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Gekkonomics: Recognizing the Genius of Rational Greed

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In director Oliver Stone’s 1987 smash hit Wall Street, which has since come to be recognized as the celluloid manifestation of that decade’s promotion of the unyielding, if not vengeful, pursuance of the American Dream, multi-millionaire stockbroker Gordon Gekko, who is, by that very definition, the film’s antagonist, makes a rousing speech to the shareholders of a failing paper company. In it, he completely and totally rejects the altruistic and “compassionate” capitalistic mentality of the powers-that-be, advocating a return to free market values and the embracing of the term “greed” as a good thing.

It is a terrible shame that, as twenty-first century Americans, we have no Gordon Gekko of our time. With our country’s economy progressively (pun fully intended) being sucked into the proverbial black hole as the result of massive government intrusion into its process, we could use one now, more than ever. However, instead of Gekko 2.0 addressing a private corporation, it would be more prudent for him to go to where the problem really is: that enormous public conglomerate currently in a death spiral called the federal government. Of course, this would mean that Gekko 2.0 would not be speaking to incompetent shareholders, but instead citizen “representatives” who feel that they know what is best for the United States, and any opinion contrary to theirs is pure poppycock.

For once, more than eighty people might actually tune into C-SPAN. Too fantastical of a thought? Perhaps, but stranger things have happened.

Unfortunately, I do not see a Gordon Gekko of the 2010s anywhere remotely on the horizon. Quite possibly the only thing that can save modern day America from fiscal oblivion is the widespread acknowledgment of the inescapable fact that greed, so long as it does not involve infringing upon the rights of others, is something which should not be shunned or reviled, but applauded and welcomed with open arms. After all, was it not an intense greed for freedom on the part of our Founding Fathers that resulted in the United States evolving from concept to reality? Was it not an intense greed for technological advancements on behalf of countless inventors over the centuries which resulted in the telephone, television, and, finally, the Internet? Was it not an intense greed for efficient middle class housing brought about by a handful of cunning post-World War II real estate developers which resulted in what is now commonly referred to as “suburbia”?

Of course it was.

If just a small segment of the American public caught on to the idea that rational greed is a positive evolutionary force for the betterment of mankind, then our country would almost definitely be back on the right track in no time at all.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Quite the most spectacularly adorned crock of nonsense I think I’ve ever read on BC, and that’s saying something. Is there a trophy?

    Greed is, by definition, not rational. Only by ignoring this could the author possibly have come up with this piece of bizarre logic:

    “…the inescapable fact that greed, so long as it does not involve infringing upon the rights of others, is something which should not be shunned or reviled, but applauded and welcomed with open arms.”

    The thing is, though, that greed, because it is insatiable, in the end always does infringe on the rights of others – if it does not become self-destructive first.

  • Jordan Richardson

    we have no Gordon Gekko of our time.

    So that whole financial meltdown thing was caused by…?

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/2010/07/tyrants-start-somewhere.html Tommy Mack

    An “intense greed for freedom” indeed. That sounds like something Palin would tweet.

    I hope you did not crack a rib reaching for that one.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Apparently someone doesn’t remember how Wall Street ended for Gekko.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    ditto comments #1 & #2

    *throws tomatoes from the balcony*

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Cindy, perhaps you and Roger could do a Statler and Waldorf routine at this point…?

    :-)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy & Roger IN

    How we feel about this article.

    (um, it is up to U to decide who is whom! :-)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy & Roger IN

    (note to Roger: I took the liberty of presuming we are in agreement.)

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Let’s see how long it takes for the leftists to lose their marbles over this one.

    Not very long.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Jordan Richardson

    Oh, so in America the issue of greed is partisan. It’s all becoming much clearer to me now.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Lawyers aren’t usually bothered by flawed premises

  • heloise

    my wall street article is head and shoulders above this one. In fact this article and his argument does not even make sense to me yet it is highlighted? Where’s Lisa when you need her? (I know she resigned just found out)

    Thanks for nothing editors. And you wonder why people drag their fingers writing for you. But fear not I write for what’s left of the MSM LOL.

    Heloise
    PS: Why are articles sitting for days on end?

  • heloise

    one more compliment: good title, bad article.

  • doug m.

