Why is it that some people have such a highly developed “greed gene” and others can sublimate it  and devote their lives to helping their fellows?

I think we are probably all born with a greed gene, but most people grow out of it to some degree or other. We all know those who commit small acts which are either illegal or immoral. People who are outwardly law abiding citizens but think nothing of helping themselves to stationery from work, “forget” to declare extra earnings to the taxman, make inflated claims on expenses or insurance claims, but what makes some of them go on to bigger and bigger things? Does their greed gene have a kind of cancer that feeds on itself and is insatiable, is it something that happened in their early life which triggers it, or is it just that the opportunity arises which fires their avarice for money, power or fame? Whatever the cause it must be very strong to lead them to sacrifice their personal happiness and tranquil family life.  Are they so overwhelmed by it that they can  ignore the effects it may have on their families. It can’t be very pleasant to see your relative pursued  and vilified by the media. What kind of legacy will they leave their children? Obviously a wealthy one in financial terms, but what kind in terms of reputation and example?

Those hitting the headlines over the last few months, financiers with their obscene bonuses and pensions, MPs and the inflated expenses and dodgy sources of party funding, “celebrities” receiving vast sums, give us all a distorted view of life today. I may be naive, but I believe that a huge majority of the population are decent caring people who spend their lives honestly and decently. One only has to think of the response to charitable appeals, to see the voluntary workers struggling through the snow to help those less fortunate and to know personally of the unsung heroes who set up youth clubs and battle crime in their small but significant way. They don’t get paid or receive great honours, but they are what make us a civilised society.

I am sure there are bankers and business people and “celebrities” who do have a feeling of responsibility to society, but the ones who get the publicity seem to be lacking this trait in their characters and the media concentrate on them unfortunately! Perhaps we would be a happier society if the balance was redressed and we heard more about the caring people.

I like to think that most of the MPs and local government officials enter public service in order to serve their communities and make things better, but when an MP has to ask the regulator if an expense is justified they are obviously pushing the rules. It may be legal,  but is it  morally right.  How can an MP  “accidentally” pay her nanny as a constituency worker, when she is living many miles away from the constituency and already looking after three children (which  to my mind)  is a full time job anyway.

Surely a main home is the one to which they will return when they are no longer an MP!  A simple answer to this would be to have a block of flats owned by the state and available, whilst they are in office, to those MPs who have to live away from home.  It would simplify security and  be cheaper in the long term,  as the state would own any capital gains.

In the 19c and the earlier part of the 20c there were philanthropists in every town who provided schools, hospitals, universities and study grants, trusts for the poor and the sick, libraries etc. Were they more in evidence then or are there fewer rich people doing it now? Today on the news I heard about a  hospice struggling to find £Imillion. In todays bonus culture this would hardly make a dent in the finances of some people. When I read of  “celebrity” parties and weddings costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, I find myself  mentally calculating how many villages in Africa could have a clean water supply from that amount of money.

Few people would grudge rewarding the talent and dedicated training of sports stars, but do they have to receive such vast sums?  MPs need to be paid adequately and reasonable expenses paid or we would go back to being governed by only the already wealthy, but it should be adequate for their time in office not regarded as feather bedding for life.  I am not against bonuses for performing well at work over and above what can be expected,  providing they accept that poor performance will result in penalties, either losing the job or taking a pay cut.

I live in hopes that this recent crisis will result in a complete rethink  by many people, so that we end up with a more caring and responsible society, but I won’t hold my breath because we tend not to learn from history, and I suppose the greed gene will always be strong in some people.

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