Skip to main content

Photobucket

Gordon Gekko was a crook.  People forget that.

Mention "Gordon Gekko" and people think of the "Greed is Good" speech from early in the movie Wall Street, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! 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. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

To many on the left, this speech is self-evidently loathsome.  Don't believe that it's self-evident.

Greed -- like fear, like anger, like love -- has its place in a society and in an economy.  It's a given within human nature, part of the terrain on which we journey.  We can figure out ways to constrain its excesses -- and we should.  That's what the debate over regulatory capitalism and a social safety net are about: allowing greed to work for us without dominating and dividing us.

I disagree with the unyielding and simplistic ideology expressed so fervently here, but I know that many, many Americans won't consider it loathsome. It is a distillation of the intellectual foundation for capitalism, for competition, for "creative destruction."  It has a strong intellectual pedigree ranging from economics to biology; it demands to be taken seriously.  Disagree with it, refute it, refine it, fine -- but don't fail to ignore its power.  When you attack the "greed is good" speech, you attack rapacious capitalism at the peak of its potency, at its most suave and persuasive.

That's not only bad strategically, but unnecessary.  We can agree that greed has its place in theory -- but then point to its nastier place in practice.

The best criticism of the speech is that, without a counter and effective check by society, greed doesn't stop at being mere greed.  It turns into thirst for political power, the desire to fix the game and make sure it stays fixed, the desire to suppress and consume the supposedly "weak."  Greed, left to its own devices, turns into criminality.

Did people watch Wall Street all the way to the end?

Here's the "greed is good" speech.

I hate to spoil the movie for anyone, but you have had 25 years to watch it by now.  It turns out that Gordon Gekko is engaged in insider trading and stock manipulation.  Greed doesn't stay constrained.  Greed is like heat -- it makes the engine run, but at some point it can also melt the engine.

This leads to a delicious downfall, of course (need I warn about spoilers?):

And while I can't find video of it, it leads to this final confrontation ...

Gordon Gekko: [meeting alone together in Central Park] Hiya, Buddy.

Bud Fox: [nods as the both walk up to face one another] Gordon.

Gordon Gekko: [with a smirk on his face] Sand bagged me on Bluestar huh? I guess you think you taught the teacher a lesson that the tail can wag the dog huh? Well let me clue you in, pal. The ice is melting right underneath your feet.

[punches Bud and grabs him by the coattails]

Gordon Gekko: Did you think you could've gotten this far this fast with anyone else, huh? That you'd be out there dicking someone like Darien? No. You'd still be cold calling widows and dentists tryin' to sell 'em 20 shares of some dog shit stock. I took you in.

[hits him again]

Gordon Gekko: A NOBODY!

[and again]

Gordon Gekko: I opened the doors for you! Showed you how the system works! The value of information! How to get it! Fulham oil! Brant resources! Geodynamics! And this is how you fucking pay me back you COCKROACH?

[hits him once again and Bud falls to the ground]

... which is of course secretly being recorded, landing Gekko in prison and landing Martin Sheen the opportunity to give a jaunty, fatherly "well, a little time in prison will probably be good for you" speech to his son.

When people say that Mitt Romney reminds them of Gordon Gekko, they're thinking of the "Greed is Good" speech.  But that's not all there is to the movie.  When you compare someone to Gordon Gekko, you have to watch all the way through to the end.  Greed turns out not to be good because greed turns out not to be controlled.

One can imagine Romney giving the "greed is good" speech.  One could even imagine him, in his candid and private moments, saying the likes of this:

The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you.

And one can even imagine Romney avoiding Gekko's fate.  The difference between Mitt Romney and Gordon Gekko (aside from comfort in one's own skin) is that Romney -- a prince of his country and of his church -- had the clout and legal firepower to make sure that his harmful schemes were technically legal -- so far as we know.

