For more than fifteen years psychologist Julian Edney has visited college campuses across the nation to study the effects of greed in a society where over $100 billion in new wealth accumulates each year. On each of his stays, he would play a game with randomly selected students where 10 metal nuts in a bowl represented extra credit. The students would then take the nuts for a single extra credit point. In this, he promised to double the amount of nuts left in the bowl every 10 seconds. Hypothetically, the game could last forever yielding limitless rewards as the students took turns taking a nut from the bowl. However Dr. Edney determined that 65 percent of the groups couldnt get pass the first 10 second round, and the others could only make it a few more cycles until modest students turned into rambunctious maniacs scrounging for that last nut. Edneys conclusion: Greed trumps trust. (U.S. News Magazine, 6/17/96 Special)
Small towns and neighborhoods in America used to be cohesive, political scientist Bruce Frohnen pronounced in the May 1999 issue of Family Policy. They did not seek openness to all ways of life. Nor did they seek economic betterment as the sole proper goal, he added. Faith and tradition were ruling forces in the lives of Americans, bidding them care for their families and neighbors and their souls, as much as their pocketbooks. But as the material girls and boys grew, so did the need for greed. In a recent study by Roper Starch Worldwide, the values of teenagers moving into the new millennium have drastically changed from their parents visions. The percentage who said they wanted to earn a lot of money grew 25 points from the 38 percent in 1975. Those who said they needed a microwave oven as a necessity rose 19 points, and the percentage that believed life without an answering machine was incomprehensible grew more than 18 points. At the same time, teenagers who believed developing a meaningful philosophy of life dropped by 42 percent. However the rise of moneys power in student-age adults coincided with a reward system for the newly transpired talents. Repetitive tasks are being replaced by super technology while responsibilities requiring intelligence and skill are more emphasized. It is a winner take all society though, where the lopsided share of benefits go to very few players.
The ostentation is not all coming from the upcoming generation though. Many citizens believe the behavior and actions of CEOs in the nations largest corporations play a large part in the growing materialism crisis in America. Graef Crystal determined that of the 500 largest organizations in the country, the average CEO compensation package of salary, bonuses, stock grants, and exemptions was $4.06 million in 1995, up 16 percent from the previous year. That is about 200 times higher than the salary of the average American worker, up only 2.8 percent after the profits grew 14.8 points in 1995. Then again, there are plenty of reasons for the recent uproar in CEO compensation: wealth generated by smart CEO decisions, demanding hours, and the need to retain these services from the gifted individual are vital to a companies success. Plus with the influx in wealth comes a new state of philanthropy. In the January, 1997 edition of Fortune Magazine, president of Soros Fund Management, George Soros, was noted for donating more than $350 million for aiding legal immigrants and setting up university Internet centers in the provincial Russia. Chairman of Triangle Publications Walter Annenberg also reached a new level of generosity donating almost half a billion dollars into public school systems across the country. Dont be too impressed with these numbers though, as chairmen continue to cheat their workers out of legitimate raises, making moral leadership not much more than a laughing subject.
The peoples Exhibit C in the indictment against gluttony is one against themselves. More and more Americans are willing to commit illegitimate crimes for cold, hard cash than follow the ethical route where earnings diminish daily. In 1996 Health care fraud amounted to $100 billion a year. Today that amount has risen more than 30 percent. It is almost a spreading cancer (U.S. News Magazine, 6/17/96 Special) as the public bills insurance companies for false claims- justifying it because of the firms unpredictability in service. Hirsh Goldberg calculated other government agencies people swindle in his novel, The Complete Book of Greed. Goldberg determined that about 25 percent of Americans cheat somewhere on their taxes each year, costing more than $135 billion each filing. Stealing was also a concern, with some 42 percent of Americans admitting to pilfering something in the past year. However the medical and healthcare systems are broken; forcing doctors who work long hours anyway to bill for services not rendered. Some of it is exhaustion, some of it is fraud, and some of it is the fact that many people just dont pay. They carry a disproportionate amount of bad debt- forcing behaviors that are not healthy, and sometimes unethical.
Of the seven deadly sins, none are as insidious and illusive as greed. You realize when you have lust in your blood, or have spent the day wasting away in margarita vile, but avarice is harder to come by. It often is accompanied by beneficial desires to prosper and strive for, sometimes-even work for. And its always changing. A generation ago, a computer would have been thought as luxurious, now its often essential in everyday life. We must pursuit deep into the facets of our lives and rage out the insatiability that has become one with our way of life. Realize and account for your individual deeds as they represent who we are as a united nation.