    Why not contact the editors directly? Seems rather ignorant and unprofessional to be posting complaints here

  • Clavos

    Seems funny to hear a bunch of Americans, citizens of the greediest country in the world, slamming greed…

    Just sayin,

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Ahem…

  • Clavos

    Yes, Doc?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I was looking for a “present company excepted” right about now…

  • Clavos

    Umm, as I recall, you are a resident, but not a citizen, of the greediest country in the world, are you not?

    If so, my remark did not apply to you, nor was it intended to…

    Likewise, Jordan, though in the sense I meant my charge of greediness, Canada runs a fairly close second to these other guys.

  • Jordan Richardson

    So one’s morals and ethics can be identified by virtue of the country one happened to be born into, huh?

    Sorry, don’t buy it. Plenty of Americans and Canadians routinely reject greed as a fundamental mover of human life, so in that respect they do, yes, slam greed.

  • Clavos

    Yes they do, but they reside in the two greediest countries in the world, do nothing about those countries’ greed, and in fact aid and abet the greed(by buying gasoline, e.g., but there are any numbber of other ways as well).

    Fact is, Jordan, the ungreedy people in North America are a tiny minority — for proof, look around you — at the size of the houses, the size of the cars, the size of meal portions in restaurants — a pair of Canadian brothers specialize in building the largest malls in the world, look at Wall Street bonuses — I could go on and on…

    The vast majority of North Americans are greedy as hell, and live commensurate lifestyles.

    Mr. Cotto’s article is simply celebrating what nearly everyone practices.

    Big. Bigger. Biggest.

  • Clavos

    Plenty of Americans and Canadians routinely reject greed.

    No, not plenty — not even a significant number, let alone a sufficiency of them.

  • Jordan Richardson

    In what respect do those who reject greed, say individuals who perhaps live with ascetic traditions, “do nothing” about the greed aspect? Is the only way to reject greed to take to walking from place to place so as to not buy gasoline?

    Greed is, for the most part, a personal value that one can either subscribe to or reject. Having “enough,” for instance, is a rejection of “needing more” in philosophy. “Enough” is also a dirty word among the truly greedy, unless we’re completely redefining the concept.

    I would further argue that there are differing layers of greed that go beyond enjoying an extra extra extra large meal in a restaurant and venture into the territory of the fiscal meltdown and so forth.

    Greed is a “sin of excess,” not a desire to get by and have items that are required for fulfilment and survival in our modern world.

  • STM in the lucky country

    Oi, Doc … cop this mate, for a proper duster. Also, not meaning to gloat or anything, but how many medals did you blokes win at the Commonwealth Games, just out of interest?? :) (with particular emphasis on GOLD, not bronze).

    Also, could you ask you mates in the Old Dart to please stop stealing the corner of our flag and using it as your own … you greedy mob.

    As for greed, well it’s everywhere , and it’s been around forever, as aging rocker Richard Clapton knows.

  • STM in the lucky country

    All the best things in life really are free, which is what I remember about being a teenager in Australia in the 1970s.

    Just like this. Grab a girl, a wave, a surboard, a horse, an old car, a barbecue on the beach, and a good dose of sunshine. Seriously, what else do you need?

    F.ck greed. We had sweet bugger all materially, and most of us who are still kicking are convinced that we’ve never been happier.

  • Mark

    How does greed differ from the capitalists’ fiduciary responsibility to rationalize the market through maximizing profit/roi by whatever means?

  • Mark

    (functionally speaking, that is)

  • STM in the lucky country

    Just go surfin’ instead, Mark.

  • Mark

    Surfer dude, I live in the mountains of New Mexico (‘it’s like a whole other country’) and will have to wait a bit for my area to become beach front property.

  • Clavos

    Greed is, for the most part, a personal value that one can either subscribe to or reject.

    Exactly.

    And my point, which you have yet to refute convincingly, is that practically no one in North America (for the record, comprised of Mexico, USA and Canada) rejects it to any meaningful degree. To the contrary, taken as a whole, all three of these countries (and many more world wide) embrace greed wholeheartedly — to the point that “To hell with you, I’ve got mine” should replace “In God We Trust,” “From Sea to Sea” and “Country, Liberty, Work and Culture” as their national mottoes, since it better reflects all three countries’ attitude toward the rest of the world.

  • STM goes back to the ’70s

    Plenty of sand though, mate :) Just to clarify, I use the idea of goin’ surfin’ as a metaphor for living free.

