The Desire to Acquire

Posted on August 25, 2016 by Robert Ringer


A few years back, Time magazine ran a cover story about greed.  Though it possessed many flawed premises and opinions masquerading as facts, it prompted me to reflect on this perpetually misunderstood subject.

Among other things, the Time article stated, “Of all the impulses in humanity’s behavioral portfolio, ambition — that need to grab an ever bigger piece of the resource pie before someone else gets it — ought to be one of the most democratically distributed.  Nature is a zero-sum game, after all.  Every buffalo you kill for your family is one less for somebody else’s; every acre of land you occupy elbows out somebody else.”

This is the age-old myth of the fixed pie.  It assumes not only that the size of the pie is fixed, but that there is only one pie.  In truth, of course, there is no limit to the number of pies that can be baked.

The only way to stop the entrepreneur from baking more pies is through government force, which has dramatically increased over the past seven-and-a-half years.  Lacking outside interference, he will continue to bake more and more pies that he believes people will like — and buy — and everyone will benefit from his “selfish” efforts.

I feel morally obliged to temporarily sidetrack myself here, because this kind of wealth-redistribution rhetoric is precisely what deters the underprivileged from doing the very things they need to do to lift themselves up.  Ignorant, left-wing college profs have been teaching this kind of gibberish to malleable-minded college kids since the days of the Greek Empire, while at the same time shameless and/or ignorant politicians have been brainwashing the parents of those same children.

In truth, any honest, half-intelligent individual in this day and age of highly visible entrepreneurial wealth creation certainly realizes that neither nature nor business nor life itself is a zero-sum game.  In every country where the zero-sum-game theory has been the foundation for economic policy, the results have been catastrophic.

The list is a long one and includes, among others, the former Soviet Union, Albania, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, China, North Korea, Cuba, and Mozambique.  Every country on the list has three things in common:  torture and suffering for the masses, special treatment for the anointed privileged classes (“some animals are more equal than others”), and failed economies.  Unfortunately, Western societies seem intent on following the loud voices of the zero-sum-game crowd down an egalitarian path that leads only to the destruction of wealth and misery for the masses.

What these hollow heads cannot seem to grasp is that those who create wealth almost always do so by creating value for others.  Or, to continue the metaphor, they increase the size of the pie.  That’s why the poorest families in the U.S. have the means to buy state-of-the-art, flat-screen television sets, smartphones, computers, and an endless array of other products that are not necessities by any stretch of the imagination.

The dictionary defines greed as “an excessive desire to acquire more than what one needs or deserves.”  Huh?  I guess I’m not smart enough to understand who has the wisdom, let alone the moral authority, to decide what anyone else needs or deserves.

Since the words “excessive” and “more than what one needs or deserves” are subjective, what greed really means is possessing a desire to acquire.  And, though it may ruffle the feathers of many idealists to hear it, the reality is that all human beings have an unlimited desire to acquire.

One person might desire to acquire power over others by leading or joining a crusade.  Another person might desire to acquire material wealth by providing products or services that people are willing to purchase from him.  And still another individual might desire to acquire the respect of others through artistic achievements.  In any event, all of these people are “greedy” in the sense that they “desire to acquire.”

No doubt the audience mentally hissed and booed when Gordon Gekko (in the 1987 film Wall Street ) spewed out those now-famous words “Greed is good,” but the fact is that he was absolutely right.  Or, at least, he was conditionally right.  Greed is good if it leads to honest wealth creation.  Clinton greed, for example, is not good, because it is based on fraud and does great harm to others.

In other words, greed is neutral.  Of and by itself, it is neither good nor bad.  It is only the methods that a person employs to fulfill his desires that are good or bad.  Just as guns don’t kill people, neither do greed or ambition, of and by themselves, harm anyone.  However, as pointed out above, some people do choose to use greed and ambition to do harm, just as some people use guns to kill.

So long as you do not use force or fraud to acquire what you desire, you do not need to apologize for being “greedy” — and certainly not for any success you are able to achieve.  And, as an added bonus, through the invisible hand of the marketplace, every dollar you make benefits society as a whole.

That said, as we continue our painful and frustrating journey down the dark tunnel of Marxism, it’s important to keep your senses while all about you are losing theirs.  Or, in simple terms, you should steadfastly refuse to allow others to intimidate you into feeling guilty about your success.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

30 responses to “The Desire to Acquire”

  1. R Diamond says:

    This is a keeper. I am printing it and putting it up on my wall in the office for everyone to read. So well stated. Thank you for it.

  2. Albert says:

    Excellent stuff Robert – love it! Sad that "lazy" man is winning the battle over "working" man – eventually "working" man will just pack it in and become "lazy" man…then we'll all be in the socialist utopia…aka Hell!