I don't think that Mitt Romney will ever go to jail for his similarities with Gordon Gekko.  But those similarities will be enough to keep him from the Presidency.  People may be titillated by a good speech, but by the end they don't root for the villain.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas were good (13+ / 0-)

    in producing that movie.  My favorite suggestion of the day is from a comment by semiot another diary, which I shall shamelessly crib here (in slightly truncated form, because I agree with the comments to it):

    In the movies, I played a rapacious capitalist who cared only about amassing obscene profits while devastating the lives of millions. Mitt Romney has played that part for real. I'm casting my vote in November for the sake of millions of Americans who know that President Obama is working in their interest. I'm asking you to join me.

    By the way, has anyone noticed yet that Mitt Romney will not be able to keep this story out of the public mind this summer, because the big Batman movie coming up stars the supervillian named ... Bane?

    (Makes one wonder why no one thought to create a blockbuster movie for the summer of 2000 in which the heroine was a reformed sinner named "Carla Faye Tucker."  Maybe things would have turned out differently.)

    Democrats must
    Earn the trust
    Of the 99% --
    That's our intent!

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

    by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 11:25:21 AM PST

  •  Every year, income gets converted to 'wealth' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, jfromga

    Is there still time to correct our economy through income taxes? And, if we move to wealth, is there enough time to effect needed corrections through the restoration of the estate tax? Or, have we reached the point where a nearly-confiscatory wealth tax will be the only alternative to ... revolution?

    Inquiring minds need to know!

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 11:41:31 AM PST

    •  A tax on wealth (accumulated property) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clem Yeobright, Seneca Doane, VClib

      is unconstitutional.  For an explanation, see this discussion of why the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was necessary to authorize an income tax. Right now, the Constitution authorizes a direct tax on income -- which, in tax terms, means that wealth changes hands. It's a transactional tax -- the transaction (the changing hands) triggers the tax.  Accumulated wealth -- i.e. taxing, say, property or a savings account -- without that kind of transaction is not authorized by the 16th Amendment.  (The interest on a savings account, which is money the bank pays you, is transactional -- and is income.)  To tax accumulated wealth at the federal level the way you tax income at the federal level, you'd probably need a constitutional amendment.  

      States legislatures (depending on the state constitutions) typically have broader powers in these areas that does the federal government, which is why states can impose things like a property tax, which is more akin to a tax on accumulated wealth.  

      •  Well, almost (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clem Yeobright

        A direct tax on wealth is unconstitutional.  You could constitutionally impose a "capitation tax" on wealth (per head, i.e. based on population) directly upon the states, who would then have to figure out how to come up with the money.  Further jiggering of the system in a progressive direction is possible.

        Democrats must
        Earn the trust
        Of the 99% --
        That's our intent!

        "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

        by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:05:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think that what most people here are thinking (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Clem Yeobright, VClib

          when they advocate a wealth tax is, in fact, a direct tax.  That's why I addressed it that way.  

          I agree that you are technically correct. However, a capitation tax on states, with the states left to decide how to raise the money, is not what most people here would advocate, I think.  Think what that do to California.  

          •  Then California could impose a wealth tax (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Clem Yeobright

            or perhaps certain arrangements could be made to subsidize or rebate money to certain states based on how they raised the money.

            Democrats must
            Earn the trust
            Of the 99% --
            That's our intent!

            "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

            by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 03:18:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Cf John Marshall Harlan's dissent from Pollock (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Seneca Doane

        v Farmer's Loan & Trust here

        If it had any validity in 1895, it has all the more since the 16th Amendment.

        When, therefore, this court adjudges, as it does now adjudge, that Congress cannot impose a duty or tax upon personal property, or upon income arising either from rents of real estate or from personal property, including invested personal property, bonds, stocks, and investments of all kinds, except by apportioning the sum to be so raised among the States according to population, it practically decides that, without an amendment of the Constitution — two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the States concurring — such property and incomes can never be made to contribute to the support of the national government.

