Business, ethics, deeds …

15 January 2012

“With this financial crisis and its consequences, do you realize that people are going back to more traditional values?” my colleague observed one day. “It’s not only in Europe. You can find this phenomenon everywhere around the globe.

Gordon Gekko’s vision is out –– greed is no longer good –– and people have realized that people earning vast amounts of money does not make society a better place to live. Rather the contrary. Many people are now looking at ethics and moral standards, either in the business world or in their daily lives. People who keep their word; someone whose deeds are performed with integrity. This is the new trend we can now see emerging in societies around the world.

In a recent seminar, the Norwegian philosopher Henrik Syse pinpointed one common denominator of this current crisis: “ex nihilo nihil fit” or for those of us who have forgotten our Latin: “out of nothing is created nothing”. In other words, behind the present economic crisis lays the fact that no new value was created. It all started out in the United States, when credit institutions lent money to people what had no chance of paying it back. All these bad loans were wrapped up in such nice packaging that nobody knew what was going on until one day the bubble burst. “However, we should always ask ourselves,” Syse continues, “where does the value come from? One should never forget the human factor behind all this. Who are those human beings who contribute to making these values and who are those whose possessions are at risk? In other words, the financial world should also bear in mind this ex nihilo nihil fit concept. And who would not agree when you read about what is going on: people are being laid off; some are facing salary reductions; we have a new working poor … These are phenomena that we never thought we would see in Europe in the twenty-first century, and yet here they are!”

The economists have issued a warning: the present crisis could turn into a double dip, creating even more trouble than in the past. While they argue about the remedies, the politicians dither. So what will the solution be, other than going back to good old traditional values … One can only ask?

Finally, for those with an eye on history, look at what happened in the 1929 and its aftermath … Let us hope that this crisis will not lead to a repetition of that scenario …