Greed (or avarice) is an uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use: of material gain (be it food, wealth, land, or animate/inanimate possessions); or social value, such as status, or power.
- Thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.
- Some persons are led to believe that ... the whole idea of their lives is that they ought either to increase their money without limit, or at any rate not to lose it. The origin of this disposition in men is that ... as their desires are unlimited they also desire that the means of gratifying them should be without limit. ... If they are not able to supply their pleasures by the art of getting wealth, they try other arts, using in turn every faculty in a manner contrary to nature. The quality of courage, for example, is not intended to make wealth, but to inspire confidence; neither is this the aim of the general's or of the physician's art; but the one aims at victory and the other at health. Nevertheless, some men turn every quality or art into a means of getting wealth; this they conceive to be the end, and to the promotion of the end they think all things must contribute.
- The people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich, are just the very people whom we call the Philistines. Culture says: “Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voice; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it?”
- Matthew Arnold, “Sweetness and Light,” Culture and Anarchy (1869), p. 16.
- Extreme self-lovers will set a man's house on fire, though it were but to roast their eggs.
- Francis Bacon, Ornamenta Rationalia
- You begrudge your fellow human beings what you yourself enjoy; taking wicked counsel in your soul, you consider not how you might distribute to others according to their needs, but rather how, after having received so many good things, you might rob others.
- Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 62
- "But whom do I treat unjustly," you say, "by keeping what is my own?" Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common — this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.
- Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 69
- Who are the greedy? Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. Who are the robbers? Those who take for themselves what rightfully belongs to everyone. And you, are you not greedy? Are you not a robber? The things you received in trust as a stewardship, have you not appropriated them for yourself? Is not the person who strips another of clothing called a thief? And those who do not clothe the naked when they have the power to do so, should they not be called the same? The bread you are holding back is for the hungry, the clothes you keep put away are for the naked, the shoes that are rotting away with disuse are for those who have none, the silver you keep buried in the earth is for the needy. You are thus guilty of injustice toward as many as you might have aided, and did not.
- Basil of Caesarea, Homily 6, “I Shall Tear Down My Barns,” C. P. Schroeder, trans., in Saint Basil on Social Justice (2009), p. 70
Of course the avaricious man of our day, be he landlord, merchant, industrialist, does not adore sacks of coins or bundles of banknotes in some little chapel and upon some little altar. He does not kneel before these spoils of other men, nor does he address prayers or canticles to them amidst odorous clouds of incense. But he proclaims that money is the only good, and he yields it all his soul. A cult sincere, without hypocrisy, never growing weary, never forsworn. Whenever he says, in the debasement of his heart and his speech, that he loves money for the delights it can purchase, he lies or he terribly deceives himself, this very assertion being belied at the very moment he utters it by every one of his acts, by the infinite toil and pains to which he gladly condemns himself in order to acquire or conserve that money which is but the visible figure of the Blood of Christ circulating throughout all His members. ...
The avaricious are mystics! Everything they do is with a view to pleasing an invisible God whose visible and laboriously courted likeness loads them with torture and shame.
- Léon Bloy, Pilgrim of the Absolute (1947), pp. 89-90
- Greed is alright, by the way. I think greed is healthy. I want you to know that, I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.
- Ivan Frederick Boesky Former Wall Street arbitrageur (notable for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid 1980s). Quotation from his Commencement speech at School of Business Administration the University of California, Berkeley, 18th May 1986.
- There are some sordid minds, formed of slime and filth, to whom interest and gain are what glory and virtue are to superior souls; they feel no other pleasure but to acquire money.
- Overreaching by CEOs greatly accelerated in the 1990s as compensation packages gained by the most avaricious– a title for which there was vigorous competition – were promptly replicated elsewhere. The couriers for this epidemic of greed were usually consultants and human relations departments, which had no trouble perceiving who buttered their bread. As one compensation consultant commented: “There are two classes of clients you don’t want to offend – actual and potential.”
- Passing over the image and likeness of God (which one who serves God with devotion ought to preserve undefiled in himself), it chooses to love and care for images stamped on gold instead of God.
- John Cassian, "On the Spirit of Covetousness," Institutes of the Coenobia (c. 420 AD), Book VII Chapter VII
- It is an impossibility for him who, overcome in the matter of a small possession, has once admitted into his heart a root of evil desire, not to be inflamed presently with the heat of a still greater desire.