        Further, it took less than 7 months for the XVIth Amendment to be ratified, due to the apparent and obvious danger to the Republic of the concentration of wealth.

        Yes, you're right that there are issues.

        No, you're wrong that these are insoluble.

        Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

        by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:10:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dissents are only law (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Seneca Doane, VClib

          if they later become majorities.  

          I didn't say that the issues are "insoluble"  I just said a wealth tax would likely be unconstitutional -- I should have added "as the Constitution stands today."  I still think that's correct -- and the dissent in Pollock doesn't change that, unless you can count five votes on today's SCOTUS for overturning Pollock and giving Congress more power to tax than it has today.  

          And I specifically acknowledged that the problem can be fixed with a Constitutional amendment.  I'm not sure, however, that in today's environment, you can get those super majorities to give the Congress more power to tax than it has today.  I'm pretty confident that a wealth tax would have a snowball's chance in hell of getting the required two-thirds of both the House and the Senate.  

          •  The concentration of wealth is a real problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Seneca Doane

            and it mightn't be solved by taxing income.

            As the diarist points out, states are starved for resources as well and they have the power to tax wealth, but as long as states are in competition one with another they are inhibited from exploiting that resource. A national wealth tax, however configured, could unravel that Gordian Knot.

            More broadly, referent to the NPV (National Popular Vote) diaries, a great deal of the social reform in Europe and the U.S. over the last two centuries has been centered on the issues of ballot/voting rights and wealth distribution, probably because they are so closely tied to the concept of 'fairness'.  

            My initial enquiry was merely as to whether the 'greed' problem is amenable to solution through regulation and income tax or if it had expanded to the point only wealth taxation could be effective.

            Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

            by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 02:45:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Clem - you can slowly reverse (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Clem Yeobright

              some of the wealth accumulation through higher marginal tax rates on earned income and higher rates on capital gains and dividends. But you can't change the accumulated wealth to this point without a wealth tax, which will not be implemented in the foreseeable future.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 03:49:19 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ca se verra (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib

                The British had a similar problem 100 years ago and were successful with a confiscatory estate tax - as well as income  taxes as you describe - so perhaps the corrections can be achieved here in a gradual matter.

                My main observation was that every year we permit income to be converted into property imposes additional difficulties in recouping society's just interest in those 'greedy' gains.

                [SD: I apologize for any fault that I have diverted the discussion from the considerable substance you provided ab initio. My concern has been long-standing and this seemed an appropriate opportunity to express it.]

                Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

                by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 04:28:54 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Truth is often nuanced (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, Clem Yeobright, VClib

    I agree that greed, unchecked, is a bad thing.  Even basic laws against theft demonstrate that.  Laws are necessary to prevent your greed from infringing on my life, liberty, and property.

    That said, I also agree with the basic point of the "greed is good" speech as I understand it.  I understand the point to be that the most motivating thing in the world is self-interest (and within that, I include those you care about most, like your family).  As a general rule, people are far more motivated, will work far harder, when they and the ones they love are the direct beneficiaries of that work.  Yes, there are exceptions, and good people do help others, but when you are talking about over the long haul, people will work far harder if, for example, what they make goes to benefit them and their family (i.e., for their own self-interest) than they will if you tell them that the money they make will go to "society as a whole."   Conservatives like to tell a story of Plymouth Plantation being founded with communal property rights,  which was a "failure" and how dividing that same property up into individual plots with each benefiting more directly from his own work resulted in much greater production.  Whether that story is true or not (google it and you will see numerous retellings), I agree with the principle -- people will work much harder for their own interests than they will if the fruits of their labor go to the "communal good."  

    So, in that sense, yes, "Greed is good."  It is why capitalism has been the most productive economic system -- for all levels of income -- that the world has developed.  At its best, capitalism is a way of using "greed" (i.e., individual self interest) as a motivation to innovate and produce.  However, capitalism must be checked so as to assure that your motivation does not infringe on my rights.  

