Money and Morality
NEW YORK, February 17, 2010 - "Asia is re-taking
its place on the world stage" and fundamental changes in the global macro
economy and global political relationships will define this century, according
to Stephen Green, Chairman HSBC Bank
plc. "The whole center of gravity of the world is shifting from West to East" a
change that will affect businesses and individuals on many levels, Green said
while discussing his new book Good Value:
Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World with Vishakha Desai, President, Asia Society
at the Asia Society Headquarters in New York.
Green said the globalization has increasingly
become a reality of human experience from its humble beginnings of people
trading over large distances to the need for the economy to accommodate the
billions of people "who perfectly reasonably aspire to the standards of living"
enjoyed by people in the developed countries of the world, particularly in the
West. The challenge to ensure that economic development going forward moves to
lower carbon emitting technologies will force countries to work together to
ensure sustainable development.
Describing market fundamentalism as an outdated
ideology in which the idea held by businesses that designing products, developing
markets and legal frameworks to sell them to maximize short term shareholder
value comprised commerce, actually devalued
the integral purpose of commerce. The actual
purpose of commerce is to exchange mutually beneficial goods and services
and shareholder value is a byproduct
of the fundamental job of creating and selling profitable products that
consumers value and need. A core tenet of market fundamentalism had been that
markets were self policing and that less government was better, whereas in fact
markets require government oversight and "complex modern economies and markets"
need a "fairly extensive and carefully calibrated" government involvement in
Speaking about the current economic crisis he said
that "the break down in the (business) system and the breakdown in public trust
and confidence in business in general and banks in particular" had created the
need for a new look at the fundamental values and objectives that motivate
business. Corporate social responsibility has become a buzzword and is almost thought
of as an adjunct to the "real businesses of a company", while it should
actually be thought of as a core component of the "raison d'être of a business".
The discussion was later opened up to the
audience, which comprised a cross section of individuals from all walks of
life. Fielding a question about how he balanced his professional life with his
personal beliefs, Green (an ordained minister in the Church of England), agreed
that "one cannot serve both God and mammon (money)", but that he did not equate
"working with money as worshipping or serving the money", and that he viewed
money (merely) as a lubricant of exchange. When the topic veered towards Wall
Street and the ‘demonization of bankers', Green mounted a spirited defense of
the many decent and hardworking people working who worked there and Desai also
chimed in with an appreciation of the generosity of Wall Street to the Asia
Society over the past.
In charting a way forward for government
regulation of markets and on the issue of taxation of bankers bonuses, Green
stated that regulation can never be sufficient but that in the wake of the
crisis both regulatory and institutional reform were required. He described the
year 2009 as a year of transition for the world economy and said that the year
2010 needed to be the year where a new consensus is required by developed (G7)
and developing (G20) countries alike to "pave the way forward for a stabler
market for the next generation".
by Faiza Mawjee