For the Love of Money

“Greed is good”, croons Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s movie Wall Street. Stone was later surprised to discover that his anti-hero, Gekko (an allusion to a reptile by that name), is actually worshiped as a hero on Wall Street.

Is greed “good”? Are the greedy reptiles, in the sense of being an atrophied or retrograde form?

Greed is celebrated in capitalist culture, even when it goes by the sanitised and euphemistic term “profit motive”. Greed — the wanting energy —  has been considered, since Adam Smith anyway, the engine of social progress. Other terms for capitalism have been used: “acquisitive individualism” or “possessive individualism”. Ostensibly, so the theory goes, private avarice and vice generates public goods — the lead of private sin is transformed into the gold of public virtue by the mysterious alchemy of an “invisible hand”.

This is a failure of understanding.

Lots of people will be quick to point out that the theory is confirmed by historical experience: capitalism does “deliver the goods” as promised, and so the philosophy of acquisitive individualism and of “greed is good” morality is true, as Mr. Gekko affirms. Or, rather than celebrate greed as good, they may otherwise shrug their shoulders with resignation and accept greed as “human nature”, against which rehabilitation or resistance is futile. “Money is the root of all evil”, they may admit. Well, then, let’s embrace (or at least tolerate) the evil that delivers the money and the goods — greediness.

But “money is the root of all evil” is a misquotation and a distortion. The correct statement is “The love of money is the root of all evil”. The common omission of the first three words in the statement is interesting, perhaps significant; perhaps deliberate. For when the full statement is given, then it is clear that “greed” isn’t the power engine of social development and progress it is assumed to be. That is merely superficial. It is this quality of “love”. Greed is simply perverted love, perverted in the sense that it has as its end (money) what is only a means to an end. Greed, in that sense, is a form of idolatry, and idolatry is another term for narcissism.

What the greedy don’t even recognise in themselves is this implicit quality of love, which has become impure, perverse, or distorted.

The question may arise of whether a type of society that has erected itself upon a vice (and the vicious) can endure and survive its own contradictions for very long. More to the point, however, is not whether “greed is good” is a suitable foundation for the conduct of social life, but the delusion that results by the omission of the factor of “love” from the understanding of greed as being a perverse form of love — the broader indication being that a great many in society are really not thinking clearly or soberly (which is another perverse effect of greed. It tends to narrow the possibilities of perception and becomes a trap, in that sense).

And therefore I raise the issue once more of whether we aren’t indeed at “the end of history”, in the sense that the “rational pursuit of self-interest”, in the form of acquisitive or possessive individualism, hasn’t become identical with the irrational pursuit of self-destruction, owing to a basic delusion and error about the relationship of love and greed.

We are reminded again, in this respect, of what I’ve taken to calling Khayyam’s Caution: “only a hair separates the false from the true”. But what a hair! As thin as the veil of Maya or as thick as “the Cloud of Unknowing”. “The love of money is the root of all evil” gives clearly that greed is a perverse form of love, and cannot be the engine of social development, but only of its disintegration and dissolution. It’s not the “greed”, but this “love” that is precedent and is the true engine, and our banal social philosophy has set up a false opposition between love and greed. Greed is the perverted or misdirected action of an impure love. But love is still the foundation and the key thing. It is the factor that needs to be liberated from the chains of delusion and an impure relation or, as they say, made “unconditional”.


2 responses to “For the Love of Money”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    I just saw both “Too Big To Fail,” which is a motion picture, and “Inside Job,” which is a documentary.

    Congratulations to all of us here in the United States. From the president to congressmen to our bankers and financial brokers, everyone, is lying to us for their own financial gain and “love of Money”; all of this with impunity. Unbelievably, many of these liars and scum bags hold faculty positions at Columbia and Harvard universities.

    Europe went through a bigger hell than the United States, but apparently, they have taken some regulatory steps to mend the system, whereas the American president, Obama, has quietly helped (via appointing and retaining all former Goldman Sachs executives as high-powered advisors to his cabinet) to hamper regulatory legislation and let the big get bigger. In the words of one decent regulator who did not receive any bonuses and ultimately resigned from his position because his warnings as to the imminent financial collapse were not heeded: “It’s a Wall Street Government!”

    Here’s an excerpt from “Inside Job,” where Lloyd Blankfein is being questioned by a member of Congress:

    Member of Congress: Is there not a conflict when you sell something to somebody and then are determined to bet against that same security, and you don’t disclose that to the person you are selling it to… you see a problem?

    Lloyd Blankfein: In the context of ‘market-making,’ that is not a conflict.

    Watch out for 2016, when the wife of a former president and a champion of deregulation is going to run for presidency. Imagine that….they stuck it to us with Obama in the name of “change,” and they’re going to stick it to us again in the name of “first female president.” Our political arena is increasingly looking like the kitchens of Burger King and McDonald’s.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      And guess who Chelsea Clinton got married to? An investment banker! Hahahahah….this is just way too much good news for us to handle here in the United States 🙂 We have so much to look forward to in 2016.

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