Greed is Good: The Ethical Appeals of Gordon Gekko
In the speech below, identify any remarks that make either of the two forms of Ethical Appeal discussed above. Does this speaker establish his practical wisdom, his commitment to principles, and his sense of altruism?
If so, what does he say to make these qualities apparent? Does he appear to take account of the values, desires, fears, or prejudices of his particular audience? Explain how exactly he does that. Make sure you discuss both forms of ethos in your Journal Assignment.
(Assignment length: approximately 300 words)
Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good” Speech From Wall Street
Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is a thoroughly corrupt stock market profiteer. He illegally uses insider information and he uses his influence to sabotage various corporations – all in order to take the risk out of his investment schemes. And in his capacity as majority shareholder of Teldar Paper, he is able to manipulate the company in a way that will virtually guarantee that he will make a modest profit.
In this speech, he addresses the other shareholders at their annual meeting where they will vote on any proposed changes to the company. Gekko displays his rhetorical chops as he discredits the management of the Teldar Paper Corporation in an effort to get the shareholders to fire them. Gekko argues that such a change in high-level personnel will help the failing company to recover and begin to turn a profit. But in reality, this is the last thing in the world that Gekko wants.
He was able to buy a controlling interest in the company relatively cheaply because it was failing. But he never planned to make it succeed. Instead, he plans to drive the company even further into failure so that it will be forced to shut down. At that point, Gekko plans to break it up and sell off the different divisions of it to other companies. Eliminating the experienced leadership from the company will ultimately hurt it, which is exactly what Gekko really wants. He’s willing to betray the interests of all the other shareholders and all of the employees of Teldar Paper in order to get what he wants.
How interesting that such a thoroughly unethical character manages to deploy brilliantly effective ethical appeals in his rhetoric!
VIDEO CLIP https://youtu.be/6Da1tDKFfno
Well, I appreciate the opportunity you’re giving me, Mr. Cromwell, as the single largest shareholder in Teldar Paper, to speak.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake.
Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here [Teldar management] own less than 3 percent of the
company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than 1 percent. You own the company. That’s right — you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their steak lunches, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.
Cromwell (CEO of Teldar Paper):
This is an outrage! You’re out of line, Gekko!
Teldar Paper, Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents, each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out.
One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents.
The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars.
[The audience of shareholders applauds enthusiastically]
Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, 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.
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