- John Cassian, "On the Spirit of Covetousness," Institutes of the Coenobia (c. 420 AD), Book VII Chapter VII
- We must not only guard against the possession of money, but also must expel from our souls the desire for it. For we should not so much avoid the results of covetousness, as cut off by the roots all disposition towards it. For it will do no good not to possess money, if there exists in us the desire for getting it.
- A drought once overtook our city... But afterwards, when it seemed good to the merciful God, beyond all expectation there was wafted down from heaven a great and plentiful rain, and thenceforth all were in holiday and feasting, as having come up from the very gates of death. But in the midst of so great blessings... one of those exceedingly wealthy people went about with a gloomy and downcast countenance, quite dead with sorrow; and when many enquired the reason, wherefore in the common joy of all men he alone is sorrowful, he... declared before them all the reason. “Why,” says he, “having in my possession ten thousand measures of wheat, I have no means of disposing of them left.” Shall we then count him happy, tell me, for these words, for which he deserved to be stoned? Him that was more cruel than any wild beast, the common enemy? What do you say, man? Are you sad because all did not perish, that you might gather gold? ... But I say these things not only to this man, but also to each one of those who are so diseased [with greed]: those, I say, who raise the price of their wares and make a traffic of the poverty of their neighbors... Many, for example, have gone so far as to empty whole casks, not giving even a cup-full to the poor man, nor a piece of money to the needy, but after it has become vinegar, they dash it all upon the ground, and destroy their casks together with the fruit. Others again who would not give a part of a single cake to the hungry, have thrown whole granaries into some river: and because they listened not to God who bade them give to the needy, at the bidding of the moth, even unwillingly, they emptied out all they had in their houses, in utter destruction and waste... As these men in this world cast their moth-eaten grain, become useless, into rivers; even so the doers of such things, on this very account become useless, God casts into the river of fire.
- We find greedy men, blind with the lust for money, trafficking in human misery.
- Thomas C. Clark, address before the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Boston, Massachusetts (October 8, 1947); reported in Boston Business (November 1947), p. 16.
- The beginning of love of money is the pretext of almsgiving, and the end of it is hatred of the poor. So long as he is collecting he is charitable, but when the money is in hand he tightens his hold.
- Johannes Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, as translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Holy Transfiguration Monastery: 1959), § 16:8.
- Greed, like the love of comfort, is a kind of fear.
- Cyril Connolly (1903–1974), British literary critic and author. The Unquiet Grave (1944).
- Lust and greed are more gullible than innocence.
- Mason Cooley (1927-2002), American literary academic and aphorist. City Aphorisms, Eighth Selection (1991).
- The essence of market forces is greed, and it has been formulated as an economic theory and process in response to the greed of rich nations and rich individuals. In the light, therefore, of a new dispensation in which greed is replaced by social harmony and interdependence, market forces can no longer hold sway. They are doomed as an economic theory because they have no relevance for the future time... Already many people are aware of the dangers inherent in the blind following of market forces. More and more commentators are denouncing the greed which lies at the base of our political thinking. A new consciousness is growing which is seeing greed in a new light. The greed of the present is now being seen for what it is – an aberration – and it will soon be replaced by Cooperation.
- The pugilist, whose highest ambition is to pound and bruise human flesh, and bear off from the prize-ring the victory and money staked thereon, subjects himself to the severest physical training in order to secure those ends, and naturally enough he always develops into a powerful animal, but an animal of less value than the horse or mule, whose powers of body contribute so much to human comfort.There have been pugilists on a more gigantic scale, with larger arenas for their operations, men like Julius Caesar, who conceived a passion for sovereign power.
- William H. Crogman, "The Importance of Correct Ideals" (1892), in Talks for the Times (1896), p. 273
- Let us not, however, deceive ourselves with the thought that vaulting ambition, that lust for power and place is a disease peculiar to great minds, for nothing is more commonly found among ordinary men in the humbler walks of life. We need not travel very far in any direction to find a little Caesar or a little Napoleon.
- William H. Crogman, "The Importance of Correct Ideals" (1892), in Talks for the Times (1896), p. 276
- In these days of ours there is an almost irresistible impulse towards wealth, an indescribable passion to grasp and concentrate material forces. "By thy words," saith Scripture, "thou shalt be judged, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." The recent editions of our English dictionaries furnish us a number of new words, and words used in a new sense, which are irrefragable evidence of the existing spirit of greed, the passion to grasp and centralize wealth, such words as "pool" and "pooling," "combines," "trusts," "deals," and many more.
