Thursday, March 5, 2009

economic ethics

I met a major hedge fund baron a while ago, and in his confident, self satisfied way, he said some of the most telling things. His perspective was summed up in his utter contempt for the notion of pensions. He felt that they were "undeserved". Unions, pension, health benefits, were evil and needed to be fought at all costs. This view of how capitalism should work: that there is no obligation for companies to provide workers with a decent standard of living, has been the base line economic ethic since Reagan. Brilliantly, this elite, anti worker, anti union, value was transferred from the privacy of the boardroom to bedrock conservative ethic, and many working class people bought into it. Unions, and the idea that workers have a right to a decent wage, pensions, health care, safe working conditions, had become a ridiculed, antiquated notion, from a different time. We were now in a new economic order, ruled by financial wizards who needed complete freedom from ethics, social responsibility, environmental responsibility, to create enormous wealth that would raise all ships. This view of super free enterprise, of pure economic activity divorced from any ethical imperatives had won the day. It is dead, and I am happy to bury it. The same people so sure that we need pure economics, that we needed to be free from the quaint idea of working people making a decent living, who railed against raising the minimum wage, against progressive taxation, regulation, environmental standards, have driven our country into so deep a hole, we cannot see a way out. No one will ever take CEO's and their royal pomposity seriously again.

Where do we go from here? It remains to be seen. But a country that values work and workers, that values education and children, that is a force for peace, for sharing resources, for protecting the planet, might be a good place to start. We can argue for these values with the confidence that those who ran our country with diametrically opposed values failed miserably.

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1 comment:

  1. Even though there are some companies that really look out for their employees, there are so many that could not care less and sometimes I wonder if our politicians isn't more like the later.

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    Great Post



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