    I know you know that you can do that anywhere if you have a mind to.

    Dirt and water collide in all kinds of ways. And it’s all good.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Clavos, how can I “refute” the absurd claim that “practically no one” rejects the excessive pursuit of personal wealth to any meaningful degree? Theoretically it should only take a few “meaningful” examples, but then you’d probably quibble with me on that too. I honestly didn’t think the point I was making was all that radical.

    I’m not denying, in any capacity, the prevalence of greed as a majority ideology.

    But look at the comment you pointed to: do you disagree that greed was the guiding light of the financial meltdown – whether personal or corporate greed? Is it so “funny” that a Canadian would make such a remark? Am I reinventing the wheel here with that suggestion?

    Or is Dr. Dreadful’s suggestion that greed – and I would follow by extension that anything in excess – is not a rational construct and that it is inevitably self-destructive. You, in your #30, seem to all but agree with that. You wouldn’t be slammin’ greed, would you?

    There are many societal constructs, like REAL charity organizations and individuals who give of their time and efforts tirelessly in a host of fields, who reject greed as a fundamental philosophy. I already pointed to those you follow an ascetic tradition, for instance, and surely that ought to, by virtue of their existence alone, repudiate your absurd claim that “practically no one” rejects greed in North America.

    My point is that individuals do reject greed and that there are movements of people doing so on a regular basis. Reverend Billy and his advocacy group (The Church of Life After Shopping) is one rather funny example of a larger non-religious collective involved in actively rejected greed.

    Most Buddhists, I would assume, reject greed as a component to their philosophy. Since there’s an awful lot of growth in the Buddhist community, I would suggest that there’s quite a lot of growth in terms of those individuals rejecting the excess pursuit of wealth.

    Then there are the New Monastics (Shane Claiborne) and the Simple Way. Again, an active community rejecting greed on a daily basis through life choices.

    Whether that convinces you of my seemingly absurd claim that “plenty of people” do indeed reject greed as a guiding principle is for you to decide, I guess. But I can keep on listing similar individuals and organizations if you like. I guess I just don’t find it all that ridiculous a concept.

  • Jordan Richardson

    *I already pointed to those who follow an ascetic tradition

  • STM trips back to the early ’70s

    Anti-greed: Steve Cooney and Baddy Treloar at Angourie, untouched farm country of far northern New South Wales, circa ’69-’70.

    Good daze.

    Geez. What happened to it all?? Where did me life go, in the chase for a buck??

  • Jordan Richardson

    Far out, man.

  • STM trips back to the early ’70s

    Lol.

    Yeah. Still … but you probably realisdd that ages ago, right?

  • Clavos

    Jordan,

    I never said that no one in this continent eschews greed, only that their numbers are so small as to have little to no effect on the overall temperament/attitude of the area, and you seem to be in agreement with me when you say, “I’m not denying, in any capacity, the prevalence of greed as a majority ideology.” So, perhaps we disagree only to the extent that the charitable, non-greedy segment of the population influences national (and continental) attitudes and actions. I say, near zero influence.

    You ask, You wouldn’t be slammin’ greed, would you? To which I reply, not at all, no. In fact, in this discussion I have carefully refrained from taking a stance either way in regard to the “vice.” My personal attitude toward greed isn’t relevant to my original point.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Clavos, I didn’t even argue about the “influence” of those individuals who, in my words, “routinely reject greed as a fundamental mover of human life.”

    My statements were simply about individual choices to reject greed, so I guess I took your confrontation as an objection to what I deemed to be a relatively simple fact.

    I don’t doubt that the general national influence in this culture is one of greed and the other associated “sins,” like, say, lust or gluttony. That those things move some serious units is abundantly clear to anyone fortunate enough to exist in this culture.

  • http://tmackorg.com/tmackorg_files/Blog.htm Tommy Mack

    Mr. Cotto gotcha. The article itself is weak, if not vapid, as is the movie. He has succeeded only in arousing comment — his obvious point.

  • Clavos

    I will say this much. Were it not for the ubiquity of greed, I would be unable to make a comfortable living in my chosen field, and would be forced to find another source of income, which likely would involve (shudder) having to actually work for it. As Dave Nalle once scolded me when I chided him for taking a long(ish) vacation, “[My] whole life is a vacation — [I] live in Florida and sell boats for a living.”

    And the ubiquity of greed is the linchpin.