- William H. Crogman, "The Importance of Correct Ideals" (1892), in Talks for the Times (1896), p. 278
- Here, too, I saw a nation of lost souls,
far more than were above: they strained their chests
against enormous weights, and with mad howls
rolled them at one another. Then in haste
they rolled them back, one party shouting out:
"Why do you hoard?" and the other: "Why do you waste?"
- Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto VII, lines 25–30, Ciardi translation.
- The covetousness or the malignity, which saddens me, when I ascribe it to society, is my own. I am environed by my self.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), American essayist, poet and aphorist. 'Character', Essays, Second Series.
- The demon of avarice, it seems to me, is extraordinarily complex and is baffling in his deceits. Often, when frustrated by the strictness of our renunciation, he immediately pretends to be a steward and a lover of the poor; he urges us to prepare a welcome for strangers who have not yet arrived or to send provisions for absent brethren. He makes us mentally visit prisons in the city and ransom those on sale as slaves. He suggests that we should attach ourselves to wealthy women, and advises us to be obsequious to others who have a full purse. And so, after deceiving the soul, little by little he engulfs it in avaricious thoughts and then hands it over to the demon of self-esteem.
- Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.
- Erich Fromm (1900–1980), American psychologist. Escape from Freedom (1941).
- The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed.
- When everyone covets something, they are easily annoyed by it.
- Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647), Maxim 85.
- The love of gain, which is a large, incalculably large, element in every soul, when once applied to the desire for God, will bless the man who has it.
- Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, Chapter 18
- I am a capitalist, and after a 30-year career in capitalism... I'm not just in the top one percent, I'm in the top .01 percent of all earners. Today, I have come to share the secrets of our success, because rich capitalists like me have never been richer... Over the last 30 years, in the USA alone, the top one percent has grown 21 trillion dollars richer while the bottom 50 percent have grown 900 billion dollars poorer, a pattern of widening inequality that has largely repeated itself across the world. And yet, as middle class families struggle to get by on wages that have not budged in about 40 years, neoliberal economists continue to warn that the only reasonable response to the painful dislocations of austerity and globalization is even more austerity and globalization.
- Greed is not good. Being rapacious doesn't make you a capitalist, it makes you a sociopath. And in an economy as dependent upon cooperation at scale as ours, sociopathy is as bad for business as it is for society.... Neoliberal economic theory has sold itself to you as unchangeable natural law, when in fact it's social norms and constructed narratives based on pseudoscience. If we truly want a more equitable, more prosperous and more sustainable economy, if we want high-functioning democracies and civil society, we must have a new economics.
- When one sees the way in which wealth-getting enters as an ideal into the very bone and marrow of our generation, one wonders whether a revival of the belief that poverty is a worthy religious vocation may not be ... the spiritual reform which our time stands most in need of.
- Even if the Democratic administration were resoundingly successful on all fronts, its initiatives would still be utterly insufficient to resolve the existential threat of climate breakdown and the devastation of our planet’s life-support systems. That’s because the multiple problems confronting us right now are symptoms of an even more profound problem: The underlying structure of a global economic and political system that is driving civilization toward a precipice... As long as government policies emphasize growth in gross domestic product and transnational corporations relentlessly pursue shareholder returns, we will continue accelerating toward global catastrophe...
We need to forge a new era for humanity — one that is defined, at its deepest level, by a transformation in the way we make sense of the world, and a concomitant revolution in our values, goals, and collective behavior. In short, we need to change the basis of our global civilization. We must move from a civilization based on wealth accumulation to one that is life-affirming: an ecological civilization...
- Jeremy Lent, What Does An Ecological Civilization Look Like? Yes! Magazine (16 February 2021)
- Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
- Luke 12:15.
- For we are so inclined by nature that no one desires to see another have as much as himself, and each one acquires as much as he can; the other may fare as best he can. And yet we pretend to be godly, know how to adorn ourselves most finely and conceal our rascality, resort to and invent adroit devices and deceitful artifices (such as now are daily most ingeniously contrived) as though they were derived from the law codes; yea, we even dare impertinently to refer to it, and boast of it, and will not have it called rascality, but shrewdness and caution. In this lawyers and jurists assist, who twist and stretch the law to suit it to their cause, stress words and use them for a subterfuge, irrespective of equity or their neighbor's necessity. And, in short, whoever is the most expert and cunning in these affairs finds most help in law, as they themselves say: Vigilantibus iura subveniunt [that is, The laws favor the watchful].
