Greed: Good or Evil?

Cover of Wall Street (20th Anniversary Edition)

Economists persuasively argue that greed encourages effort, discovery, invention – it motivates us to take risks, come up with new products, enter new markets and make enterprises more efficient. Soon after the memorable line, “Greed is Good, Greed is Right, Greed Works,” was uttered in the movie “Wall Street,” much was and continues to be written about the economic and psychological impact of greed.
 
Evolution may have programmed us to be greedy, since greed keeps us motivated to achieve a genuine state of happiness, according to Jay Phelan, an economist, biologist, and co-author of Mean Genes.  Echoing that thought, some psychologists say greed is the only consistent human motivation.
 
Today, however, increasing numbers of mental-health professionals are saying that greed is not nearly as good for people as it is for economies.  Some have begun warning that greed is beginning to overwhelm conscience, reason, compassion and family bonds.  Psychologist David Farrugia sees greed as a mistaken, empty and shortsighted goal that contains many seeds of destruction.  In his article, Selfishness, Greed, and Counseling, Farrugia says, “a chronic orientation toward greed has been shown to result in inflexibility and diminished reality testing.”
 
This likely explains the brazenness of Bernie Madoff, Raj Rajaratan and, now, the seven defendants recently charged in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by Federal authorities with securities fraud involving insider trading.
 
SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said, “These are not low-level employees succumbing to temptation by seizing a chance opportunity, [but] …. sophisticated players who built a corrupt network to systematically and methodically obtain and exploit illegal inside information again and again.”
 
Bottom line:  While greed may indeed drive us in ways that have positive effects on behavior, it also has proven to wreak havoc and shatter lives.

 

PondelWilkinson, investor@pondel.com
 
 

In Defense of ‘Flaks’

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban (Photo credit: wikipedia.com)

Here’s what it said: “Never hire a PR firm.” You can certainly understand my bemusement when reading these words.Entrepreneur Magazine recently published “Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Startups.”  Many of the rules provide a common sense approach to starting a new business.  But the eleventh rule made me woozy.
 
Cuban qualified this rule by saying that PR folks are calling and emailing reporters and editors when, in fact, the founders of companies should be calling and emailing the same reporters and editors “who will welcome hearing from (them) instead of some PR flak.”  Gosh, that’s harsh.  I mean, calling PR folks “flaks” is the equivalent of calling a fresh piece of rye bread a “crouton.”
 
Indeed, Cuban is talking about startups and not established companies, and hiring a PR firm isn’t always a top priority when eating and keeping the lights on are hard enough.  But if you cannot afford to hire a PR firm, you should probably ask a flak friend for some pro bono advice before banishing their firms altogether.
 
Here are my top six reasons why:
 

  1. First impressions matter.  If you send a lackluster pitch or sloppily written email to any self-respecting reporter or editor, it’s going to be tough getting their attention.
     

  2. It takes a lot of time and energy to cultivate media sources, so determine whether you have extra time to contact editors and reporters with punchy and seductive things to say.
     

  3. Crafting your own messaging (basically how a company describes itself to the public) is about as simple as staring at yourself in the mirror and describing what you see.
     

  4. It’s not easy communicating a calm and cohesive message to employees, investors, customers and others who rely on your services when you find yourself in the midst of a crisis.  That’s when PR pros really come in handy.
     

  5. The number of professional reporters and editors is shrinking due to consolidation in the media industry.  That means startups and established companies alike are responsible for generating their own buzz, and at the very least, communicating with important constituencies.   That’s what PR firms do.
     

  6. And finally, always question someone who criticizes the value of a PR firm when they themselves are billionaires, not to mention shameless self-promoters.  From the Washington Post:  “He (Cuban) is on television or the radio marveling at his charmed existence … ‘When I die, I want to come back as me,’ he likes to say…”  Unfortunately, we’re not all Mark Cuban.

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com