Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Finding our way back to ethics
...we have lost a way of thinking and talking about some very important things. The preoccupation with market efficiency and economic growth has loomed so large that other activities, and other values, have been subordinated to its disciplines. "You can't buck the market," said Margaret Thatcher, and no government has disagreed since. It was the adage that was used to justify soaring pay for the highest earners and stagnant earnings for the low-paid. The market ruled, and questions of injustice, honour or integrity were all secondary or irrelevant.
A poll for the World Economic Forum last month found in 10 G20 countries that two-thirds of respondents attributed the credit crunch and its ensuing economic recession to a crisis of ethics and values. Sir Thomas Legg declared in his final report on MPs' expenses that there had been a failure of ethics. There's a widespread perception that social norms have subtly and gradually shifted towards the centrality of personal self-interest. As long as it's legal, it's legitimate; no further individual judgment is necessary.
Madeleine Bunting in an article entitled To tackle the last decades' myths, we must dust off the big moral questions, published in The Guardian, 21st Feb, 2010.