Thursday, October 15, 2009

Divinipotent About Greed

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Under the headline "Wall Street on Track to Award Record Pay," an article in the October 14, 2009 Wall Street Journal (subscription required) calmly reports that top financial firms — the same people who brought the world economy to the brink of total implosion — are expected to give themselves startlingly high pay hikes this year. Among the statistics cited in the story:
  • Total compensation for top banks and securities firms is expected to jump 20% from 2008.
This spectacle of entitlement at a time when people continue to lose their homes and unemployment hovers near 10% is as infuriating as it is abhorrent.

“Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything.”
~ Publius Syrus

Let's just say it. Greed is not good. Everyone wants to earn a decent living, but Wall Street has forgotten something humanity has known for thousands of years. The Bhagavad Gita says greed, like lust and anger, is one of the three gates of hell. To Roman Catholics, greed is one of the seven deadly sins. And the Old Testament considered the worship of money and possessions a form of idolatry.

"Money doesn't talk, it swears."
~ Bob Dylan

On today's Wall Street, the idolatry seems to have a new twist: self-worship. Wall Street's smart boys consider themselves not only worth their gluttonous pay packages, but indispensable. They are so enamored of their ability to wring money from the economy that they feel entitled to do so, regardless of the cost to society. Their attitude is reflected in this statement by libertarian radio talk show host Neal Boortz:
“Greed: A word commonly used by liberals, low achievers, anti-capitalists and society's losers to denigrate, shame and discredit those who have acquired superior job skills and decision-making capabilities and who, through the application of those job skills, achieve success.”

"My major problem with the world is a problem of scarcity in the midst of plenty...of people starving while there are unused resources...people having skills which are not being used."
~ Milton Friedman

Divinipotent Daily is no economic expert, but logic suggests that if massive amounts of water are diverted from a river upstream, those living downstream will not have enough to drink. Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas seemed to agree. He said of greed, "It is a sin directly against one's neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them."

At times like these, the impulse to head down to Wall Street and lock people up in old-fashioned stocks — the type used in Colonial days — is strong. Divinipotent Daily will restrain herself and instead hope that the exhaustion Erich Fromm mentions below sets in quickly.

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."
~ Erich Fromm

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