Monday, December 22, 2008

Greed has pushed political credibility and financial trust into freefall

Recent scandals in America reveal a value system that puts the wealth of a few before the welfare of many

Gary Younge in New York
The Guardian, Monday 22 December 2008

"......Greenspan's ideology was unfettered, free-market capitalism. Its understanding of how the world works was rooted in self-interest. It was a value system that placed the private before the public, the individual before the collective, and the wealth of the few before the welfare of the many.

So pervasive was this worldview that, after a while, it was not even understood to be a view at all. It was just the hard-nosed reality against which only lunatics and leftists raged. "Unlike many economists," Bob Woodward wrote of Alan Greenspan in his book Maestro (the title speaks volumes), "he has never been rule driven or theory driven. The data drive." They drove a sleek black limousine over the edge of a steep cliff. And since the invisible hand of the market ostensibly guided everything, there was no one who could really be held accountable or responsible for anything. The buck didn't stop anywhere. Indeed, for those who were already wealthy, the bucks just kept rolling in......

The two most prominent scandals in recent weeks illustrate how the line between what is unethical and what is illegal in politics, and what is reckless and what is fraudulent in finance, has been so blurred as to have erased much in the way of meaningful distinction. Credibility in public life, like Greenspan's ideology and the stock prices it relied on, is in freefall......

When a political system where you have to pay to play meets a financial system run like a giant Ponzi scheme, widespread criminality, corruption and calamity are the only feasible outcomes. The only remaining questions then are what society is prepared to excuse, accountants are able to write off or lawyers are able to defend. "It is easier to rob by setting up a bank," argued the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, "than by holding up a bank clerk." "

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