In the 1987 film Wall Street, Michael Douglas, playing the character Gordon Gekko, delivers a memorable speech where he declares, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” This line has often been paraphrased as “greed is good,” although the film itself doesn’t use those exact words.
In his speech, Gekko argues that greed is a clean drive that “captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” He asserts that greed, in all its forms – for life, money, love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind. He further suggests that greed could save America, which he compares to a “malfunctioning corporation”.
This speech is significant because it encapsulates the ethos of the 1980s Wall Street culture, characterized by rampant speculation, deregulation, and materialism. However, it’s important to note that the film portrays Gekko as a morally ambiguous figure, and his “greed is good” philosophy leads to his downfall.
The speech also sparked a debate about the role of greed in society. Some argue that greed can be a positive force, driving innovation and economic growth. Others, however, contend that unchecked greed can lead to unethical behavior, economic inequality, and social harm. This dichotomy is reflected in the film itself, as Gekko’s ruthless pursuit of wealth ultimately leads to his downfall. Thus, while the “greed is good” speech is a powerful piece of dialogue, it’s also a critique of the excesses of Wall Street culture.
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“Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality… I am not a destroyer of companies.
I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that 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 and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much (The audience rise to give him an ovation). Thank you very much!…”