CrimeTalk

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Editor's Blog

Banking immoralities: rediscovering the 'moral economy'?

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"It doesn't get any more immoral than this", says Thomas Friedman in the New York Times article linked in below.  I have to agree. No wonder CitiGroup were fined $285 million!  The banking group sold around $500 million of 'collateralized debt obligations', or bad debts with poor asset backing, to various hedge funds and other investment agencies, knowing they were weak, and then, with their other hand 'shorted' those same securities, that is, bet against them succeeding. 

Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?

Friedman says that the financial services industry has bought Congress so reform is unlikely when the political institutions are corrupted. He also compares the Occupy Wall Street movement with the Egyptian uprising against Mubarak: both want justice more than democracy, he argues, rightly I think. I agree with him that this is why so many normally non-political people now have some serious problems with the capitalist system. He cliams many such people support OWS. I can't speak to that but certainly here in the UK there is similar feeling.

Friedman believes in capitalism but says that without the rule of law and without justice it will remain in crisis. I must say I have felt for some time that many people currently see huge corruption and injustice in the advanced capitalist states and organizations, ranging from various Western governments from the US via the UK to Italy, through the IOC and FIFA, to NAFTA and core EU terms, and my comments here at CrimeTalk have been consistently along those lines. Indeed, at the very beginning of CrimeTalk, in March 2010, I observed that current astrological alignments point to a substantial and profound questioning of authority and reconstruction of outmoded power systems for at least the next twenty years. 

As I argued in an earlier piece, until leaders re-discover the fact that economies have a moral, or if you like spiritual or ideological, component, they will continue to miss the point and fail to see a way forward. The rediscovery of the 'moral economy' is vital , nay fundamental, for any political party or organization to make progressive steps in the current period. The sooner they 'get' this the better, for, unlike some  on the left, I cannot see the current protests as the beginnings of the end for capitalism. That case is nowhere near proven.

What we are seeing is the rise of a new awareness, or a renewal, of the need for capitalism to be just or fair. People are still very happy for others to own the means of production and make huge profits out of that, providing they get enough of the fruits of their labour to live to an acceptable lifestyle and provided they don't feel they are being taken for a ride as suckers - and what is acceptable and what is fair are moral and spiritual questions.

At the moment, too many people are not getting a fair economic deal, too many feel they are being taken for a ride by con-men in smart suits, too many feel government has become a means of self-enrichment, and too many feel and too many feel that their expectations are constantly ratcheted up and then repeatedly thwarted. If people feel they are being conned and shafted no amount of money would be enough to pacify them. The point about the moral economy is that it requires a moral component.....otherwise all bets are off.....and there might as well just be a free-for-all, or riot, where everyone helps themselves tro whatever they can get.....and that is of little use to anybody nor of much aid to social progress.

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