Wall Street and the Seven Deadly Sins

Wall Street has created a system of economic institutions that gives a small elite control of the world’s biggest and most powerful corporations, the funding of political campaigns, and the mass media. It maintains that it is not only the right, but as well the moral duty of members of this elite to use this power to maximize their personal financial gain without regard to the consequences for others.

It is an audacious ethical perversion that elevates the seven deadly sins of classical Christianity to the status of moral virtuous. The resulting economic, environmental, social and political devastation is totally predictable. The curious piece is that so many bright people and otherwise ethical people seem to have accepted this moral perversion.

 

Contrasting Moral Codes for the Old and New Economies

Seven Deadly Sins Embraced
& Rewarded as Virtues by Wall Street
Seven Life-Serving Virtues
Affirmed & Nurtured by the New Economy

Pride: Uncommon individual wealth is a mark of superior intelligence, contribution, and merit. Those who have it deserve it.

Humility: Every person has a gift. The joy of meaningful service that comes from sharing our personal gift is its own reward.

Greed: If any legal activity makes a profit, you have a moral duty to society to engage in it. In a winner-take-all world, if you don’t get the prize first, someone else will.

Sharing: Earth’s wealth is our common heritage. Preserving and sharing it is our moral duty, a source of true joy, and the foundation of a secure and healthy world.

Envy: It is right and proper to want more than your neighbor has to prove his inferiority and your superior worth.

Love: Those who recognize that all beings are connected know that what we do to and for others we do to and for ourselves.

Anger: Attack and destroy those who might become your competitor before they attack and destroy you.

Compassion: Life is better for everyone when we treat one another with understanding, respect, and caring.

Lust: Self-indulgence is our nature and the path to fulfillment. Do not hesitate to cultivate and fulfill your natural desires for sexual and material gratification.

Self-control: Obsessive behavior limits the development of our capacity for the responsible self-mastery of a fully developed human consciousness.

Gluttony: If a little is good, then more is better.

Moderation: Keep your needs modest and take only what you need.

Sloth: If you can afford a life of idle luxury, it is your due, the ultimate personal achievement, and a sign of superior worth and status. Let others earn their keep by serving you.

Passion: Engage in life with joyful exuberance. Living fully and passionately in service to others is our greatest source of joy and fulfillment.

Source:This table is adapted from David Korten, Agenda for a New Economy.  The original was inspired by “The Seven Deadly Sins,” White Stone Journal, http://whitestonejournal.com/index.php/seven-deadly-sins (accessed March 2, 2010).