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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post - Morality versus Legality

Sanni KrugerSanni Kruger, of Holistic Money Manager, is a finance coach helping people to become competent and confident money managers who live within their means without stressful money concerns. She assists her clients in reducing their debts whilst building up savings, as well as clarifying their desired long term vision and learning how to expand their resources to reach it. Her self-help book “Making Friends with Money – How to start feeling wealthy without waiting till you’re rich” is available from Sanni is also a motivational speaker with over 30 years experience of speaking to groups of any size on a variety of subjects.

When this cartoon appeared in the Financial Times in August (, it drew an outraged response.

A reader criticized Ingram Pinn, the cartoonist, for daring to compare bankers, who earned their bonuses legally, with the illegal inflation of MPs expenses and the criminality of rioters.  However, when I saw the cartoon I immediately thought: “At last, somebody put their finger on it.” In my mind the common element in these figures is quite simply a lack of morals. (Oh, what an old-fashioned word.)

As far as I’m concerned, a bank which rewards its employees with cash incentives for giving credit to customers who may be already struggling (and punishes staff with a cabbage if they don’t meet their targets) acts immorally.  Whether it is legal or not is beside the point.  So does an MP who inflates their expenses, no matter whether they’ve “stuck to the rules” or not.  To my mind it seems that the rioters responded to that immorality with their own immorality in the only way they could to vent their rage and frustration.

Now this rage and frustration seems to be expressed in more constructive ways through the Occupy movement, and especially through the camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  The Occupation might be illegal, for instance the Occupation of College Green in Bristol is trespass, but in my opinion it is moral. The Occupiers have been criticized for citing diffuse causes.  Yet, I see the common thread: morality,  because I think most of the causes they cite are based on immoral practices and ideas.

But it seems that the message is finally getting through.  Ingram Pinn published another telling cartoon in the FT.

On the very same day professor Ken Costa (former chairman of Lazard International, “one of the world’s preeminent financial advisory and asset management firms”) wrote in the FT ( “Despite the diffuse agendas, one theme clearly unites them: the conviction that the capitalist system is fatally flawed and past its sell-by date.”  He believes that “resentment at asymmetrical rewards and risks is … justifiable.”

Professor Costa goes on to say: “The cure is not more legislation, or increased regulation.  It is the pressing need to reconnect the financial with the ethical.  Free markets … do not exist in a moral vacuum … they need somehow to be nurtured and sustained by a moral spirit …  Ultimately … economies cannot function and societies cannot flourish without mutual trust and respect, or without fundamental honesty and integrity.”

I can’t put it better than that.  The whole thing reminds me very much of the events in East Germany in 1989, when increasing frustration and resentment with the immorality of their leaders brought more and more citizens into the churches to join the Monday prayer meetings.  Initially their prayers and concerns where just as diffuse as they ones of the Occupiers until they gradually turned into demonstrations and the one cry: “Wir sind das Volk (We are the people).”

I hope that the protesters will be able to create a similar common call to bring about real change and a return to the kind of morality which truly reconnects the financial with the ethical.

1 comment:

  1. Iyanla Vanzant is exceptionally honest. Her story provides much food for thought. Once I started to read it, it was difficult for me to put the book down. I believe that this book can be used as a tool to access ones own behaviors an understand the patterns in our own lives.