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Greed is Good

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Over decades, people all over the world have been arguing whether greed is beneficial. Michael Douglas said in the film Wall Street, “Greed is good”, as it motivates investors to earn more and leads to competition among companies. Yet many still feel greed does more harm than good. Several religions see greed as a sin, together with sloth, lust and gluttony. Dictionaries define greed as an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves. Though greed does bear a negative meaning, the question as to whether it really brings more harm than good still remains to be seen. To me, it is just a matter of perspective. Greed is actually wanting more than your fair share, be it material or psychological needs.

The benefits that greed can bring are uncountable. To begin with, greed is the driving force behind the world’s rapid development and globalisation. At the beginning of civilisation, men knew nothing about the world around them. It was the greed for better living standards that drove them to invent useful tools like rafts and spears. With boats, men travelled to foreign lands to make new discoveries. It was only through this process of ‘wanting to get more’ that mankind has come so far. If not driven by greed for improvements in living standards, men would just be satisfied with what they have. If not driven by greed for knowledge, how can famous scientists like Einstein and Isaac Newton come up with amazing inventions and famous theories like the Newton’s laws of motion? Actually, the very fact that we are reading books is due to the greed for knowledge. We do not stop at some age and say, “Now what I’ve learnt is enough. I should stop.” Instead, we continue to read up on various topics in order to keep up with the world around us. Therefore, it is this everlasting greed for knowledge that has allowed mankind to come so far. If not for men’s greed, the world would stop spinning and might even collapse. Thus, greed is an essential component of people’s lives.

Though greed is often an act by people trying to gain for selfish means, it is often beneficial to the public at the same time. A perfect example would be Qin ShiHuang,

the first emperor of China. Before his reign, China was made up of seven smaller countries and as a result, war was frequent among them. Qin ShiHuang managed to merge the seven small countries of China into one by conquering the rest of the countries. Though his act was due to his greed for power and more land, he has put an end to the wars among the various small states before China was united as one.

Companies nowadays, wanting to earn more money, are always coming up with new services and products to attract more customers. Though their primary purpose is to earn profits for their own benefit, at the same time, it benefits the public as well.

David Hume, an economist, once called avarice ‘the spur of industry’. As investors and businessmen are driven by the greed for more money, they look for more business opportunities and invest in the stock market. As top CEOs climb up the corporate ladder, they look for ways to buy other smaller companies so as to expand their own. Similarly, stock investors do not stop after making a certain amount of money. Instead, they continue to make more investments because of their greed for wealth.

It is this desire for money and status that leads to a thriving economy as more companies are set up and more business deals are made.

Just as greed can be of great benefit to mankind, it can also be very destructive if used inappropriately. Too much greed can cause a person to lose one’s senses and commit inhuman crimes. Such is the case when Adolf Hitler tried to conquer the world to satisfy his greed for power in World War II. His dictatorship brought many people pain and suffering, especially the Jews who were tortured by him. Another example is the Japanese invasion of many Asian countries, which include Singapore. During the three years in which Singapore was in the hands of the Japanese, many people suffered. Innocent people were tortured and many unfortunate girls were raped, all because the Japanese wanted more land and power so badly that they resorted to invasion and war.

Greed, besides leading to war, can also lead to companies’ collapse at times. A perfect example to illustrate this is Enron, the famous US company which was involved in a financial scandal at the end of last year. In a bid to portray an image of a top-earner in the US, Enron made false financial reports by stating it earned much profit when in actual fact, its profit was much less. These reports, when released, led to investors having great confidence in the company and thus invested large amount of money in it by purchasing its stocks. In this way, the chairpersons in Enron earned much profit. Their greed for money has led them to resort to unscrupulous means–to cheat their customers and hide the truth from them. When the scandal eventually broke out, the company went bust and the life savings and retirement funds of tens of thousands of employees vanished. Since then, Enron has become the perfect example of a bad consequence of avarice.

As seen above, greed has its pros and cons. It can act as a motivator, driving you to improve the way things are and letting the world be more advanced than it already is. On the other hand, greed, when used excessively, can bring about disastrous consequences, which include pain and suffering. However, we must admit that the world today is much more advanced than a millennium ago is mainly due to man’s greed. Thus, greed is crucial for survival and the world’s progress. As long as it is not used excessively, greed can bring about amazing benefits for mankind.a

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