The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

American Greed Runs Amok

2 min read

James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation and son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is being called to testify in front of Parliament again over accusations of phone-hacking to gain otherwise unknowable information for media coverage.

These allegations claimed that the phones of 9/11 victims, as well as members of the Royal Family and other British government officials had been hacked to find out private information. James and Rupert Murdoch are on trial for knowing of the illegal behavior and not acting upon it.

This behavior can be classified as what sociologist Charles Derber calls “wilding:” self-centered behavior that diminishes the social fabric of society. These actions are not only selfish, but they actively destroy what sociologists call social capital, or the social ties within a community.

Modern “wilding” can be traced back to former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, when confidence in trickle-down economics gave the wealthiest stratifications of American society tax breaks, promoting their status to unprecedented levels. This new elite reveled in their own luxury as lower classes attempted to imitate this extravagant lifestyle to indicate their solidarity with this new class. Unfortunately, to keep up with this lifestyle meant longer hours and more jobs.

Journalist David Callahan wrote that the economy “offered the promise of such extraordinary wealth that it brought out the worst in people…the ideal of working hard over many years to achieve wealth lost traction.”

The idea of doing whatever it takes to get what you want became widespread, putting moral scruples aside to one’s own desires.

Through an economic lens, this trend is the reason for the current recession the United States is enduring. In Derber’s book, The Wilding of America, he reminds us that in the recession of 2008, major mortgage firms loaned risky subprime mortgages to the public under the guise of “housing for everyone.” These were insured by American Insurance Group (AIG) and bought by investment firms at appealing prices.

Moody’s, a company that is paid to rate debt, falsified their ratings for these companies, which is not surprising, considering the companies whom they rate are the ones paying them. When adjustable rate mortgages increased, which was stated in the fine print of these subprime loans, homebuyers could not afford these rates and inevitably foreclosed.

Even after the government bailed out these corporations, they took billions of dollars of tax payer money and used it for their annual bonuses. A paradigm of the creed Wall Street has embraced: “greed is good.”

News Corp. journalists did the same by disobeying laws to gain information to benefit themselves at the expense of those whose phones were hacked.