Greed is Sick

at 11:35 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

If you eat too much, it's called an eating disorder. If you drink too much, you are an alcoholic and you need help. From hoarding or disposophobia to obsessive compulsive disorders, we have terms for a plethora of psychologically addictive disorders which are diagnosable and treatable.

However, there is one addiction that we have neither named nor found a cure for.

It's the addiction to money and high-end toys to the point that it's never enough. What is too much, you ask? When you have one $100 million yacht and are shopping for a $200 million one. Or, you are negotiating for $10 million salary and compensation and have already been offered $8 million.

Reality shows about hoarders have become popular. Invariably, each episode includes a trained psychologist to wean the patient off their addiction. But if filling your house to the ceiling with piles of low-priced junk is manifestation of a psychological condition, why not filling your house with high-priced junk? Is neatness and a maid the difference? Extreme hoarders, at least on TV, are mostly poor people acquiring useless things. They obviously need to be cured, we say to ourselves. But when rich people acquire useless things like electronic toilets or behemoth yachts, we celebrate them. We envy the movie star with the 20-bedroom house in Bel Air and a villa in Venice instead of thinking that they need to check into a clinic to get help for their hyperaquisitive disorder.

We may think of it as greed, a moral and value judgment rather than a psychological condition. The "Occupy Wall Street" movement protests the system which provides disproportionate rewards and bailouts for the 1% of wealthy corporate titans and bankers, at a cost to the 99%, but that's about values and public policy and the feeling that it's not "right" or "fair."


Let's try to think about this another way. The next time we see a movie like "Wall Street" and hear a Gordon Gecko say, "Greed is good," maybe we should say, "You need to see a doctor."

With a Perspective, this is Vinita Nelson.