"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

With recent stories about the behavior of bankers in the LIBOR scandal, and debates on when legal tax avoidance becomes morally repugnant, are we not seeing the effects of a rampant materialism that seems to have careered out of control in our society? In the Bible we are told that: "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." This is an ancient wisdom that seems to be coming to fruition all around us.

Aristotle made the distinction between essential and therefore laudable expenditure for the daily needs of food, shelter and clothing, and the acquisition of money for acquisition’s sake by profit associated with retail trade. The latter he censured:
"…because the gain in which it results is not naturally made, but is made at the expense of other men. The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Currency came into existence merely as a means of exchange; usury tries to make it increase."

Then again Augustine saw that the State which looked after only its own interests rather than pursuing a justice for all was no more than an organized band of robbers.

And what happened to the Commandment "Thou shalt not steal"? Why not substitute State with 'bankers' in Augustine's vision, or indeed why only pick on bankers? Sometimes I think that we are all in danger of becoming like that band of robbers - indeed perhaps we are already there. We forget at our peril that we are now profoundly connected as humans across the world, because we often tend to be guilty of a kind of group egotism, loving only our own kind and conveniently forgetting the plight of those who are perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remote from our own sheltered existences.

In my first book, Healing… I devoted a chapter to "The Hope of a Healed Economy: In Pursuit of Social Justice," writing of the dangers ahead, drawing on the inspiration we can find in ancient wisdoms, and looking at our own individual responsibilities and choices. Because we all need to make a connection between the way we use money and our moral beliefs. I don’t like to say now that "I told you so," but I will! 

Aristotle (1998) Politics, translated by Ernest Barker, revised R.F. Stalley, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1.9 1258a 35 p. 30.

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