Let’s Embrace a Post-greed Era

by evoker on July 22, 2010

in Sustainability

I will never forget this conversation. I was on a tennis court in northern Indiana with a friend of the family, back about 1990, when the arguments for the flawlessness of free markets over the stupidity of government were being won across the globe. Communism was collapsing and we all thought the markets were the best bet going. This friend, racket in hand, looked at me and gave me his basic formulation of the choice in front of us.

“If I have to choose between greed and bureaucracy,” he declares as we sit on the bench between games, “I will choose greed every time. “ And he slapped his knee and laughed loudly, with an impish smile that did not quite fit. It was as if he knew he had forcefully declared some quasi-truth of the time, and that it was tainted with a hidden, flawed, darkness. As if this was the best we could do. As if greed deserved to be one of the foundational principles of our social and economic order.

Choose greed we did.

And huge numbers of boomers and Xer’s joined the many who had gone before us motivated by a creeping and leaping consumption for evermore, and we kept choosing it for the next 18 years. In 2008, the collapse of the gilded age of over-spending, over-borrowing, criminal greed on Wall Street, and deregulatory zeal by government finally ran its course.

So now where do we go?  We pick up the pieces, move on and sort through the wreckage.  We feed parts of the economy that can build a sustainable future. And can we have a better dialogue about our choices than greed versus bloated bureacracy? If not, we are still in trouble.

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