Desire is wanting something; greed is wanting everything. Desire is healthy, like hunger, which leads to nourishment; greed is unhealthy, like gluttony, which leads to disease. Desire is limited and moderate. Greed is excessive and immoderate. Greed says to hell with everybody and everything; greed acknowledges no master, no law, no limit. If a man says of another, “You are full of passion and desire” he pays him a compliment, whereas if he says, “You are full of avarice and greed” he condemns him.
I say that those who confuse desire for greed and say that greed is good may as well confuse alcoholism with thirst and go about advocating drunkenness.
They: I say, where is the line between the thirsty man and the alcoholic? At what point does one become the other?
Me: That is the correct question, yes.
They: What is the answer?
Me: You tell me.
They: People disagree on where the line is.
Me: But they do not disagree that there are alcoholics.
They: Some people might.
Me: But no one with common sense would. Only a lawyer, or someone playing a trick or trying to win a game of making the weaker argument the stronger would say such a thing, but it is plain common sense that greed is not good.
They: I don’t see how it is common sense because…
Me: That doesn’t surprise me that you don’t see it, because you don’t seem to have any of it.
[This got a lot of laughter and scored me the win, I think, although the debate continued for quite a while. We went on (like we frequently do) and got into stoicism vs epicureanism, virtue and vice and types of sin. We went on into the elevator after work, still debating.
They: But everyone will define the line at a different point, and if everyone disagrees on where the line is…
Me: Then we will disagree on the where the line is. We may never agree. For two thousand years we have been disagreeing. How much is too much wine? I don’t know, but I know you can have too much wine!
They: But if one glass is too much for you and five glasses is not too much for Andre the Giant and the line keeps changing from person to person…
Me: Yes, the line changes from person to person, and perhaps even for the same person from moment to moment. There is no formula, no equation that can solve the problem for you. There is no escape from the dilemma of being a human being.
[This got a few laughs from the people in the elevator and that was the end of the debate (for today)]