When Montezuma asked Cortez what the big deal was about gold, Cortez answered with more truth than he perhaps intended, “We Spaniards have a disease of the heart that only gold can cure.”
When Cecil Rhodes heard about the gold in the Transvaal, he set his face to get hold of it by whatever means necessary, though he was already extremely wealthy from his ownership of the De Beers diamond mines in neighboring South Africa. Rhodes died of a physical heart disease which gold could not cure, but the figurative heart disease mentioned by Cortez was not cured by gold either, nor can it ever be.
Greed is a progressive and incurable disease. It is built into the very nature of greed that it can never can be satisfied. When J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” he answered, “Just a little bit more.”
The conquistadors, Rhodes and Rockefeller had this in common: They never had enough, they never could rest and they never were satisfied. The tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that were snuffed out in their quest are largely unknown and unremembered, while the diseased men who caused their deaths are sometimes valorized as “great” for their deeds of exploration or business acumen.
In America the “Greed is Good” philosophy, an attempt to twist universal human morality, will likely fail. Human beings who are not diseased will never go for it. Furthermore, the “free trade” these diseased folks espouse is a lie and they know it is a lie.
Both Rhodes and Rockefeller were firm believers in the efficiency of monopolies; competition, they both believed, was wasteful. The idea that the greedy should go unregulated on the basis of mythical “free trade” is a dangerously deceptive path and must be repudiated.
The greedy have a disease of the heart and they will never have enough, not even if they had everything. They must be restrained by those who are not so afflicted.
I read recently that the larger the gap in wealth between a countries inhabitants, the lower the average standard of life. In a world where the 87 richest people own as much as the 3.5 billion poorest, what does that say about the result of greed?
The lie that greed is anything but evil is of very recent origin. Donald Brown, in Human Universals, lists admiration for generosity. The flip side is condemnation of greed. This is all cultures, throughout time-right up until, as I say very recently. The greedy cannot win this argument, but being greedy, they also cannot stop.
Well that’s a new book to read, thanks!