Greed — Maslow’s Heirachy Of Needs

It can not be denied that some people are more ‘Greedy’ than others. People act in a greedy way for different reasons. Of course there are the megalomaniacs and narcissist who are completely self-obsessed, just as there are the completely selfless martyrs. For every Andrew Carnegie there is a Mother Theresa. But those types are few and far between. Most of us only act greedy in response to our needs not being met. Abraham Maslow studied this phenomenon in great detail and created the Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Maslow’s “Heirachy of Needs”.

When a person does not have enough food to survive, they will go to any length to fulfill that need. Physiological needs like the need to breath, eat food, wear clothing and find shelter must be fulfilled. Once they are met, we move onto the need for safety, then the need to be loved or to belong, then esteem needs and finally self-actualization. But people are only desperate and ‘greedy’ toward the bottom of the hierarchy, when their physiological needs, safety needs and the need to be loved are not met.

A person who does not feel safe is deficiency motivated. They are desperate because something is missing. When these needs are met and they move toward the top of the hierarchy, they are not deficiency motivated, they are growth motivated. A growth motivated person can afford to be giving and generous without the fear of losing what little they have.

That is why kindness is the ultimate demonstration of power. Only those who see themselves as powerful can afford to be kind.


My Key Takeaways:

  • Humans may exist at all points within Maslow’s Heirachy of Needs.
  • It is possible for humans to both move up, and down, that pyramid.
  • A greedy person, can become altruistic, if their circumstances change.
  • It is naive to assume that “all humans are greedy, all the time”.
  • It is also naive to assume that “all humans are altruistic, all the time”.
  • It may be possible to “engineer” altruism into our societies.
  • People who are materialistic hoarders have issues with love and safety.
  • Moving people from “deficiency mindset” to “growth motivated”, will help solve their hoarding and materialism; better for environment!

Open Questions:

  • Does the “mental software” of a person become irrevocably “stuck”, if exposed to extreme poverty? E.g. mental state stuck in permanent “greediness”?
  • If “greed” is a result of “noticing one’s circumstance” as compared to others, is this a learned behaviour, or is it innate?

Real Life Cases:
  • Najib Razak, Malayia’s Former PM, proclaims that his actions weren’t detrimental to Malaysia, and that he is innocent.