Have Financial Markets Polluted Our Moral Code?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Met Life building, Standard Chartered Bank (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Banking scandals have dominated the headlines this summer. Earlier this summer, the Libor scandal rocked banks across the pond and throughout the United States. In July, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused HSBC of severe regulatory failures, including laundering money for Mexican drug lords and bypassing American sanctions against Iran. Finally, this week, the British bank Standard Chartered agreed to a settlement of $340 million for secretly helping the Iranian government launder $250 billion. 

These scandals and more led Jim Rogers, American investor and Chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interest, to tell The Takeaway, "We’ve had a long bull market, but that’s finished. Finance is now going to be a terrible place to be."

That may be good news for Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy at Harvard University and author of "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets." Sandel argues that market-driven thinking has corrupted our moral code — not just on Wall Street, but in our everyday lives. 


Michael Sandel

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [5]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

One day a Presidential Candidate will say, "I can make a ton of ads for a ton of money or I can give you 500 bucks for your guaranteed vote. You get the check as soon as you leave the voting booth..." How many of us would consider the money over our civic duty?

Ironically, I don't believe that the people who are creating a market society really want to do that. Bankers and Wall Street folks just want to make money and because they have been able to find loopholes, they use them.

but if the loophole go away, they would be fine with that. They could talk amongst each other and say,"That was a great time to get away with stuff... Well, I guess we have to roll up our sleeves and work the market and mortgages the good old fashioned way." And they would go about doing their business. they wouldn't pout and say,"We want to money launder to drug dealers!"

And the Bankers and Brokers on Wall Street will be happy, though they'd never be able to admit it...

Bankers don't want bad things for Americans, they just believe in the buck and really believe that money can buy them happiness, and maybe it can, but how much money and at what cost to our fellow Americans. They can't put a limit on how much they should steal. That is where Government regulations need to come in and say,"You can only steal so much."

There is no better interviewer than John Hockenberry. He always asks the right questions in the right tone. He just doesn't have to yell at people like other interviewers do because he is trying to have an intellectual discourse, not some primitive mad tea party: where if you are angry and yelling you must be right. (And I swear I was thinking of Alice and her Mad Tea Party, not the political Tea party).

The Takeaway is the most important radio show on the air because the interviewers ask difficult questions which quite often leaves me questioning myself as to what I think.
I am often left frustrated after a segment of the show because I don't know myself well enough to really have an opinion or knowledgeable enough to know what should be done. It takes me time to develop an opinion about a topic.
I try to come to the show ready to challenge myself and my beliefs.

The show explores complex and frustrating questions at a time when we need to really know what to do and the questions which need to be asked.

There are no simple answers to the difficult time we live in...
Everybody feels sensitive and vulnerable but we need to find some strength to work together and try as best we can to listen and I mean really listen to the questions because...

everybody can hear the ticking and we need to diffuse all the walking time bombs out there. We need to listen to each other in a level headed way but with a light-hardheartedness as well.

Aug. 16 2012 09:51 PM
Dennis from Rochester Hills, MIchigan

Bottom line, capitalism is an ism that does not equal democracy or jobs. It is profits for investors, thus some winners and some losers. Citzens United as excelerated that trend to the determent of our social fabric.

Thanks, John, for your thoughtful interviews today.

Aug. 16 2012 01:34 PM

Please; I ask audience members and The Takeaway staff to honestly appraise the style and demeanor of John Hockenberry in for different inteviews today.

First, the Scott Taylor interview on the Special Ops ad campaign. Which was nothing less than a hostile cross-examination.

Second, the Kathleen Hall Jamison interview. Conducted as a warm, friendly conversation with leading questions aimed at impugning 501(c)(4) corporations.

Third, the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio. Naturally, the tone returns to skeptical and hostile. it is not a conversation; it is a verbal challenge.

Fourth, a Harvard academic who is anti-market and who serves as a nice foil on discussions like an attack on the Citizens United decision. This wasn't just a conversation; it was a love-fest.

There are two styles of political interviews on this program. One is the hostile format for consrvatives and Republicans. (There appear to be no conservative or Republican-oriented journalists or producers at WNYC.) The other is the warm, welcoming, exploratory format for favored guests from the left wing of American poltics.

Aug. 16 2012 11:29 AM
Edward Baxter from St. Paul MN

The discussion with Professor Sandel grew ever richer and more probing. Had there been time, I'm sure it would've taken up a sad core value for so many Americans: the belief that the possession of material wealth validates personal worth. The old Protestant ethic is of course at work here, where opulence is a manifestation of one's divine justification. What's really sad about the notion is how many people who themselves have little affluence or hope to attain it sign on to the idea, thereby actually diminishing their own worth in their own eyes.

Aug. 16 2012 10:08 AM

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Aug. 16 2012 09:14 AM

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