Greed and Avarice



We may see the small value God has for riches, by the people he gives them to.

There are a handful of people whom money won't spoil, and we count ourselves among them.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy you things that make you happy. Or it can blow up the things that make you unhappy.

When a fellow says it hain't the money but the principle o' the thing, it's th' money.

We live by the Golden Rule. Those who have the gold make the rules.

Lack of money is the root of all evil. George Bernard Shaw

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Understanding the Rich: The Pinata Theory

English miser who faked death in hope that his servants would go on a mourning fast - instead they threw open the pantries and wine cellar to celebrate his demise - when he arose from his 'deathbed' to protest, they clubbed the 'ghost' to death.

Greg Norman played a round of golf with Sultan of Brunei who enjoyed game so much he took GN to his 'garage' and said "Take your pick" "Thanks, I'll have that nice little Testarossa over there"

Comparative wealth important people are happier earning $50K when mates getting $40K, than they are earning $60K when mates $70K

Sir George Sitwell (late 1800's in England, at a time when there was virtually no income tax) - serious landscape gardener in both senses of the word - once hired 4000 men to dig a huge ornamental lake, and, to improve his view, had all his cows painted in a Chinese willow pattern

Clinton got $12m for memoirs; Pope got $8m - Pope spent his life trying to get people to keep 10 Commandments, Clinton .....

To maintain our stock of hard currency, the US Treasury creates hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new bills and coins each year. And that ain't money for nothing: The cost to taxpayers in 2008 alone was $848 million, more than two-thirds of which was spent minting coins that many people regard as a nuisance. (The process also used up more than 14,823 tons of zinc, 23,879 tons of copper, and 2,514 tons of nickel.) In an era when books, movies, music, and newsprint are transmuting from atoms to bits, money remains irritatingly analog. Physical currency is a bulky, germ-smeared, carbon-intensive, expensive medium of exchange.

Socialist at 20, capitalist at 40. It's because children play little role in wealth creation in the West, they're usually treated equally with their peers and siblings by teachers and parents, and they're protected from many of life's challenges. So they naturally start out seeing things from a socialist perspective. But as they start becoming responsible for their own wealth creation, their views change.

Disasters have a strong prejudice against the poor. "I never fought a fire in a rich person's home," a veteran firefighter once told me. Fires are much more likely to happen in homes with shoddy construction, portable heaters and no working smoke detectors.

One of the most successful politicians of the first century before the Christian era was Marcus Licinius Crassus, who was reputedly not only the richest man in Rome but also, by one accounting, the eighth-richest man who has ever lived. His fortune was pegged (by Pliny the Elder) at upward of two hundred million sesteres. Most of those millions were in real estate, some of it acquired in a manner strikingly like the operations of health-insurance companies a couple of millennia later. Crassus had his own private fire department, and if your house caught fire his representatives would offer to buy it on the spot, at a one-time-only, fire-sale price that would fall rapidly as the flames climbed. If you said yes, you'd get a few sesteres, after which Crassus' firefighters would do their thing. If you said no, you'd end up with a pile of ashes.

The richest man ever was Genghis Khan, who controlled wealth equivalent to about $700 billion (2007 US dollars) 2nd and 3rd were Rockefeller and Carnegie with abt $300b each. Bill Gates came in 21st, the wealthiest ever woman was Queen Elizabeth I at number 16.

Nearly one-third of multi-million pound lottery winners become bankrupt in just a few short years of their big win, according to research conducted in America. Three grannies in Liverpool fought it out over bingo winnings of more than £200,000. They had agreed to split any money they made but after hitting the jackpot the eldest of the grannies reneged on the deal with the battle cry: "There is only one winner." Before they came to blows, a court held that in fact there were lots of winners and the prize had to be shared. In an echo of the mother-daughter case, one of the victorious grannies commented that she might have won money but she had lost a friend.

Concept of "Fuck You" money - how much cash do you need so never have to work again?

Jingling change in yr pocket is sign of insecurity. Behaviour began as a security blanket, as a way of proving you had money. Just as a young child needs his favourite stuffed toy, the adult now needs to hear the sound of jingling change to reassure himself, reduce anxiety.

Guy named J.S.G.Boggs who does very realistic drawings of currency (of whichever country he's in) with back blank except for his signature and thunbprint. He talks people into accepting them at face value (collectors hunt them down and pay several times that for them)

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Until about 1700, almost every human on the planet lived at level we would today call absolute poverty - the equivalent of about a dollar a day - the kind of poverty that starves and kills. But in last 300 years some extraordinary magic has transformed near universal poverty to widespread affluence.

