Greed has generally been considered an excessive desire to get and keep more than one needs. The degree of excess appears to be related to the inability to distinguish wants from needs. On one hand greed may seek to deprive others from basic survival, comfort, and opportunity; conspiracies of world domination come to mind. On the other, it can be viewed as the endless task of trying to fill some inner need with things, things that will never satisfy the need; sad tales of eccentric billionaires come to mind. But, perhaps neither or both are true. Perhaps, they also happen simultaneously.
Post-secondary colleges and universities scramble to recruit students while prospects feel the pinch of limited access. Hunger persists while crops are tilled under. Homelessness remains a critical problem during a housing glut. A while ago the agency I lead was looking for space. We quickly found that there were many, many vacant buildings not on the market; their owners were holding out for better economic returns. If we leave the notion of intent for another discussion, the situations described here serve to remind us that opportunity is being hoarded and the basics of life are being denied.
Erich Fromm described greed as “a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” The wealthiest 85 people in the world appear to have an insatiable appetite. Their collective holdings are greater than those of the lowest 50% of the population. Their wealth is earned through the manipulation of policies, practices, treaties, and laws that will disproportionately benefit only them. Their wealth is not earned from their own labor. They are not more intelligent, beautiful, connected, energetic, enthusiastic, or powerful than anyone else. They are just more greedy.
Their system is challenging community, as the 50% of the world’s population compete for what is left. The world’s children and women are disproportunately poor because of this greed.