St Paul’s hosts de­bate on good­ness

The Church of England - - NEWS -

SPEAK­ING to an au­di­ence of over 500 peo­ple in St Paul’s Cathe­dral, the Most Rev Vin­cent Ni­chols, said that fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and other bod­ies needed to be staffed by ‘good peo­ple bound to­gether by a good pur­pose’.

Giv­ing the key­note ad­dress for the first of three panel dis­cus­sions or­gan­ised by the Cathe­dral on the sub­ject ‘The City and the Com­mon Good: What kind of City do we want?’ the Arch­bishop called for a re­cov­ery of the car­di­nal virtues of pru­dence, jus­tice, tem­per­ance and courage. Faced with the pres­sures of a con­sumerist so­ci­ety, he said, peo­ple need to learn to de­sire well.

Call­ing for ‘en­ter­prises of good pur­pose’ he in­stanced Stafford NHS Trust as an ex­am­ple of an in­sti­tu­tion where lead­ers had lost their vi­sion of a mo­ral pur­pose. ‘Un­less you get that right, you will never get any­thing else right’, said the Arch­bishop. He went on to ar­gue that in­stead of just think­ing in fi­nan­cial terms, busi­nesses should aim ‘to de­liver a profit that adds to hu­man well­be­ing’.

Arch­bishop Ni­chols clashed with Tracy McDermott, Di­rec­tor of En­force­ment and Fi­nan­cial Crime at the FCA over the role of le­gal sanc­tions. He agreed that ‘law and reg­u­la­tion mat­ter’ but warned ‘new rules usu­ally deal with the last prob­lem not the next one’ and pointed to the dan­gers of a ‘com­pli­ance men­tal­ity’ that cre­ates ‘per­verse in­cen­tives’ and in­creases bu­reau­cracy.

Ms McDermott dis­agreed with the Arch­bishop say­ing that rules were a ‘nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient’ in­stru­ment to in­sure that eth­i­cal stan­dards were met. Most peo­ple in the City were ded­i­cated and hard work­ing she said, but one of the features of fi­nan­cial crime was that its con­se­quences were not al­ways ob­vi­ous. It was easy for peo­ple to see the harm done by bur­glary but the con­se­quences of fi­nan­cial fraud were not im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent and vic­tims were less ob­vi­ous. More and more fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions are done by com­puter with the re­sult that peo­ple do not know and see the peo­ple they are do­ing busi­ness with.

The two other speak­ers on the panel, Baroness He­lena Kennedy and Bishop Peter Selby, favoured a more rad­i­cal over­haul of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. Bishop Selby said he ‘ap­pre­ci­ated the as­pi­ra­tions of Arch­bishop Ni­chols’ but wor­ried that he had un­der­played the im­pact peo­ple of power in the City have on other, less wealthy peo­ple. In­stead of ‘schools of virtue’ he wanted ‘schools of re­sis­tance’.

Com­ment­ing on the de­bate, the chair, BBC Eco­nom­ics Corre- spondent, Stephanie Flan­ders, said that other eco­nomic sys­tems also ru­ined the lives or or­di­nary peo­ple. A change of sys­tem might not bring ben­e­fits. There were a num­ber of ques­tions from the floor. In re­sponse to one per­son who asked whether adopt­ing high eth­i­cal stan­dards in Bri­tain would harm in­ter­na­tional com­petive­ness Arch­bishop Ni­chols ar­gued that firms ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit­ted from hav­ing a good pur­pose.

Two fu­ture events are planned in the same se­ries. On May 7th the key­note speaker is Robert Skidel­sky and on June 12th it is Arch­bishop Justin Welby. Ad­mis­sion is by ticket, free from St Paul’s.

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