Monday, November 02, 2009


Ken Costa, Financial Times:

That moral spirit is distilled in the simple principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The wording is biblical but the precept is echoed across religions, cultures and time. Its practical power is evident: if the purveyors of sometimes dishonest sub-prime mortgages had followed this golden rule a lot of misery would have been avoided.

Unfortunately they did not follow the golden rule. We are suffering the consequences, even though everyone in financial markets knew the rule and few would dispute it. The failure to act on a universally-recognised principle is not just down to the strong attraction of short-term gains, seductive as they are. A more profound reason is that we lack a way of embedding the rule in everyday actions.

Or, to paraphrase Woody Allen: Without morality, short-term gains are an empty achievement.  But as empty achievements go, they are among the best!

1 comment:

RLaing said...

A thing a lot of people miss about morality is that it is relative. To the extent that we need others, we are obliged to treat them with a certain level of respect, and the closer people are to us, the more we are likely to need them. The further, the less.

The golden rule plainly falls off as a function of distance, until at the level of the state, it more or less vanishes.

This is how the same book that says we must do unto others as they would have others do unto us can also say it is perfectly all right to raid neighboring tribes for slaves.