If you're receiving compliments during a fancy meal that you're not paying for, then you're probably the dummy. If you're not sure who the dummy is at the table, then it's you.

There is virtually no correlation between price and quality. So, if you're rich, you should buy the most expensive version of everything, because you will wind up with a very slightly better lot of equipment. Everyone else should buy the cheapest stuff, because the quality difference will be so small it's not worth worrying about. Stuff Matters

Get people to make modest donations to charity, and larger ones will follow. Get employees to agree to small changes in working conditions, and bigger ones are accepted more easily. 59 Seconds

Most people in Western, English-speaking world, define their lives through earnings, possessions, appearances and celebrity, and those things are making them miserable because they impede the meeting of our fundamental needs. Affluenza

Taleb started out as a trader, worked as a quantitative analyst and ran his own investment firm, but the more he studied statistics, the more he became convinced that the entire financial system was a keg of dynamite that was ready to blow. In The Black Swan he argued that modernity is too complex to understand, and "Black Swan" events - hitherto unknown and unpredicted shocks - will always occur.

The hedge fund investments are not because he has great faith in the skills of the managers running them, he says, but because they have what he calls "skin in the game", a constant refrain in his latest book. Nothing angers him more than the absence of skin in the game among bankers, bureaucrats, regulators, economists, ministers and plc chiefs. "At no time in history has so much power been given to people who take no risks," he says. He harks back happily to Roman times, when engineers were made to sleep under the bridges they designed and princes led their armies into battle. He tells how Francesch Castello, a Catalan banker, was beheaded in 1360 after his institution failed.

Turkey fallacy. Misplaced faith that trends will carry on. A turkey fed for a thousand days by a butcher becomes ever more confident that the butcher will never hurt it - until Thanksgiving. Antifragile

Economics has a phrase "concentrated benefits and diffuse costs." The Vice President of US costs about $600,000 a year to run, of which abt half is salary and expenses. He is completely and obviously useless. But he costs each of the 300 million Americans 2/10 of a cent each, so who cares? Well obviously the VP does. He is the "concentrated benefits" part. Don't Vote It Just Encourages The Bastards

'Common sense' is the set of informal rules that we use to get through our day. But 'common sense' varies. Play the Ultimatum Game - Europeans invariably offer/refuse to accept anything but 50/50 split. A Peru tribe happy to accept anything - they have no concept of co-operation outside their immediate family. But some New Guinean tribes will not accept even an 80/20 split in their favour, because that would leave them with an unwanted obligation to reciprocate sometime in the future. Everything Is Obvious

Rephrase $20 note auction with a dollar coin, all bids in cents. Highest bidder gets the coin, but underbidder has to pay the lecturer amount of final bid. (If you haven't seen this story before, what happens is the bidding gets to 51 cents, and then everyone wakes up to the fact they are on a bad trip, and everyone except top two bidders drop out. But those two are captured, because the underbidder will lose (often more than a dollar.) Flipnosis

His own strategy is to charge little or nothing for his writing and use it to generate lucrative speaking gigs. "You can read a copy of this book online (abundant, commodity information) for free," he writes (not noting that the free offer expires shortly after the printed book's publication), "but if you want me to fly to your city and prepare a custom talk on Free as it applies to your business, I'll be happy to, but you're going to have to pay me for my (scarce) time." Free

On the philanthropy front his "partner in crime," as he calls Gates, has bested him again. Allen mourns the old science fiction collection his mother sold for $75 so he creates the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. He has adored Jimi Hendrix since childhood - so he spends $250 million building a Hendrix museum he names the Experience Music Project. Gates might have played his old high school chum at the birth of Microsoft, but at least he is trying to do good with all those extra billions that ended up in his pocket. Allen, in contrast, is the accidental billionaire who reveals himself to be little more than an overgrown kid playing with his money.
Idea Man

When they first realized they cd sell motherboards, Wozniac and Jobs formed Apple Computers and pulled in another guy, Ron Wayne, to do the paperwork like writing the instruction manuals etc. They gave him 10% of company, but just after they'd delivered the first boards, Wayne decided it wasn't for him, so the 2 Steves bought back his 10% for $800. iWoz

The modern Dickens morality tale of the thug winning huge amount of lotto money and becoming completely ruined Lionel Asbo

Buying stuff is not bad for our happiness - buying coffees and cars and even houses don't make us unhappy - but stuff also doesn't make us any happier. Buying experiences, in comparison, does seem to create more happiness for every dollar spent. Why? Consider the difference between buying a TV and buying a vacation. TV is great, sure, but the experience of watching TV pales in comparison to the experience of going to a special meal once a week with a partner or friend. Happy Money

