Greed is no longer good

We all remember that famous Michael Douglas character quote from the movie Wall Street: “Greed is good”.

Those were days of irresponsible and ruthless disregard for the common good. Unashamed individual wealth creation was applauded and celebrated. George Soros could force the Bank of England to devalue the British pound. Speculation drove the value of assets beyond any connection with the real world of real people. Main Street no longer counted. Only Wall Street. Many became wealthy and markets thrived. But little of that wealth made a difference for the poor or for poorer nations. Many countries in the developing world are still in the grip of poverty, under-development and lack of access to education.

Those days are over. And there are many who believe this is a good thing.

Among them is Sir Jonathan Sacks, the well-known English Jewish rabbi and broadcaster. This morning, October 3rd, in his Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 he reflected on the meaning of the upcoming Jewish Feast of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This is a time of Atonement, a time when we are called to return to more humane and generous values. It is a time for the common good to prevail over individual wealth creation. It is the mood of the times.

Sir Jonathan’s remarks are worth quoting here:

The age of greed is over. Will the age of responsibility now begin? That will depend on whether we are capable of admitting our mistakes, and renewing our commitment to the common good. Atonement, the capacity for honest self criticism, is what allows us to weather the storm without losing our way.

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