  3. Michael Burrill says:

    Great article. I would add Venezuela to the list.

    Growing up I remember reading about famine in Russia and China but have come to the conclusion it was not famine as caused by nature, but actually thwarted, normal, self interest, and self interest being simply an extension of the survival instinct.

    Why would a farmer get up at dawn to milk cows only to have the milk taken and redistributed by government thugs? People need incentive and thrive on incentive. Human nature has not changed. Must we continually go through the horridly painful cycle of looking to government as the font, realizing it cannot be, and then rebelling at the cost of pain, suffering and death? When will we learn?

    • Texas Wolfie says:

      Ditto, my friend in the oil business says that that marxist ass turned that country into a toilet.

  4. The word "Greed", however, carries a negative connotation. A desire to acquire isdifferent. The negatively greedy person will or may sacrifice his higher good in order to "greedy-get". I may be offered two jobs. One pays more, so using greed as a motive I take choose it. The other pays less but it is more personally fulfilling and growth-producing. Greedy Gus shoots himself in the foot, he short-changes himself. And, depending on context, "acquire" suggests material "stuff" or money. The connotative meanings of words/terms make them a tad slippery. But, overall, whatever one's desires and subsequent choice, they should be in the interest of "self-actualization", "actualization of our potentials" to the end of self-fulfillment/ and positive growth, which I believe, don't KNOW but I BELIEVE, is the Right Goal of everyone who incarnates/comes into human life. Only chasing things/money, etc., for their/its own sake is a dead end that does not lead to happiness or personal fulfillment. Greed, in my opinion, connotes negative aspiration. Maybe we can better speak of what "motivates" us and why? If I were to go off the deep end esoterically, I would speak of our "inner destiny plan or pattern" that is spoken of in the ancient Taoist Chinese I CHING, and elsewhere in similar literature and philosophy. But, I would get boo-ed off the planet for that.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Richard, I would think everyone would want to fulfill their highest potential with whatever acquisition (knowledge, peace of mind, material wealth, etc.) they prioritize. As Robert says, if it is done WITHOUT force or fraud (step aside politicians, as you ALL use force & fraud constantly!), it is noble and needs no apology. The progressives and their kidnapping of the young in the forced schooling establishment does a great disservice to them, and stunts the natural desire each of them has to become more, enjoy more, and yes, even HAVE more.

  5. Kim Vajramanas says:

    Not to mention the stultifying quantity of rules enabled by showboating politicians trying to justify their position.

  6. Michael Ponzani says:

    No body understands this. Jesus showed flashes if insight on this in the parables of the ten talents and the laborer s in the vineyards (two versions of the ten talents) ; but not much else.

  7. Rock Roach says:

    Of course Hillary the Horrible jumps all over Trump for his 6 percent tax cut for the so called ( rich) and the reduction of corporate taxes . Guess who hires most people out of work and can provide better jobs?
    She also fails to mention the tax free proposals of the lowest earners and a serious reduction for thr middle class. Is the public understsnding this? I really wonder if they pay attention to current events ( the public ).

  8. Chris says:

    What a perfect article, Mr. Ringer. Let's say I start an online business, for example, selling courses. Let's further assume I provide good content and am successful at this endeavor, and earn a lot of money. I haven't taken money away from a poor person. I have provided value for customers who are willing to pay me for these courses. I have indeed "baked a new pie". Keep up the great work sir.

  9. My definition of greed is “an excessive desire to acquire through force or fraud that which other people own."

    • Lee says:

      Russell, well said, that is exactly how I would define greed.

    • Steve says:

      Then that would simply be excessive negative greed. Not the simplest meaning of the word that Robert stated in the article: desire to acquire. Your adding a condition that goes beyond the simple meaning of the word.

    • Ragnar says:

      Wrong – acquiring any property using force or fraud would is theft.

  10. Mic says:

    When I heard Michelle Obama declare back in 2008 that "you will have to be willing to give up some of your pie so somebody else can have some" I started hollering at the TV because I knew then as I do now what you wrote is dead on. Excellent article!

  11. paradox says:

    Please don't forget to add Zimbabwe to the list!

  12. Reality Seeker says:

    "However, as pointed out above, some people do choose to use greed and ambition to do harm, just as some people use guns to kill".

    Well said, and that's the difference between "good" and bad. Like most words, much depends on context. Having said that, I disagree with Mr. Ringer that you can't distinguish between how much is too much. When I see a 300lb woman stuffing her face with three Big Macs, a double order of fries and a supersize bucket of coke, I say that's too much; I say that's gluttony, which is a form of greed; I say common sense makes obvious what is way, way too much excess, i.e., the best, simple definition of greed.

