Monday, February 13, 2006

They Called it Greed

It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach. -Charles Horton Cooley
Greed has been around forever. But in modern America, greed is not only considered acceptable behavior, it is considered mandatory. Those who do not lust after money and riches are looked upon as eccentrics or just lazy. We are so greedy as a people that nobody even mentions greed as a problem anymore. In fact, many believe that the US economy is predicated upon our own greed. If we stop buying, the economy collapses. It might not be far from the truth.

We're very arrogant about our greed, too. We think heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, heated shift knob, heated washer fluid, and an in-dash rotating dildo are the yardsticks of civilization. We spit on people who ride bikes to work. If your butt is cold, you must be a failure. This is why so much of the world hates us. (Also that we firebombed their daughter's wedding party.)

We don't need all this crap we keep buying, though. And we don't really need bigger homes. Americans are simply addicted to MORE. In terms of financial and physical wealth, we already have more than anyone in the world. But, like all addicts, more isn't enough. We want MORE. After September 11th, we stormed Afghanistan, and totally owned (or "pwned") the Taliban. But Bush 'n Friends, and most Americans it seems, wanted MORE.

And we've got more. More than anybody in the whole world. But abundance always leads to waste and addiction. This is what we learned from the roaring '90's. Everybody was getting rich, our parents, our kids, the government, even some of the poor people. We got addicted to abundance. So addicted, in fact, that now we buy everything on credit. Not just TV's and SUVs, but also armies, navies, marine corps, air forces, and warfare. Bush's tax cuts were bought with credit. Republicans didn't cut the spending of the federal government, in fact they INCREASED it. But they cut taxes anyway by buying everything on credit. In 25 years America has gone from the world's largest creditor nation to the world's largest debtor nation (see this article.) America is greedier than ever.

Whose credit is it? The Chinese, mostly. Also Japan. They loan us this money by purchasing T-bills somewhere around $2 billion a day. Here's a great article on the subject, although over a year old. (And just for the sake of argument, a very nice article from the other side of the fence.)

Living on credit is not a bad thing, as long as you handle it responsibly. You are basically wagering that an increase in future income will offset the overspending you're doing now. It's just the time-value of money. Economics 101. But if nothing else, as you get further into debt, it puts you in a dangerous position. If circumstances change you might find you can no longer pay back the debt. That's when you get your legs broken or your thumbs cut off by hired goons. And I don't take solace in America's future income when I look at the ruling party's clear distaste for educating our children, the disregard of minorities and the lower classes, and the "anything but preventative medicine" health care system growing in this country.

The Chinese have an incentive to keep loaning Americans money, because it feeds our hunger for the goods they export to us. But if the Chinese stop buying our debt, we will have LESS forced upon us. And those "assets" you have your money in will soon belong to the banks, which in turn belong to the Chinese. It probably won't happen, but it's worth worrying about.

An addiction this bad is such that if you can't find a way to enforce a strict recovery program, then eventually the addiction grows out of your control, the system crashes, and somebody ELSE has to force you to go cold turkey, IF YOU SURVIVE THE CRASH.

Money isn't crack. We probably won't overdose on it. But it's not marijuana, either. You can smoke pot all the time but it won't kill you, just slow you down. Money addiction is like alcohol: a little bit is good for you, a little more is fun, but get too much of it and you start making bad decisions. Throw a lot of it into a crowd and there's going to be a fight.

But before we have all this MORE taken from us, perhaps we should rethink the way we live. So here's one American looking for LESS.
Don't give me the new '07 Escalade, I'll walk.
Don't give me a $350 cell phone, I'll take the free one that comes with the plan.
Don't give me the 110-foot yacht, I'll go for a swim.
Don't give me another bad $200 million dollar movie, I'll just jerk off.
Don't give me free money, I'll fucking earn it.


At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You'll be happy (I think)when I tell you that I fall into the lower categories on the "C" scale.



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