    •  Rec for expressing the position well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clem Yeobright

      Debating it sufficiently well is beyond where I want to spend my day; I think we can agree that a frontal attack on "greed is good" (which is what most people remember first about Gordon Gekko) is attacking at a point of relative strength.  See the rest of the movie and you realize that there are a lot of far weaker points to attack -- and that many of them are also vulnerabilities for Romney.

      Democrats must
      Earn the trust
      Of the 99% --
      That's our intent!

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

      by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:07:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it is a shame (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina

        that people don't know what words mean, greed by definition is not mere self interest but an excessive and selfish drive to acquire more than one needs.

        Greed was never intended to be a neutral or positive word.  But years of propaganda, of being desensitized to the difference between fair and just rewards for labor or capital has left a left leaning blog acknowledging greed is good until it moves past greed into  violence on the ability of society to survive.

        Greed is not good even if Americans have left that notion behind in the rear view mirror for so many years that they have no sense of proportion or decency left.  American greed has infected a world that is going to destroy itself.  To consume itself in a frenzy beyond control until the hope for the future of mankind is that we don't precipitate a complete extinction event and a few million hardy souls survive to reap the benefits of greed.

        •  That's why society must have legal checks on (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          greed.    

          The catch is, what do you mean by "excessive and selfish"?  I read the "excessive" as being more than you need, and selfish as being motivated by my self interest rather than being motivated by the good of society overall.  I think both can be motivations for increased productivity and innovation.  If you think productivity and innovation are good results, then desire to acquire more than only what you need, and desire to acquire for yourself rather than for society as a whole can lead to good things.  

          A good economic system needs to funnel that natural self-interest (that "greed") into production and innovation, and to provide checks so that the natural self-interest (that "greed") doesn't infringe on the rights of others.  

          There are lots of examples of people who had "enough" -- who were wealthy by any standards -- and their self-motivation for even more (their "greed") produced more productivity and innovation.  Greed -- desire for more than you need, and motivation based on your own self-interest rather than for the benefit of society as a whole  -- is always going to be a part of human nature, I think.   The trick is to funnel "greed" into those good outcomes, while not letting it spill over into infringing on the rights of others.

          •  again (0+ / 0-)

            not what I personally mean, but what greed is defined as, excessive, as in more self interest, drive, desire or ambition than is appropriate.

            Self interest is not greed.   Self interest is evident in many things and is relatively neutral,  you exercise self interest in many ways, from looking before you cross a street, to learning to read and write, to learning skills or a trade, in trying to provide for a family (atavistic need to see your gene survive).

            But the ability to not temper those interests with some responsibility beyond self, becomes greed, narcissism, etc., sociopathy,  they become dysfunctional human states not 'good', not motivation.

            Part of the social wiring of the brain is not just self preservation, another way of putting self interest, but also to share, to care for the group.  Some one put up a diary a couple weeks back about an experiment where rats would take a reward until they freed a trapped buddy at a rate of about 77% to 23% (took reward without aiding the buddy).  Even rats have a sense of social duty.   Humans by and large do as well, brain scientists call it the 'god module' in some literature.

            Greed isn't good and it isn't mere self interest.   But since we have lived in the propaganda machine for so long, with so many distorted views of the world, so much demonization of the other, where black is white and flip flopping is no longer lying and statements of fact are no longer meant to be factual, it doesn't suprise me that people don't know greed is bad.

            •  My only quarrel with you is that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Clem Yeobright, VClib

              "excessive" is a subjective term, and is in the eye of the beholder.  

              Let's assume that greed is desire for "excessive" income or wealth.  What is an "excessive" income?  What is "excessive" wealth?  that's completely subjective.  Is a $100,000 income excessive?  $250,000?  $500,000?  $1 million?

