Is greed good?

In Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) delivers the following memorable speech (please don’t mind the international subtitles):

Gekko compares the capitalist system to natural evolution and evolution is good, isn’t it?  So if greed drives evolution in business, then what is wrong with it?


About Mark P. Holtzman

Chair of Accounting Department at Seton Hall University. PhD from The University of Texas at Austin. Worked at Deloitte's New York Office. BSBA from Hofstra University.


  1. Greed is good to a point. I think we need a constant drive to make money which drives innovation. Greed hurts when that drive overlooks everything else in an effort to only make money and not caring about what happens to anyone else, and maybe that is the difference between greed and profit motive. I one spoke to someone who works at a pharmaceutical company who believes that we would have had much more progress with drugs for certain illnesses or diseases of all of the researchers would share their research and ideas. I don't know how true that is, and I would hope that greed is not the only thing keeping us away from curing some diseases, but it is a very disturbing thought. I know that is an extreme example, but I think there is a distinct line where a decision of greed will come at the expense of others and that is when I would say it is bad.

  2. Almost everyone is motivated by money. That's why we work, why companies develop and sell products, and why people provide services. A problem arises when people let their drive for money take over their lives and has it be the only reason for their actions. This is the case with many accounting scandals such as Madoff. His drive for money was so powerful that he broke the law and stole from helpless people to fund his lavish lifestyle. I think people need to find a balance in their life in regards to why they are motivated to do things. Yes, money should be a big motivation because without it you can't survive, but there should also be other motivating factors for people. These can be anything such as they enjoy their job, their work benefits other people, or they want to feel like they are making a difference. It is when the money becomes the only motivation, greed surfaces and problems arise.

  3. The word greed is being manipulated here to mean wanting to produce and sell a product and gain money from it or to be innovative, and more. However, there is a distinction between greed and wanting to live well or live comfortably. Greed is a deadly sin, not innovation. People can be innovative and create businesses for the right reasons. I would not dare to say this is driven by greed. Greed is when you forget why you opened a business, when you have no regard for anyone but the source of that greed and your sole goal in life is to have more of this source, whether it be money or other things. To be motivated by wanting a comfortable life is one thing but to allow money to take over your reasoning for everything is taking it too far and what leads to scandals.

  4. There is a difference between a drive for successful business and greed. Anything in excess is bad, and if greed is the motivator it can be bad business. The allure of power and money can be the best motivator, but it can also be a huge threat. It leads to bad business practice and scandal. A better motivator for business could be passion for the industry or just the love of competition. The best motivator for business is probably the initial drive to sell a better product or service and make a difference in the market place for the consumer.

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