Monday, July 17, 2006
Let's Put A Human Face On Greed
William Powers, writing in the National Journal, decries the absence of stories about greed and miserliness in the contemporary press. When most newspaper reporters had working class roots, stories about the extreme avarice of the wealthy were common, and highly critical. Now that many newsmen are millionaires themselves (and have millionaires as friends), and even cub reporters have at least upper-middle class upbringings, the pursuit of wealth is viewed as a form of heroism. The only time tycoons face censure is after they have been prosecuted for major white collar crimes. Avarice is praised as long as it stays legal.
It's fine to give Warren Buffett and Bill Gates their due when they bestow their billions on good causes, but why can't we have some balance? Where are The Tales of The Tightwads? Surely, there must be someone like J. Paul Getty, who put a pay phone in his English mansion so that houseguests could dial long distance at their own expense. Surely, indeed, there are even worse and more widespread abuses, now that the rich are even richer than ever.
It's time to bring a human face back to the image of greed. Responsible journalists should feel obligated to personalize, to demonize, and - above all - to ridicule those who abuse their wealth. If public censure is strong enough when rich men behave badly, they will have all the more incentive to use their money well.
"Invisible Greed" from the National Journal