In the 2010 film Inside Job directed by Charles Ferguson, the systematic corruption of the financial services industry was analysed and presented as a system-wide failure brought about by the greed-motivated practices of an unregulated banking industry which had spun out of control. The issues ran much deeper than a sub-prime mortgage crisis which has snowballed into a massive financial crisis of epic proportions. In particular, the whole system of trust which compels ordinary individuals and pension fund managers to put all the savings of people’s lives into so-called safe investments upon the advice of financial experts has been severely questioned, as subsequent investigations clearly showed that the bankers often gave fraudulent advice to their customers, while they themselves have profited out of their customers’ losses. Hauntingly, towards the end of the film, a particular line strikes the chord – ‘ Why did the bankers turn their back on society ?’
Sadly, the spiritual dimension of the crisis, is perhaps not easy in his day and age, to be pointed out as the real source of the problem, as people assume that we currently live in a giant market system and the fact that any transaction will have winners or losers. A fair free market is one thing, but a systematic transfer of wealth under the guise of free-market economics is something else. As the film graphically depicts, it wasn’t just limited to the selling of high-risk loans to the most economically vulnerable segments of society. It was in effect a chain reaction in the process of passing on the risk of unsustainable bad investments to the society at large, while the bankers who created, abetted and exploited a loophole in the name of ‘deregulation’ immensely profited from this process themselves.
The crux of the spiritual question relevant to this situation remains : does the financial services have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the interests of the common people or not – whether the common person’s job stability, safeguarding of their lives’ savings, stability of the whole financial system comes much before profits of the financial industry itself or not. It is part of a much bigger moral question of our times, as part of a much bigger concern about the gradual erosion of spiritual values and the visible lack of spiritual leadership in many sectors of society.
Perhaps, the debate about this financial meltdown should be kept alive and discussed more and more in terms of failure of ethics than being swept under the rug as an ‘inevitable cyclical phenomenon seen in market based economies’, as some economists have been portraying.
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