Greed is an Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis


Short Answer:
Yes. Many humans have a desire to accumulate things more than what they need or deserve.

Long Answer:
It can not be denied that some people are more ‘Greedy’ than others. People act in a greedy way for different reasons. Of course there are the megalomaniacs and narcissists who are completely self-obsessed, just as there are the completely selfless martyrs.

For every Vijay Mallya there is a Mother Theresa ( Taking Indian examples familiar to me)

But those types are few and far between. Most of us only act greedy in response to our needs not being met. Abraham Maslow studied this phenomenon in great detail and created the Hierarchy of Human Needs.

When a person does not have enough food to survive, he will go to any length to fulfill that need. Physiological needs like the need to breathe, eat food, wear clothing and find shelter must be fulfilled. Once they are met, we move onto the need for safety, then the need to be loved or to belong, then esteem needs and finally self-actualization. But people are only desperate and ‘greedy’ toward the bottom of the hierarchy, when their physiological needs, safety needs and the need to be loved are not met.

A person who does not feel safe is deficiency motivated. They are desperate because something is missing. When these needs are met and they move toward the top of the hierarchy, they are not deficiency motivated, they are growth motivated. A growth motivated person can afford to be giving and generous without the fear of losing what little they have.


In the history of humankind you have many people who were obsessed with acquiring power for power’s sake: Alexander, Chengez Khan, Napolean, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, The Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

We all know what happened to all of them. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Their lives was ridden with anxiety, insecurity & paranoia. Peace for them came only with their deaths.

Governments wish to increase all kinds of taxes, overtly to provide better services to the people but covertly to pay themselves higher salaries. Companies wish to incorporate in the CAYMAN ISLANDS to avoid paying taxes. The Vijay Mallyas want to make money by swindling banks. Politicians who waste the hard-earned tax-payer’s money by conducting ‘Official business’ at Resort destinations & travelling globally to various countries ostensibly to study how that country is performing in that area but covertly treating it as a holiday trip for themselves & their families. Lastly, the Common man shows his greed by gambling and compulsively buying lottery tickets anticipating quick windfalls only to commit suicide thereafter.

Antilia is a private home in South Mumbai, India. It is owned by Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries, which includes a staff of 600 to maintain the residence 24X7.

It is deemed to be the world's most expensive residential property, after Buckingham Palace, which is designated as a crown property. It is thus the world's most expensive private residential property, valued over $1 billion. Its controversial design and ostentatious use by a single family has made it famous across the world, with severe criticism and mockery in popular media.

Some Indians are proud of the "ostentatious house", while others see it as "shameful in a nation where many children go hungry". Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, opined that "such wealth can be inconceivable" not only in Mumbai, "home to some of the Asia's worst slums", but also in a nation with 42 percent of the world's underweight children younger than five.

Tata Group former chairman Ratan Tata said Antilia is an example of rich Indians' lack of empathy for the poor Tata also said: "The person who lives in there should be concerned about what he sees around him and asking if he can make a difference. If he is not, then it's sad because this country needs people to allocate some of their enormous wealth to finding ways of mitigating the hardship that people have."

There are other multi-millionnares who in addition to a big bungalow, collect the latest cars, home theater, helicopter & helipad, Yacht and a private Greek Island.

There is a theory explaining why these do not lead to unadulterated happiness. It is called Adaptation Theory ( Hedonic Treadmill or Habituation).

Let us take a few examples of sensory or physiological adaptation

* Smoke-filled room : The smoker gets used to the stench but if you are a non-smoker, you will get a shock as you enter the room.

* Tin shacks besides Railway Tracks : The people living in them can sleep quite well because they get habituated to the noise and vibrations. In fact if there is a railway strike, they will have sleepless nights.

* This is also the reason we don't feel our new spectacles, dentures or underwear after some time.

Reason : When sensory receptors are exposed to the same stimulus over and over again, they quickly get bored and stop firing. This makes sense. The brain is an efficient organ, most interested in the novel and new. If we paid attention to everything, we would quickly be overwhelmed by the hulking intensity of reality.

Humans are adaptable creatures. This has been a definite advantage to our species during assorted Ice ages, Plagues, Wars and their aftermath.

But that's also why you are never all that satisfied for long, when good fortune comes your way.

While earning more makes you happy in the short-term, you quickly adjust to your new wealth and everything it buys for you. Yes, you do get a thrill at first from a shiny new car or a big screen Plasma TV set. But you soon get used to them, a state of running in place that Economists call " The Hedonic Treadmill ".

When you imagine how much you are going to enjoy a new purchase, a new car/ new saree / new book ( For my sons/wife/myself respectively), what we are imagining is the happiness you might get on the day you get it. When these acquisitions lose that ability to make your heart go 'pitter-patter', you tend to draw the wrong conclusions : Instead of questioning the idea that you can buy happiness with a new car, saree or book, you begin to question the correctness of your choice of the stuff. So you pin your hopes on a new car etc., to get the ultimate bliss, only to be disappointed again.

People do not want to think that death is the end of their life. They hanker after eternity and wish to live forever as a happy soul in a Heaven under the paternal care of benevolent god(s) notwithstanding the atrocities they might have committed towards humanity. They desperately want a carefree afterlife. And hence they donate to temple hundis, make crowns of gold & diamonds and gift it to the gods & goddesses to ensure this. It's intriguing how eager people are to go to heaven and how certain they are that they will be very happy there for eternity when after retiring from work, they are not able to beat boredom and make themselves optimally happy even in the 20-30 years they have at their disposal post-retirement on earth.

There seems to be no end to the diverse kinds of greed that humans have. Buddha said that desire & greed are the root causes of unhappiness. But who bothers to listen?! People seem to prefer more -- power, money, possessions / status symbols & an assured afterlife, to happiness.


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Comment by Chris on January 9, 2018 at 6:02pm

Another way to look at it is:

The Link Between Neoliberalism, Perfectionism, and Mental Health Di...

A study of college-aged people in the U.S., Canada and Britain says that the increase in mental health disorders may be tied to an increase in perfectionism, which in turn is linked to the rise of neoliberalism in these countries since the '80s. Thomas Curran, one of the study's authors, explain

More in the above link.

Comment by V.N.K.Kumar on January 2, 2018 at 1:58am

@Joan Denoo: Privately I agree with you 100%. This piece was originally drafted for friends & relatives surrounding me who worship Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I am on the same wave length as you are since reading Christopher Hitchen's book on her.a few years ago. Happy new year.

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 1, 2018 at 11:53pm

V.N.K.Kumar, I respectfully disagree with you about Mother Teresa, she was an instrument of her church to generate funds and not to care for the sick and dying. There are many bits of evidence that she was greedy:

*  Mother Teresa Humanitarian Image A ‘Myth,’ New Study Says By Ron Di...,

*  A new exposé of Mother Teresa shows that she—and the Vatican—were e...,

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.



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