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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Did Gordon Gekko have something: ”....Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.”?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21091 points ) April 24th, 2011

Did Gordon Gekko have something: ”—-Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.”?

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. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. I have a better word of it; ”controlled ambition”. What is the matter with controlled ambition? When you think of it most things we enjoy, especially the industrial nations, came not by sheer will of innovation to see if it could be done but for gain or profit. One man’s “greed” is what would take a business out of his garage to a posh complex in Silicone Valley employing 100s if not 1,000s of workers. Yes, there is bad greed, but why would not greed that comes out as a win-win not be good? And I am sure there will be many who would try to point out how you can’t have both.

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19 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. Yes he did.

kenmc's avatar

To summarize, “I’m a cunt. Everyone should hate me.”

No, he didn’t have something. He had a sociopathic view of his fellow human. A self-hatred that he took out on others.

gmander's avatar

Ambition is good. Greed is bad. Greed is the rapacious desire to have an excess of a commodity simply for its own sake. If you take more than you know you need, I can’t see how that can be a win-win. Someone else will be disadvantaged.

As far as I can tell, the only way to make greed good would be to use a definition of the word that wouldn’t be generally accepted. In which case you are simply playing tricks with language.

Talimze's avatar

That’s a fanciful justification. Just because some innovation (or most, even) has come about due to people being motivated by selfishness doesn’t make it a good thing. If you have any amount more than you need while others don’t have enough and you try to convince yourself and others that it’s okay, then you are a bad person.

janbb's avatar

The Tea Party/Ayn Rand followers would have you believe thus; but I don’t.

dabbler's avatar

To your concluding question, what about “greed that comes out as a win-win” I’d say yes, although if it’s really a win-win I don’t think I’d call that greed, it’s ambition and industriousness. Gecko didn’t have win-win in mind. There were a lot of losers in that movie at the airline that got busted up just to make the speculators rich. Sucking up riches while externalizing costs is the signature talent of corporations of all kinds and someone else pays those costs – guess who, yep, you and I usually.
Some of the sorriest excuses for human endeavor that you can point to involve some “successful” people with spreadsheets whose bottom line looks good while off the chart the public is paying the price living with toxins or paying more for their food than they would have had to.

nebule's avatar

I would argue that greed is not ‘controlled’ at all… it’s a lack of contentment with what one has which breeds a desire to acquire excessive amounts of…whatever… and ambition is not excessive.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Healthy societies make selfishness and altruism one and the same, making what is good for the individual good for the community. Greed is the toxic mimic of that. It is not good.

jerv's avatar

It seems I am not alone in my feelings that greed can be good but that many take it too far. Greed allowed Bill Gates to start Microsoft, turn many of the employees at that fledgling company into millionaires, and create shitloads of jobs. Greed is also what allows CEOs to get multi-million-dollar compensation packages while the regular workers struggle to even pay rent and allows them to ride golden parachutes while everybody else is hoofing it to the unemployment line after said CEO mismanages the company into oblivion.

Ambition is definitely good. Greed…. it depends on how far you take it.

iamthemob's avatar

The statement, in the context of the movie, is justifiable as a reaction to criticism of Wall Street that painted them as greedy individuals. The purpose is not, necessarily, to say that greed is good – as Gekko indicates, that’s a simplification. It was, in many ways, Wall Street, owning greed – stating, “Okay, fine, we can’t win if we try to claim that we’re not greedy…so yeah, we are…but look at what we do?”