- So there are apparently many different reasons for wars in different times and places. Abductions, romances, religion, dynastic struggles, conquest, imperialism, assassinations or fabrications. Yet certain motives appear again and again: greed, self-defence, and emotions and ideas. Greed for what others have, whether it is food for survival, women for servitude or procreation, precious minerals, trade or land, has always motivated war. Hobbes said that humans fight each other ‘to make themselves masters of other men’s persons, wives, children and cattle’. The Mongol horsemen were looking for loot but ended up destroying and creating empires. Cortés and Pizarro toppled the Aztec and Inca empires in the early sixteenth century in their search for gold. The rulers of Prussia, Austria and Russia divided up Poland at the end of the eighteenth century because they wanted to add to their possessions. Hitler took his war into the East because he believed that the German race needed more land and resources to survive. Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait in 1990 because he wanted its oil.
- Margaret MacMillan, War: How Conflict Shaped Us (2020)
- Covet. I am Covetousness, begotten of an old churl in a leather bag: and might I now obtain my wish, this house, you and all, should turn to gold, that I might lock you safe into my chest. O my sweet gold!
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Act II, Sc II, ln. 127-130 (1616 edition).
- Excess of wealth is cause of covetousness.
- Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta (c. 1592), Act I.
- Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
- In a society which the money-makers have had no serious rival for repute and honor, the word "practical" comes to mean useful for private gain, and "common sense," the sense to get ahead financially. The pursuit of the moneyed life is the commanding value, in relation to which the influence of others values has declined, so men easily become morally ruthless in the pursuit of easy money and fast estate-building.
- C. Wright Mills, Power, Politics and People, "Diagnosis of Our Moral Uneasiness", III
- Beware an act of avarice; it is bad and incurable disease.
- Nature … has born and reared all men alike, and created them genuine brothers, not in mere name, but in very reality, though this kinship has been put to confusion by the triumph of malignant covetousness, which has wrought estrangement instead of affinity and enmity instead of friendship.
- Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 79.
- We must mention the higher, nobler wealth, which does not belong to all, but to truly noble and divinely gifted men. This wealth is bestowed by wisdom through the doctrines and principles of ethic, logic and physic, and from these spring the virtues, which rid the soul of its proneness to extravagance, and engender the love of contentment and frugality, which will assimilate it to God. For God has no wants, He needs nothing, being in Himself all-sufficient to Himself, while the fool has many wants, ever thirsting for what is not there, longing to gratify his greedy and insatiable desire, which he fans into a blaze like a fire and brings both great and small within its reach. But the man of worth has few wants, standing midway between mortality and immortality.
- Philo, On The Virtues, F. Colson, trans. (1939), pp. 167-169.
- Don't you think that this person would establish his appetitive and money-making part on the throne, setting it up as a great king within himself, adorning it with golden tiaras and collars and girding it with Persian swords?
- I do.
- He makes the rational and spirited parts sit on the ground beneath appetite, one on either side, reducing them to slaves. He won't allow the first to reason about or examine anything except how a little money can be made into great wealth. And he won't allow the second to value or admire anything but wealth and wealthy people or to have any ambition other than the acquisition of wealth.
- Covetousness brings nothing home.
- English proverb, from J. Clarke's Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina (1614).
- When all sins grow old, covetousness is young.
- English proverb. As noted in George Herbert's Jacula Prudentum (1651).
- Greedy folk have long arms.
- English proverb. As noted in J. Kelly's Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721).
- And you will surely find (them) the greediest of people for life – (even) more than those who associate others with God. One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years, but it would not remove him in the least from the (coming) punishment that he should be granted life. And God is Seeing of what they do.
- Quran, 2:96
- Many point a finger of blame at the DRC and other poor countries for their poverty. Yet we don’t seem to remember, or want to remember, that... in 1961, after independence of the DRC, the CIA then assassinated the DRC’s first popular leader, Patrice Lumumba, and installed a US-backed dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, for roughly the next 30 years. And in recent years, Glencore and other multinational companies suck out the DRC’s cobalt without paying a level of royalties and taxes. We simply don’t reflect on the real history of the DRC and other poor countries struggling to escape from poverty. Instead, we point fingers at these countries and say, “What’s wrong with you?...”
