2009 – Most Philosophical 5th Grader in America.

Joshua Kwan, New York.

Greed or Giving: Which Has a Greater Impact on Society?

Aristotle once said, “Wisdom shuns greed…Greed is like pride: it blinds.” Greed is an excessive desire to get more. It is a craving for material goods, money, and power. According to Machiavelli, “The wish to acquire more is admittedly a very natural and common thing…” A greedy person always wants more and more. When greediness gets out of hand, the resulting situation is that the person becomes dishonest. When people are dishonest, they bring about conflicts. Even thought giving can also have an impact on society, greed is what more people give in to and follow; therefore, greed has a greater impact on a society.

First of all, greed could lead to dishonesty and distrust, which, in turn, would cause disturbances in society. When people have too many desires of their own to be fulfilled, they become selfish and use any means of trickery to cheat others; for example, scams, forgery, bribery, false testimony, etc. For example, Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish explorer, was a very cruel man – and greedy, too. He captured the Inca Empire, slaying everyone with his men. Pizarro captured the Inca ruler, Atahualpa. He made a false promise, saying that he would let the ruler go if the ruler’s men would fill up an entire room with gold. Atahualpa’s men did as they were told, but Pizarro killed Atahualpa anyway. His greediness urged him to use dirty tricks to enrich himself. Without honesty, people cannot trust each other, which is what happened with Pizarro’s men: they feared that some men had a bigger share of gold than the others, and started fighting. Hand in hand, dishonesty and distrust knock down the foundation (trust) of a society.

Besides distrust and dishonesty, greed can also start wars in society. Plato located the cause of war in people surrendering to “the endless acquisition of money” and overstepping the limit of their necessities.” He thought that this moved people to “seize” some of their “neighbors’ land” and thus start a war. For example, in 1519 in Mexico, Hernando Cortes came from Spain to conquer the Aztec Empire. His mind was only on gold and land. He used brute force to take over the Aztecs. Cortes’ greed was the Aztecs’ downfall. From the above example, you can see one man’s greed can bring down an entire complex, brilliant and powerful empire.

Some people say that giving affects society in a bigger way than greed. They argue that giving helps many people get what they need and fulfill their desires. That is true, and many organizations are trying to help poor people and hoboes on the street. However, the poor can’t give anything away because they have nothing to give. To add on, the rich could give if they want, but most are selfish, just as Machiavelli said, “The wish to acquire more is admittedly a very natural and common thing, and when men succeed in this they are always praised rather than condemned.” In this way, we have a natural tendency to take rather than to give.
To sum it up, greed breaks up a society’s foundation (trust and stability), therefore having a greater impact on society. Greed has no limits. As Plato’s Republic says, “Men find it easier to fall into the pleasures of the unjust…” one small taking and the whole society could collapse.


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