What is greed?

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readJan 18, 2018


The following blog as it appeared in the blog site of Mr. Jose Luis Ramos Saavedra of the Canary Islands in Spain is very relevant here to the subject of greed so I will re blog it here and write my comments at the bottom.

What is greed ?

This is how a greedy brain works .What most characterizes the greedy is self-interest, selfishness that can never be satisfied. It has been said that greed is like salt water, because the more you drink the more you thirst.

Felix Millet, the main defendant of the Palau case, at the exit of the Provincial Court of Barcelona, ​​where he was informed of the sentence of 9 years and 8 months in prison. (JOAN SÁNCHEZ EL PAÍS)

Upon hearing the news that the wealthy Catalan businessman Fèlix Maria Millet i Tusell charged his consorts half of the expenses of his daughter’s wedding when in reality he who paid the total of the spent (81,156 euros) was the Orfeó Català Foundation i Palau de la Música in Barcelona, ​​of which Millet himself is the director and founder, I did not resist the temptation to consider that greed is a mental illness, that is, a disease of the brain.

How else? I got to wondering. It is not easy to understand the feeling that shelters greed, get into the skin of the greedy. Why do people who are already very rich want or have wanted more and more? Why do they continue to accumulate wealth if they already have everything they need to live well? Are they sick?

The etymological origin of greed is cuspiditas, a Latin word. It has been defined as an excessive desire for riches, as a voracious and vehement desire for some good things, not just money or riches. What most characterizes the greedy is self-interest, selfishness that can never be satisfied. It has been said that greed is like salt water, because the more you drink the more thirsty. For the greedy enough is never enough.

Greed and greed are not the same thing. While greed is the desire to possess riches or other goods with the intention of treasuring them for oneself far beyond what is required to satisfy basic needs and personal well-being, greed is limited to an excessive desire for riches without the need of want to treasure them. The miser accumulates, is stingy, spends as little as possible and almost never shares.

The greedy can enjoy his wealth, he spends it and can even share it. Let him do so, if he pleases, friend of a greedy one, but never of a miser. Playing the lottery, gambling in a casino or investing in a stock market, even when dealing with small savers, does not stop being a behavior that, apart from addictive, harbors a plus of greed, since it is not usually done out of necessity.

A study by the University of Gent in Belgium has shown that greed occurs more often in men than in women, in the financial world or in management positions and, generally, in people who are not very religious. No biological reason that we know allows us to affirm that women are less greedy than men, but that the majority of those accused and condemned for corruption in many countries are men could make it understood. The explanation for this difference is cultural, since in most countries men tend to take the lead in business or political or administrative positions susceptible to corruption.

The consequences of greed

Greed, being in the origin of colonialism and slavery has been one of the worst evils that humanity has suffered. In addition to relating to immoral behavior, it is the cause of wars, corruption, betrayals and crimes, swindles, robberies, murders and lies. The greedy almost always benefits at the expense of the rest of the population. Greed has been especially related to financial debts, as the impatience to get profits makes many bankers negligent and risky and the lack of investment containment may have created economic bubbles such as the one that gave rise to the Great Depression of 1929 in the United States.

Bubbles that occur when prices rise above the real value of things and when greed leads to the promotion of speculative activities related to the development of new technologies, such as burbuja.com, generated by the introduction of the Internet.

Why do people who are already very rich want or have wanted more and more? Why do they continue to accumulate wealth if they already have everything they need to live well? Are they sick?

The greed was behind the use of the well-known Black cards and abuses such as that of the directors of the financial institution Catalonia Caixa, which authorized salary increases for their executives when the entity had already claimed extraordinary aid to the State for the bankruptcy situation in which it was. Similar is also the greed of shareholders and entrepreneurs who do not repair in maintaining factories or industries that deteriorate the environment with their discharges and the generation of toxic waste. And it’s not just a matter of modern times, as the story explains

Juan Eslava Galán, the Duke of Lerma, valid for King Felipe III moved the court from Madrid to Valladolid very possibly with the intention of giving a real estate pitch, because he had previously bought land and houses at a lower price than he then sold to officials and courtiers who were forced to move to the new capital. At six years the court returned to Madrid. The soil, more than the building itself, has been and is often the object of human greed.

But it would be unfair not to mention that greed has also been considered and even hailed as an engine of growth and development, because it can promote the economy by motivating to people to create new products and develop new industries, which in turn generates wealth, employment and well-being. The greedy, therefore, do not seem to deceive themselves always when they see their greed as something good.

The collateral consequences are another thing, because the greedy ones are often detested in their environment and socially rejected. In the long run they may lose out, although in their eventual criticism the average citizen usually appeals with disgust to the benefit still withheld or already enjoyed by the greedy ones (Take away the dance!) When they are legally punished for having committed infractions or illegalities. What people want is that the one who has stolen returns the money.

The brain of the greedy

Some experiments in neuroscience have shown that the more greedy a person is, the less capacity the prefrontal cortex of his brain, which is involved in reasoning, has to diminish the gratification of earning more money by inhibiting the activity of ventral striatum neurons, involved in that gratification. The brain of the greedy could then function differently from the people who are not. Other studies have suggested that because greedy people tend to bet high to maximize their gains, they may suffer from a mental disturbance that cancels their ability to perceive risk or to see the needs of others.

