Greedy Individuals Have a Survival of the Fittest Mentality?
It is first necessary to discuss where the saying "survival of the fittest" comes from and then apply it to the concept of greed. Charles Darwin was a keen observer and naturalist who took a voyage on the Beagle to try and discover phenomena that had escaped the rest of the world. His voyage landed him, eventually, on the Galapagos Islands where he made a number of discoveries among which was the beginnings of his agreement with others who had begun to espouse that plants and animals had not been created within a six day period a mere six to ten thousand years previous, but that all life on Earth had gradually emerged via evolution of species. During the following years he discovered one trait in the animal kingdom which has now migrated to humans and their actions also -- that of survival of the fittest. He argued that a certain physical trait that allows a species to survive is that which promotes the coming evolution of the entire species. Darwin's theory has been born out in many different studies, and the concept has been adopted by many other branches of study. One area that has looked to determine the extent of this evolutionary survivalist predilection is ethics. The question posed today is whether greedy people are more likely to be the types who promote the survival of the fittest archetype in their actions or not. This paper examines the research in this area to determine the truth and fiction behind the claim
Greed is not a difficult concept to grasp because it is something that everyone feels at one time or another. It is probably not as common an emotion as anger or happiness, but it is there in every individual (McGrath, 1997). It can even be said that there are phenomena which seem to bring out the negativity of greed in people. It is one of the issues some have with a truly free market system. It is possible to see what happened in the United States and other places around the world when greed ran rampant. Possibly the purest example that is pointed to out of American history is that of John D. Rockefeller. He was a man who started small, but ended amassing an immense fortune on the backs of his fellow citizens and other businessmen. He could be the poster child for a survival of the fittest mentality because he bought every rival he could and monopolized the oil industry until he was forced to break up his company. According to Parsons (2006), it is this male individualist spirit that has been the cause of much fraud, greed and scandal in American business.
It is difficult to say if greed and a survival of the fittest mind set somehow coexist, but ethicists think it does to at least some extent. A great deal of studies have been conducted regarding powerful people (almost exclusively men in the studies) who have been somehow led to poor ethical behavior because of greed (Thompson, 2004). Although, there are laws to guard against a survival of the fittest mode for many business practices today, there are still those who find loopholes either in the law or in their personal ethics which make it easy to circumvent what would seem fair to most people. Because someone already has a great deal of money, does not mean that they do not want even more. As a matter of fact, research has shown that having a great deal of money may lead someone to wanting more (Newman, 2000). These leaders of businesses are also likely to involve others in their schemes also.
The Enron scandal involved painting the business as if it was making a great deal of money when it was not. The corporate officers were found to be greedy, but this cannot be seen necessarily as a survival of the fittest type of mentality. The company executives were "cooking the books" so that Enron could generate more capital which they could then skim (Gini, 2004). In this version of greed, it did not seem to matter that they were the largest energy concern in the United States or the world, it mattered more that they were able to doctor their accounting so…