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[Opinion] A Disease Named Greed

Posted August. 14, 2002 22:35,   


It now seems that ‘greed’ has become a symbol of America. Fortune, U.S.-based business weekly, listed in its latest edition the ‘most greedy entrepreneurs’ who made fortune out of stock trading while investors suffered staggering losses. Al Gore, former Vice President who lost to Gorge W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, once said, “Extraordinary power joined force with extraordinary greed, and gave birth to deception and loss that is unprecedented in our history.” Allen Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, also warned the ‘infectious greed’ spread among entrepreneurs in a senate hearing.

▷Long before them, however, Wall Street’s investment genius Geko, who became a model for 1987 Hollywood movie “Wall Street,” made more insightful remarks. He maintained, “Greed is good, Greed yields fruits, Greed is righteous….” He was a true advocate of Adam Smith, an economist who saw capitalism as a growth engine.

Americans, of course, must earn as much money as possible when they can. There seems no certain future for them in the so-called American managerial environment where the most competent survive. When asked, “Would you like to work less and pay less?” only 8% of Americans answered yes, while 38% of German and 30% of Japanese did so. This demonstrates well there is no looking back and no pause in corporate America.

▷When it comes to administering human greed, it seems that the East and the West have different viewpoints. “Only those who know how to satisfy can have a taste of delicious stew out of a unsavory dish.” There is an old saying in Asia that places more weight on individual morality. In contrast, followers of Hobs, believing humans are evil, resort to institutional arrangements to keep human greed in check.

The founding fathers of America knew the human nature so well that they established the three-branch system for checks and balance. But now the country elected a rich oil businessman as its political leader. And its exemplary democracy is swayed by the ‘mob capitalism’ that has even spread to the judicial system and the Congress.

▷The rub is that greed never knows when to satisfy. It is an incurable disease. Writer John Updike once noted that the common denominator between money and sex is that people get never satisfied with them. “You can have all the land you travel through,” said a devil in one of Tolstoy’s fables. Then a farmer walked all day long and died of tiredness. King Midas cried over a daughter he turned into gold. Are these stories telling where corporate America is heading? They say greed grows in proportion to wealth. Then I must feel relieved that I am just a humble man when it comes to both wealth and greed.

Kim Soon-duck, Editorial Writer