Friday, March 5, 2010

Ethics and Congress--NOT

This must be a job for Super Situational Ethics Man.

"Ethics angle missing in financial crisis debate"


Tom Heneghan

March 4th, 2010


The debate about fixing the financial crisis seems to be missing a key factor -- a broad ethical discussion of what is the right and wrong thing to do in a modern economy.

This omission stands out at a time when a survey by the World Economic Forum, host of the glittering annual Davos summits of the rich and powerful, says two-thirds of those queried think the crunch is also a crisis of ethics and values.

Voters in western countries may have a gut feeling that huge bonuses and bank bailouts are somehow unfair, but politicians seem unable to come up with a solid response that reflects it, according to a group trying to kickstart an ethics debate.

"People have strong emotions about right and wrong - that sense of justice is hard-wired into the way we view the world," Madeleine Bunting, one of three founders of the Citizen Ethics Network launched in London last week, told Reuters.

"Our politics have lost the capacity to connect with that kind of emotion," said Bunting, associate editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"Politics has become very technocratic and managerial, all about who's going to deliver more economic growth."

The backlash against bank bail-outs has forced several chief executives of major banks to lose their bonuses this year. Despite this, the Royal Bank of Scotland , 84 percent publicly owned, announced bonuses of 1 million pounds each to over 100 bankers last week.

U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed tighter regulations on banks but also said he didn't begrudge the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon or the $9 million for Goldman Sachs Group Inc CEO Lloyd Blankfein because "they are very savvy businessmen" and some athletes earned more.


Perhaps not surprisingly in Britain's pre-election period, the Network -- organized by Bunting, Adam Lent of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and writer Mark Vernon -- had no problem getting top British politicians to contribute to the debate.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said people wanted a return to the "enduring virtues" of accountability, responsibility and fairness. "These values must infuse our response," he wrote in the Network's pages on the Guardian website.

"Politicians have shied away from these questions, for fear of seeming judgmental," wrote Conservative opposition leader David Cameron. "It's vital we find a way of talking about these issues without people feeling preached at."

Although the Citizens Ethics Network started in Britain, where the financial crisis and an expense account scandal in parliament has fanned popular discontent, the mood it reflects seems to be much more widely spread.

The World Economic Forum survey showing widespread concern about ethics in business and politics polled 130,000 people in France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

There have been countless calls for more ethical standards in business and politics, many from religious leaders, but the fact they don't gain traction in the political debate is what spurred the Network's founders to take their initiative.

Contributors to a pamphlet outlining the Network's arguments saw the decline of religion leaving a moral vacuum in many western societies. "A terror of old-fashioned moralize has driven all talk of morality out of the public sphere," philosopher Alan de Botton wrote.


The market-driven consumer society, with its focus on satisfying and even creating individual desires, has also broken down the community ties and trust that helped people in the past to also consider the common good, others wrote.

Trade unions and politics used to provide secular frameworks for values such as solidarity and sacrifice, wrote Adam Lent of Britain's Trade Union Congress, but these were swept away by the rapid transition from a manufacturing economy to one dominated by services.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan both contributed to the Network pamphlet, but the organizers stress they neither want to bring back religion nor return to any supposed earlier "golden age."

"The problem is that nothing new has replaced them," Lent said. "The time is ripe to start developing new perspectives."

Bunting said the best way to do that is to "go back to the really fundamental questions of political and moral philosophy and start the argument again.

"That argument is not solved by the market, nor is it solved by socialism. This is about getting back to some arguments that have been central to most human societies," she said.

"Aristotle would have recognized all these problems."


Alex Dobuzinskis

March 4th, 2010


HBO plans to make a television movie about the 2008 financial meltdown, based on the book "Too Big to Fail" by a New York Times journalist, the cable network said on Thursday.

Andrew Sorkin's book chronicles the credit crisis by focusing on such figures as Richard Fuld, former chief executive of the now-bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers, John Mack, former CEO of Morgan Stanley, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his predecessor Henry Paulson.

HBO, owned by Time Warner, had no details on when the TV movie is expected to air, or which actors would play the principal parts.

The movie version of the financial crisis is expected to bear similarities to HBO's 2008 TV movie "Recount," which also dramatized recent events -- in that case the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election and recount of votes in Florida.

The financial crisis continues to resonate in U.S. politics with many Americans irate at the billions of dollars in government bailouts for companies that were deemed "too big to fail," including insurance giant American International Group Inc and automaker General Motors.

Movie critic Pete Hammond said that with Oliver Stone's sequel to his searing 1987 movie "Wall Street" due out this year, a big audience could await HBO's project.

"Normally I would say this kind of subject matter would be a big yawn, but there's going to be a lot of interest out there about what really went on" during the credit crisis, said Hammond, who writes for the Los Angeles Times website.

HBO said Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" will be adapted for TV by Peter Gould, who has written episodes of the methamphetamine drama series "Breaking Bad" for cable network AMC.

HBO had hoped to rely on a book about the financial crisis by New York Times journalist Joe Nocera and Vanity Fair writer Bethany McClean, but that book has not yet been published.

Once it comes out, the material from that book is expected to be melded into the HBO movie.

The full title of Sorkin's book is "Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System -- and Themselves." Penguin Group's division Viking Adult published the book.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

with everyone struggling i do not give a crap about business savvy...but since i pay no taxes, own nothing in stocks and bonds...who would care what i think