In most cases, we recognize excess as unhealthy. The classic example is substance abuse, most notably alcoholism but also any number of other addictive substances, be they legal (tobacco) or not (heroin, cocaine, etc.). We are beginning to recognize that other behaviors, such as compulsive gambling or hoarding, are similarly unhealthy. And we recognize that such behavior by any individual has adverse effects beyond that individual; examples include drunk driving, engaging in criminal activity to support one’s addiction, financial ruin of innocent family members, fire hazards associated with hoarding, and so on. In all likelihood, there are substantially similar causes to many of these ills, but society at large seems to treat different manifestations quite differently. Alcohol and tobacco are legal, heroin and cocaine are not.

One excess that seems to not yet be recognized as unhealthy is the compulsive accumulation of wealth, but is this not just as much an unhealthy addiction as alcoholism or gambling or hoarding? And just as with any other addiction, is it not the cause of much collateral damage to others? If society regarded the insanely wealthy as just that, insane and deserving of pity, perhaps some of our current problems would be mitigated, even if not eliminated.

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