              Anyway, at the time I understood the Gekko quote to be a sort of literary device, often used to make a point -- that you can use greed, and channel it correctly so that it drives people to innovate and produce.  Certainly, Steve Jobs long, long, long ago had "excessive" wealth by any standards.  And his continued "greed" was channeled into continued innovation, so out of his greed came a positive result.  At the time, that's how I think most of us understood that little speech.  I don't think I heard it as "greed is good, in and of itself."  
              At the time, I heard it as "greed can lead to good things" -- that's based on the entirety of the snippet, not just those three words "greed is good."  

              •  argue with the dictionary (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Clem Yeobright

                the reason dictionaries are created is to give people a common frame of reference for the meaning of words.

                If you chose to use your own definitions for common words, expect not to be able to communicate freely and with any real meaning.

                You are trying to argue context which can have an effect on meaning, but if Jobs was out there doing things to increase his wealth because he just had to have more, be it the wealth or the control it represented, then he was greedy.  If he really like innovating in technology, couldn't wait to tweek something into something new and fascinating and awesome, and he got god awful rich at it, it probably wasn't greed.   But I never worshipped at the foot of Jobs as some seem to do, so I don't know enough about what he did.   Same as rock stars, if they keep writing great music because they can't stand to not write music, the muse calls them, and they get rich at it, I don't think that is greed.   If they stop writing what they like because they want to make more money, that is greed.

                •  FWIW, I find this an interesting discussion (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Clem Yeobright

                  It's largely (literally) semantic, but enough clash to be of interest.  I'd toss out one wrinkle, though: sometimes one seeks to accumulate power for good purposes.

                  Democrats must
                  Earn the trust
                  Of the 99% --
                  That's our intent!

                  "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

                  by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 02:07:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  but presumably (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Clem Yeobright

                    good purposes isn't about mere self interest or greed.   So now we are talking social conscience.  Gordon Gecko in fiction, Mitt Romney in real life, weren't about a social conscience, but about ego run amuck.

                    Or to use one of the fluffier corporate raider movies, Pretty Woman,  when the lawyer tells the raider he did it all for him,  he devoted his life to him,  "Bullshit.. .  It's the kill you love, not me.  I made you a very rich man doing exactly what you love."

                    The difference between other and self.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was a powerful man.   But I don't think he set out thinking "I will take up the cause of civil rights because I want to be famous and powerful."  In the context of the times,  it pretty wasn't much of sure bet, even if he thought that.

                  •  I'll throw out another wrinkle (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Clem Yeobright, VClib

                    I think the point of the Gekko speech was that even a bad motivation -- greed -- can produce a very desirable outcome.  You can be motivated by greed -- "think how rich I'll get" - to invent a cure for cancer.  You would get insanely rich.  But the outcome -- a cure for cancer -- would be a very very very good thing.  

                    I'll give you another example.  Some federal whistleblower statutes allow the whistleblower to keep a portion of the money recovered by the federal government when someone has defrauded the government.  If it's a big company -- or even a big industry -- that did the defrauding, the recovery to the whistleblower can be millions and millions of dollars. That's an instance of the federal government attempting to use a bad motivation, greed -- the hope of an individual for millions -- to get a desirable outcome.

                    (And, by the way, I've seen instances when just that has happened.)  

                    •  it is a possible (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Clem Yeobright

                      interpretation, which many people would agree with.   Just as some people use Ron Paul as an icon for anti-war sentiment because he says the right words, even if for the wrong reasons.

                      But I am still enough of an old fashioned classical liberal by education that I believe means matter.   One can even look at the whistle blower situation not merely as greed, the motivation to make lots of money, but as a way to encourage people to give up careers, money, sometimes their reputations or freedom.  We have a regular diarist who personifies that bad things can be done to whistle blowers and that some protections and rewards need to be in the statutes to protect these people, not just entice them with wealth because they are 'greedy'.  

