The financial crisis and morality

Every issue has a moral component. Besides all the suffering the economic crisis is rendering, what’s the deeper lesson?

Look at Dante’s Divine Comedy, as First Things does.

Being a banking law professor, I couldn’t help but
speculate about which circle of hell Dante would have found most
appropriate for the various actors in the meltdown. Some clearly
belonged with greedy “hoarders and spendthrifts” in the fourth circle:
banks lending to borrowers with incomes insufficient to support
repayment; investment bankers reaping profits on derivatives they did
not understand; politicians burying their heads in the sand for the
sake of substantial political contributions from the financial services
sector; and homeowners buying homes they could not afford. Others
clearly belonged in the eighth circle with the “perpetrators of fraud”:
predatory lenders engaging in outright deception or exploiting
vulnerabilities generated by need or lack of access to legitimate
banking sources. But in this era of unrestricted interest rates, would
anyone be condemned to the seventh circle where Dante placed the
“usurers,” as perpetrators of violence against God and nature?

Good questions.

Understanding the different types of behavior that got
us to this point is crucial to crafting an intelligent plan for digging
us out of this hole and preventing us from falling back into it in the
future. Can appropriate limits to greed be legislated without
compromising the vitality of our markets?

At core, this is about morality in our exchanges, business or
otherwise. An article like this can be cumbersome for most of us
looking for quick reads, especially if we don’t understand the world of
banking and finance and lending laws. But it has good and important
references to the principle of subsidiarity. That’s key to a rightly
ordered society.

It’s sort of the basis for community organizing.


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