Markets Need Morals

According to Gordon Brown (reported in The Guardian,www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/sep/30/labour-conference-morals-markets) markets need morals. The financial crisis has taught us that we need values. The kind of values Gordon Brown talks about are hard work, fair play, a responsible approach to risk, loving your neighbour as yourself. He describes these as common values found in all religions and therefore a global ethics is possible for the world to live by. Earlier this year he gave a speech in which he suggested that on a whole range of global issues, agreed global rules were needed:

“what all these challenges have in common is that none of them can be addressed by one country or one continent acting alone. None of them can be met and mastered without the world coming together. And none of them can be solved without agreed global rules informed by shared global values.” (Gordon Brown, Speech and Q&A at St Paul’s Cathedral, www.number10.gov.uk/Page18858)

A values free, rules free market has brought us to disaster. He used the word values 44 times in that speech but values are slippery things. Values can be principles which we agree to for different reasons or they can be things we believe in at a foundation level. They can be shared principles or common moral beliefs. I may believe that a human life is sacred and that may motivate my moral choices much more powerfully than a general rule which has to be interpreted and applied. According to the Tony Blair Foundation, the solutions of the global recession could be found in the teachings of faith traditions (www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org). A series of seminars on this topic have been hosted by The Guardian(www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/series/faith-and-development). Ken Costa at the first of those seminars wrote:

“But what about the values of our workplace? More specifically, what are the values that guide the relationships in our workplaces? My question is not just “is faith compatible with globalisation?”, for it obviously is. My question is the deeper one: “can the global economy do without faith?” Our wealth creation, important as it is, must be trammelled and, indeed, upheld by values that arise in the context of relationship to other humans. These values arise as obligations that are due to other humans qua human beings. They have the character of law, if you like. But it is the Spirit, that gives life, that enables us actually to live these values, day to day and to work in co-operative interdependence with each other. Thus a culture of trust in the workplace is generated, and sustained.

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