Why Greed Is Bad
Some argue the historic cycles illustrate that unregulated greed may not really work so well within the capitalist system, after all. The cycles show that what's good for the few can work against the common good — which includes the fates of average investors, workers, the economy and honest businesspeople. "If you have an unregulated arena, cheaters win," says Michael Josephson, a radio commentator and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Marina del Rey, Calif. "But if you have a civil society, which we do, with a series of checks and balances, by all means the honest people can win. … Honesty and integrity is the way to conduct business." Put in Gekko-like terms, greed — as opposed to honest competition, ambition and hard work — is bad. In fact, the current crises may show unrestrained greed can be bad even for the greedy, as fake earnings and artificial stock inflation can lead to stock crashes and bankruptcy — while less greedy companies may have more solid underpinnings to survive in the long term. "I think there's such a thing in the business world as a fair profit and … fair competition in which everybody in the business community is profiting, rather than one particular business sort of gobbling up all of the interests of others," says W. Michael Hoffman, executive director of the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass. Warns Hoffman: "If you carry greed out to its logical point of conclusion, essentially you would drive all competitors out of the market. [You] wouldn't have a market in the end, which is essentially antithetical to the whole capitalist system."
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