Greed

José Clemente Orozco Mural at Dartmouth College

So many of our problems as a nation are due to the institutionalization of greed in our culture. Even in our Declaration of Independence, we are declared to have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Originally, the text read “Property” instead of “the pursuit of Happiness.”

So here we are, with the 21st century well under way, admiring billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, as well as self-declared billionaires (but not really) like Donald J. Trump. As a people, we still believe the rich are job creators, even when they get rich by sending American jobs overseas, in which case they could be regarded as job destroyers. In the meantime, we are becoming poorer as a nation, even while believing the opposite.

When José Clemente Orozco painted his famous murals at Dartmouth College’s Baker Library, he was commenting on the betrayal of ideals in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, which came hard on the heels of the Porfiriato, the stifling military dictatorship of Don Porfirio Díaz, which ran from 1876 to 1910. He also painted elsewhere on campus, the so-called “Hovey Murals,” which were so controversial that they were painted over for offending wealthy alumni donors.

Small wonder that they weren’t offended by the above panel from the Baker Library murals.

The wealthy are correct to regard the United States as the land of opportunity. This opportunity, however, comes at a cost. We are too ready to enthrone greed as an American virtue while treating the American poor as somehow losers in the game of life.

Yes, It Does Make Sense …

Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals

Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals

There used to be a comic strip appearing in the sunday paper called “Hatlo’s Inferno” drawn by Jimmy Hatlo whose intent was to show annoying people in hell who are being pointed out to those touring Hades, presumably in air-conditioned buses. (See illustration below.)

Well, I would like to add a whole circle to the inferno for a young ex-hedge fund manager who purchased a drug company called Turing Pharmaceuticals which manufactured Daraprim, which is used to treat life-threatening parasitic infections in pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals such as AIDS patients. Mr. Martin Shkresli—may his name go down in infamy—promptly raised the price of Dataprim from $13.50 per dose to $750.00 per dose.

Hatlo’s Inferno Cartoon

“Hatlo’s Inferno” Cartoon

Then he had the cojones to claim that the 5,500% increase wasn’t too much, considering. “It really doesn’t make any sense to get any criticism for this,” Shkreli claims.

Nonetheless, the criticism is coming in fast and furious, to the extent that Mr. Shkreli probably regrets his insatiable greed.