- The rich individuals are increasingly hoarding everything. If the billionaires want to go to space, they could at least leave their money on Earth to solve the critical Earthbound problems. We now have an estimated 2,775 billionaires with a combined net worth of around $13.1 trillion. I have it on good authority that you don’t need more than $1 billion to live comfortably. Even if every billionaire kept $1 billion, that would leave around $10 trillion for ending hunger, poverty, and environmental destruction. We should be taxing the vast and rapidly growing billionaire wealth to help finance a civilized world.
- Where security and invasive technology failed, greed always found a way.
- Benevolence may, perhaps, be the sole principle of action in the Deity, and there are several, not improbable, arguments which tend to persuade us that it is so. It is not easy to conceive what other motive an independent and all-perfect Being, who stands in need of nothing external, and whose happiness is complete in himself, can act from. But whatever may be the case with the Deity, so imperfect a creature as man, the support of whose existence requires so many things external to him, must often act from many other motives. The condition of human nature were peculiarly hard, if those affections, which, by the very nature of our being, ought frequently to influence our conduct, could upon no occasion appear virtuous, or deserve esteem and commendation from any body.
- So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.
- Solomon, Proverbs 1:19.
- I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.
- Thomas Sowell, Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays (1999)
- To be wealthy and demand more is an abomination to a god.
- In aristocracies, it is not precisely work that is scorned, but work with a view to profit. Work is glorious when ambition or virtue alone makes one undertake it. Under aristocracy, nevertheless, it constantly happens that he who works for honor is not insensitive to the lure of gain. But these two desires meet only in the depth of his soul. He takes much care to conceal from all regard the place where they unite. ... Thus the idea of gain remains distinct from that of work. No matter that they are joined in fact. ... In democratic societies, these two ideas are, on the contrary, always visibly united.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835), H. Mansfield, trans. (Chicago: 2000), p. 525.
- The pronouns "my" and "mine" look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.
- Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because nothing can be gained from him.
- Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764).
- Some kill their love when they are young,
- And some when they are old;
- Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
- Some with the hands of Gold.
- Oscar Wilde, Ballad of Reading Goal (1898)
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations Edit
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 53.
- So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
- Avaritiam si tollere vultis, mater ejus est tollenda, luxuries.
- Ac primam scelerum matrem, quæ semper habendo
Plus sitiens patulis rimatur faucibus aurum,
- Expel avarice, the mother of all wickedness, who, always thirsty for more, opens wide her jaws for gold.
- Claudianus, De Laudibus Stilichonis, II, 111.
- Non propter vitam faciunt patrimonia quidam,
Sed vitio cæci propter patrimonia vivunt.
- Some men make fortunes, but not to enjoy them; for, blinded by avarice, they live to make fortunes.
- Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), XII, 50.
- Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit.
- That disease
Of which all old men sicken, avarice.
- Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl (1611), Act I, scene 1.
- There grows,
In my most ill-compos'd affection such
A stanchless avarice, that, were I king,
I should cut off the nobles for their lands.
- This avarice
Strikes deeper, grows with more pernicious root.
- Desunt inopiæ multa, avaritiæ omnia.
- Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything.
- Publilius Syrus, Maxims, 441.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers Edit
Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- It is impossible to conceive any contrast more entire and absolute than that which exists between a heart glowing with love to God, and a heart in which the love of money has cashiered all sense of God — His love, His presence, His glory; and which is no sooner relieved from the mockery of a tedious round of religious formalism, than it reverts to the sanctuaries where its wealth is invested, with an intenseness of homage surpassing that of the most devout Israelite who ever, from a foreign land, turned his longing eyes toward Jerusalem.
- Richard Fuller, p. 20.
- Avarice is to the intellect what sensuality is to the morals —
- Anna Jameson, p. 20.
- Objects close to the eye shut out much larger objects on the horizon; and splendors born only of the earth eclipse the stars. So a man sometimes covers up the entire disk of eternity with a dollar, and quenches transcendent glories with a little shining dust.
- Edwin Hubbell Chapin, p. 20.
- Jesus, save me from the infatuation of avarice! I, too, will lay up a treasure, but Thou shalt have the keeping of it.
- Christian Scriver, p. 21.