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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I distinctly remember a particular economics lecture I attended almost three decades ago as a MBA candidate at Jacksonville State University. Dr. Thompson said that well directed greed has done more good for this nation and the world than any charity has or ever will. When I look at how China and India have lowered their poverty levels by promoting some form of capitalism, I can clearly see the value of his wisdom. However, what happens when greed gets out of control?
The desire to better ones’ lot in life should be expected and for the most part allowed and encouraged. This does not belie the fact that unrestricted, uncontrolled, and under-regulated greed can and does cause suffering for many – albeit benefiting the few (at least temporarily). Our current Recession, which may be over only in the minds of a few elite economists, is the direct result of specific “too big to fail” financial institutions, which excessively leveraged mortgage-backed securities to the point that they were too vulnerable to any market fluctuations. Despite popular contentions to the contrary, it was not due to the fact that “sub-prime borrowers” were able to realize the dream of home ownership. Even “above prime borrowers” were routinely convinced to take out excessively large mortgages thereby increasing bank risks. In those cases, greed was not good. In fact, it significantly led to the collapse of our economy. Yes, these “too big to fail” banks were bailed out. However, that did little to help borrowers who were led to trust these institutions – and the federal government which failed to protect them from such abuse.
Don’t think that such evil is limited to the very large banks. It happens in other corporations as well. For instance, over the years Google has consistently changed their “Don’t Do Evil” corporate mantra to “
Don’t Do Evil.” Their alleged abuse of their AdWords and AdSense programs, which is solely responsible for it meteoric rise and IPO, resulted in more than one class action lawsuit. Furthermore, its constant battle with Apple over patent infringements related to its Android operating system provides additional evidence that it is pursuing monopoly-like dominance over many markets. Their growth needs can also be explained in terms of the number of businesses and individuals they have destroyed. I’m not just picking on Google. Even Facebook is guilty as it uses its power to decide just how you can friend others. The problem is when corporations use their power to create wealth and amass even more power to the detriment of society as a whole. When will it stop? Certainly, the federal government has little incentive to rein in these behemoths.
As we look at government and wonder why they don’t do something, look at your own behavior. Are you subsidizing such abuse with your dollars? When you see foreclosure signs pop up in your neighborhood, are you still doing business with the same institutions that are kicking people out of their houses or are you shifting your accounts to local community banks such as Noble Bank, Southern States, F&M Bank, and Cheaha State Bank? Clearly, the institutions that are espousing greed over common sense do not need to have the financial support of their current customers. Whatever money I have left after surviving this Recession is sitting in our local banks. As far as Google is concerned, they are not getting anywhere near the number of dollars that they sucked out of my business accounts only five years ago. In fact, that flow is now just about zero.
Essentially, I agree with Dr. Thompson’s lesson. Well directed greed is almost always good. Desiring to improve one’s condition should be encouraged and facilitated. But, whenever doing so causes the suffering of others, something should be done. And, it starts not with the government, but with individuals like you and me.
Keywords: Recession, greed, regulation, economy
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