Greed is a perversion of need. If everyone understood their needs and was content with taking only what they needed at any given time I believe that the world would be a much better place and many of the issues we now face from extreme poverty to global warming could be, if not eliminated, seriously curtailed. However we live in a society that has made an excessive desire for more of something than is needed the norm and that, if you look it up, is the very definition of greed.
Greed versus need is a battle between our ruler and caretaker mentalities on an epic and global scale. As caretakers we know that we should only take what we need and steward that which we have been given in such a way that it will be sustainable for future generations. But as rulers we believe our press and start thinking that we need more while others suffer.
It’s been called the tragedy of the commons. Ecologist Garrett Hardin first coined the phrase in an article he wrote for the journal Science in 1968. In it Hardin described a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently will ultimately deplete a shared resource even after it is made clear that it is no longer in anyone’s self-interest to do so. Hardin uses the example of medieval land tenure in Europe in which cattle farmers used the same parcel of land to graze their herds. The wealthier farmers continued to add cattle to the pasture even as the quality to grass available fell. The farmer who added the cattle would initially receive the benefits of having additional animals but the damage to the field was felt by all the farmers who used it. Eventually the smaller operators were forced out of business as the price and quality of meat being produced fell. However to the farmers who add the cattle to the field it is a completely rational decision to do so as more cattle in the field means more profit and eventually less competition. The same logic can be seen in the way in which we manage nearly all the resources of planet earth, from forestry to fisheries, mining and fossil fuels.
By know I’m sure you’re starting to notice were greed and need are leading us in terms of how we lost our way in God’s Perfect Economy. Greed fuels war and supports our ruler mentality in an ever increasing and expanding Lust for Power.