  • Clavos

    I think you’re wrong, Mr. Mack. I think that Cotto, as do the followers of the Randian Objectivist philosophy, sincerely believes that greed, as defined in the article, is a force for good in modern society.

    And he (they?) may well be right.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sounds like Clavos is offering a biting critique of a capitalist society, a welcome change of heart, I hasten to add. What I find perplexing – why do Jordan and the good Doc feel compelled to object?

  • Suddenly serious STM

    Interesting paradox Clav, or is it ironic??

    I sell boats bought by rich folks, therefore I don’t actually work.

    It’s classic stuff.

  • Clavos

    Well, mate, if you love boats as much as I do, it’s not work in the sense that I spend my days tramping through and riding in, luxurious yachts — it might be work for some, but I tend to be grateful I actually get paid for doing what I would cheerfully pay to do…

  • Clavos

    Actually, Roger, I’m not critiquing so much as pointing out what I see as ironies in the situation.

  • Suddenly serious STM

    Yeah, with ya … I’d hate a proper job, too.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Also, not meaning to gloat or anything, but how many medals did you blokes win at the Commonwealth Games, just out of interest?? :) (with particular emphasis on GOLD, not bronze).

    As of this morning, the combined British Isles teams (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) had won a total of 192 medals to Australia’s 168. The Aussies do have the edge in golds, with 72 to the Brits’ 50.

    Pretty impressive all round, considering that some of our top people didn’t show up and the Australian team almost pulled out of the Games completely.

    We’ve ceased to be surprised by Australian sporting excellence, however. Sport is as important as sex in Australia, if not more so. It’s well known that every third Australian is an Olympic medallist.

    The big puzzler is how the heck India has managed to win so many medals, particularly considering their invariably abysmal showing at the Olympics. Sure, home advantage counts for something, but come on.

  • STM

    Doc: there’s no combined British Isles team at the Commonwealth Games .. you know that!

    I know what you mean though … I’d been wondering what the combined UK tally might be and how that might stack up.

    I don’t know if you’ve been watching it one TV over there in the US, but it’s on night and day here (along with the Chile mine rescue) and I’ve been glued to the set watching some pretty good sport.

    One of my best mates is in charge of our coverage of the Games in Delhi. Glad it all went ahead without a hitch – touch wood, as it ain’t quite over.

    For Americans who are wondering what the f.ck we’re talking about: 80 or so countries of the former British Empire (now known as The Commonwealth) get together every four years (between the Olympics) to have their own mini Olympics, except that it really ain’t that mini.

    The planning and infrastructure required of the host city is pretty close to that required of an Olympics host city.

    If you like competitive sport, it’s great to get a big event every two years instead of every four. It’s also good being an Aussie, as we nearly always head up the medal table.

    I’m actually sick of seeing the Aussie flag being raised at the medal ceremony and Aussie sports stars mumbling along to the national anthem.

  • STM

    As for India, I think they’ve just invested a huge amount of money in their infrastructure and sports programs in the long period leading up to the Games after learning they would be hosts.

    They seem to have focused on sports they might be capable of winning, so there could be something in that. I watched their
    women’s 4 x 400m relay team pick up gold the other night – the first time they have won a track gold at any Commonwealth or Olympic Games.

    Lucky they’re not playing 20- or 50-over cricket in the Delhi event – the Indians have that totally wired now with the IPL, and no one else would get a look in. The Aussie cricket team is also over there playing a Test series and are on the back foot all the time. The Indians are now also rated the top Test cricket nation.

    The Canadians have been absolutely shitting it in the diving, too. They are pumping out diving machines over there.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I’m actually sick of seeing the Aussie flag being raised at the medal ceremony and Aussie sports stars mumbling along to the national anthem.

    Well, it’s rather a damp rag of a national anthem, you have to admit. Though not as bad as “Land of Hope and Glory” which England uses as theirs at the Commonwealth Games and which is an even more dreary dirge.

    Bruce Woodley of The Seekers wrote a patriotic song called “We Are Australian” which manages to cover just about every aspect of Australian history and multiculturality (I just made that word up) in a way that makes one feel really good about the place. A nice rousing, singable tune too. I think it would make a cracking anthem for you lot.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    There is actually a sequel to Wall Street in theaters right now. [It’s not very good, unfortunately.] It does have at least one sure-fire laugh line.

