Written By: - Date published: 9:15 am, April 21st, 2014 - 14 comments
Categories: broadcasting, capitalism, class war, democratic participation, Economy, election 2014, news, poverty, sustainability, workers' rights - Tags: inequality
It’s a slow news day, and I was browsing some overseas newspapers. I came across this article on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald: “Greed is the market’s forgotten vice” by Ross Gittins. It’s an op ed review of a book, Beyond greed by Dr Brian Rosner, principal of Ridley Melbourne, an Anglican theological college. I’m not religious, but the concepts are pretty relevant to today’s increasingly secular society: one where the Christian legacy is still visible in our culture/s.
The article outlines how greed was once considered a major sin, but now is treated as something pretty trivial, or, in the case of the Randians, a major good. Gittins pulls some facts cited in the book:
Rossner argues that greed has become a form of religion, within which the “economy” has become regarded as sacred.
In place of the celebration of greed, Rossner puts in a bid for the alternative as being “contented” – that is, contented with our lot, but not with the way life is for those less well off than ourselves. Clearly he sees his target audience is the middle classes, or at least the better off working classes.
These are admirable sentiments, but provide a counter to greed in the form of individual responses and Victorian era charity. A further point where I part company with the views of Rossner (as explained by Gitlin, is when he argues that greed underlies three major threats to our civilisation: terrorism, pollution and crime.
I do think that greed underlies major problems in our society, including the threats to the environment. However, I l did a search to see what else have been said about greed and the state of 21st century western society.
According to a sketchy Wikipedia article, there is a theory that greed, fear and herd instinct are the “three main emotional motivators of stock markets and business behavior”.
An article behind a pay wall at Scientific American, “Greed: How Economic Selfishness Harms Us All“, uses a Gordon Gekko quote from the 1980s movie, Wall Street.
I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that 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.
This has been the dominant ethos since the neoliberal or neocon revolution of the 1980s.
I found a part of a 2004 book, not behind a pay wall, that looks like it’s worth a read. It is from the book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives, by Sam Pizzigati. This author is described as a “long-time labor movement journalist”.
This section of the book, on a PDF file, The Cost of Greed is a secular analysis of the religion of greed and its sacred “market”. Its focus is on inequality as being THE major social threat to our society and democracy. The section concludes by pointing to evidence that income gaps translate to voting gaps: the decline in the numbers of people voting. To function democratically society needs public forums that enable public criticism.