“The Age of Greed”
IF MAN has difficulty in eradicating the common cold, what is his chance of eliminating the far more complex malady of greed?
It seems that greed and selfishness do not even have to be learned—they are apparently there from childhood. You can watch two toddlers at play with their toys and see that.
Individual human greed is common enough and bad enough, but when it comes to national or international greed, millions are affected to their detriment. Take, for example, the international drug trade. A Spanish-language magazine claims that this is the world’s biggest business—$300 thousand million a year. Millions of lives are ruined, and countless untimely deaths are caused by the misuse of drugs. What is the root cause of the alarming proliferation of the drug trade? Without doubt, it is greed.
World Press Review highlights this motive of greed. It quotes the Madrid newsmagazine Cambio 16, which avers that “barely 10 to 20 percent of all profits from drug sales go to the producer countries. Another 10 percent is funneled back into the trafficking network by way of reinvestment in laboratories, vehicles, and weapons. . . . The remainder winds up in the consumer countries and in the tax shelters of the world banking system.”
This belies the view that need is the reason for greed, that greed is only a trait of the poor or the underprivileged. Obviously, greed is a widespread human failing that involves the whole spectrum of society, including those not really in need at all. One of the strange characteristics of greed is that it is so insidious—even people normally content with their lot in life will manifest greed if unexpectedly given the opportunity.
Columnist Meg Greenfield laments: “You open your paper on any given day and you read about the grand juries and the special prosecutors and the questionable calls, the hustles and the scams and the overreachings, and it’s pretty depressing. Even accepting that some of the charges brought are groundless and others overblown, it is apparent to me that time and again people did things and were allowed to get away with things that should never have been allowed. . . . This is how far we have come: even much of our altruism is self-indulgent, greedy.”
Greed is not something new among mankind, though it has no doubt escalated owing to the pressures of 20th-century living. So widespread has greed become that an editorial in The Christian Century assigns to the decade of the 1980’s a name that it feels matches such names as “The Age of Anxiety” of the 1950’s or “The Me Decade” of the 1970’s. It labels the 1980’s “The Age of Greed”!
Today, greed can be seen in every area where people gather together—at workplaces, at schools, and in the community at large. It has worked its corrupting influence into commerce, into politics, and even into the mainstream religions of the world.
More often than not, greed develops into illegal corruption or fraud. The Canberra Times, for instance, assigns to Australia the dubious honor of leading the world in car-insurance fraud. The Australian Law Society Journal seems to support this, stating: “Fraudulent claims/statements made by insured persons cost insurance companies, and indirectly insured persons, millions of dollars each year.” The journal adds that “it is an increasingly serious problem, particularly in the areas of arson, wharf pillage, automobile and home contents insurance.”
So it is easy to understand why many people scoff at the idea that greed will ever be eradicated. Why, they feel that greed will always be with us and that a greed-free world is just an impossible dream.
Greed Will Be Eradicated
On what basis can the above impossible-sounding assertion be made? It is based on the fact that greed-free living is already being achieved. While this achievement is not perfect, it does show what can be done with proper education and motivation. The following article will show just how there can be an entire world without greed.