    Gekko, out of prison, is on a lecture tour to sell his new book, which warns that greed is getting out of hand. [The time is right before the 2008 crash.]

    He looks out over the faces of business students in the audience, who have given him a rock star ovation.

    “You’re all fucked,” he says, meaning they are doomed.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Doc, Sport is as important as sex in Australia, if not more so. It’s well known that every third Australian is an Olympic medallist.

    I didn’t know that. How will they find time to reproduce? Perhaps it could become an Olympic sport?

    Dan(Miller)

  • STM

    Lol. That’s probably the real reason there’s only 20 million of us.

    Between caning ourselves in the pub and caning ourselves at sport, we’re just too drunk or too tired to do anything worthwhile.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Roger, are you skimming posts again? Just what am I objecting to? Greed?

    Ohnoes!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not objecting to. Just protesting too much, so it seems.

    Clavos had it right on. The defense launched on behalf of the Americans (don’t know about the Canadians) is full of irony.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Roger, the “defence” was launched on behalf of some Americans and Canadians who do, actively and regularly, reject greed.

    I didn’t disagree with Clavos overall and essentially chased my own tail here by arguing with him over something he didn’t say.

    My original statements were simple enough, I thought:

    Greed caused the meltdown.
    Not all North Americans subscribe to greed as a fundamental value.

    And then I said:

    I don’t doubt that the general national influence in this culture is one of greed and the other associated “sins,” like, say, lust or gluttony. That those things move some serious units is abundantly clear to anyone fortunate enough to exist in this culture.

    Now who’s “protesting too much?”

  • zingzing

    lust is cool. gluttony and greed are not. going to go listen to some italian disco and eat potato chips and count my money now.

  • zingzing

    not that i have any money or potato chips… just debt and pretzels. fortunately, not much of either. and the pretzels are stale. but the italo rules.

  • Doug Hunter

    Greed is defined as the desire to possess wealth or goods. I think it’s important to make a distinction between the two. I desire wealth but care less than most for material goods. (Sorry Clavos) As someone posted upstream the best things in life are free and many of the finer things have low cost alternatives or should be rented until you get bored of them.

    The most valuable thing in your life is time, material possessions consume that. Minimize your possessions and live free.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jordan,

    If most Americans and Canadians were like you and me, there wouldn’t be any problem. Was Clavos making a universal type of claim? I wasn’t aware that he was.

    Besides, I don’t necessarily subscribe to his suggestion that greed and human desire for “bigger and better” are necessarily synonymous. At best, it’s a tenuous connection. Still, there are plenty of things in our own culture to which we tend to be blind, so his general point, I’d say, was well taken.

    Anyway, my remark was of a general nature, not addressing you and Dreadful in particular but only via a mention and as an object lesson – just to show the extent to which we all tend to become defensive when an unflattering cultural or national trait becomes the topic. Since you’ve made your position clear, and I never entertained any doubts that it would be different than what you’ve just expressed, I apologize if I my comment made you believe I was misreading you. That wasn’t my intention.

  • http://www.kewego.com/video/iLyROoafvNbu.html Tyler

    Of course greed is rational. Everyone by nature wants what is good for himself/herself. In some cases, doing good things for others achieves that goal; but the end purpose is still to make ourselves happy. For some it is money, but not for all.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Didn’t even say “most,” Roger, and you generally can be construed as addressing a specific person when you, y’know, use their name.

    His general point was well-taken, that’s what I’ve been saying for about a half-dozen comments now. Notice the part where I said I was arguing against something he didn’t even say? Yeah, that’s key.

    Thanks for the “object lesson,” though.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    In his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Bertrand Russell said, among other things,

    Among those occasions on which people fall below self-interest are most of the occasions on which they are convinced that they are acting from idealistic motives. Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power. When you see large masses of men swayed by what appear to be noble motives, it is as well to look below the surface and ask yourself what it is that makes these motives effective. It is partly because it is so easy to be taken in by a facade of nobility that a psychological inquiry, such as I have been attempting, is worth making. I would say, in conclusion, that if what I have said is right, the main thing needed to make the world happy is intelligence. And this, after all, is an optimistic conclusion, because intelligence is a thing that can be fostered by known methods of education.

    I am not convinced that “known methods of education,” at least those we currently see applied, are effective; I do agree with the basic premise.

    Dan(Miller)