Spirituality is the dimension of being human which enables us to create, discover, or encounter meaning, purpose and value in our lives. Spirituality opens us to experiences the richness of life which is more than the sum of the things we actually do. Spirituality is related to the quality of our lives. Ethics is related to the things we do in life: the values and principles which guide our decisions on a day to day basis.
Living through the current global economic crisis has many dimensions. For some people, including my own family, there are practical dimensions related to prolonged job searches in the midst of high unemployment and balancing budgets to pay bills. Others face more challenging practical dilemmas with the loss of homes, savings, and any sense of financial stability. Spirituality provides us with the opportunity to live in meaningful and fulfilling ways in the midst of financial instability. Ethics calls us to consider what decisions we make in regard to the global financial crisis.
In listening to and reading commentators on the topics of finance and financial reform, two major themes emerge about ethics in the global financial crisis. The first is about personal ethics: people need to live within their means rather than financing daily life by creating debt. While there is clearly wisdom in not spending money one doesn’t have, this perspective lays responsibility for the global financial crisis at the feet of individual people like you and me. Because of our credit card debt, student loans, home mortgages, car loans, etc., the current crisis became a crisis. The second theme is about corporate greed: financial industry executives with their golden parachutes, extravagant bonuses, and lavish way of life are the root of the problem. Because some faceless group of people whom we don’t know got rich from their work in the financial industry, doing business the way it’s been done for the last couple of decades, there is an assumption that they must be responsible.
Our tendency is to want to blame people for the financial crisis. While there are some key people who clearly did wrong by creating Ponzi schemes and engaged in other unlawful practices, in a general way we all bear some responsibility for the financial crisis. As a group, American people over the last thirty years supported financial deregulation and other policies which led to a system which created this crisis. If we weren’t aware of the deregulation movement, we probably weren’t paying attention to the decisions our elected officials were making. These decisions were based on the belief that it is ethically and morally good to have an economic system with minimal regulation to better allow industry to make money freely.
Rather than pointing blame at individual consumers, faceless financial executives, or elected officials, perhaps it is time to enter a discussion of what ethics should support our financial system. Is it good for wealth to be controlled by a few people? Is it ethical for profits to be as large as the market will bear? Is it possible for capitalism, which favors wealth being controlled by few people, to exist is a democratic society?
Senator Chris Dodd has proposed a series of new regulations for the financial industry – a bill supported by the President. Progressives believe these are insufficient measures. Fiscal conservatives believe they are too harsh. Is the solution to this problem a series of new regulations? Or do we need to consider a fundamental change in finance?
How do you understand ethics in this financial crisis? How does living in this era of financial turbulence effect the way you life? In what ways do ethics and real life financial issues impact the spiritual dimension of your life? I can think of no more significant questions for our times.
© 2010, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.