What Is Greed?

Topics: Etymology, Webster's Dictionary, AIG bonus payments controversy Pages: 6 (2338 words) Published: April 17, 2013
When Does Greed Become Too Much?
In 2008, employees within a failing firm on Wall Street were given $16 billion in bonuses. That seems outrageous, doesn’t it? Anger was the response of the American people indefinitely. However, if they had done further research they would have realized that the $16 billion in bonuses was merely half of what the company gave out in bonuses during good times. Many of the reporters telling the story discussed the issue of rewarding the greed of the employees with taxpayer money. Which brings us to the question, what exactly is greed? If they would have earned more before, they are expecting the amount that is coming. It is not greed if every year before that the money had been guaranteed, is it? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines greed as, “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.” ________________________________________________________________________

The word greed dates back to the 1200-1300’s, where in France it came from the word avarus meaning greedy which was a form of avere meaning to crave or long for. Coming from the word avarus was avaritia which meant just greed and from that word came avarice which meant greed or covetousness (Harper, 1). Covetousness is defined as an envious eagerness to possess something(Merriam-Webster, 2). Greed from the 1600’s to present is a back formation of the word greedy which has many routes and definitions. The West Saxon word graedig or the Anglican word gredig both meant voracious or covetous (Harper, 1). Voracious is defined as wanting to devour great quantities or having a very eager approach to an activity (Merriam Webster). From the Proto-Germanic language were the words graedagaz and graeduz meaning greed and hunger; possibly from the Proto-Indo-European root gher- meaning to want or in Scotland grdh- to be greedy. The origin that the people against the Wall Street bonuses would appreciate the most would be the one from the Greek word phyilargyros meaning “money-loving” and also the German word for greedy, habsuchtig coming from haben meaning “to have” +sucht meaning “sickness, disease” (Harper, 1). The last one is the most interesting because it is suggesting that greed is something than can come and go with the right or wrong stimulants, like a sickness does. What then would one need to do to boost their immune system against this greed? Or is greed something impossible for people to avoid?

From the etymology we have found that greed can be related to hunger and envy and the want to have more and more, were these definitions consistent in their use over time? In order to better understand what greed really is we need to take a moment to look back at the history of greed and how often it has occurred throughout the world. In 1527 A.D. the Spaniards had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and come across the empire of the Incas. They were on their way to the New World and they came across a raft with a crew of approximately 20 men along with many treasures. After catching a glimpse of the treasure on the raft, the greed of the Spaniards welled up until they decided to conduct an expedition to conquer the Incas’ empire. After many years of getting a crew and resources for this expedition the Spaniards finally headed into the Incas Empire in 1532 A.D.; fortunately the conquering of the empire was easier due to the civil war of the Incas. The Spaniards took the Incas emperor hostage and in return were offered a room of silver and gold as his ransom. The Spaniards greed continued to get bigger and they took the contents of the room, but did not return the emperor, but instead killed him. The Incan people then revolted under the Spanish control (History World, 1). If the Spaniards and not been so greedy in their desire to take over the empire maybe they could have won over the people as their own; instead they were driven by greed and one man even named them thieves of the Incan people. Mansio Serra Leguizamon,...
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