"Greed is good." (1987 film "Wall Street")
"Whoever loves money, never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
The financial "crisis" on Wall Street has provided another teachable moment. It turns out that greed is not good after all.
While the media and politicians blame the usual suspects, greed, like illicit sex, is not held in copyright by either party or political persuasion.
Barack Obama partially and predictably blamed the Bush administration, but it was the policies of the Clinton administration (as detailed in the Sept. 15 issue of Investors Business Daily) that sowed the seeds for the subprime mortgage collapse.
John McCain wants more regulations. What McCain should be demanding is an investigation, especially of those members of Congress who failed to provide oversight. It also wouldn't hurt to recommend more self-control and an embrace of the Puritan ethic of living within one's means.
Modern Western culture has been built on the success ethic, which says the acquisition of material wealth produces happiness and contentment and that the value of a life is to be measured not by one's character, but the size of his bank account, the square footage of his home, the cost of his clothes and the cars in his garage. The Puritan Thomas Watson addressed this notion when he said, "Blessedness ... does not lie in the acquisition of worldly things. Happiness cannot by any art of chemistry be extracted here."
Christianity Today magazine noted in a 1988 article, "The Puritan Critique of Modern Attitudes Toward Money": "American culture has been strangely enamored of the image of Œthe self-made person' - the person who becomes rich and famous through his or her own efforts. The idea of having status handed over as a gift does not appeal to such an outlook. Yet the Puritans denied that there can even be such a thing as a self-made person. Based on an ethic of grace, Puritanism viewed prosperity solely as God's gift."
The writer might have added that prosperity should not be seen as an end, but a means. Throughout Scripture, people are warned that money is a false god that leads to destruction. Wealth is best used when it becomes a river, not a reservoir; when it blesses and encourages others and does not solely feed one's personal empire.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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