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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.

About Joseph F. Cotto

  • 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)