Is Greed Ever Good?

Years ago a great movie on the 80s excesses in the US was released, Wall Street, a story of a corporate takeover artist who took over one company at a time. Small stuff compared to the financial engineering that brought down the world’s financial system in 2008, followed by global economic depression.

Is greed the real engine of human progress? Given all the current events around the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, let’s revisit the “greed is good” speech by the movie’s main protagonist: Gorden Gekko (played in 1987 by Michael Douglas). Here are his words in court:

Tapescript here

In its sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, one of the best scene was when Gordon Gecko was giving a lecture to some students about greed. What he did in about three minutes was to describe the cause of the financial crisis almost poetically: why the economy is in a mess. It was a bit dramatic but it was one of the best explanations for the financial crisis in summary form and he popularized the term NINJA: no income, no job, no assets:

Tapescript here too

Last February, Gordon Gekko, the ruthless financier played by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street, was back. This time he is working for the FBI and has a new mantra – “Greed is not good”. In a new FBI ad, actor Michael Douglas says his Gordon Gekko character was wrong — greed is not good after all. The commercial denounces corporate greed and Douglas is now asking corporate employees and financial traders to report insider trading and securities fraud to the FBI.

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