Capitalism is at risk of destroying itself unless bankers realise they have an obligation to create a fairer society, the Bank of England governor has warned.
Mark Carney said bankers had operated a "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" system. He questioned whether traders met ethical standards and said that those who failed to meet high professional standards should face ostracism.
Speaking at a City conference, the Bank's governor warned that there was a growing sense that the basic social contract at the heart of capitalism was breaking down amid rising inequality. "We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted. Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital."
Carney told delegates at a conference on inclusive capitalism in London – which was attended by the former US president Bill Clinton – that big banks had operated in a "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose bubble", with personal gain hotly pursued by bankers.
It was the same former US President who was warned of this risk in 1996 in a paper which read:
"Listen: these people are not going to go quietly into the night. Once a person is intentionally cast aside, all prevailing social contracts which might pertain no longer apply and all previous bets are off. It becomes self-defense for the intended victim.
Once a nation or government puts people in the position of defending their own lives, or that of family and friends, and they all will die if they do nothing about it, at that point all laws, social contracts and covenants end. Laws, social contracts and covenants define civilization. Without them, there is no civilization at all, there is only the law of the jungle: kill, or be killed. This is where we started, tens of thousands of years ago.
By leaving people in poverty, at risk of their lives due to lack of basic living essentials, we have stepped across the boundary of civilization. We have conceded that these people do not matter, are not important. Allowing them to starve to death, freeze to death, die from deprivation, or simply shooting them, is in the end exactly the same thing. Inflicting or allowing poverty on a group of people or an entire country is a formula for disaster."
It's the economic paradigm, stupid!
So what kind of ethics? In Caritas In Veritate, the 2009 papal encyclical Pope Benedict said this:
“Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred..”
In 2009 Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, the President of the United Nations General Assembly offered this in a speech:
“The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centred economy but rather a people-centred economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. These should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.”
So why are they talking about people-centered ethics?
You, we, me, ethics and people-centered economics