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For more than fifteen years psychologist Julian Edney has visited college campuses across the nation to study the effects of greed in a society where over $100 billion in new wealth accumulates each year. On each of his stays, he would play a game with randomly selected students where 10 metal nuts in a bowl represented ‘extra credit’. The students would then take the nuts for a single extra credit point. In this, he promised to double the amount of nuts left in the bowl every 10 seconds. Hypothetically, the game could last forever yielding limitless rewards as the students took turns taking a nut from the bowl. However Dr. Edney determined that 65 percent of the groups couldn’t get pass the first 10 second round, and the others could only make it a few more cycles until modest students turned into rambunctious maniacs scrounging for that last nut. Edney’s conclusion: Greed trumps trust. (U.S. News Magazine, 6/17/96 Special)

“Small towns and neighborhoods in America used to be cohesive,” political scientist Bruce Frohnen pronounced in the May 1999 issue of Family Policy. “They did not seek openness to all ways of life. Nor did they seek economic betterment as the sole proper goal,” he added. “Faith and tradition were ruling forces in the lives of Americans, bidding them care for their families and neighbors and their souls, as much as their pocketbooks.” But as the material girls and boys grew, so did the need for greed. In a recent study by Roper Starch Worldwide, the values of teenagers moving into the new millennium have drastically changed from their parent’s visions. The percentage who said they wanted to earn “a lot of money” grew 25 points from the 38 percent in 1975. Those who said they needed a microwave oven as a necessity rose 19 points, and the percentage that believed life without an answering machine was incomprehensible grew more than 18 points. At the same time, teenagers who believed “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” dropped by 42 percent. However the rise of money’s power in student-age adults coincided with a reward system for the newly transpired talents. Repetitive tasks are being replaced by super technology while responsibilities requiring intelligence and skill are more emphasized. It is a “winner take all” society though, where the lopsided share of benefits go to very few players.

The ostentation is not all coming from the upcoming generation though.

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The people’s Exhibit C in the indictment against gluttony is one against themselves. More and more Americans are willing to commit illegitimate crimes for cold, hard cash than follow the ethical route where earnings diminish daily. In 1996 Health care fraud amounted to $100 billion a year. Today that amount has risen more than 30 percent. It is almost a spreading cancer (U.S. News Magazine, 6/17/96 Special) as the public bills insurance companies for false claims- justifying it because of the firms’ unpredictability in service. Hirsh Goldberg calculated other government agencies people swindle in his novel, The Complete Book of Greed. Goldberg determined that about 25 percent of Americans cheat somewhere on their taxes each year, costing more than $135 billion each filing. Stealing was also a concern, with some 42 percent of Americans admitting to pilfering something in the past year. However the medical and healthcare systems are broken; forcing doctors who work long hours anyway to bill for services not rendered. Some of it is exhaustion, some of it is fraud, and some of it is the fact that many people just don’t pay. They carry a disproportionate amount of bad debt- forcing behaviors that are not healthy, and sometimes unethical.

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