Our Responsibility before God:
Taming the ‘Seven Capital Sins’ How to bring back trust and confidence in our market economy
Felix Breidenstein lists seven ‘sins’ of our 21st Century market-driven society which erode trust and confidence. To overcome these, we need freedom, reliable institutions and a sense of personal moral responsibility. Instead of criticising, the churches should encourage the witness and integrity of their members in industry
A fish takes water in the sea for granted – unless it is caught by fishermen. So it is with us: we take many things for granted, until a fisherman hooks us. Every day, we use water from the tap to wash, drink and cook. We don’t talk about water quality, we simply use it and take its quality for granted – until the water itself is polluted.
In our market-driven economy, we too take many things for granted. For the food we eat, we trust the baker, the butcher, the companies in the food industry and the supermarkets who sell to us, that they market only products of reliable quality. For our medical care, we trust the doctor, the pharmacist and the pharmaceutical company to have our health at heart, not only their own financial benefit. We take it for granted that car manufacturers sell only cars in compliance with environmental protection laws, keeping us safe and healthy. And currently much in the spotlight, we trust bankers and financial advisers to sell us products and services that support our financial wellbeing, not merely their own profits.
The scandals in the industries listed – the film Erin Brockovich about Pacific Gas and Electric’s contamination of the groundwater; the obesity-generating high-sugar fizzy drinks marketed by global corporations; the VW and GM scandals (see FIBQ 17.4, May 2016); and the ongoing mis-selling insurance and banking scandals – all these indicate a malaise at the core of our market economy.
Managers in companies large and small have failed us. But we shouldn’t only blame the managers: we too as consumers were an important player in the game. In his last essay, The lost honour of the merchant, Ralf Dahrendorf (1929- 2009), former Director of the LSE, wrote, “present-day customers of banks looked for a much higher profit for their savings.”1 We all looked for cheaper prices in the supermarkets. We all wanted more for our money than in the past.
Since the fall of communist states, one economic model has dominated our world: the globalised marketdriven economy. The competition between the two systems is over and we have a clear winner. This economy has to provide goods for everybody and wealth to all people. The focus is very clear: to fulfil the needs of consumer-driven markets. ‘Der Kunde ist Koenig’ – the customer is king, and all our wants…