About six months ago a writer named Michael Lewis
published a book about Jim Clark, a man who can be
called the embodiment of the technological
revolution and the runaway financial success that
has come in the wake of public fascination with the
hi-tech wizardry and its promise for the future.
Jim Clark first founded Silicon Graphics, an
innovative computer graphics company, and then went
on to found Netscape, the company that brought
Internet browsing to the masses, and finally
founded a true Internet company called Healtheon
that made Clark a full-fledged billionaire.
Lewis had access to Clark for several years and his
notes were permanent records of what he had said.
He also interviewed friends and acquaintances from
Way back when, before he had even started Silicon
Graphics and worked for his living like most
people, Clark said that what he really wanted was
"to have $10 million."
Some time later, when Silicon Graphics was
successful, Clark told one of his fellow workers
there that when he made $100 million he would be
A few years later, after Netscape, and when he was
worth about $600 million, Clark told Lewis: "I just
want to have a billion dollars, after taxes. Then
I'll be satisfied."
Then his Healtheon stock took off. Only a few
months later, with the exuberant stock market,
Clark was worth over $3 billion. Author Lewis
reminded him that he'd said not long before that
when he was a full-fledged billionaire, he would
stop. Lewis reports: "He now said, without missing
a beat: `I just want to make more money than Larry
Ellison. Then I'll stop.'"
At that time, Ellison, the head of the Oracle
software company, was worth $9 billion. It was an
ambition that Clark had never mentioned. On the
other hand, at the rate Clark's wealth was booming,
he might even attain that goal within a year.
Lewis pointed this out and asked: "What happens
after you have more than Larry Ellison? Would you
want to have more money than, say, Bill Gates?
"Oh, no," Clark said, . . . "That'll never happen."
A few minutes later, . . . [however]. . . , he came
clean. "You know," he said, "just for one moment, I
would kind of like to have the most. Just for one
Lewis compares Clark to a racing dog who controls
the mechanical rabbit that he is chasing, but
constantly speeds it up to make himself run faster.
It is a very entertaining and pithy description,
but Lewis, though a pretty sharp observer, has
apparently reached his own limit. He notes the
obvious, that Clark "needed an excuse not to stop,"
but, he adds, "the reasons he couldn't stop were
It is truly not easy to know why he could not stop,
but the wisest of all men did tell us
(Koheles 5,9): "He who loves money will
never have enough money." It is a basic human
character trait, and one who is infected will never
It is a very old problem, and even in the desert
where money was obviously less attractive than it
is in today's world, Moshe Rabbenu could not find
judges who hated money (see Rashi on Devorim
If the current financial frenzy in the world's
stock markets is driven by greed, that is still not
the key to knowing whether it will go up or down or
how far. But it can be said that it is "up" to no
good, and the Torah world should certainly be wary
of its excesses.