                      I would put it in a different context,  good done by evil men is still good, evil done by good men is still evil.   We judge the actions not the man.    How much real good has been done by the greed of the 80's, 90's , 00's?   A handful of corporations and individuals in the US population became infinitely richer.   How much good have they done with it?  Did trickle down really trickle down?   I don't think anyone seriously believes that happened.   So greed, is just greed.   It doesn't serve a social purpose.

        •  I don't think of "greed" that way (0+ / 0-)

          I've heard of infants being greedy for the nipple, for example, which to me implies a voraciousness and drive rather than seeking selfish excess.

          Democrats must
          Earn the trust
          Of the 99% --
          That's our intent!

          "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

          by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 02:03:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and I have heard infants (0+ / 0-)

            described as being all about needs, only later learning to love or identify with others.

            But my point originally was that we have been innoculated against greed, the original meaning of the word, the dictionary definition to this day,  centuries of writing about greed, one of the seven deadly sins,  greed is never good.  Until late industrial society and the rise of 20th Century corporatism, and particularly the battle with labor, communism, and suddenly, greed is good.  

            And just because we tend to use words poorly, out of context, or in idioms that disguise the original meanings, to blur them into a different meaning altogether  (we never never voluntarily let people pick our brains literally) doesn't mean we should cede the real meanings and ideas, especially when to cede the meaning is to blur the evil behind the obfuscation.

      •  I think most people who heard the Gekko thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Seneca Doane, VClib

        at the time (and yes, I'm old enough to remember seeing it in the movies) understood what that point was.  

        They also saw a difference between greed as a motivation to innovate and produce (a positive result of greed) and greed as a motivation to break the law, (a very very negative result of greed).  

        Most of us at the time, I think, said yes, Gekko is right, "greed is good" (the kind of thinking I described above) but you can't break the law.  I think we heard it as the point of the movie (not Gekko) as "some greed is good, but when greed drives you to break the law, that's bad."

        That's why I said it was more nuanced.

        •  Well, here's the problem: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Clem Yeobright, jfromga

          Romney (probably) wasn't breaking the law.  He may have bent it; he probably helped corrupt it; he certainly took advantage of its gaps and weaknesses; but none of that is the same as "breaking" it.

          The corrosive effect that greed may have on the process of governing and economy and a policy extends beyond that which is specifically illegal.

          Democrats must
          Earn the trust
          Of the 99% --
          That's our intent!

          "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

          by Seneca Doane on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 01:57:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  You elide too too easily (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfromga

      Buffet and Gates - as Rockefeller earlier - have made it clear that accumulation of wealth is not for personal or familial comfort. In the spirit of the potlatch, they acknowledge that control is the driving force.

      Nothing in 'capitalism'  requires concentration (though it is a difficult-to-avoid side-effect, no doubt).

      There is more under heaven and earth, Horatio ....

      Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

      by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:52:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is part of the "greed is good" concept. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clem Yeobright, VClib

        People are motivated not only by accumulating wealth, but also by accumulating power and control.  Notice I didn't say money was the most powerful driving force - I think it's broader than that.  It's "self-interest" that is the most powerful driving force.  In some instances, that self-interest is as simple as competition, and wanting to "win."  Wanting to be the winner is something I put in the category of "greed."  I don't think "greed" is strictly monetary -- it's wanting for myself rather than for the good of society as a whole.  

        In that sense, greed is good even when someone already has "enough" wealth.  When someone is really successful, I don't think it benefits society as a whole to just stop because they have enough money for them and their families to be comfortable for the rest of their lives.  

        Just by way of example, let's take Steve Jobs.  I'm sure that in 1985, when he left Apple, he had accumulated enough wealth for anybody.  But (and I admit I didn't know him personally) I tend to think that his motivation for returning to Apple was self-interest as well -- I would think that proving something about the company he created (i.e., "winning"), as well as the personal power and control, are what motivated the return as well as the creation of the Iphone and Ipad.  