In the end, self interest and ambition are generally good. Someone isn’t greedy for wanting more or wanting to be better. Greed happens when you start wanting more for more’s sake, start wanting more by ensuring that the other guy has less, and start wanting more at the expense of others.

jerv's avatar

@iamthemob Since when have people not taken things out of context to justify themselves though?

ratboy's avatar

Bill Maher recently called attention to this note that quotes one of the architects of economic destruction:

Alan Greenspan is among the most well known of Ayn Rand’s supporters, and in fact, he became a member of the Collective upon marrying another Rand disciple.
Mr. Greenspan made the following comment in defense of Rand’s book, ‘Atlas Shrugged’, in a letter to The New York Times in 1957:

‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

In other words, only the most successful/richest among us, deserves to survive.
Worthy of noting, sales of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ have soared in recent years. One poll ranked it as the second most influential book of the 20th century…..second only to the Bible.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@nebule I would argue that greed is not ‘controlled’ at all… it’s a lack of contentment with what one has which breeds a desire to acquire excessive amounts of…whatever… and ambition is not excessive. If it was not controlled it would be ”at all cost” like drug dealers and cartels, anyone who got in the way of profits would be eliminated. Even if you have the desire to get your hands on as much as you can as fast as you can if you don’t go about it recklessly or illegally then it has some measure of control to it.

@jerv It seems I am not alone in my feelings that greed can be good but that many take it too far. Greed allowed Bill Gates to start Microsoft, turn many of the employees at that fledgling company into millionaires, and create shitloads of jobs. A very good example of how greed can bring along many in its wake. Would many of those at HP, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Java, Ebay, etc have found jobs elsewhere? Maybe, but would they have earned as much. At what point does ambition become greed?

Greed is also what allows CEOs to get multi-million-dollar compensation packages while the regular workers struggle to even pay rent and allows them to ride golden parachutes while everybody else is hoofing it to the unemployment line after said CEO mismanages the company into oblivion. The stockholders really own the company the CEO just runs it. The stockholders need to exercise their vote and change the board if they don’t like who the board hires of how the CEOs run the joint. They can replace all the board members to ones who are more in tuned to what they want. Those who erect themselves lucrative golden parachutes to me is more of abuse of power than greed.

@iamthemob Greed happens when you start wanting more for more’s[sic] sake, start wanting more by ensuring that the other guy has less, and start wanting more at the expense of others. The operative word would be not so much as I win but everyone else must fail. Wanting to win but bring those who want to along in the vacuum is a good thing to me. If I wanted to start a company making Green cell phones that pose little danger to the environment I could do so just to help the planet and not paten it or protect the technology or I can do so with the ideal I can line my pockets for a better living, if I structure the company to that those involved behind me was getting perks or incentives that encourage loyal participation or continued innovation because they knew if the company did we so will they then it is a good thing. If you tell your underlings they will have a seat at the table but you have to build the table 1st, they will bring you more quality wood than if you simply wanted them to build you a table and they were never allowed to sit at it.

jerv's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central
If it was not controlled it would be ”at all cost” like drug dealers and cartels, anyone who got in the way of profits would be eliminated.
Who says it isn’t already? I think it depends on the company. You are correct insofar as it generally doesn’t involve violence or bloodshed like Shadowrun where corporations are allowed to maintain paramilitary security forces, but the cynic in me wants to add “yet” to that statement.

At what point does ambition become greed?
One sign is when you are more concerned about what is good for you than what is good for the company. Another is when your personal fate does not match the fate of the company. All of the companies you mention grew rapidly, continue(d) to grow for quite a while, and are not in any real danger of tanking in the foreseeable future.

The stockholders really own the company the CEO just runs it.
The same goes for our country, only substitute “voters” and “politicians”. And like government, there is a lot of voter apathy so we pretty much let the lunatics run the asylum :/

ratboy's avatar

Greed is not a degree of ambition. Greed becomes a social evil when personal avarice trumps the common good or general welfare. Meteor Blades in today’s Daily Kos paints a vivid portrait of the greed that it is unravelling the fabric of our society:

“In the view of multitudes of corporate CEOs and the folks at the American Enterprise Institute and its ideological compatriots, the market is working just fine. As traditionally measured, that’s true. A multinational operation that maintains efficiency and manages, for instance, to sell plenty of cars at a good profit around the planet is doing what such enterprises are supposed to do. It’s no skin off a shareholder’s nose if new employees are hired at half the rate their predecessors were and the benefits they receive are trimmed. If they can no longer afford, as they could working for Henry Ford, to buy one of the cars they make, so what? And it doesn’t matter to shareholders if jobs are exported where workers paid 20 percent of what Americans receive can build cars just as efficiently. Or computers. Or televisions. Or software. You name it. If it doesn’t matter to those own the stock, it certainly doesn’t matter to the CEOs.”

jerv's avatar

@ratboy Insightful :)

ETpro's avatar

If you think tha Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great and more modern conquerors like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were good, then yes, greed is good. It’s what drove them. If you think that the Medieval Lords were right to tax the peasants to starvation so they could have vast palaces and be surrounded by luxury, then greed is good. If you think an America where wealth and privileged are family assets that are handed down generation by generation to a tiny oligarchy while the vast majority are excluded from any participation, left to eek out starvation diets or die in the cold streets, then greed is good. Banana Republics are societies set up on greed. So if Haiti is your cup of tea, then greed is great.

Greed may seem good to the Gordon Gekkos of the the US. They are among the wealthiest 1%, and they know that with their brains and position, greed will serve them admirably. Who cares if we waste the talent of hundreds of equally brainy children born to poor families in the Banana Republic they yearn for? They are on top, and their children and grandchildren will be too, for as long as the family survives. But they have a problem. In a democracy, you can’t win elections with 1% of the people. And so for the last 40 years, a handful of billionaires have been funding right-wing think tanks and PR firms to convince more and more average Americans that trickle-down is the only answer. And that effort has given us the caustic partisan divide we have today.

Nancy Pelosi didn’t lurch far to the left ot Tip O’Neill. John Boehner and Paul Ryan are far, far to the right of Howard H. Baker. Take an inventory of the Great Republicans of the 1960s, through the 80s, None of them could survive a Republican primary today. Those that want an oligarchy here declared class warfare on the middle class and the poor. Their biggest Big Lie to cover that up is bellowing class warfare (as in the poor stealing all the nation’s wealth) whenever anyone points out what their greed is doing to the America we once knew. But that’s just projecting.

It is those who would be the perpetual oligarchs that declared class warfare, and they have used clever talking points and PR to turn a sizable percentage of the American middle class into their dupes, out shaking their fists at the very people who are fighting for a viable middle class instead of a banana republic.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

Sometimes I think you might want to ask for clarification before you start challenging everyone one their statements. ;-)

(1) More for more’s sake didn’t really require a “sic”. I was stating that greed happens when you want more not because you’ll notice a difference or because it benefits you, but because you just want it for its own sake. More for “more’s” sake…for the sake of more. ;-)

(2) You take my line about not winning but ensuring that everyone else fails and start talking about patent prosecution generally. I wasn’t at all talking about a situation where one person has an idea and starts a company based on that idea while attempting to protect it. I was talking about situations where one attempts to obtain more market share by suppressing other companies attempting to enter the market. So, it’s not about the “green company” trying to enter the market and determining whether or not to protect itself. It’s about a formerly successful and powerful industry competitor seeing the new entry and, instead of pushing R&D to advance past the other company’s product, just hammering it into the ground through dirtier methods, which then preclude competition.

My statement was about the scenarios when one company stops another from being successful because that would cut into the first company’s profits. That’s not greed being good…rather, it’s greed stopping progress.

dabbler's avatar

@ratboy great quote from Greenspan/Rand. The most astonishing thing to me is whom are called parasites. Tea party and “Objectivists” folks go along with that nodding their heads like the good parasites they are… approximately none of them will ever be in that uber class.
Note also that he has admitted to some “mistakes” in his vigorous endorsement of deregulation. He couldn’t have imagined that intelligent actors in the financial industry, having foremost in their minds their own self-interest, would mess with their business ecosystem so extensively. Wall Street Gerbil link

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