The American researcher Mark Goldstein and other colleagues have suggested that the greed, impulsiveness and loss of vision of the future that gave rise to the financial crisis that, similar to that of 1929, took place in the United States between 2007 and 2010, well reflected in the excellent film Margin call, could have been caused, at least in part, by the low levels of cerebral cholesterol of many workers of the North American financial world, habitual consumers of statins, some drugs that diminish the levels of cholesterol in blood.

The reason is that cholesterol is necessary to regulate cerebral serotonin, a substance that stabilizes mental functions. The inertia to accumulate resources counteracts the feeling of uncertainty about what may happen to one in the future, so greed could have evolved in our ancestral ancestors as a form of adaptation when the environment is poor in resources.

If you have a lot you worry less about the future than if you have little. A feeling, in short, of an ant more than a cicada. This approach makes some scientists believe that the different degrees of greed of the people could derive from it from the different perceptions and expectations of the people about the insecurities of the future. That would also explain why, in uncertain environments such as the economy, some people seem more willing than others to behave acquisitively, to invest.

The danger is especially in ordinary people, particularly in the middle classes, who can be victims of greed by risking to invest their hard-earned and limited savings in games, lotteries or financial assets, by wanting to multiply them quickly and with much less effort of the It was hard for them to get them.

A study from the University of Ghent in Belgium has shown that greed occurs more often in men than in women, in the financial world or in managerial positions and, generally, in people who are not very religious. public of the greedy, especially when their behavior reaches illegality, is one of the best remedies, because shame can help at least sensible people are restrained. As in so many other cases, the great remedy is slow, because it is in Education.

A good education system should have planned to teach young people the consequences of greed, showing how it has served to corrode and dynamite individuals, companies and societies, and always counter posing to the best values ​​of citizenship and a just society and solidaria.Ignacio Morgado Bernal is director of the Institute of Neurosciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​author of “Corrosive Emotions: How to face envy, greed, guilt and shame, hatred and vanity” (Barcelona, ​​Ariel)

My comments

The topic of greed is an interesting one so I will just make a short comment on it in this re blogged article above by Mr. Saavedra because greed is found everywhere and at all times. I think it is a part of our human nature to be greedy although not everybody succumbs to greed. The greed as displayed by people has severe consequences in terms of mental health and the well-being of an individual in any society.

In the animal kingdom, one can see the lion eating first the kill even if he does not kill the prey himself because he is a dominant animal so he asserts his dominance this way and not because he is greedy. He eats only when he is hungry and quits when he is satiated. He does not kill for fun so one can see a lion resting under the shade of trees while watching the antelopes graze nearby with total indifference.

This is not so with humans. Their brain works differently from the lions so he is prone to excesses due to his greed for money, for material things and even food when he is not hungry. I think it is an acquired habit from childhood when the child absorbs the values of those around him while growing up.

It reminds me of a story of excessive greed that led to the downfall of a prominent Roman citizen in ancient times. There was this fellow in Rome who had a few fire fighting engines that people in desperate need sought the help of because their houses were on fire. The fellow then came to negotiate how much money he could extract before he ordered even a drop of water to put the fire out.

People who were desperate to put the fire out and save their houses had no choice but to agree on the terms proposed by the greedy man but he was reviled for it none the less.Then came a time when this man was transferred to a distance province by the Roman authorities as a punishment for his greed but his reputation has reached all corners of the empire so one day people caught him in his act of extortion , bound him and poured liquid gold down his throat to quench his thirst for gold. It is a true story.

The greed of usurers at the temple led Jesus to denounce them and destroy their books that recorded the names and amount people had unfortunately borrowed from them but they were very powerful people who were a part of the Sanhedrin that ultimately caused the crucifixion of Jesus in the hands of the Roman authorities.

But people today ignore the teachings of Jesus and run pawn shops in every street corner here charging usurious rates for the paltry sum people borrow from them and often find themselves unable to repay the loan. This is the manifestation of pure greed of usurers.

The Prophet Mohammed explicitly banned the usury and forbade people to accept interest on the loans they make so by and large the Islamic Banks do not pay interest on the money Moslems keep with them but the banks have no qualms about charging usurious rate on loans made to others who are not Moslems.

The unabated greed in some people leads them to gambling that can lead to addiction which is a disease that is very difficult to cure ( read my blog on this subject called Gambling is an addiction like no other). The question to ask here is why some people are greedy and why it is never enough even when they have plenty of money to want more through any means including stealing. The dictators and politicians accumulate illegal wealth which they can never enjoy and flee when they are over thrown by the angry people or end up in jail when they cannot account for how they got their wealth.

The case of Rumanian dictator Ceausescu is worth mention here. He built a palace of more than a thousand rooms with gold bathtubs and crystal chandelliers in a very poor country where people did not have enough to eat . He and his wife were summarily executed by the crowd when they caught up with them. There are many such examples.

But I have seen common people also who show their greed for food when they are not hungry and greed for money when they know that it is illegally obtained so this vice spares no one except those who are morally strong and take immense pride in their honesty and integrity of character.( Read my blog on Is honesty outdated?)


January 2018

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.