Greed is good

What do you think is the meaning of life? Is it all about having a great career, a wonderful spouse and family, winning the lottery, winning the Super Bowl or being the latest Don Juan or Lady Gaga?...

What do you think is the meaning of life? Is it all about having a great career, a wonderful spouse and family, winning the lottery, winning the Super Bowl or being the latest Don Juan or Lady Gaga?

Actually, the key to happiness on this earth might just be staying one step ahead of expenses, which is no easy task, as many Americans have experienced in recent years.

We've all heard about the dirty '30s, with millions of people out of jobs, Okie's loading up all of their belongings onto a truck and moving to California, plenty of NoDaker's also moving west, soup lines and farm wives plugging wet towels into window sills, just to keep the dust out.

Of course, we're not in the middle of those dust bowl years anymore and farmers and ranchers seem to be cashing in pretty nicely as of late. But if you're a Dickinsonite who grew up in the city and have always been surrounded by a loving family, lived on a fixed/steady income, enjoyed a nice life and then suddenly you're rent has tripled while your income hasn't, you're on up-side-down side of the employment Ferris wheel.

That's right, things have changed. The house that you once lived in on the edge of town has suddenly become an island amongst a plethora of industrialized properties.


The quick drive you took down Third Avenue has suddenly turned into a much slower moving and plugged up river. And the people that you used to wave to on your way to church are now sporting different colored license plates and don't look so familiar anymore.

Motor homes, trailers and man camps have popped up likes weeds in an uncultivated garden. Bar stools are occupied by Bubba and Buford from Beaumont instead of Sig and Sanford from "Sowd Heart." Convenience stores can't stock their shelves quick enough and, for awhile, the Walmart parking lot looked more like the beginnings of a giant swap meet.

That's what they call progress. It's something everyone thinks they want to have until they get to know it a little better and then it's like the girl or guy you wished you'd never met and certainly wished you'd never married.

Yep, it's that ugly feeling like when you wake up next to someone that you failed to interview properly and took home from the bar the night before. This new boom sure looked nice, but now that you've taken it home and seen it without beer goggles, you're hoping the price of a barrel of oil will drop to 50 cents.

After all, North Dakota has picked this girl up twice before, in the '50s and the '80s, took her home, put a ring on her finger and the next thing you know she left quicker than smoke from a just lit farmer's match. And yet, even Dickinson's growth and chaos pales in comparison to that of Killdeer, Watford City, Williston and a lot of those other towns north of here. Then again, maybe it's not the oil boom that's causing a bunch of the chaos. Maybe it's us.

That's right, because, who owns the apartment buildings and rental homes that are dramatically jacking up their rates and who's selling the houses that are now selling for triple the price? Well, "shiver me timbers," it's the same people who were here before the oil boom started! Along with all the others who were here and are jacking up prices for a lot of other things.

Now, according to the dictionary, greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves. And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."

Ivan Boesky, the American stockbroker, defended greed in a May 18, 1986, commencement address at the University of California-Berkeley School of Business Administration, when he said, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."


Of course, this speech went on to inspire the 1987 film, "Wall Street," which features the famous line "greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."

Greed is good? Hmmm, I'd rather side with Julian Casblancas, the American singer-songwriter and frontman of the band The Strokes who said, "Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as the current enforcer." This just seems to be a slightly more accurate description.

Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.

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