“Greed is good” became popular from a 1986 speech by financier Ivan Boesky and the movie Wall Street (1987), but neither source used the exact line.
Boesky, giving the commencement speech at School of Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley, on May 18, 1986, said: “Greed is alright, by the way. I think greed is healthy. I want you to know that, I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”
Michael Douglas, playing the character Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987), said: “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 U.S.A.”
“Greed is good for you” was first used by author Michael Korda in his book Success! (1977). Mother Jones magazine used the line in October 1984: “Reagan’s great crime is that he has made the unacceptable acceptable. It’s O.K. to grab. Greed is good. Rich is respectable.”
Delaware Senator Joe R. Biden Jr. used “greed is good” is several speeches early in 1987 (before running for president in 1988), but Biden made clear that he was referencing Boesky’s 1986 speech. The movie Wall Street opened in December 1987.
Wikipedia: Gordon Gekko
Gordon Gekko is a fictional character and the main antagonist of the 1987 film Wall Street and the antihero of the 2010 film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, both by director Oliver Stone. Gekko was portrayed by actor Michael Douglas, in a performance that won him an Oscar for Best Actor for the first movie. He grew up on Long Island and went to City College. During the mid 1980s he had a rivalry with fellow corporate raider Sir Lawrence Wildman.
Co-written by Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Gekko is claimed to be based loosely on arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, who gave a speech on greed at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, and real-life activist shareholder and corporate raider Carl Icahn. According to Edward R. Pressman, producer of the film, “Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modeled on,” he adds. “But Gekko was partly Milken”, who was the “Junk Bond King” of the 1980s, and indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud in 1989.
Greed Is Good Quote
Notwithstanding the popular cultural significance of the character (and the wide repetition of this particular quote), Gekko never actually uttered the words “Greed is Good” in the original Wall Street film. The full text of the quote is below:
“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 U.S.A.”
Wikipedia: Ivan Boesky
Ivan Frederick Boesky (born March 6, 1937) is an American stock trader who is notable for his prominent role in a Wall Street insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid-1980s.
In popular culture
The character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street is based at least in part on Boesky, especially regarding a famous speech he delivered on the positive aspects of greed at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, where he said in part “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”.
Greed is alright, by the way. I think greed is healthy. I want you to know that, I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.
. Ivan Frederick Boesky Former Wall Street arbitrageur (notable for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid 1980s). Quotation from his Commencement speech at School of Business Administration the University of California, Berkeley, 18th May 1986
Wikipedia: Michael Korda
Michael Korda (born October 8, 1933, London, England, United Kingdom) is a novelist who was editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster in New York City.
By Michael Korda
New York, NY: Random House
Greed Is Good for You
Success gives you the right to be greedy.
13 November 1977, Pasadena (CA) Star-News, “Another book for all you failures out there” reviewed by Michael Kilian, pg. A12, col. 2:
SUCCESS! HOW EVERY MAN AND WOMAN CAN ACHIEVE IT. By Michael Korda, Random House, 252 pages, $8.95.
If there’s any ethic to be distilled from it, it is the one best expressed by his chapter heading, “Greed Is Good for You.”
Profits and Professions:
Essays in business and professional ethics
Edited by Joseph Ellin, Michael S. Pritchard and Wade L. Robison
Clifton, NJ: Humana Press
Greed is good for us: it makes everybody happy. Only confused do-gooders worry about social responsibilities.
Smith’s point, of course, was that, whatever people were interested in, they could obtain more easily and produce more efficiently in a free market.
October 1984, Mother Jones magazine, pg. 30, col. 2:
Reagan’s great crime is that he has made the unacceptable acceptable. It’s O.K. to grab. Greed is good. Rich is respectable. Extremism is no big deal.
Google News Archive
1 August 1986, Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, “Idealogy can’t solve economic problems” by William Pfaff, pg. 9A, col. 5:
That, at least, is the new conventional wisdom. This is good news for the Democratic party, as the congressional election season approaches. it offers a pleasing gloat to those of us who never believed in the magi of supplyu-side economics, the Laffer Curve (now scarcely worth a chuckle), and the other intellectual components of Reaganomics—which, for the most part, added up to a doctrine that greed is good for the nation—and a solvent for the world.
Google News Archive
1 February 1987, Modesto (CA) Bee, “Democrats hear presidential hopefuls” by Jeff Raimundo, pg. A18, col. 1:
Biden, who says he must decide soon whether to seek the 1988 Democratic nomination, disparaged Reagan for leading a “greed is good” decade and blinding the nation with “the illusion of our current peace and tranquility.”
23 May 1987, Washington (DC) Post, “The ‘88 Aspirants; Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. in His Own Words,” pg. A10:
We have reached the point where Ivan Boesky before his fall would be applauded by a California graduating class for saying “Greed is good.”
Cinema: A Season Of Flash And Greed
By RICHARD CORLISS Monday, Dec. 14, 1987
At heart, Wall Street and Broadcast News are comedies too, with high energy levels to match their milieus and enough acid wit to recall the sophisticated screwball comedies of the ‘30s. Wall Street Director Oliver Stone and Co- Author Stanley Weiser (Project X) get their manic mileage from the gaudy argot of today’s power brokers, principally one Gordon Gekko, a black knight who proclaims that “greed is good, greed is right, greed works, greed will save the U.S.A.”
OCLC WorldCat record
“Greed Is Good”... or Is It? Economic Ideology and Moral Tension in a Graduate School of Business
Author: Janet S Walker
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Journal of Business Ethics, Apr., 1992, vol. 11, no. 4, p. 273-283
Summary: This article reports the results of an exploratory investigation of a particular area of moral tension experienced by MBA students in a graduate school of business. During the first phase of the study, MBA students’ own perceptions about the moral climate and culture of the business school were examined. The data gathered in this first part of the study indicate that the students recognize that a central part of this culture is constituted by a shared familiarity with a set of institutionally reinforced premises about human behavior and motivation including the ideas that: 1) people are self-interested utility-maximizers, 2) individuals should be unimpeded in their pursuit of their own self-interest through “economic” transactions, and 3) virtually all human interactions are economic transactions. The data further indicated that the business students experience a degree of tension between this ethic of “self-maximizing” and the “everyday” ethics prevalent in our broader culture, in which altruism and selflessness are central elements. The final section of the study was an effort to see whether and how these institutionally sanctioned premises were integrated into the students’ arguments about the relationship between self-interest and social responsibility.