Friday, December 19, 2008

A Green Christmas Carol

Moral bankruptcy fosters corruption and fuels global recession. Scandals from Enron to Blagojevich reveal our ethical vacuousness. The housing, credit and financial crises are like the three spirits that warn Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken's cautionary tale, 'A Christmas Carol'.

The now infamous Madoff scandal is an illustration of the tangled web of corruption. Despite 'credible and specific' allegations regarding Madoff's financial wrongdoing, the SEC somehow failed to detect the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time. To add to the subterfuge, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recused himself from the Madoff probe because his son is representing a top financial officer at Madoff's investment firm. To complete this incestuous web of malfeasance, Eric Swanson, a former SEC attorney, is married to Madoff's niece.

Corruption is not limited to the US. In China, Shanghai's widening pension fund scandal is stealing headlines like so many other scandals around the world. According to Fromm, (The Sane Society, 1955) a society in which "consumption has become the de facto goal", is itself a sick society. The world's economic woes are a function of an ethical crisis. A new economy must address the failed morality of unbridled greed and rampant consumption.

Green comes with an inherent value system, and a purpose beyond consumption. Eco-ethics reflect the understanding that human destiny is fundamentally intertwined with the fate of the earth. Green values like responsibility, sustainability and social justice encourage people to enrich themselves by serving the greater good of the wider community. Green rebukes the amorality of our business culture, and provides guidance in a world awash with corruption. But like the old miser in Dickens' Christmas classic, we must act while we still have time to redeem ourselves.

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