...these super-elites are not evil people; they genuinely think what is good for them is good for the rest of society. The irony, as the author points out, is that a big intrusive state is often the plutocrat's best friend, whether it's a state capitalist regime such as China or the protectionist capitalism of the west. As the global meltdown showed, the best brains follow the money, so the regulators, earning a fraction of the huge incomes enjoyed by bonus-chasing bankers, were no match for the global behemoths. Such is their power and wealth, the mega-rich proclaim free-market values yet lobby hard and often successfully to bend markets in their favour, devastating the traditional middle classes and dislocating social mobility. Plutocrats

"Gambler's fallacy": people have illusion that knowing past helps them predict future - so choose lotto or roulette numbers based on what comes up most, or what is 'due' to come up. Sleights of Mind

There he developed another strange conviction: that he could identify oil-bearing ground just by looking at it. He sank all his remaining money into a 160 acre farm in West Texas. It turned out to be one of the most productive oil fields in America. Charles died in 1932, immensely wealthy, and still extremely unhappy. Shakespeare

When first started investing for others, Buffett set the terms. "I guarantee you a 6% return, and I get 20% of the profits above that. And I won't tell you what we own because that's distracting. All I want to do is hand in a scorecard when I come off the golf course. I don't want you following me round and watching me shank a three iron on this hole and leave a putt short on the next."

B-H generates over 5 billion dollars a year in cash flow. That means each week, Buffett has to find a way to spend 100 million dollars. Tap Dancing To Work

The status symbols of the rich have to constantly evolve and expand as the middle class come up from below to ape their betters. As the home theatre becomes common, the rich expand it to entire entertainment wings (alongside the 6000 square foot garage for the car collection, and the mock jewellers store for the gem collection) we have the Rialto Theatre, the Bloosom Daisy Cafe (a working diner) and the Beach Lanes Bowling Alley. The Natural History of the Rich

The price of corruption. Rich countries perform basic bureaucratic tasks quickly and cheaply. Poor countries over-regulate and draw out the process to pocket extra cash at each stage, thus ensuring that the officials support the autocrats in power. But this is also part of reason why they are poor, because entrepreneurs turn down attractive opportunities when they know contract enforcement will be difficult.

Starbucks goes further. They give customer every chance to signal that they aren't paying attention to price. It costs very little to make a bigger drink, or add a bit of choc powder. But by charging wildly different prices for virtually the same product, Starbucks smokes out the lavish spenders. The Undercover Economist

Studied way rewards work. Testing idea that moderate rewards motivate extra effort, but excessive rewards actually counter-productive. Outsourced his studies to India, where the rupee goes a lot further. Found that a bonus equivalent to a day's wages got similar performance to a 2 week's pay bonus, but a huge bonus - equivalent to 5 months pay - paralysed the players and their performance dropped dramatically. What they did was give the guy the money first, and then if he didn't meet the standard, he had to give it all back. But the second guy they tried it on didn't play by their rules - he ran away with all the money. They didn't have the heart to chase him. The Upside of Irrationality

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Increased money can lead to greater happiness, but generally not if it is spent on more things for yourself. If you have two TVs, buying two more doesn't make you twice as happy. What would? Buying an experience, for one. A trip or dinner out contributes more to happiness than another gadget. How Much Do You Need?

There are a number of factors that can bring on the 'lottery curse', but the biggest cause is the total lack of preparation. "Somebody who gradually builds up their fortune to £100m-plus can disappear into obscurity. But a lottery winner is a magnet because it's ordinary folk suddenly doing well and they encapsulate all our dreams. The Lottery Curse

Rational people do not become entrepreneurs. Like combat officers, one is constantly making critical decisions on partial information. One has to take steps without being able to see if there is support there. One must taste failure time and again and be inspired by it. One must be armed with a variety of rationalizations for continuing on despite doubt, buffeting, adverse opinion. Every successful new business gores someone's ox, and those people react in nasty ways. The faces you see each day are now depending on you to make payroll. Pediatric oncologists must be mentally tough to deal with the suffering of others; entrepreneurs must be superhuman to deal with the tragedies they themselves can be the authors of. Trick is, you can't teach that mental nexus if you have not lived it yourself. If you haven't, then apprentice them to someone who has. How To Get Rich

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Does money make you happy?

Letters and Forums on Money


"The two things that are evils here are dependency and entitlement and what Gates and Buffett have done is make quite clear that they are wealthy but they managed the expectations of their next generation by ensuring they don't feel a sense of entitlement. They were encouraged to make their own careers." Inheriting


Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash

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Should rich be allowed to buy privileges, such as police-style spinners to get them through traffic?

We already accept that you can buy better health care, travel (First Class cabin) and housing.