10 Non-Virtues: Greed Is (Not) Good

The ‘Greed Is Good’ speech is a famous speech taken from the 1987 film ‘Wall Street’. This is an extract of the speech delivered by the Gordon Gekko character:

The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms. Greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Gordon Gekko does not seek to define greed itself but rather focuses on greed for money, the accumulation of wealth, and possessions. Without giving too much of the storyline away, it leads the characters in the ‘Wall Street’ film to perform various negative actions. In this sense greed is the gateway non-virtue because that influences the characters in the film and they perform other non-virtuous actions.

Now outside of films, the events that led up to the very real 2008 global financial crisis appear to be motivated by that same gateway non-virtue of greed. The actions that people performed in real life are different to those depicted in the ‘Wall Street’ film but they were still negative. The effect of those actions had massive negative impact on many people and their livelihood.

That’s not to say that wealth and possessions are in the nature of being negative. How that wealth and possessions are used will determine that. But greed does change the way that the wealth and possessions are accumulated. If they are accumulated with a positive motivation then the situation changes.