Thursday, August 22, 2013


There seems to be an innate human tendency to want to be bigger, to expand or want more. There is never enough. This tendency seems much more inclusive than what psychologists refer to as hoarder syndrome. It cannot be that simple; like a little old lady with a house so full of boxes she can not move. Nevertheless, when subjects like this arise, sometimes it helps to look for mental disorders where the trait in question is isolated. Hoarder syndrome or insane accumulation of “things” is sometimes treated as part of the OCD complex, which only makes it harder to define.

Less than insane hoarding seems universal in the sense that it applies to children and adults as well a personal attributes such as body size, un-ownable property such as the earth, or to intangible things as members of an organization or group. I see Arnold Schwarzenegger or a person with massive amounts of money in a Swiss bank account, in the same light as a land-poor Texas rancher. They all have excesses, they all feel they deserve it, they all worked hard for it, and they all own it but none of them feel that it is too much.

A person who owns a store or business of some kind wants to expand, if not to expand the size of one store then to own more than one store. If they belong to a club, they want to increase the membership.  If they live in a town, they want to increase the population. If they own a massive business such as one of the biggest airline companies, they want to buy all the small companies but also the other biggest airline company: US Airways and American Airlines.  The potential merger of major airlines stimulated this post. In my mind the questions loom, “Who would want to own or control the biggest airline in the world and why?” Unfortunately, I think the answer is everyone. It has a primitive base. In the bestial world, hoarding is akin to survival limited by storability. There is no genetically adaptive limit short of the time and work involved.  Of course, clever man has devised money, which does not rot but corporations do not rot either.

People from all social strata engage in mission creep. Watch people install property fences or university presidents expand campuses and build buildings even when the number of students in need of an education is not sufficient to justify the expansion. Armies commonly engage in mission creep by going from fighting wars to nation building. I assume most people living in New York City do not want to see the city get bigger. However, the city officials do not seem to agree; they work hard to attract more business. People with immense fortunes become philanthropists but no one can tell us how much money is so much they start to give it away. Accumulations seem without limits, like hoarders; however, most people recognize when they have enough.

In addition to possession, there is an accompanying tendency to keep control of what they have, which fits in with inborn hierarchy dominance or peck order but the “bigger is better” seems to be a different trait. Even a person with a small amount will fight to keep what little he or she has. I have a tendency to think greed is involved in all of this but how can a feeling of greed justify a fight to the death over a broken jack knife between street homeless people. Certainly, greed is involved as well as hierarchy dominance if they truly are distinct traits; the tangible material things verse intangible power.

Is there something in Adam Smith’s invisible hand to justify owning it all—to justify monopoly? I think not. If I own all the coconuts and bananas, it makes no difference how many bananas it takes to buy a coconut. The end-point of the game Monopoly is to end up with all the money. Why? Is trying to own the biggest airline in the world a form of insanity?  Did you know that hoarding is almost impossible to treat?

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