        The examples of people who had "enough" but were still motivated to go out and work to acquire "more" are legion.  I watched a bio of Dave Thomas the other night (he's the guy who came from literally nothing and died a zillionaire from KFC and Wendy's).  When he sold out of KFC in 1968, he had his own accumulated wealth from his very-well paying ownership of those KFC franchises, plus the buyout from KFC (about $10 million in today's dollars).  Enough to live on?  Certainly.  But if you know anything about him, his own self-interest (more wealth, power, and control, plus the competitor instinct) motivated the creation of Wendy's.  

        I stand by my statement that, if "greed is good" means that self-interest is, as a general proposition, the most powerful self-motivation, I would agree with that. I also agree that greed must be regulated, so that your greed -- for money, for winning, for personal vindication, for power, or for control -- doesn't infringe on my rights.  

  •  The short version of all this (4+ / 0-)

    is that accumulated wealth can and does - every time so far as I can tell - warp the system so that those with accumulated wealth benefit disproportionately.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'ya aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il ya toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 11:54:42 AM PST

  •  Gekko wanted to liquidate the airline, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    but it was another private equity guy, terrence stamp, who saved the day.  The greed is good speech was about the teldar paper deal, and i dont think its fate was ever disclosed.

    Btw, tye film never actually got around to showing any insider trading by Gekko, but it was implied.  The retcon in wall st 2 had him doing time for other charges beside e Bud Fox thing. Indeed, while Bud helped broker the deal for blue star, his duty was to his client, Gekko.  

    "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by Loge on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:25:02 PM PST

  •  re: Creative Destruction (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga, Seneca Doane

    there is a "natural course" of things, in business as in life.

    Kodak is declaring Bankruptcy after 130+ years,

    because of the natural course of consumers,
    switching from Film to Digital Cameras.


    One sector loses jobs, as another sector gains them.


    But in contrast, the kind of Creative Destruction which private equity firms, like Bain Capital engage in
    does not follow such a "natural course".  


    It does not follow the demands of consumers, but rather the demands for easy wealth, for the private investors.

    Bain Capital had an "accelerated timeline" to turn a company around to profitability, as they gutted its resources, downsized its workers, sold off the assets.

    If the Company did not rise to lead their sector,

    Then dissolution was in its immediate future.


    That is a whole different sort of Destructive demise,
    from which companies like Kodak and BetaMax,
    go through just given millions of individual consumer decisions.  (ie. the Invisible Hand of the Free Market)

    Bain's is the Destruction, by "the sink or swim" method.


    thanks for the thoughtful post Seneca Doane
    T&R


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:32:17 PM PST

    •  I did a job for Kodak once (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane

      I created the 'All Occasions Greeting Card' package - intended to sell paper. (I saw it on the shelf at Target once - that's a software high!)

      We were in the old Wang building in Lowell MA. (Doesn't that seem poignant now?)

      I was a contractor. First day, a lady came by to tell me she was my internal contact, and welcome. I said I was 'just' a contractor and she responded "I am a contractor too. 1/3 of the people here are contractors, so that Kodak can boast that it has never fired an employee."

      That was the job where I explained to one of the designers that a pixel was the elemental unit of display and heard her respond "Yes, yes, I know all that, but can't you make a pixel half red and half blue?"

      Bless 'em, I'll miss 'em, what was their name again? LOL

      Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

      by Clem Yeobright on Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 12:43:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Prince Smarmy. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clem Yeobright
    •  That one's good (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Vinnie Vegas

      but nothing beats the Cliff Robertson & Robert Redford dialogue in Three Days of the Condor, which I once wrote about here.

      Turner: What if there hadn't been any heat? Suppose I hadn't stumbled on their plan?

      Higgins: Different ballgame. Fact is, there was nothing wrong with the plan. Oh, the plan was all right, the plan would've worked.

      Turner: Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?

      Higgins: No. It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

      Turner: Ask them.

      Higgins: Not now — then! Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!

      Democrats must
      Earn the trust
      Of the 99% --
      That's our intent!

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

      by Seneca Doane on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 03:09:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site