2. An overwhelming craving. 3. Intense eagerness or obsessive desire, esp. sexual desire [OE desire]

..................American Heritage Dictionary

In point of fact I could be referring to any kind of over sized or unrestrained desire. Lust is indicative of excess - both the desire for things and the desire for sex stem from biological urges that have a right and natural place in every human being.

Taken to excess, such urges have adverse consequences.

What I suggested above was that you were shouting about your own lust, in this case for things, not sex, but that on a street corner without quantification of that which you lust for, it has a certain appearance.

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 10 years ago


[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

. . . and . . . .

while I may find such plain spoken and articulate demonstration of pure need interesting,

. . . after all, we all have needs . . .

it is perhaps unseemly, unnatural, as a matter of public discourse . . . .

and it does not change the fact, that a redefinition of the term itself, greed, has in fact been attempted. You can see that plainly with the movie Wall Street with Michael Douglas, who portrays one Gordon Geko, who does insist throughout, that greed is good.