Greed, gluttony and Capital Junkies

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It is a matter of some interest to me from a philosophical standpoint how we absolutely celebrate greed in financial terms whilst treating it with such disdain when otherwise exhibited. We celebrate billionaires who have sucked up enough capital to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of hard pressed citizens but we pour scorn on gluttons, drunkards and drug addicts. In many ways the cost to society feeding the appetite of a Capital Junkie has far more serious consequences than that manifest by a heroin junkie searching for their next fix.

I thought it might be amusing to examine what a Capital Junkie would look like in the food world. Now I like food personally as my waistline often reminds me. I love well cooked meals accompanied by a good bottle of wine with coffee and chocolates to follow. I can therefore appreciate if someone is in a position to buy excellent food and drink and thoroughly enjoy the experience. If someone eats and drinks so much to be morbidly obese, no matter how fine the fare, we might start to question the sanity of this however.

Now we live in a world where food is becoming increasingly scarce and many are sadly subject to famine and starvation. Even in our so called civilised democracies, a significant percentage of the population shows signs of malnutrition because they can’t afford a balanced diet and this is often represented in their life expectancy. So how would we react to an individual household that hoards vast quantities of food at the expense of the rest of humanity? If we complete the analogy with hoarding capital we can see that in the food world this would be the equivalent of also hoarding the seed that others could have grown crops with to feed themselves. Capital is the seed money of new enterprise, jobs and social institutions and should equally be invested back into the communities that have enabled it to be generated.

Here in the UK the wealthiest resident (i.e. benefiting from living in our society) according to Forbes in April 2011 was worth $31.1 billion. At the exchange rate of the day at $1.65 to £1.00 this equated to £18.788 billion. The average UK household has a wealth of £117,000 (and we know that this is just a pipe dream to the poorest in our society). The wealth ratio between our wealthiest resident and the average household wealth in the UK is 160,581:1, a truly staggering figure.

Let us now convert this into our food category. If the average household were to empty their larders and fridges, with the food that they have at any given time to meet their consumption needs, they could probably pack this into a 1 cubic metre space.

The area of the roof of Wembley stadium (the total stadium area, not just the playing surface) is approximately 40,000 square metres. Our super glutton would fill this whole area to a depth of 4 metres for his personal consumption using our food and beverage analogy. As stated, the worst aspect of this is that much of this hoard would be seed that could be used for growing crops.

Just remember this the next time we see a Capital Junkie celebrated in the pages of our media as a fitting example of success!

I have explored greed in my book – Click to read an extract that explores  

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