Written By Sherwood Kohn

According to the statistics (see story, Page 30), the full effects of the subprime lending crisis have either (1) not been felt in Carroll County, or (2) been slow in hitting the local real estate, banking and mortgage markets.

Nevertheless, there are daily advertisements in the area newspapers, offering homes that have been foreclosed upon or put up for sale as the result of their owners’ bankruptcies. And certainly, home values are not as high as they were even a year ago.

The causes are complex. For one thing, there is a lot to be said for the proposition that too many people, including bankers, despite the dictates of prudence and common sense, simply got into an inflated market over their heads.

For another, it seems obvious that there are a lot of predators out there who are eager to take advantage of naive or careless consumers who were lured into contracts that closed in upon them like quicksand, smothering them with escalating fees and interest rates that they could not possibly afford.

But underlying all of the problems, it seems to me, is a sickness: an epidemic of greed.

The society is shot through with the infection. The current television commercial, shouting, “I want it all, and I want it now!” has perfect pitch.

Like spoiled children, we want immediate gratification and to hell with the consequences.

I don’t know whether we are suffering from an ailment resulting from the self-absorption of an age group that has been characterized as the “Me” generation – people who grew up lacking the concept of altruism – or whether I am just looking askance at the young whippersnappers who don’t do things the way I used to.

I do know that greed, from Enron to Bear Stearns, has got us into a very nasty mess that has rippled throughout the economy, both domestic and foreign, and that it is going to take courage, wisdom and a good deal of steely, selfless will to heal a system that from all appearances has lost contact with the public good.