Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

This morning listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) I caught an interview that the Morning Edition host did with an American venture capitalist Bill Frezza.  The conversation centered around job creation and the age-old debate that rages regularly between liberals and conservatives on whether or not taxing the rich affects job creation in a negative way.

What struck me was not the tax question, but rather the view that Bill Frezza held on jobs and on how jobs are actually not beneficial to business.  Jobs is an expense, he said, and creating jobs isn’t the goal of any business.  The goal of a business is making money for the owner and the shareholders as well as satisfying customer demand.  In other words, business owners aren’t supposed to be concerned about the American economy and the state of the country in particular – but simply about how much money they’ll make and how much profit they’ll take in.

Perhaps not quite the view I would relate to, but that’s beside the point.  His pragmatic approach seemed very ego-centric, very “as-long-as-I-make-money-nothing-else-matters”, and very … individualistic, if we want to put a culture dimension on it.  What about the world, I wanted to ask?  What about making sure that your money-making is contributing good to the world and to the society you live in?

It seems that Bill and many like him don’t care very much for that (at least that’s what came through in this interview).  And that makes me wonder – do individualistic societies where “I” is a lot more important than “We” create more ego-centrism and more greed?  Does the US with its very individualistic orientation lead the world in the number of greedy and I-don’t-give-a-f$#@% individuals?

Has this attitude been exported elsewhere? And how is this export thriving in your country?

4 responses to “Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

  1. To me this is not a question of individualism, but a question of my hidden motives: Do I act out of fear or out of love? Do I feel separated or connected? It seems to me that we even may do the same things, no matter what our motives are, but the outcome is completly different. If what I do is an expression of fear, I will try to be better, on top, have more, not caring about others. If I express my individuallity feeling connected, loved and loving, the world will always benefit and abundance and happiness will grow for all individuals.
    Does a fear based society, beliving in separation create more greed and ego-centrism? Yes! Is there a lot of fear in the US? Well, it seems so to the rest of the world. But there are great efforts to overcome it as well. I am positive!

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Interesting take, Steffi. 🙂 US does run on fear — just look at the proliferation of the insurance business — and maybe the two are connected. If only we can have a perfect control, a country that runs purely on love… maybe than we can know for sure.

  2. Hi, Coach. Without hearing the interview with Freeza, I’m at a real disadvantage, but just wanted to make a couple observations. (1) Greed is actually a human problem, not limited to any particular culture. Americans have certain ways of expressing greed; while people from other cultures express it distinctly. An important question might be: “What is the difference between greed expressed in individualistic societies, and greed expressed in collectivist societies. (2) Most people work and start businesses in order to earn enough money to live. They want to eat, take care of their family, become comfortable, etc. I’m not sure it’s selfishness to live with that view of work. Making effort so that OTHERS can earn money and increase their resources is true generosity, and goes quite a ways beyond “normal business plans”. Again I think you’re raising a great question about what “generosity” looks like in different contexts. Something we all need to be thinking about. Thanks.

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for your comment. I just created a link to Frezza’s interview — see the top of the article. Thanks for making me realize that the link can be very useful. 🙂

      I like the way you pose the question about greed. And I think we still have to make a distinction about running a business to earn a living — and running a business to make a killing. That’s where greed and ego-centrism comes in. Whether or not individualistic culture encourages the latter is a good question indeed.


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