Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The moral aspect of the crisis

"Today 'virtue' is literally and figuratively missing from our public vocabulary and the idea of 'the moral' has been either trivialized or totally relativized. No training session or quick executive briefing can revive ethics and morality because they are habituated over years and years not in some late afternoon consultants' PowerPoint presentation or a touchy feely weekend retreat. At the very root of our financial crisis is a moral vacuum, which can only be filled with true virtue."

UPDATE: My compliments to Fear and Loathing in Georgetown for reading further than I did, to where the author disparages "greed." To quote an AOSHQ commenter, "Greed is a constant element."

The guy behind the counter at Burger King is not necessarily less "greedy" than the millionaire Wall Street tycoon. Both want to make big bucks; the difference between them is that the Wall Street tycoon has been more successful in finding and exploiting the opportunity to make big bucks. It is an error of logic to assume that the guy making $9 an hour at Burger King is less "greedy" -- i.e., more virtuous -- than the Wall Street tycoon, and yet liberalism assumes just that: The poor are virtuous merely because they are poor.

Both the Burger King guy and the Wall Street tycoon may be trustworthy, industrious, diligent and thrifty -- the sort of Boy Scout Law stuff we associate with "virtue." Such virtues are, really, much more important on Wall Street. If the guy at Burger King is lazy or dishonest, his potential to do harm is less than the potential harm done by a Bernie Madoff. But are the people who thought they could get a 10% annual return from Madoff's scam really so much less culpable than Madoff himself?

The guy who thinks he can make an easy buck playing three-card monte is enabling the three-card monte dealer. And the guy who thought he could make an easy buck by refinancing his house was enabling the mortgage industry. Yet the "victims" of such scams profess their innocence and expect us to feel sorry for them.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think Bernie Madoff will be spit in anyone's whopper if they ask no tomatoes on it either.