The Cityboy Column - Greed & The Post-Credit Crunch World

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I was asked to go to the House of Commons recently week to discuss the question ‘does greed still have a place in the post-Credit Crunch world ?’ It appeared to be a great honour and I felt, perhaps rather foolishly, that I was on the cutting edge of a debate that was of interest to the whole world.

As I entered the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ I felt somewhat nervous about the intellectual calibre of the other panel members. Heavyweights like Daniel Finkelstein (associate editor of the Times) and a couple of renowned professors were unlikely to prove pushovers, although I remained confident  that the recent banking crisis would ensure that my simple ‘anti-greed’ stance would prove unassailable.

And so I took to the floor and argued passionately that there's never a place for greed (e.g. the ‘excessive desire to possess more than one needs or deserves’) and that:

- Bankers’ avarice caused the credit crunch / recession and something similar will happen again if their infernal urges aren’t restrained.

- Most crime is motivated by greed. Saint Timothy was on to something when he claimed that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’

- The wish for ever more possessions is a major cause of pollution and global warming. Mahatma Gandhi summed it up well when he said that ‘the earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.’

- A society imbued with 50 Cent’s ever-so-sweet philosophy that you should ‘get rich or die trying’ isn't a pleasant prospect, as there'd be no community, solidarity, spirituality or altruism - which are objectively ‘good things’.

The problem with arguments is that there always seem to be two sides to them! And some clever character stood up and gave what can only be described as the ‘Gordon Gekko’ defence. This essentially argues that ‘greed is good’ because capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the rest! Greed, he postulated, is the driving force for the economic growth that benefits us all. It is 'the spur for industry', as the 18th century philosopher David Hume called it.

Yet despite these cunning Thatcherite arguments, I strongly believe that greed isn’t good. I also live in hope that the recent financial crisis may have one positive outcome - it may help push the pendulum back towards a more moderate, fraternal and socially-conscious approach from governments and citizens alike.

Well, I can dream can’t I ?

Geraint Anderson is author of ‘Cityboy - Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile’

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