    Money junkies, that's who make up the "Big swinging dicks" of Wall Street. They proudly call themselves "Banksters" and names which one could only associate with evil greed. That's not to say trading stocks and commodities are wrong, nor is amassing a fortune, but I say it's obvious that the at this point the system and most of the players stink to High Heaven. It's rigged. It's not free-market capitalism; therefore, it's not "greed is good"….. that kind of greed is bad. The love of money is a bad love. Why? Money in and by itself is a wonderful invention. Money is as important as the wheel. Money makes a modern economy possible. But not all money is the same. In fact, was passes for money isn't really money. What passes for stock, isn't really stock. What passes for private property isn't really private property, so long as it's taxed. Using money or whatever is passed off as capital in order to make a bigger pie is fine. Make the biggest pie and make more. But we all know that's not what the Big Swinging Dicks do…. They aren't about value for value relationships. They are greedy pukes who'll screw the the entire country. It's like a famous Indian once said, " the world is not enough for them"…

    • Reality Seeker says:

      Just as a little aside: the greedy for power, bitch, Hillary, is attacking Alex Jones by name. So it's finally out in the open. The Dirty Dems are forced to take on Jones right out in the open. Alex's picture is featured on Drudge along with Hillary's speech attacking Jones, Trump, Drudge and…. Lol…. Putin….. It's a "vast Right Wing Conspiracy"….. Lol…. The greedy bitch is playing the racist, conspiracy card… Well, this is going to be fun, because conspiracy is what Jones does best….

  13. Loewe says:

    My 1933 standard dictionary defines greed as: An eager and inordinate desire to possess something, especially wealth

    Not quite as judgmental, modern dictionaries tend to promote the views of their authors, less objective than older dictionaries.

  14. Ernie Zelinski says:

    In the same realm as greed is the word selfishness. A lot of people like to think of many others as selfish and themselves as not. Fact is, everyone is selfish. Or as this great playwright once said,

    “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
    — Oscar Wilde

  15. Phil says:

    I agree with this in principle, absolutely, except that in our present fascist economy more and more people are obtaining wealth through the manipulation of the political/legal system.

  16. Neal Browne says:

    It seems to me it all comes down to whether we possess our possessions (and wealth) or whether either possesses us. The first is more healthy and can be used to generate proven value. The latter ends up warping us so we become the slave of what possesses us, and suffer a misshapen character as a result. We give up command and become the puppet of the thing. Much like addiction. Simple to describe, but not necessarily self-evident to those caught in the clutches. If humanity were put on trial and accused of having great wisdom, a vast majority of the participants would be acquitted.

  17. Harry Hagan says:

    The journey down the dark path towards Marxism is going to be a lot more intense than "frustrating."

    • Nasdaq7 says:

      Those governments are characterized by huge inefficiencies and even more corruption as government wants even more control over everything in order to remain in control.

  18. WeirdlyCOChick says:

    Suggestion to those who have a couple of minutes to spare: Look up Dinesh D'Souza's little video clip interview about a sandwich. Perfect analogy!

  19. Great article. I would add Venezuela to the list.

  20. Robby Bonfire says:

    Re "ignorant left-wing college professors," my mother, bless her little heart for her noble intentions, saddled the family with just such a step-father – a PhD. Sociology professor who, one day over lunch, made the astounding (to me) statement out of the blue: "You know, Rob, I would never have a Mercedes Benz in my driveway."

    Of course what he had was a junk pile on four wheels which was much more palatable to him than any capitalistic concept of excellence and a high standard of living mode of conveyance.

    Just get that PhD., teach college kids the rest of your working life about real world concepts you have never experienced first hand, because you have never worked a day in your lifetime outside of a classroom and the fantasy text book world theories your expound, therein. It is scary that our young people, by the millions, are groomed to wear an opulent life style guilt and shame straitjacket by spiritual worms disguised and feted as the most literate, among us.

    This was a man who was not on speaking terms with his brother because his brother went into business in the real world and became a millionaire, and we know how odious a pathway through life success in the business world represents. The most successful men, and some women too, among us, starting with Gates and Trump, kicked the college habit quickly when they saw how enfeebled the leftist dependency spoon-fed curriculum is.

    Pity those who have

  21. Dan McDevitt says:

    One principle that I can only wish would be taught in Economics 101 is….Creating wealth does NOT benefit SOLELY the person who (let's say) first came up with the "idea." Assuming HONEST trading, always remember that BOTH sides benefit……..or, there would never be that original trade!! Any time we go into a store and make a purchase, the merchant is not the ONLY one gaining! Why is that simple principle soooooo hard for soooooo many people to appreciate? Henry Ford became a billionaire (in today's dollars) by inventing the automobile. Who among us wishes….HE HAD NEVER INVENTED IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! (Yes, I know…he may NOT have been the first, but he WAS the first that saw the value of making them cheaper!!!