Is greed a natural phenomenon like a hurricane or an earthquake?

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tells us that there are a couple of major economic cataclysms every century.

He gives us no reason. He just tells us that those things occur. I suppose we are expected to accept them in the same way that we accept hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes — natural phenomenons that we can do nothing about.

I find that assertion ridiculous. These economic cataclysms can be natural the way hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are natural only if we can accept that allowing greed to run rampant and unchecked also is natural and something we can’t do anything about.

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What he is leaving unsaid is that we should accept the consequences of greed the same way we accept the consequences of the weather systems that blow up into storms and the slipping of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes.

Taken to the extreme, that means we should accept murder, bank robbery and a whole host of crimes as natural acts that we can do nothing about and should just let the criminals run free.

Let the criminals run free? You don’t suppose that is what he really is after with his assertion that the current economic cataclysm from which we are suffering is merely a natural phenomenon? After all, all these greedy people on Wall Street and in the banks and other financial markets and institutions are people with whom he has rubbed shoulders all his life and many of them are his friends.

Is this damage control to try to keep his buddies out of jail? Sounds like it to me.

Is this also being put forward as a reason we shouldn’t try to regulate the economic markets to prevent unchecked greed from causing such cataclysms? Sounds like it to me, especially when coupled with his boss’s assertion that this cataclysm is only capitalism at work, the free market system, and we need to not “over regulate” it.

By the way, these greedy people also are his boss’s buddies. In fact, they are the buddies of most, if not all, congressmen and senators and all others in positions of power. Where do you think all these folks get their money to run for office?

Yes, I am a bit cynical when it comes to politics and money.

However, I do recognize that we all know right from wrong, even politicians.

Knowing that there is right and there is wrong truly is a natural phenomenon, or we would not recognize, when given a choice, that one thing is right and one thing is wrong. What we do when faced with that choice may be natural to the individual, as well as something learned.

In other words, we can learn to make the right choices, should such a choice not come naturally to an individual. That is why we have laws — and regulations. Make the right choice when given a situation in which there is right and wrong, and there nearly always is right and wrong, and there is no problem. Make the wrong choice, and the law steps in and punishes you for making that choice.

I will not accept that these economic cataclysms are natural phenomenons about which we can do nothing. We need to regulate the financial markets so that those who give into greed suffer severe consequences for making that choice.

Greed may be an impulse when faced with a situation of right and wrong, and when a person faces that choice, even among the wealthy, he or she may need the additional motivation of the law — regulation — to make the right choice and avoid greed.

Congressmen and senators should be at work right now setting the regulations to enforce right and wrong in our financial markets. There once had been such regulations, and while the financial markets had their bad moments, it wasn’t until the regulations had been reduced to the point that greed could run rampant that the conditions were right for this current cataclysm to take place.

If such economic disasters do take place a couple of times every century, we need to act now to break that cycle, for it is not natural, it is the result of unchecked greed.

We don’t need to worry about “over regulation,” we need to worry about under regulation, for the only force people who would follow their tendency to greed recognize is the law, or the law puts them in jail.