Monday, September 10, 2012


Greed, or avarice, if you will, is one of the seven capital sins of the Christian church, the remaining six being wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.  We don't hear much about the others in this era of financial shenanigans but there's a nearly universal condemnation of greed.  It happens, however, that there's a continuum  of subjectivity to all of the seven deadly sins.  There doesn't seem to be a line of "pride" somewhere between abject self-hatred and total egomania.  If one eats two quarter-pounders with cheese rather than just a fish sandwich is he bumping against the "gluttony" milepost?  What about sloth?  Are unemployed folks that sit in front of the big eye all day instead of sweeping up the walk in front of their section 8 housing just as sinful as derivatives traders, but in a different category?  Lust seems to have acquired something of the attributes of a disease, sexaholics and alcoholics even sharing the same encounter groups.  Wanting to hose the neighbor's daughter isn't lustful, she just insists on wearing those provocative clothes.

Greed, defined by Merriam-Webster is:   : a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed. 
 How does anyone know "how much is needed"?  If someone wants a banana split, which nobody actually needs, are they guilty of greed?  Union workers, whose representatives bargain tenaciously for every cent of wages, fringe benefits, and other compensation, while decrying the greed of management certainly aren't being entirely altruistic themselves.  In fact, union members often enthusiastically sign on for overtime work with higher compensation which decreases the opportunities for other workers.  What about that?  When the agent of a baseball player or television actor holds out for an extra quarter million are they being greedy or just going after what the market's been paying?  We can apparently measure greed, or at least some incidents of it, in dollars, which is a little easier than measuring pride or wrath.  Maybe that's why it so easy to rage against Wall Street.

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