How Much Is Enough?

The opening day of Sox Fest started me thinking.  Most of the fans were anxiously waiting to get word of Manny Machado's decision about where's he's going to be playing this coming season.  Rumor has it that the White Sox have offered the talented young shortstop a seven year deal worth something like one hundred and seventy-five million dollars.  Thus far the offer has yet to induce Mr. Machado to sign a contract on the dotted line.  This raises a question and sets me to thinking.  Apparently, getting paid twenty-five million dollars a year for the next seven years is not enough for Mr. Machado.  This fact caused me to ask this question.  Just how much is enough?  Which set me to thinking about the larger issue which is greed.

The fact is that Mr. Machado doesn't want to sign such a lucrative contract because the money just isn't enough for him.  It's not as if $175 million isn't enough to insure his family's financial future for generations to come, it's just that Manny simply wants MORE.  And isn't that the universal value in today's society?  This desire to have more than the next person isn't limited to professional athletes.  All you have to do is look back to the end of 2017 when the Congress of the United States in its great wisdom decided to pass a tax cut bill that helped to make America's richest citizens even richer.  As a result, the federal government soon will run an annual deficit in excess of one trillion dollars, yes, one TRILLION dollars.  Now I suppose one could make an argument for this kind generosity to our country's wealthiest citizens.  If nothing else we can always trot out the argument about the wonderful benefits of trickle down economics.  But at the end of the day there is still this haunting question: how much is enough?

My point is this.  There should come a time when an individual accumulates enough capital to guarantee his or her financial future.  Oh sure, if you throw money around like so many tawdry baubles eventually you may find yourself wondering where your next meal is coming from.  But isn't it reasonable to suppose that if you're smart enough to accumulate a fortune you'd be smart enough to be able to hold on to it?  Do America's wealthiest citizens really need the government to rig a tax system in such a way as to protect themselves from their own folly?  How likely is it that the Koch brothers or Warren Buffet will find some way to fritter away their vast fortunes?  Not very likely in my humble opinion.

I understand that money isn't the ultimate goal of those people who have managed to amass a fabulous fortune.  These are people who more than anything else want to be successful, a success that marks them as the smartest, most productive people on the planet.  They want to feel that sense of accomplishment that goes with achieving success.  It just so happens that in this world the way we keep score in the game of success is money.  But doesn't there come a time when getting and keeping more and more money goes from simple ambition to unbridled greed, from saving for a rainy day to greedily hoarding every last penny just to be able to say you have more money than the next guy?

The problem with greed is that it spills over into other areas, like government.  The recently ended government shutdown is case in point.  There was no give and take in the negotiations over whether we build a wall or not.  The President insisted that we build a wall come hell or high water.  Nancy Pelosi essentially said "over my dead body".  Neither side was willing to give in, no attempt was made to find common ground for compromise.  After all, doesn't compromise signify defeat?  And how would that look to either side's political base?  To do so would mean to lose face and that was a price neither side was willing to pay.

My point is, greed has consequences.  There comes a time when ambition to succeed moves to needing to succeed at ALL costs, no matter what the consequences.  That's when ambition slops over from being merely greedy to becoming downright dangerous.  Hopefully over the next three weeks we won't experience such raw ambition again.  Hopefully the two sides in Congress will be able to overcome their differences in order to keep the government functioning.  And who knows, maybe Manny Machado will find that $175 million isn't chump change after all!

Filed under: Politics

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